Australian Open Daily Preview: Djokovic, Sabalenka, Gauff, Sinner Play Their Quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: Djokovic, Sabalenka, Gauff, Sinner Play Their Quarterfinals

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

The quarterfinals commence on Tuesday in Melbourne.

In the halves of the singles draws that play on Tuesday, we are one round away from two highly-anticipated semifinals: Novak Djokovic against Jannik Sinner, and Aryna Sabalenka against Coco Gauff.  However, all four face considerable opposition on Tuesday, and upsets have been contagious during this fortnight.


Marta Kostyuk vs. Coco Gauff (4) – Not Before 1:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Gauff’s progression these last six months has been significant, becoming one of the sport’s most confident and consistent performers.  Since losing in the first round of Wimbledon, and making changes to her coaching team, Coco is now 33-4, with four titles, including her first Major.  She’s on an 11-match winning streak at Slams, is 9-0 to start 2024, and didn’t drop a set in her first four rounds, averaging just two games lost per set.

Kostyuk is a 21-year-old Ukranian who was the Australian Open girls’ champion seven years ago.  She’s long been expected to become a top player, and though it’s taken her a bit more time, she’s starting to fulfill that potential.  Within the past 12 months, Marta has won her first WTA title, earned her first top 10 win, and has now achieved her first Major quarterfinal.  She possesses an all-court game that has often been compared to that of Martina Hingis.

Their only previous meeting took place two years ago in this same country, with Gauff prevailing 6-3 in the third in Adelaide.  In a preview of what could become a prominent WTA rivalry for years to come, Coco is the favorite to continue winning on Tuesday.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Taylor Fritz (12) – Not Before 2:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Three years ago in the third round at this event, these two participated in a bizarre match.  After winning the first two sets, Djokovic suffered an abdominal injury, and promptly lost the next two sets.  The crowd was in rare, disruptive form, as this was the last night before a new COVID lockdown was to begin in Melbourne.  And even though Rod Laver Arena was less than 50% full, those present were extremely vocal, with many booing Novak.  But prior to the start of the fifth set, fans were forced to leave due to the midnight lockdown, and Djokovic would win that set 6-2 in an empty arena.  Novak then had an explosive, emotional reaction to winning, and would later call this “one of the most special wins of my life.”

That remains the only tight contest in a head-to-head history Djokovic has completely dominated.  Novak leads 8-0, with the other seven matches all decided in straight sets. 

The 24-time champion looked vulnerable to start this fortnight, and during the United Cup, lost his first match in Australia in six years .  Yet despite his wrist injury, his form has strengthened as the tournament has progressed, and he dropped just three games to a physically-drained Adrian Mannarino in the last round.  With that victory, Djokovic tied Roger Federer with his 58th Major quarterfinal, an all-time record.

This a third Major quarterfinal for Fritz in as many years, though he’s yet to advance farther.  Two years ago at Wimbledon, he lost a heartbreaking quarterfinal to Rafael Nadal in a fifth-set tiebreak.  And last summer in New York, he was easily defeated in straight sets by Djokovic.  As sharp as Taylor looked on Sunday in a four-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Novak is a huge favorite on Tuesday.


Barbora Krejcikova (9) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

These two Major champions, in both singles and doubles, share a rather one-sided history in singles.  Sabalenka is 5-1 against Krejcikova, with Barbora’s only victory coming a year ago in Dubai.  They would meet three more times in 2023, with Aryna taking six of those seven sets.

Sabalenka’s level since winning her first Major here a year ago has been stellar.  As per OptaAce on Twitter, she is the youngest WTA singles player to reach six consecutive Major quarterfinals since Amelie Mauresmo nearly 20 years ago.  And she owns a perfect 7-0 record in this round of Majors, and all seven of those victories have come in straight sets.  Aryna’s form through four rounds rivals that of Coco’s, losing just 11 games through eight sets. 

Krejcikova has now come back from a set down three times during this event, most recently against teenage phenom Mirra Andreeva.  This is her first Slam quarterfinal in singles since doing so two years ago at this same tournament.  Like Aryna, Barbora’s highs and lows can be startling, and can come and go rather quickly.  But given their history, their recent form, and Sabalenka’s record in Major quarterfinals, the defending champion is a strong favorite to advance.


Jannik Sinner (4) vs. Andrey Rublev (5) – Last on Rod Laver Arena

Welcome to Ginger Bowl VII, a blockbuster quarterfinal between two top-five players, and the best redheads of this generation.  Sinner leads their head-to-head 4-2 overall, and 2-1 on hard courts.  The Italian claimed both of their 2023 meetings in straight sets.

No man has played better this fortnight than Sinner.  The 22-year-old has claimed all 12 sets he’s played without requiring a tiebreak, including against Karen Khachanov on Sunday, who was a semifinalist a year ago.  Jannik has been a different player since reaching his first Major semifinal last July at Wimbledon, a feat he looks to equal on Tuesday.

And unfortunately for Rublev, it’s a feat that has tantalizingly escaped Andrey for over six years now, to the point where it has very much become “a thing.”  The 26-year-old is 0-9 in Major quarterfinals, and he’s lost seven of those matches in straight sets.  While Rublev is an undefeated 8-0 to start 2024, he’s coming off an exhausting five-setter in the fourth round against Alex de Minaur, which lasted over four hours and was filled with grueling rallies.  Facing the ATP’s most in-form player, it would be shocking if Andrey is able to avoid going 0-10 in Major quarterfinals.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Casper Ruud Overcomes ‘Tough Start’ To Set De Minaur Final In Acapulco

Casper Ruud is into his first ATP 500 final after defeating Holger Rune in three sets.

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Casper Ruud is into his second consecutive final in Mexico after defeating Holger Rune 3-6 6-3 6-4 in Acapulco.

The Norwegian had to overcome an electric start from Rune to prevail in 2 hours and 24 minutes.

It was a clinical performance from Ruud who is now into his second consecutive final in Mexico after reaching the final in Los Cabos last week.

Speaking after the match Ruud admitted it was a tough start but he’s pleased to be in another final, “It was a tough start,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“Holger just came out firing bullets from the forehand, from the backhand and I had not too much time to play my game. I was frustrated at times, especially at the end of the first set, beginning of the second.

“I didn’t really feel like I got to play any points how I wanted to, so there was some frustration towards myself, towards my box, because I didn’t feel like we were doing the right thing.

“But luckily with one break in the second, it turned around a bit and in the third set it got a little physical. I think maybe Holger seemed like he was struggling a little bit and started firing even more and a couple of games it went in and he broke me, which is frustrating.

“Some unforced errors crept up on him and I served really well in the last game to close it out.”

Ruud is now into his first ATP 500 final in Acapulco where he will face defending champion Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur overcame Jack Draper after the Brit retired at 4-0 down in the deciding set.

Heading into Saturday’s final, De Minaur leads the head-to-head 1-0 although that was in a completely different scoring format in the Next Gen Finals.

Whatever happens on Saturday, Ruud will return to the world’s top ten.

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Andrey Rublev Disqualified In Dramatic Dubai Semi-Final

Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final in Dubai.

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Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik after being accused of swearing in Russian.

The event took place in Dubai where Rublev had more than enough opportunities to win the match having been 4-2 40-0 up in the deciding set.

However Bublik came back into the match as he caught up with Rublev in what was turning into a fascinating contest.

The score was at 6-5 Bublik when Rublev’s frustrations boiled over when he allegedly told the official at the side of the court that he was a ‘f****** moron’ in Russian.

One of the officials on the sidelines at the side of the court reported the incident and the supervisor ruled that Rublev should be defaulted.

The incident below means that Rublev will now lose all his ranking points and prize money, resulting in Rublev exiting the world’s top five.

An ending that didn’t warrant the dramatic contest and after the match Bublik agreed that the consequences, “I highly doubt Andrey said something crazy,” Bublik was quoted by Sports Illustrated.

“He’s not this kind of guy. But I guess that’s the rules. That’s what they did, they just follow the procedure.”

Bublik will hope for a smoother finish to the final when he takes on Ugo Humbert for the title.

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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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