US Open Daily Preview: Coco Gauff and Jelena Ostapenko Square Off in the Quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Coco Gauff and Jelena Ostapenko Square Off in the Quarterfinals

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Coco Gauff after her fourth round win on Sunday (Manuela Davies/USTA)

The singles quarterfinals begin on Tuesday in New York.

After taking out soon-to-be former World No.1 Iga Swiatek on Sunday night, Jelena Ostapenko will look to upset Coco Gauff on Tuesday afternoon.  And Jelena already defeated Coco at 2023’s other hard court Major in Australia.  The winner will advance to Thursday’s semifinals to face either Karolina Muchova or Sorana Cirstea, who will collide in Tuesday’s other women’s singles quarterfinal.

On the men’s side, this is the first Major to feature two black American men in the quarterfinals in 55 years.  And they will face each other on Tuesday, as Frances Tiafoe takes on Ben Shelton.  Plus, Novak Djokovic plays another American, Taylor Fritz, in a head-to-head that has been dominated by Novak.


Jelena Ostapenko (20) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Most everyone was expecting a Swiatek/Gauff rematch in this quarterfinal, but Ostapenko spoiled matters by blasting Iga off the court in the last round.  She is now 4-0 against Swiatek, and 1-1 against Gauff.  Coco won their first meeting four years ago on an indoor hard court to claim her first WTA title.  But this past January at the Australian Open, Jelena prevailed in straight sets.  And she did so in similar fashion to how she defeated Iga on Sunday: overpowering her opponent, who had little answers on that day.

But Gauff has a new coaching team now, and while working for ESPN on Monday, Brad Gilbert revealed he has a few ideas on how Coco can counter Jelena’s power and draw more errors out of her (without disclosing what those ideas are).  19-year-old Gauff has already endured a complicated path to this quarterfinal, her fifth at this level, with three-set victories over Laura Siegemund, Elise Mertens, and Caroline Wozniacki.  Coco has now taken 14 of her last 15 matches.

Ostapenko has required three sets to secure all four of her matches thus far.  She remains an extremely streaky player, as there was little evidence of this quarterfinal run earlier this summer, going 1-2 on North American hard courts.  And while she reminded us on Sunday of how dangerous she can be on any given day, I favor the more consistent and well-rounded player in Gauff, especially on the biggest court in Coco’s home country, where she can feed off the energy of the crowd.


Taylor Fritz (9) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – Second on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Fritz will need all of the partisan energy that 23,000+ fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium can muster, because he is 0-7 against Djokovic, and 2-15 in sets.  Those two sets came in the third round of the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak prevailed despite suffering a mid-match injury.  Since that contest, the 23-time Major champion has won four straight-setters against Taylor, including a 6-0, 6-4 victory just a few weeks ago in Cincinnati.

After coming back from two sets down two rounds ago against Laslo Djere, Djokovic comfortably advanced in straight sets against Borna Gojo on Sunday.  So the 36-year-old should feel fully fresh for this quarterfinal, which is even worse news for Fritz.  However, the American has been in strong form this fortnight, as he’s not dropped a set.

Yet, there’s really not much Fritz seemingly possesses in his game that can truly threaten Djokovic, especially across a best-of-five encounter.  And as if Taylor needed more bad news, Novak is a perfect 12-0 in US Open quarterfinals.  The Serbian is a strong favorite to reach his 13th semifinal at this event, and his record-breaking 47th Major semifinal overall, which would surpass Roger Federer’s tally of 46.


Sorana Cirstea (30) vs. Karolina Muchova (10) – 7:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

For Muchova, this is a fifth Major quarterfinal, and her second out of the last three.  She is 2-2 at this stage of a Major, with her most notable victory coming two years ago in Melbourne against then-World No.1 Ash Barty.  Karolina has lost only one set through four rounds, and the Cincinnati runner-up has now claimed nine of her last 10 matches.

For Cirstea, this is her second Major quarterfinal, and her first in over 14 years, when she achieved that feat as a teenager in Paris.  Sorana has significantly improved her results this year, particularly on hard courts, with help from her new coach for 2023, Thomas Johansson.  Across the past six months, this is the third time she has reached the quarters or better on this surface.  Like Muchova, she’s also dropped just one set thus far, in her upset of Wimbledon champ Elena Rybakina.

Karolina leads their head-to-head 3-1, with all four matches taking place on hard courts.  Their first meeting occurred three years ago in the third round of this same event, with Muchova prevailing in a third-set tiebreak.  Their other three encounters all happened this year, and their most recent one was just a month ago in Montreal, where Karolina won in straights.  Cirstea’s only victory came six months ago in Miami.

On Tuesday, I favor Muchova to achieve her third Major semifinal.  She owns more formidable weapons than Cirstea, as well as more variety in her game.


Frances Tiafoe (10) vs. Ben Shelton – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Tiafoe is vying for his second consecutive US Open semifinal.  He is now 37-14 on the year, with two ATP titles (Houston, Stuttgart).  Frances has won nine of the 10 sets he’s played to this stage.

This is Shelton’s second Major quarterfinal, both of which have come at this year’s hard court Majors.  Ben won just nine matches between those Majors, yet has rediscovered his mojo at his home Slam, winning three four-setters and receiving a mid-match retirement in the second round from 2020 champ Dominic Thiem.  20-year-old Shelton impressively blasted two serves at 149 mph within the same game on Sunday against Tommy Paul, showcasing his intimidating firepower.

In their first career meeting, Tiafoe has the definitive edge in experience and speed, while Shelton will continue to utilize his power to win easy points.  If Ben is able to come close to maintaining his level from Sunday, he’s got a real shot at upsetting another top American.  And based on the way his form has drastically increased as this tournament has progressed, I give the slight edge to Shelton to break new ground in his young career.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Andy Murray Makes Retirement Hint After 500th Hard Court Win In Dubai

Andy Murray won his 500th hard court match in Dubai, placing him fifth on the all-time list.

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Andy Murray further hinted at retirement after securing a 500th hard court win of his career in Dubai.

The former world number one picked up his second win of the year with a 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov.

In typical Andy Murray fashion, the Brit came back from a set down to defeat the out-of-sorts Canadian as he progressed to the second round.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUVj537F-wQ

The win means Murray now has 500 career wins on a hard court and that is an achievement the world number 67 is proud of, “It’s not bad,” Murray told the ATP website as he sits fifth on the all-time list of hard court wins.

“Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that. There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

However those post-match comments weren’t the most shocking ones as Murray once again hinted at retirement this season.

The Brit has made subtle remarks that this year may be his last one but Murray’s comments today suggests that he may have already made his decision, “I probably don’t have too long left but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months,” Murray was quoted by ESPN as saying.

“I still love competing and still love the game but it gets harder and harder to compete the older you get, to keep your body fit and fresh.”

If the end is near for Murray than the Brit will look to end his career on a high for the next few months.

Before thinking about retirement Murray will look to go further in Dubai when he takes on either Ugo Humbert or Gael Monfils in the second round.

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Perspective And Fatigue: The Two Sides Of Iga Swiatek’s Dubai Defeat

Iga Swiatek spoke about perspective and fatigue after her semi-final exit in Dubai.

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Iga Swiatek showed two sides to her defeat in Dubai as the world number one surprisingly failed to win the title despite being the favourite in the semi-finals.

Heading into her semi-final in Dubai, Swiatek was heavy favourite to win her second consecutive WTA title after claiming the title in Doha the week before.

However Swiatek was unsuccessful in her bid to reach the final as she lost to Anna Kalinskaya 6-4 6-4.

It was a bitterly disappointing defeat for Swiatek who missed a golden opportunity to establish even more dominance ahead of Indian Wells.

As all champions do Swiatek offered perspective to her defeat as she looks ahead to the rest of the season, “I mean, I’m angry but on the other hand, there aren’t many players that actually survive these kinds of tournaments so I just kind of have to let it go and accept it,” Swiatek was quoted by Tennis Majors.

There was not only perspective offered but also fatigue as expectations and pressure can force simple mistakes from the best players in the world.

The world number one acknowledged Kalinskaya’s performance but did admit her own performance contributed to the defeat, “Today I would say, I mean she [Kalinskaya] played well and for sure she deserves to be in the final, but I feel like it was more about me and my level,” Swiatek told Tennis Majors.

“I wanted to be focused on myself and I wasn’t really able to implement any tactics that I had. Usually, when I tell myself what to do, I can improve my game but today I was so out of power and tired that I just couldn’t. Day by day, it was a little bit worse.”

Swiatek will hope to re-energize herself ahead of the sunshine double in America.

Last year Swiatek lost to eventual champion Elena Rybakina in the semi-finals at Indian Wells before withdrawing from Miami.

The Pole will look to improve last year’s performance when she plays Indian Wells, which starts on the 6th of March.

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‘Speechless’ Mensik Reaches Maiden ATP Final In Doha

Jakub Mensik is into his first ATP final in Doha.

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Jakub Mensik admitted he was left speechless after reaching his first ATP final in Doha.

The 18 year-old continued his remarkable week with a 6-4 1-6 6-3 semi-final victory over Gael Monfils.

The Czech Republican produced clinical tennis as he beat the 2018 champion to reach his maiden ATP final.

After the match Mensik admitted he was left ‘speechless’ and spoke about the influence Monfils had on his career, “It is amazing. Hopefully not the last one [final]. Incredible week so far,” Mensik told the ATP website.

“Today again with Gael, he played unbelievable. I know it is tough to play against him, especially with his good movement. For me every point I have to play my best game.

“I have to say this performance was one of the best in my entire life. I am so glad I reached this level in the semis, so hopefully tomorrow I play like this. An amazing feeling with my first ATP final. I am speechless.

“I told him when I was young I watched him a lot on the TV. One of the biggest showman on court. He is a great guy, so hopefully in the future we will meet once again. The rallies were so fun with him.”

Mensik has so far beaten three former champions this week as he also defeated Andy Murray and Andrey Rublev this week.

Now Mensik will aim to win his first ATP title as he takes on Karen Khachanov in Saturday’s final.

Should Mensik win the title he could climb to 75 in the world as he started the week at 116 in the world.

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