Australian Open Daily Preview: Djokovic Plays Sinner, Medvedev Plays Zverev in the Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: Djokovic Plays Sinner, Medvedev Plays Zverev in the Semifinals

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Novak Djokovic on Tuesday in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

The men’s singles semifinals are on Friday in Melbourne.

 

10-time and defending champion Novak Djokovic is a combined 20-0 in Australian Open semifinals and finals.  But on Friday, he faces Jannik Sinner, who at the end of 2023 defeated Djokovic twice in singles, as well as once in doubles. 

Friday’s other ATP semifinal features two players who do not get along, with their dislike made extremely public of late, as Daniil Medvedev takes on Sascha Zverev

Day 13 also features the second women’s doubles semifinal, with the winners to face Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens in the final.  In addition, the mixed doubles championship match will be played, which also includes Su-Wei.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jannik Sinner (4) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Two months ago, these players met four times across singles and doubles within a two-week period.  At the ATP Finals, Sinner outlasted Djokovic in an over three-hour three-setter during round robin play, but Novak avenged that loss a few days later in the championship match, winning in straights.  The next week in the Davis Cup finals, Jannik again defeated Novak in three sets, and later that same day, defeated him on the doubles court as well.  Djokovic had claimed their previous three meetings, on grass and clay, so he leads their head-to-head 4-2 in singles.

Novak’s perfect record of 20-0 in Australian Open semis and finals is rivaled only by Rafael Nadal’s record of 28-1 in Roland Garros semis and finals, which at one time stood at 26-0.  Overall Djokovic is 36-11 in Major semis, and has won his last 12, as well as 22 of his last 23, a stretch which dates back nine years.  That is mind-boggling.

The 24-time Major champ arrived in Melbourne with a wrist injury, and having lost his first match in Australia since 2018, against Alex de Minaur in the United Cup.  And while Novak’s form was less than stellar in his first two matches, he has played himself into form as the tournament progressed, as he usually does.  He’s dropped three sets to this stage, most recently winning a four-setter against Taylor Fritz in the last round.  Djokovic struggled with the heat during that match, and though this match is also scheduled during the afternoon, the temperature is forecast to be much cooler on Friday.

No man has played better through five rounds than Sinner, who has claimed all 15 sets he’s contested.  This is a second Major semifinal for the 22-year-old, having lost his first in straight sets to Djokovic six months ago at Wimbledon.  But Jannik has taken his game to another level these past six months, with a record of 32-4, and three titles, including his first at the Masters 1000 level.

The big question on Friday is this: can Sinner replicate his recent success against Djokovic when playing best-of-five instead of best-of-three, and at the event Novak has never lost a semifinal or final?  Until someone breaks that streak, Djokovic must be considered the favorite.


Daniil Medvedev (3) vs. Sascha Zverev (6) – Not Before 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

This has been the sport’s most prolific rivalry of the past several years, and it’s been quite a bitter one.  Medvedev leads 11-7 overall, and 9-7 on hard courts.  Zverev had won their first four meetings, but Medvedev has now won 10 of their last 12, and went 5-1 against Zverev in 2023.  Amazingly, their nineteenth encounter will be their first at a Major.

Last April in Monte Carlo, proceedings became especially contentious between these two.  Zverev felt a mid-set Medvedev toilet break was pure gamesmanship, and after losing the match, he referred to Daniil as “one of the most unfair players in the world.”  Their 2023 rivalry was recently featured in Netflix’s “Break Point,” with Sascha portrayed as the protagonist returning from a serious ankle injury, and Daniil the villain. 

Notably, there was no mention of the domestic violence allegations against Zverev, for which he will stand trial in May.  And there’s another layer of personal beef between these two players.  Olga Sharypova, who made separate allegations of domestic abuse against Zverev, is a close friend of Medvedev’s wife, Dasha.

On the tennis court, these players have struggled to reach this semifinal.  Both men have played 21 sets, including two five-setters each.  Zverev won two fifth-set tiebreaks earlier in the tournament, but played his best tennis of the fortnight in the last round, eliminating Carlos Alcaraz in four sets. 

On the same day, Medvedev contested a four-hour five-setter against Hurbert Hurkacz, and unlike Sascha who played at night, Daniil played during the heat of the afternoon.  After the match, Medvedev proclaimed “I am so destroyed right now.”  And considering Daniil’s other five-setter during the first week went until almost 4:00am local time, he will surely be less than 100% physically in this semifinal.  Most players never fully recover from such a late finish to win the event.

Medvedev is 5-2 in Major semis, and 2-0 in Melbourne.  Zverev is a meager 1-5, with his only victory coming during the 2020 US Open in an empty stadium, where he came back from a two-set deficit against another player who had never reached a Major final, Pablo Carreno Busta.  But considering how physically drained Medvedev will likely be on Friday, especially with only one day’s rest, a Zverev victory would not be surprising despite their shared and individual history.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Su-Wei Hsieh and Jan Zielinski (3) vs. Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski (2) – This is a first mixed doubles final for Su-Wei and Zielinski, while Krawczyk has won four Majors in mixed doubles within the past years, two of which came with Skupski as her partner.

Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko (11) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe (4) – Kichenok and Ostapenko are vying for their first Major final as a team, after losing two Major semifinals in 2022.  Dabrowski and Routliffe are looking to win their second consecutive Major after winning their first in New York.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Ons Jabeur’s Latest Withdrawal Raises Doubts Over Season Ambitions

Ons Jabeur will be hoping to re-energize herself ahead of a big few months in her career.

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Ons Jabeur’s latest withdrawal in Dubai has raised doubts over how successful the Tunisian can be this season.

 

Despite having high hopes for revitalizing her season in Dubai, Ons Jabeur has had another setback in 2024.

The Tunisian was forced to withdraw from one of her favourite tournaments of the year in Dubai due to a knee injury.

This withdrawal came days after Jabeur said she was ready for the challenge in Dubai and was excited to compete in front of a passionate crowd in Dubai.

In a statement Jabeur explained her injury and why she was unable to compete in Dubai this week, “After consultation of my doctors and team we have decided that I will have to withdraw from Dubai this week and go for more medical treatments,” Jabeur was quoted by tennishead as saying.

“Looking forward to reconnect with all on the courts for the US swing. Thank you for your continuous support.”

This latest setback isn’t a coincidence though as Jabeur has struggled with injuries ever since her Wimbledon final.

The mental and physical toll that the last eight months have taken of Jabeur are starting to show.

There doesn’t seem to be a plan in place as Jabeur has been open about her mental health struggles since that comprehensive defeat to Marketa Vondrousova at Wimbledon.

That’s a potential problem for Jabeur going forwards as it continues to get tougher for the world number six to find motivation going forwards.

A long break away from tennis may be beneficial for Jabeur as it feels like this summer may be the Tunisian’s last opportunity at Grand Slam glory.

An innovative and new approach may be required for Jabeur as her physical and mental stamina continues to fade with every week.

However will Jabeur manage reinvent herself before it’s too late? Only time will tell and SW19 may be the final destination in that bid.

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Iga Swiatek ‘Proud’ After Claiming Doha Title

World number one Iga Swiatek won her 18th career title in Doha.

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Iga Swiatek defeated Elena Rybakina 7-6(8) 6-2 to claim the title in Doha.

 

The world number one sealed an 18th career title with a straight sets win over Rybakina.

Swiatek had previously struggled to beat the Kazakh and that continued at the start of the opening set with the Pole conceding a double break deficit at 4-1.

However Swiatek was resilient as she won four games in a row to get back on track in the opening set.

Rybakina broke in the eleventh game and had the opportunity to serve for the opening set but couldn’t take the opportunity.

In the tiebreak, Swiatek converted her fourth set point as she claimed a mammoth tiebreak 10-8.

After that Swiatek seized control as she broke twice after saving two break points in the second game.

The Pole held comfortably to claim her maiden title of the 2024 season in what was her first tournament since a third round exit at the Australian Open.

In her-post match speech Swiatek admitted that she is proud of her performance in Doha this week, “You don’t even know hard it was not to think about it,” Swiatek was quoted by France 24 as saying after winning her 13th match in Doha.

“I came here and was pretty stressed because I felt the expectations. I wanted to do everything step by step like I always do. I’m really happy. I’m really proud of myself.”

Swiatek will now look to continue that form in Dubai next week where she takes on either Sloane Stephens or Clara Burel in her opening round match.

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Ons Jabeur Ready For Dubai Challenge Despite Injury Struggles

Ons Jabeur is looking to overcome injury struggles and revitalize her form in Dubai.

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Ons Jabeur is looking to be ready for Dubai this week after struggling with injuries this season.

 

The year could have started better for the Wimbledon finalist who continues to struggle with injuries.

Having struggled with knee injuries, Jabeur enters Dubai in very inconsistent form as she went out in the first round in Doha to Lesia Tsurenko.

However despite recent struggles Jabeur seems determined to continue working on solutions as she prepares for the upcoming challenge in Dubai.

Speaking ahead of the event in Dubai Jabeur reflected on her recent retirement to Tsurenko, “I think it’s the worst decision you can take because my heart wants to play and my body is not allowing me so much,” Jabeur told The National.

“I feel like I need to take the right decision and sometimes you have to take decisions where your heart is not agreeing with it. But all I know is that I’m doing my best to be ready for this tournament and be ready to play here and compete in front of amazing fans.”

The Tunisian will look to pick up form in what should be an incredible atmosphere for Jabeur in Dubai.

In recent tournaments there have been football-like atmosphere for Jabeur in Dubai and that’s something she is looking to capitalise on, “I think everybody knows the match against Simona was unbelievable,” Jabeur reflected on her epic match with Simona Halep in Dubai in 2020.

“We got the Tunisian fans, the Arab fans and the Romanian fans. So it was unbelievable. I would never forget that match because it was right before Covid and after that the crowd completely disappeared so I always tried to think about that match when the stadium was empty.”

Jabeur has a first round BYE in Dubai and will play a qualifier in the second round before potentially facing the in-form Jelena Ostapenko in the third round.

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