2021 Australian Open: What to Watch on Friday Night


How to watch: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Eastern on the Tennis Channel and 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. on ESPN2 in the United States; streaming on the ESPN+ and ESPN3 apps.Rafael Nadal cruised past Michael Mmoh, a 23-year-old American, in his second-round match, dropping only seven games across three sets. Although there was plenty of flash on the court, an aggrieved fan had the most memorable moment, heckling Nadal and making an obscene gesture at him before being removed by security. During a post-match news conference, Nadal laughed away the stunt and was visibly puzzled, but not angered, by the fan’s outburst.Tonight’s matches won’t have any hecklers as fans won’t be allowed at the tournament for the next several days because of a coronavirus lockdown in the Australian state of Victoria, but they are sure to provide plenty of entertainment as the third round of the Australian Open concludes.Here are some matches to keep an eye on.Because of the number of matches cycling through courts, the times for individual matchups are at best estimates and certain to fluctuate based on when earlier play is completed. All times are Eastern.Rod Laver Arena | 7 p.m. FridayKarolina Muchova vs. Karolina PliskovaKarolina Pliskova, the sixth seed from the Czech Republic, is one of the best players on the women’s tour without a Grand Slam title. Her only appearance in a final was at the 2016 U.S. Open, and although she has reached two semifinals since, she has not been able to push past more nimble opposition.Pliskova and Karolina Muchova, her countrywoman, have played each other only in Grand Slams, with Pliskova winning in the first round of the 2019 Australian Open and Muchova prevailing in a three-set match in the round of 16 at Wimbledon later that year.Muchova can adapt her game and tends to push her opponents around the court with a variety of shots that rely more on finesse than power. Pliskova will need to grab control of points early with her powerful baseline shots if she’s going to avert an upset.Margaret Court Arena | 11 p.m. FridayAndrey Rublev vs. Feliciano LopezFeliciano Lopez upset the 31st seed, Lorenzo Sonego, in a tight five-set match in the second round. Lopez, a 39-year-old Spaniard, is playing in his 75th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, continuing a streak that started at the 2002 French Open. Having exited in the first round in the last four Australian Opens, Lopez is enjoying being deeper into the tournament.Andrey Rublev, the seventh seed, has been bulldozing his opposition over the last couple of weeks. Rublev, 23, dropped only one set in singles as he helped Russia win the ATP Cup, and he has won his first two rounds at the Australian Open in straight sets. His explosive forehand shots are thriving on the fast courts of Melbourne Park, helping him move opponents around the court even when he is under pressure. While Lopez certainly has more experience than Rublev, it will be hard for him to keep up with the pure ferocity of Rublev’s game.Rod Laver Arena | Midnight SATURDAYBelinda Bencic vs. Elise MertensIn her return to a Grand Slam after skipping the United States and French Opens in 2020, Belinda Bencic has not been particularly satisfied with her play going into the third round. Bencic, the 11th seed from Switzerland, needed three sets to beat each of her unseeded opponents in the first two rounds. She is an incredibly intelligent player, but sometimes struggles to keep pace with some of her peers, who can overpower her. Bencic, 23, will need to improve if she’s to reach the round of 16.Elise Mertens, the 18th seed from Belgium, is on a good run: She won the Gippsland Trophy last week while beating the fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina in the process. Mertens, 25, has a particularly consistent game, which is reflected in her Grand Slam results. She was a semifinalist at the 2018 Australian Open, and has not lost before the third round in a Grand Slam since. Considering Bencic’s middling play going into the match, Mertens should be a clear favorite.John Cain Arena | 3 a.m. SaturdayMatteo Berrettini vs. Karen KhachanovKaren Khachanov, the 19th seed, and Matteo Berrettini, the ninth seed, have styles so similar that one might think they were coached together from a young age. Both are 24 years old, and they are built in the same vein, models of strength sticking out among a generation of players who aimed to be lithe and flexible.Berrettini had a breakout year in 2019, when he reached the U.S. Open semifinal, but he struggled last year, not making the final of any ATP event. Now, he’s looking to return to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since that U.S. Open run. Khachanov hasn’t made a quarterfinal at a major since the 2019 French Open.When these two bruisers meet, especially on a faster court, expect plenty of points to end with either a stunning winner, or an unforced error when a player chooses the wrong moment to strike.Here are a few more matches to keep an eye on.Elina Svitolina vs. Yulia Putintseva — 7 p.m.Mackenzie McDonald vs. Lloyd Harris — 9 p.m.Ashleigh Barty vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova — 3 a.m.Rafael Nadal vs. Cameron Norrie — 5 a.m.

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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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