US Open Daily Preview: Coco Gauff Plays Caroline Wozniacki in the Fourth Round - UBITENNIS
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US Open Daily Preview: Coco Gauff Plays Caroline Wozniacki in the Fourth Round

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Coco Gauff on Friday night (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

The round of 16 begins on Sunday in both the men’s and women’s singles draws.

Coco Gauff has already endured several stern tests this fortnight, and it won’t get any easier for the 19-year-old on Sunday, as she faces two-time US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki.  Day 7 will also see a battle between Roland Garros champions, as Iga Swiatek takes on Jelena Ostapenko.

On the men’s side, the bottom half of the draw is 50% American.  And two of those Americans collide on Sunday, as Tommy Paul plays Ben Shelton in an Australian Open rematch.  Plus, Americans Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, as well as Novak Djokovic, face opponents ranked outside the top 100.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Sunday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Tommy Paul (14) vs. Ben Shelton – 12:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

In the Australian Open quarterfinals this past January, Paul beat Shelton in four sets to reach his first Major semifinal.  Tommy had previously advanced to a Slam quarterfinal at Roland Garros in 2020, so that result was not shocking.  But for 20-year-old Ben Shelton, that was only his fifth ATP-level tournament, and his first time ever leaving the United States.

Since leaving Australia, Ben has struggled mightily, going just 9-19 before arriving in New York.  Yet at his home Slam, he’s rebuilding his confidence, with his big weapons beginning to click again.  Paul has maintained a solid level throughout the year, and on Friday, picked up his 40th win of 2023, a career-high for the 26-year-old American.

In their Australian Open rematch, Paul is again a considerable favorite.  His speed and consistent groundstrokes will force Shelton to hit a lot of extra balls.  And Tommy has been in great form this summer on hard courts, as he’s split two three-setters with World No.1 Carlos Alcaraz.


Sorana Cirstea (30) vs. Belinda Bencic (15) – Second on Louis Armstrong Stadium

Bencic has quietly put together a solid yet unspectacular season to date.  She won two hard court titles at the beginning of the year (Adelaide, Abu Dhabi).  And this is her third appearance in the round of 16 at a Major this season, though she’s yet to advance farther.  In New York, Belinda has reached the quarterfinals or better in two of her last three appearances.

Cirstea is playing for her first Slam quarterfinal in over 14 years, when she achieved that feat in Paris as a teenager.  Like Bencic, she had some strong hard court results early in the year, as she was a quarterfinalist at Indian Wells, and a semifinalist in Miami.  In the last round, Sorana upset Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, her fourth top five victory of 2023.

Cirstea is 2-1 against Bencic, with all three meetings taking place on hard courts between 2021 and 2022.  However, Belinda’s only victory came at this same event a year ago, when she prevailed 6-2 in the third. But on Sunday, I give the slight edge to Sorana.  Her form this past week has been a bit stronger than that of Bencic, especially in Cirstea’s three-set win over Rybakina.


Caroline Wozniacki (WC) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Not Before 2:00pm on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Both of these women impressively turned around their third round matches after falling behind early.  Wozniacki was down a set and a break to Jennifer Brady, before reeling off 12 of the last 14 games, using her speed and endurance to exhaust the American.  Likewise, after dropping the first set to Elise Mertens, Gauff stormed back, claiming the last nine games of the match.

Gauff has now won 14 of her last 15 matches, which includes title runs in both Washington and Cincinnati.  She is vying for her fourth Major quarterfinal out of the last seven.  Wozniacki was just 1-2 in her return to the sport before arriving in New York, yet has earned impressive victories this past week over both Brady and Petra Kvitova.  She is looking to achieve her first Slam quarterfinal since she won the Australian Open nearly six years ago.

In their first career meeting, Wozniacki will look to effectively utilize her defensive skills and formidable backhand to draw errors off her opponent, just as she did against Kvitova and Brady.  Gauff will need to use her power to control the points.  And unlike Kvitova and Brady, she is faster around the court than Caroline.  Coco should be favored to reach the US Open quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Jelena Ostapenko (20) – Last on Arthur Ashe Stadium

Swiatek has made a habit out of making quick work of her opponents early in Majors.  Iga won two of her first three matches by the score of 6-0, 6-1, and dropped only seven games in the other.  She is now 56-9 on the year, though the fourth round has historically served as a bit of a stumbling block for her.  Iga is just 7-6 at this stage of Slams.

Of course, Ostapenko has the firepower to dictate matters and defeat just about anyone when she’s in the zone.  However, that hasn’t been the case of late against the best in the world.  As per Tennis Abstract, Jelena is 0-4 this season against top five opponents, though notably, all four of those matches went to three sets.  And she did advance to the quarterfinals at the last hard court Major in Melbourne.

This has been a one-sided rivalry to date, and surprisingly, it’s been Ostapenko that has taken all three of their meetings.  That includes a hard court three-setter last year in Dubai, which Jelena won in a third-set tiebreak.  But the US Open courts are reportedly playing considerably slower this year, which is to Swiatek’s liking.  And in turn, I like Iga to earn her first victory over the 2017 French Open champion on Sunday evening.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Karolina Muchova (10) vs. Xinyu Wang – Muchova is yet to drop a set, and has now won eight of her last nine matches.  This is a first appearance in the fourth round of a Major for Xinyu, though she’s yet to face a player ranked inside the top 50. 

Rinky Hijikata (WC) vs. Frances Tiafoe (10) – Tiafoe came from a set down in the last round to eliminate Adrian Mannarino, as Frances looks to achieve his third Major quarterfinal.  Hijikata is a 22-year-old Australian who was just 1-2 at Slams ahead of this run, though he’s also yet to face a top 50 player. 

Dominic Stricker (Q) vs. Taylor Fritz (9) – Through nine sets thus far, Fritz has been completely dominant, losing only 13 games.  Taylor is vying for his second Slam quarterfinal.  Stricker has played a lot of tennis since qualifying began last week, and has endured back-to-back five-setters, which includes an upset over Stefanos Tsitsipas. 

Borna Gojo (Q) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – Djokovic will be looking for a straightforward victory on Sunday, after having to come back from two sets down against Laslo Djere on Friday night.  Gojo is a 25-year-old Croatian who has not lost a set this week, and lost only one set last week during qualifying. 


Sunday’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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