Australian Open Daily Preview: Young Phenoms Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu Play for the First Time
On Wednesday in Melbourne, 2021 US Open Champion Emma Raducanu faces 2022 Roland Garros Runner-up Coco Gauff, in what could be the first of many matches between these two young superstars.
Overall WTA action on Day 3 features eight Major singles champions, including World No.1 Iga Swiatek. And two women who have recently made deep runs at this event, Danielle Collins and Karolina Muchova, collide in the second round.
On the ATP side, Defending Champion Rafael Nadal takes on Mackie McDonald, who advanced to the second week of this tournament two years ago. And two other top men’s seeds, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev, play two Aussie wild cards in Rinky Hijikata and John Millman, both of whom prevailed in dramatic five-setters on Monday.
Additionally, a number of first round singles matches are to be concluded on Wednesday due to extreme heat preventing play for several hours on Tuesday. But with rain possible throughout the day in Melbourne, it could be a challenging day for players on the outer courts.
Each day this preview will highlight the four most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule. Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.
Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Mackie McDonald – Not Before 2:00pm on Rod Laver Arena
Nadal arrived in Melbourne having lost six of his last seven matches, but grinded his way to a four-set victory on Monday over a cramping Jack Draper. Can the defending champion now find his confidence and settle into the tournament?
McDonald arrived in Melbourne having lost five matches at Majors where he held a two-set-to-love lead. He again forfeited a two-set-to-love lead to Brandon Nakashima on Monday, despite holding match point in the fourth-set tiebreak, yet managed to close out the match 6-4 in the fifth. The American has twice reached the fourth round at a Slam, including two years ago in Melbourne.
Three years ago at Roland Garros, Nadal easily defeated McDonald in their only previous meeting, dropping just four games. On this surface, and against this less-than-100% version of Rafa, I expect Mackie to provide much more resistance. And unlike Draper, McDonald will not be cramping, as Mackie is one of the fittest players on tour. But the American does not possess any weapons that can seriously threaten Nadal, so I like Rafa’s chances of advancing to the third round of this event for the 17th time in 18 appearances.
Emma Raducanu vs. Coco Gauff (7) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena
Gauff has been on fire to start the season, with a 6-0 record. She was the champion in Auckland two weeks ago, and is yet to drop a set this year. And Coco is coming off a landmark 2022 season, when she achieved her first Major singles final.
Raducanu of course achieved that feat a year earlier, when she completed the most shocking Slam title run in tennis history at the 2021 US Open, winning the tournament as a qualifier. Emma has understandably endured disappointing results since that time, losing more matches than she won last year. And two weeks ago in Auckland, she was forced to retire due to an ankle injury, though she comfortably prevailed in straight sets on Monday.
In their first career meeting, Gauff must be considered a strong favorite. Coco’s form across the last 12 months has been substantially higher than that of Emma’s. But I am curious to see how both players handle this highly-anticipated matchup, with the tennis world expecting this to become a leading WTA rivalry for years to come.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Rinky Hijikata (WC) – Last on Rod Laver Arena
Tsitsipas has reached the semifinals of this tournament in three of the last four years, but is yet to advance farther. In the opening round, he looked sharp against an in-form Quentin Halys, who won two Challenger events on hard courts this past fall.
Hijikata is a 21-year-old Australian who electrified the Aussies on Monday night, coming back from two-sets-down to defeat Yannick Hanfmann in five. That was Rinky’s first main draw victory at a Major. He won 53 matches at all levels last season, 47 of which were on hard courts. And in his Slam debut last August in New York, he made a name for himself by taking the first set from Rafael Nadal.
Of course Tsitsipas is a prohibitive favorite in this matchup. But seeing the entertaining and charismatic youngster play on his country’s biggest court should be fun, and Rinky is fully capable of making this a highly competitive contest.
Karolina Muchova vs. Danielle Collins (13) – Last on Margaret Court Arena
Collins was the runner-up here a year ago, but is currently battling a knee injury. Despite having her knee heavily taped on Monday, she weathered an arduous battle against Anna Kalinskaya, in a match that lasted over three hours.
Muchova was a semifinalist here two years ago, but after suffering multiple injuries the past two years, is now ranked outside the top 100. Yet she lost just three games in her opening round match, spending nearly two hours less on court than Collins.
Certainly Karolina will be the fresher player in this first-time encounter. And she possesses much more variety and guile in her game than Danielle. With Collins at least slightly-injured, as well as under the pressure of defending finalist points at this event, Muchova should be favored to prevail.
Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Camila Osorio – Swiatek survived two tight sets against Jule Niemeier on Monday evening. Osorio is a 21-year-old who was ranked as high as 33rd in the world during 2022.
Cristina Bucsa (Q) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Andreescu beat the 25th seed, Marie Bouzkova, in straight sets in the first round. Bucsa is a 25-year-old who won 49 matches at all levels last season.
Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich – Pegula dropped just one game in her opening match, which lasted less than an hour. In the second round of last summer’s US Open, she defeated Sasnovich 6-4, 6-4.
Alex Molcan vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Molcan took out 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka in a nearly four-and-a-half hour five-setter on Monday night. And he’s 1-0 against Auger-Aliassime, having outlasted him last April on the clay of Marrakech in a final set tiebreak.
Juncheng Shang (Q) vs. Frances Tiafoe (16) – On Monday, 17-year-old Juncheng became the first Chinese man to win a match at the Australian Open in the Open Era. On the same day, Tiafoe survived a stern four-set test from Daniel Altmaier.
John Millman (WC) vs. Daniil Medvedev (7) – Medvedev lost only three games in his first round match. Millman came back from two-sets-to-one down to prevail in five over Marc-Andrea Huesler.
Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.
Dominic Thiem Pondering Return To Challenger Tour After Latest Defeat In Miami
Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem admits he is lacking self-confidence after crashing out of the Miami Masters.
Thiem, who has been ranked as high as No.3 in the world, fell 7-6 (7), 6-2, to Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego during what was yet another frustrating match. Thiem didn’t drop serve throughout the opener and even had a set point in the tiebreaker but failed to convert. However, a poor start to the second set which saw him get broken two times in a row enabled Sonego to claim victory. Overall, he produced 13 winners against 30 unforced errors in the match.
“It was a tight first set,” Thiem said afterwards. “Unfortunately, after the tie-break, I lost my tension for a very short time, then I’m 4-0 down and only then can I get back into the game – the holes are just not good.”
“The slight loss of concentration or the slight drop in tension was also the reason why I lost the second set.”
The 29-year-old now heads into the clay swing winning just one out of 10 matches played so far this season and is currently ranked outside of the world’s top 100. Miami is the fourth consecutive Masters 1000 event where the Austrian has lost his opening game.
Thiem won the biggest title of his career at the 2020 US Open but the following year he sustained a wrist injury which sidelined him for months. Since returning he hasn’t been able to regain the form which brought him Grand Slam glory. Although he did manage to reach the semi-final stage of three ATP 250 events last season.
“Of course, there is also a bit of a lack of self-confidence, and I have to make sure that I get that back,” he admits.
It is expected that Thiem will return to action during the first week of April at the Estoril Open. After that tournament, he is contemplating playing a couple of Challenger events to in his words ‘get a few victories’ for his confidence.
Thiem has won 17 ATP trophies so far in his career and has earned more than $29M in prize money.
Miami Open Daily Preview: Canadians Andreescu, Fernandez Face Top 10 Opposition
Second round ATP and WTA action takes place on Friday in Miami.
The WTA’s top two Canadian players will take part in two of the day’s best matchups. 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu takes on Maria Sakkari, while 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez plays Belinda Bencic.
Other action on Friday includes top names such as Carlos Alcaraz, Aryna Sabalenka, Casper Ruud, and Ons Jabeur.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Maria Sakkari (7) vs. Bianca Andreescu – 12:00pm on Stadium Court
Andreescu is 7-6 this season, and overcame fellow US Open champ Emma Raducanu in the first round. This is only her third appearance in Miami, but she is 9-2 at this event, and was the runner-up the last time she played here in 2021.
Sakkari is now 15-6 on the year, yet is just 7-5 in Miami. Four of those wins came during her semifinal run in 2021, when she lost to Andreescu in a dramatic three-setter.
That 2021 semifinal lasted nearly three hours, with Andreescu eventually prevailing in a third-set tiebreak well after midnight. Their only other meeting occurred later that year at the US Open, with Sakkari winning 6-3 in the third. In the rubber match on Friday, Maria has to be considered the favorite based on recent form, though it’s hard to ever count out Bianca, one of the sport’s most dogged competitors.
Leylah Fernandez vs. Belinda Bencic (9) – Fifth on Butch Buchholz Court
Fernandez is 8-6 in 2023, and on Wednesday earned her first-ever victory in Miami, over Lesia Tsurenko. Leylah has struggled to regain her form after suffering a serious foot injury in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last June.
Bencic is a strong 15-4 to start the season, and has already collected two hard court titles (Adelaide, Abu Dhabi). While she’s just 8-6 lifetime in Miami, she did advance to the semifinals last year, losing to Naomi Osaka.
Leylah and Belinda have split four previous matches, two of which occurred during the Billie Jean King Cup, most recently last fall when Bencic won in straights. Just a few weeks earlier, Bencic also defeated Fernandez, this time 6-3 in the third in Guadalajara. This is another case where the Canadian should be considered the underdog, but a Canadian victory would not be shocking.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Andrey Rublev (6) vs. J.J. Wolf – Rublev is a modest 11-7 this year, and just 10-7 in Miami. Wolf is 9-6 this year, and reached the second week of a Major for the first time in Melbourne. Last summer in Washington, Andrey defeated J.J. in straight sets.
Varvara Gracheva (Q) vs. Ons Jabeur (4) – Jabeur is just 4-3 on the year, having undergone a minor surgery after the Australian Open. She’s is 1-0 against Gracheva, having defeated her in three sets last year in Madrid on clay.
Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Facundo Bagnis – Alcaraz is 14-1 since February, and needs to defend this title in order to retain the No.1 ranking. Bagnis’ win in the opening round was his first ATP-level main draw victory on a hard court since August. Last summer on clay in Umag, Alcaraz beat Bagnis 6-0, 6-4.
Caroline Garcia (5) vs. Sorana Cirstea – This is a rematch from just last week at Indian Wells, when Cirstea upset Garcia 7-5 in the third. Caroline claimed their other two previous meetings, though all three have now gone three sets.
Shelby Rogers vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Sabalenka is now 17-2 in 2023, but is only 4-4 lifetime in Miami. Rogers eliminated another Slam champ, Sloane Stephens, in the first round. Aryna is 3-0 against Shelby, which includes a straight-set victory at January’s Australian Open.
Casper Ruud (3) vs. Ilya Ivashka – Ruud is defending runner-up points from a year ago, but is only 4-5 this season. Ivashka arrived at Indian Wells on a nine-match losing streak, yet has now claimed three of his last four matches.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Miami Open Daily Preview: Thursday’s Action Features Azarenka, Thiem, Rybakina
Women’s second round action begins on Thursday, including Major champions like Victoria Azarenka and Elena Rybakina, as well as American top seeds Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.
The highest profile WTA match of the day sees Azarenka, a three-time Miami Open champion, face Italy’s Camila Giorgi, who is always a threat on a faster hard court. Meanwhile, men’s first round action concludes on Thursday, headlined by 2020 US Open champ Dominic Thiem facing Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Lorenzo Sonego vs. Dominic Thiem (WC) – Not Before 7:00pm on Stadium Court
Dominic Thiem continues to struggle to regain his form after missing nearly a year of action due to a wrist injury. He showed some signs of his former self during the fall, reaching the semifinals of both Gijon and Antwerp. However, he is just 1-8 at all levels to start 2023, with his only win coming on clay in Buenos Aires over Alex Molcan. Thiem has lost two of his last three matches in a final-set tiebreak, including two weeks ago to Adrian Mannarino at Indian Wells, a tournament Dominic won four years ago.
Sonego was ranked as high as 21st in the world just 18 months ago, but is now 59th, and owns a 5-8 record in 2023. Yet it’s worth noting he’s also had some tough draws. Five of those eight losses have come against top 20 opposition.
These players have split two previous meetings., both on clay. In 2019 in Kitzbuhel, Thiem prevailed in straight sets. In 2021 in Rome, Sonego prevailed in an epic encounter on his home soil, claiming a third-set tiebreak after nearly three-and-a-half hours. While neither man arrives in Miami with much confidence, it’s hard to favor Dominic until he gets back to his winning ways.
Camila Giorgi vs. Victoria Azarenka (14) – Not Before 7:00pm on Grandstand Court
Azarenka’s three Miami titles came in 2009, 2011, and 2016, defeating Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Svetlana Kuznetsova in those finals. She is 38-10 lifetime in Miami, and 10-6 on the season, with half of those victories coming during her semifinal run at the Australian Open.
Giorgi is also 10-6 this year, with half of her wins coming during her title run last month at a hard court event in Merida. In the first round on Tuesday, she survived a dramatic affair against another of the WTA’s hardest hitters, defeating Kaiai Kanepi in a match that consisted of three tiebreak sets and lasted over three-and-a-half hours.
Giorgi leads their head-to-head 2-1. That includes a victory nine years ago on grass, as well as a win five years ago on a hard court, though Azarenka retired after only eight games in that match. Most recently, four years ago on a hard court in Toronto, Vika won in straight sets. On Thursday, I give Azarenka the edge in a city where she has enjoyed much success, especially considering Giorgi may be a bit physically depleted after her opening round.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Katherine Sebov (Q) – Pegula is 15-5 in 2023, and lost a heartbreaker at Indian Wells to Petra Kvitova in an extended third-set tiebreak, during which both players held multiple match points. Sebov is a 24-year-old Canadian who has claimed two ITF-level hard court titles within the past few months.
Rebecca Marino vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Gauff is 14-4 this season, and is just 3-3 lifetime at her home state’s biggest event. Marino is a 32-year-old Canadian who has taken several extended breaks from competitive tennis, but won 49 matches at all levels last year. At the 2022 French Open, Coco defeated Rebecca 7-5, 6-0.
Elena Rybakina (10) vs. Anna Kalinskaya – Rybakina is now 16-4 on the year, coming off her Indian Wells title run last week, where she avenged her Australian Open final loss to Aryna Sabalenka. Kalinskaya is 6-4 in main draws this season, and while she’s never played Elena at tour level, she did defeat her four years ago in the final of an ITF-level event in Australia.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
Jannik Sinner beats Laslo Djere to beat reach the third round at the Miami Open
Stefanos Tsitsipas Benefitting From Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev’s Success
Coco Gauff reaches the third round at the Miami Open for the second consecutive year at the Miami Open
Elena Rybakina beats Anna Kalinskaya to keep her hopes to win the Sunshine Double alive
Dominic Thiem Pondering Return To Challenger Tour After Latest Defeat In Miami
Andy Murray does not care too much about possible all-British third round clash in Indian Wells
WTA CEO Reportedly Said Players Shouldn’t Be Upset If Their Peers Support Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Stan Wawrinka’s Warning To Rune After Fiery Encounter At Indian Wells
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Elena Rybakina Topples Injured Swiatek, Faces Sabalenka For Indian Wells Title
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