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2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Monday Night


How to watch: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern on ESPN and 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on ESPN2 in the United States; streaming on the ESPN+ app.The first round of the Australian Open is set to finish on Monday, with a few previous champions on the schedule. Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty will both be featured on the court at Rod Laver Arena in the early hours of the morning for fans on the Eastern Seaboard. For those who don’t want to stay up too late on a school night, there are plenty of exciting matches planned for the evening.Here are some matches to keep an eye on.Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are guesses at best and certain to fluctuate based on when earlier play is completed. All times are Eastern.Rod Laver Arena | 7 p.m. MondaySofia Kenin vs. Maddison InglisSofia Kenin, the defending women’s singles champion in Melbourne, had a breakthrough year in 2020. In addition to her first Grand Slam victory, she reached the final at the French Open and the round of 16 at the United States Open, finishing the year at No. 4 in the world. Kenin, 22, is one of four women who have won their first Grand Slam titles in the past two years, creating a cluttered field of players with heightened expectations. Inevitably, some won’t live up to them. Kenin’s aggressive baseline play and well-concealed drop shots are potent weapons on the fast hard courts of Melbourne Park. Kenin, who had a leg injury going into the tournament, will hope to have an easy time against Maddison Inglis in her first round matchup.Inglis, an Australian who received a wild card into the main draw, has never progressed past the first round at a Grand Slam. Her counterattacking style has trouble holding up against some of the harder hitters on the WTA Tour, although she certainly shows moments of brilliance. Getting her first main draw victory will be a tall order, especially against Kenin. But this match should help illuminate whether Inglis was able to improve on her previous performances and make the improvements necessary to succeed on the tour in the future.Margaret Court Arena | 9 p.m. MondayVictoria Azarenka vs. Jessica PegulaVictoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion and former world No. 1, struggled with her return to the tour after injuries and a mentally draining custody battle. Last year, she reached her first Grand Slam final since 2013 and proved that she was still capable of challenging for titles, winning the Western and Southern Open before the U.S. Open. Azarenka is one of the tour’s veterans, but her game does not look out of place among the young power hitters seeking to supplant former champions.Jessica Pegula, the world No. 61, has had some recent success on hard courts. She reached the third round of the 2020 U.S. Open, and pushed Kenin to three sets at the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne last week. Pegula’s focus on deep, consistent shotmaking is an asset, but it can be undercut if she doesn’t move her opponents on the court well enough to unsettle them. If she can take control of points, there’s a possibility of an early upset.John Cain Arena | 10 p.m. MondayCoco Gauff vs. Jil TeichmannCoco Gauff, a 16-year-old American, and Jil Teichmann, a 23-year-old Swiss player, played each other just last week in the first round of the Gippsland Trophy, with Gauff winning in three sets. Both players represent the brightest hope for the future of women’s tennis in their countries.Teichmann has found the most success on clay, having won WTA titles in 2019 at the Prague Open and Palermo International. Gauff won her first title at the Linz Open in 2019 but has raised her profile most on the Grand Slam stage. She has reached the round of 16 twice, including last year at the Australian Open.Like their last match, this one is bound to be close. Gauff’s tenacity and mental strength have been on display recently, although Teichmann has shown a little more inventiveness in her play, continually searching for her opponent’s weaknesses.Rod Laver Arena | 5 a.m. TuesdayStefanos Tsitsipas vs. Gilles SimonStefanos Tsitsipas, of Greece, the fifth seed in the men’s singles draw, was in good form during the ATP Cup this month, defeating Alex de Minaur and Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets. But inconsistency has been an issue throughout his career. His shotmaking is on par with many of the other top players, but he has struggled with securing victories on the biggest stages. A 2019 ATP Finals championship has been the highlight of his career, but aside from that he has won only ATP 250 events, the lowest rung of events on the ATP Tour.Gilles Simon, of France, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 6 in 2009, emphasizes mental toughness as the most important aspect of tennis. A lack of focus on that part of the game, he suggests in his recent autobiography, is the main problem with the development of young tennis players in France. Although his best days are behind him, he can still provide a formidable challenge to Tsitsipas if he can create opportunities for winners through clever shot placement and prevent Tsitsipas from unloading his favored one-handed backhand.Matches for the Night Owls:Nikoloz Basilashvili vs. Tommy Paul — midnightKevin Anderson vs. Matteo Berrettini — 3 a.m.Karolina Muchova vs. Jelena Ostapenko — 3 a.m.

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Sofia Kenin: Moved to Tears, and Victory


Sofia Kenin had just beaten Ashleigh Barty, the world No. 1, to reach the final at the Australian Open last January. Still in her tennis clothes and seated on a bench in the locker room next to her friend and doubles partner, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Kenin glanced at her phone and put her hands to her mouth.“Andy Roddick just tweeted. Oh my God, Oh my God,” Kenin said as she read aloud the former world No. 1’s message. “‘This girl has become the goods,’” Roddick wrote, urging her to win the title.“I will,” Kenin yelled into her phone. Then she cried.Kenin, 22, met Roddick when she was a 7-year-old Florida phenomenon playing exhibition matches with the former world No. 1s Jim Courier and Venus and Serena Williams. She told a reporter that she knew how to return Roddick’s 150-plus m.p.h. serve by split-stepping and hitting with a short backswing.Tears have become Kenin’s mantra. She cried from nerves before every match during last year’s Australian Open and then sobbed with joy after she beat Garbiñe Muguruza to win her first major title.She fought back tears of frustration in the middle of her French Open final-round loss to Iga Swiatek and then let them flow as she sat courtside during the trophy presentation.Kenin entered last year’s Australian Open ranked outside the top 10. Helped by a potent backhand down the line, a well-disguised drop shot and an unwavering will to win, she ended the Covid-truncated season ranked No. 4 and was named the WTA Player of the Year.The following conversation has been edited and condensed.What’s with all the tears?I don’t know. I try to handle it. I can’t go on the court crying because then it’s a big advantage for my opponent, so I have to wipe my tears, have a good warm-up, feel the ball and then start grooving in the game. That’s when I forget I was crying and just focus on the points.Do you cry before every match?I did in Australia last year. I wasn’t doing it on purpose, it was just happening. And then, I’m superstitious so I was like, I got to cry. I’m not a good actress.In last year’s final, you were at 2-2 in the third set, down 0-40 on your serve, and you hit five straight winners. How did you do that?Yeah, yeah, I know those points. I just watched them on TV again, and I got a little emotional. Those were really clutch points, probably the best points of my life.Novak Djokovic, your fellow Australian Open defending champion, became an inspiration for you last year. How did he help?I was watching his match, and I messaged him on Instagram. I was hoping he would win so I would have an excuse to congratulate him. Then he was on the practice court next to me the day before the final, and he came up and gave me some advice. He just told me to enjoy the moment and leave it all out there. I think I’m going to ask him how to handle the pressure of being a defending champion. He’s got a lot of experience with that.Not long after you won in Australia, the tour was shut down for five months because of the pandemic. Did that make you angry?It hit me hard because it was supposed to be the best thing that ever happened. Three months of practicing and everything canceled.I wasn’t in a depression, but I was really down. I didn’t want to be on the court. But when we started again, I was super excited to go out and compete, even though it was really unfortunate that there were no fans.Heading into Melbourne, what are you most excited about, and what are you most afraid of?I’m definitely happy that I get to experience being a defending champion. That’s quite special. Then, I’m most afraid to lose and lose early.How are you different from that wide-eyed 7-year-old who wanted to return Roddick’s serve?Well, I won a Slam, and I got to the final of another one. So that’s a big difference.

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Plausinaitis Wins Big on WSOP Circuit Main Event

Ashleigh Barty Seeded First in Australian Open Draw


Tenth-seeded Serena Williams, who is seeking her 24th Grand Slam title, could await whoever advances from Osaka’s quarter of the draw. Williams opens against the combative Laura Siegemund, but her toughest test might come from the enigmatic player who looms in the fourth round: seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka. Despite the pandemic-decimated schedule, Sabalenka has won four WTA titles in the last 12 months, including the final two tournaments of last season and the first of this year. But Sabalenka has not played well at Grand Slam events, only once advancing to even the fourth round in 12 main draw appearances.Whoever advances from Williams’s and Sabalenka’s section very likely has a tough battle on her hands in the quarterfinals as well, with both second-seeded Simona Halep and 15th-seeded Iga Swiatek looming. Swiatek won the French Open in October.On the men’s side of the tournament, the already dim hopes among American players got even dimmer after the draw.With the highest-ranked American man, John Isner, choosing to stay home, 27th-seeded Taylor Fritz is the lone seed from the United States in men’s singles. He could face the next-highest ranked American man, his friend Reilly Opelka, in the second round. But whoever comes out of that part of the draw would most likely run into the buzz saw of Novak Djokovic in the third round.The top-seeded Djokovic, who has won eight Australian Open titles including the last two, opens his tournament against the Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, and could face another young American, 2019 quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe, in the second round.One of Djokovic’s toughest potential tests looms in the fourth round, where he could face the 17th-seeded Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka is one of only three players to have beaten Djokovic in Melbourne in the last 10 years. He did so in the 2014 quarterfinals en route to winning his first Grand Slam title.Djokovic could face third-seeded Dominic Thiem in the semifinals in what would be a rematch of last year’s final. Second-seeded Rafael Nadal, in his first try at breaking the Grand Slam men’s singles titles record after tying the absent Roger Federer at last year’s French Open, opens his tournament against the 56th-ranked Serbian player, Laslo Djere.

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