Australian Open Daily Preview: The Quarterfinals Conclude on Wednesday - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

ATP

Australian Open Daily Preview: The Quarterfinals Conclude on Wednesday

Published

on

Novak Djokovic on Monday in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

On Wednesday in Melbourne, the men’s and women’s singles quarterfinals conclude.

Nine-time champion Novak Djokovic is just three matches away from tying Rafael Nadal with 22 Major singles titles.  And the hamstring injury that bothered him throughout the first week did not seem to impact his play at all on Monday night in a dominant 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Australia’s Alex de Minaur.  In Wednesday’s quarterfinals, Djokovic faces Andrey Rublev, who survived a dramatic five-setter on Monday afternoon against Holger Rune.

The other men’s singles quarterfinal sees two Americans making their debut at this stage of a Slam, as Tommy Paul plays Ben Shelton.

On the women’s side, Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova are one round away from renewing their big-serving rivalry.  But in a tournament that has featured plenty of upsets, can Donna Vekic or Magda Linette pull off another one?


Karolina Pliskova (30) vs. Magda Linette – 11:00am on Rod Laver Arena

Reunited with Sascha Bajin as her coach for 2023, and a year after a hand injury forced her to miss this tournament, a fully-healthy Pliskova is back to playing her best tennis.  Karolina has not dropped a set through four rounds, and across her last three matches, the WTA’s self-proclaimed “Ace Queen” has struck 28 aces and just eight double faults. 

Linette upset fourth-seeded Caroline Garcia in the last round, and also beat two other top 20 seeds during the first week (Kontaveit, Alexandrova).  Having never advanced beyond the third round at a Major, 30-year-old Magda is now through to the quarterfinals in her 30th appearance.  Going back to the end of October, Linette is now 13-3 on hard courts at all levels, with six wins over top 30 opposition.  While Magda does not possess the firepower of Karolina, her consistency and defensive skills can frustrate her more powerful opponents, as it did Garcia on Monday.

Pliskova leads their head-to-head 7-2 at levels, but they’ve split their two recent meetings.  At the last Major in New York, Pliskova scarcely survived in a third-set tiebreak, coming back from a 4-1 deficit in the third.  But just two months ago in the Billie Jean King Cup, Linette comfortably prevailed 6-4, 6-1.  Though in a Slam quarterfinal, and on these fast hard courts in Melbourne, Pliskova must be favored to reach her fifth Slam semifinal.


Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Donna Vekic – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Sabalenka is an undefeated 8-0 to start the year, and 16-0 in sets.  As Adam Addicott outlined here, a year ago Aryna was having so many issues with her serve, she actually worked with a biomechanics specialist, who helped her correct it.  And the effort has paid off, as it took four matches for her to reach double-digit double faults this fortnight, compared to a year ago when she was hitting double-digits within most of her matches.

Vekic has also brought in a specialist to help her game, adding Hall of Famer Pam Shriver to her team.  After injuries derailed Donna’s career the last few years, she has rediscovered her top form.  Since October, she is now 14-2 at all levels, and an undefeated 7-0 to start 2023.

Fifth-seeded Sabalenka would seemingly be a strong favorite.  However, she’s 1-5 lifetime against Vekic (including qualifying matches).  Aryna’s only victory came four years ago in San Jose.  At the Tokyo Olympics two summers ago, Vekic eliminated Sabalenka in a third-set tiebreak, coming back from 4-2 down in the third.  And just a few months ago in San Diego, Donna again prevailed in three sets.

However, beating this version of Sabalenka, who is red-hot and brimming with confidence, will be a tall task.  And unlike Aryna, who has reached three Major semifinals within the past two years, Vekic has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a Slam.  I like Sabalenka’s chances of advancing to the Australian Open semifinals.


Ben Shelton vs. Tommy Paul – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Prior to this past month, Ben Shelton had never traveled outside the United States.  The 20-year-old was a college tennis player, coached by his father and former top 60 player Bryan Shelton.  Ben first made a name for himself in the pros in 2022, winning three Challenger titles and upsetting Casper Ruud in Cincinnati.  Now in just his second appearance at a Major, he’s reached the quarterfinals, following a five-set victory on Monday over fellow American J.J. Wolf.

Tommy Paul is a 25-year-old American who has taken his career to new heights this past year.  Prior to the end of 2021, Paul had never been ranked inside the top 50.  But after accumulating 39 wins in 2022, and advancing to the second week of a Major for the first time six months ago at Wimbledon, he is now a top 30 player.  Like Ben, this is Tommy’s first Slam quarterfinal, and he defeated two seeded Spaniards to reach this stage (Davidovich Fokina, Bautista Agut).

Shelton’s serving prowess, powerful groundstrokes, and competitive fire have been on full display through four rounds at this event.  But the gravity of this occasion, which is brand new territory for the youngster, would assumedly weigh heavy on Ben come Wednesday.  The experience and well-rounded game of Paul should be enough to advance Tommy into his first Major semifinal.


Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic seemed to quiet any doubts regarding his condition with his demolition of Alex de Minaur in the last round, his movement no longer as hampered as it was during the first week by his injured hamstring.  Despite his injury, he’s dropped only one set through four matches.  And the last five times Novak has reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne, he’s gone on to win the title. 

Rublev’s win over Holger Rune was an emotionally and physically draining five-setter, during which he saved two match points before eventually winning 11-9 in a fifth-set tiebreak on a net cord winner.  But Major quarterfinals have become an enormous stumbling block in Andrey’s career.  He is now 0-6 in this round, and he’s lost five of those quarterfinals in straight sets. 

Defeating a relatively-healthy all-time great in a Major quarterfinal considering that history would be a huge upset, especially coming off such a long match in the last round.  But Rublev has defeated Djokovic before, just last April in Belgrade on clay.  Novak has claimed their other two meetings in straight sets, both of which were on hard courts.  Djokovic remains a considerable favorite to reach his 10th Australian Open semifinal.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

ATP

Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

Published

on

Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

Continue Reading

ATP

Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

Published

on

Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

Continue Reading

ATP

Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

Published

on

Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending