Australian Open Daily Preview: Opportunities Abound in Open Sections of the Draws - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Daily Preview: Opportunities Abound in Open Sections of the Draws

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Linda Noskova this past week in Melbourne (twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

Fourth round singles action concludes on Monday in Melbourne.

The top half of the women’s singles draw has completely fallen apart, with only one of the top eight seeds in this half defending their seeding, and that seed has only reached one Major quarterfinal.  The other seven remaining are a two-time champion of this event who hasn’t won a Major in over a decade, a three-time Major semifinalist who is yet to go farther, and five players vying for their first-ever Major quarterfinal.  We are guaranteed to see WTA players breaking new ground this week.

The bottom half of the men’s singles draw, which plays on Monday, would seemingly be leading to another Carlos Alcaraz/Daniil Medvedev Major semifinal.  However, neither played their best during the first week, and either could be vulnerable to an upset.  The others remaining include three men making their debut at this stage of a Major, two Wimbledon semifinalists, and a US Open runner-up.

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


Victoria Azarenka (18) vs. Dayana Yastremska (Q) – 12:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Azarenka won a pair of three-setters to start the fortnight, then impressively took out an in-form Jelena Ostapenko in straights.  That victory gave Vika her 50th match win at the Australian Open, making her one of only six women to achieve that mark in the Open Era.  A semifinalist a year ago, the two-time champ is vying for her seventh quarterfinal at this event.

23-year-old Yastremska was a WTA tour champion at the age of 18, and reached the second week of Wimbledon at the age of 19.  But in 2021, she missed the first six months of the year due to a doping suspension, which was later reversed, and her ranking is yet to recover from its peak of No.21.  Dayana spent much of 2023 ranked outside the top 100 and playing lower-level tournaments, but the qualifier has won six matches within the last two weeks in Melbourne, and eliminated two seeded players (Vondrousova, Navarro).

They’ve played three times, all on hard courts, with Azarenka leading 2-1.  Yastremska’s only victory came in their first meeting five years ago.  Vika has taken the last two in straight sets, and on Monday, she should be favored to win for a third time in a row.  Experience should play a huge role in this contest, as Dayana tries to break new ground in her career by reaching a Major quarterfinal.


Linda Noskova vs. Elina Svitolina (19) – Not before 1:30pm on Margaret Court Arena

Since returning to the tour last Spring after becoming a mother, Svitolina has been a different, more aggressive player, especially at the Majors.  Elina is 14-3 at the last four Slams, as she vies for her third quarterfinal out of the last four.  And she’s been in excellent form to this stage, not dropping a set, and dropping only 13 games across six sets.

19-year-old Noskova achieved quite a milestone on Saturday, upsetting World No.1 Iga Swiatek in three sets.  She was the more consistent player in the last two sets against Iga, especially on big points.   

But in their first career meeting, I favor Svitolina to prevail.  It’s another matchup on Day 9 where one player possesses so much more experience on a stage like this, as Noskova had never advanced beyond the second round of a Major prior to this run.  And it will be tough for Linda to play her best tennis coming off such a career-changing win.


Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Cameron Norrie (19) – Not Before 4:00pm on Margaret Court Arena

Zverev is playing amidst ongoing domestic abuse allegations against him, which he will stand trial for in May.  Despite that, Netflix decided to feature Sascha in the new season of “Break Point” without any mention of the allegations.  And he was recently added to the ATP Player Advisory Council, something the press has questioned him on repeatedly during this tournament.  A semifinalist here in 2020, Zverev has now reached the second week of a Slam in 13 of his last 15 appearances, though he’s yet to face a top 50 player this fortnight.

That will change on Monday, as he plays the British No.1, who in the last round played his best match in quite awhile to defeat Casper Ruud in four sets.  Both Zverev and Norrie won five-setters in the their second round.  This is just the third time Cam has appeared in the second week of a Major, after going 0-3 in third round matches at this level a year ago.

Zverev is 4-0 against Norrie, with all four matches occurring on hard courts, and all decided in straight sets.  That includes a 6-2, 6-4 victory just a few months ago in Vienna.  Sascha is a considerable favorite to defeat Cam again on Monday.


Miomir Kecmanovic vs. Carlos Alcaraz (2) – 7:00pm on Rod Laver Arena

Alcaraz has only lost one set to this stage, but it feels like he’s yet to reach top gear.  And he was not at his best during the last few months of the 2023 season, as he never seemed to recover from his near four-hour three-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the Cincinnati final.  This is only his third appearance in Melbourne, where he was just 3-2 previously, as he missed last year’s event due to injury.

Kecmanovic has survived back-to-back five-setters, against two seeded players (Struff, Paul).  This matches the 24-year-old’s best result at a Major, after reaching the same round of the same event two years ago.

Their only prior encounter was extremely tight.  In the quarterfinals of the 2022 Miami Open, Alcaraz outlasted Kecmanovic in a third-set tiebreak.  Miomir will surely feel less than 100% after playing 14 sets through three rounds, so this should be smooth sailing for Carlitos.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Nuno Borges vs. Daniil Medvedev (3) – Medvedev dropped the first set in his first round, and the first two sets in his second round, before beating Felix Auger-Aliassime in straights on Saturday. Borges is a 26-year-old from Portugal who was 2-7 at Slams prior to this fortnight, yet has only lost one set thus far, and has upset two seeded players (Davidovich Fokina, Dimitrov). 

Arthur Cazaux (WC) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (9) – In the last two rounds, Hurkacz has come from behind to defeat Jakub Mensik in five, and Ugo Humbert in four.  Cazaux’s three victories thus far are his first three at a Major, as the 21-year-old French wild card is now 8-0 to start 2024 at all levels, after winning a Challenger title a few weeks ago. 

Jasmine Paolini (26) vs. Anna Kalinskaya – Paolini is yet to lose a set, after previously never advancing beyond the second round at this level.  Kalinskaya has won two three-setters thus far, including one on Saturday over Sloane Stephens.  Three years ago at the Slovenia Open on a hard court, Paolini defeated Kalinskaya in straight sets.

Qinwen Zheng (12) vs. Oceane Dodin – This is Qinwen’s second consecutive appearance in a Slam quarterfinal, and she barely survived a final-set tiebreak in the last round over her fellow countrywoman, Yafan Wang.  Just like Paolini, Dodin has not dropped a set after failing to go farther than the second round of a Major prior to this event.  Qinwen leads their head-to-head 2-1 at all levels.


Monday’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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