Thiem and Goffin in the Kitzbuhel final - UBITENNIS
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Thiem and Goffin in the Kitzbuhel final

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TENNIS – At the ATP 250 in Kitzbuhel, Dominic Thiem and David Goffin will play for the title. It’s the first ATP final for both players. In Washington Pospisil downed Tomas Berdych. Diego Sampaolo

ATP Kitzbuhel

Austrian rising star Dominic Thiem will face David Goffin in the ATP 250 Tournament at Kitzbuhel. Thiem will be looking to become the first Austrian player to win the home tournament since Thomas Muster in 1993.

Both Thiem and Goffin will play their first ever ATP final.

Thiem beat Argentina’s Juan Monaco (2007 champion in this tournament) with a double 6-3. Thiem hit six aces and won 82 percent of his service points.

Goffin recovered from a set down to edge qualifier Maximo Gonzales in three sets with 5-7 6-4 6-3 in two hours and 23 minutes. The Belgian recently won three ATP Challengers at Sheveningen, Poznan and Tampere and clinched ten consecutive matches.

Goffin defeated Thiem 6-4 6-2 in their only head-to-head match at the Queen’s last June

ATP Washington

Canadian Vasek Pospisil, last year’s semifinalist at the Montreal Master 1000, upset top-seed Tomas Berdych in straight sets with 6-2 6-4 in one hour and 21 minutes to reach the quarter finals at the Citi Open in Washington. Pospisil broke serve four times. Berdych went down 0-3 before Pospisil got the break in the final game of the first set. Berdych again dropped his serve in the final game of the second set. Pospisil, who scored two of his three top-10 wins against Berdych, saved three of his four break points. The Canadian will face Santiago Giraldo who swept aside Victor Estrella Burgos 6-2 6-0.

Number 2 seed Milos Raonic overcame Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 7-6 in one and 50 minutes. The Canadian star, who reached the semifinal at Wimbledon, hit 28 aces and won 72 percent of first serve points.

Raonic will take on twice NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson who rallied from a set down to edge Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic in three sets with 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (9-7). Johnson, who beat John Isner in the previous round in a match which featured three tie-breaks, saved two match points in the tie-break of the third set. Karlovic hit 27 aces and did not face any break point chance.

Richard Gasquet advanced to quarter final after beating Tim Smyczek with 6-3 6-2 to set up an interesting quarter final match against Kei Nishikori who needed three sets to edge Lukas Lacko with 6-2 2-6 6-3.

South African Kevin Anderson eased past Malek Jaziri 6-3 6-4 to set up a quarter final against US Donald Young who overcame Denis Istomin in three sets with 6-3 3-6 6-3 in one hour and 40 minutes.

ATP

Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Plays Karolina Muchova for the Women’s Championship

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Karolina Muchova after winning her first Major semifinal on Thursday (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

The women’s singles championship match will be played on Saturday afternoon in Paris.

 

Iga Swiatek is playing for her fourth Major title, and her third French Open out of the last four.  She would become the first woman to win three RG titles in such a short span since Justine Henin, as well as the first woman to defend this title since Henin did in 2007.  And a fourth Slam title would tie Iga with Naomi Osaka as the second-most among non-retired female players, trailing only Venus Williams.  In short, a victory on Saturday would put Swiatek in elite company, especially on clay.

A year ago, Karolina Muchova left this tournament in a wheelchair, after turning her ankle in a third round encounter with Amanda Anisimova.  Multiple injuries across the last few years almost forced her into retirement, as doctors suggested she leave the sport.  But she pulled off an amazing comeback on Thursday against Aryna Sabalenka, where Karolina was down 2-5, 0-30 in the third, yet she won 20 of the last 24 points and saved a match point to achieve her first Major final.

Also on Saturday, the men’s doubles championship match features Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek (4) vs. Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen.  Dodid and Krajicek lost last year’s final in three sets, though Ivan is a two-time Major champ in men’s doubles, including here with Marcelo Melo back in 2015.  This is a first Slam final in men’s doubles for Gille and Vliegen, but Joran was a runner-up here in mixed doubles a year ago.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Karolina Muchova – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Swiatek is 34-6 on the year overall, and 18-2 on clay.  She’s only lost two of her 29 career matches at Roland Garros, and only six of 58 completed sets. Iga hasn’t lost a set in Paris since the fourth round a year ago, to Qinwen Zheng.  She is 3-0 in Major finals, having never lost a set, and 13-4 in finals overall, though she has lost two of her last three.

Muchova is 23-7 this season, after going only 9-9 at tour level a year ago due to aforementioned injuries.  She’s the only player to defeat Aryna Sabalenka at a Slam this year, and is now 5-0 lifetime against top three opposition, with four of those upsets taking place at Majors.  Karolina dropped two sets to this stage, and this is only her third-ever WTA-level final, and her first in nearly four years.

Both players should be keen to win the first set on Saturday.  As Simon Cambers highlighted on Twitter, the winner of the first set has won the women’s final at Roland Garros in 19 of the last 21 years.  And Swiatek has only lost four times at Majors after taking the first set.

Muchova claimed their only previous meeting, which was a three-setter four years ago on clay in Prague, the biggest event in Karolina’s home country of the Czech Republic.  But four years later, Swiatek must be considered the favorite.  She has separated herself from all her competition on this surface.

But I do expect Muchova to challenge Swiatek on Saturday.  She has a well-rounded game with many offensive weapons, and will be feeling uber-confident after what she accomplished in the semifinals.  Plus, Karolina knows she is a considerable underdog, just as Iga knows she is a significant favorite, so the pressure will land decisively on the World No.1’s side of the net.  It should be a great final.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic Collide in a Huge Semifinal

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Novak Djokovic on Tuesday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

In arguably the biggest men’s match of the year to date, the World No.1 faces the 22-time Major champion on Friday in Paris.

 

Carlos Alcaraz has won his last 12 matches at Majors, and is vying for his second Slam final.  Novak Djokovic has won his last 19 matches at Majors, and is vying for his 34th Slam final.  And Djokovic is just two wins away from recapturing the World No.1 ranking, and surpassing Rafael Nadal with his 23rd Major singles title.  History is in the balance in Friday’s first semifinal.

The second semifinal features Casper Ruud, who is looking to return to the championship match at Roland Garros for the second straight year, and his third Major final out of the last five, and Sascha Zverev, who a year ago in this same round was wheeled off the court in a wheelchair. 


Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Novak Djokovic (3) – Not Before 2:45pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Alcaraz is 35-3 this year, despite missing the Australian Open due to injury.  He has dropped one set to this stage.  This is Carlitos’ best performance at Roland Garros, after losing in the quarterfinals a year ago to Sascha Zverev in an extended fourth-set tiebreak.  A win on Friday would propel him to his sixth final of the year, and ensure he remains the World No.1.

Djokovic is 25-4 this year, despite missing Indian Wells and Miami due to his vaccination status, and missing Madrid due to an elbow injury.  He has also dropped only one set to this stage, to Karen Khachanov in the last round.  Novak is 22-11 in Major semifinals, and 6-5 in French Open semifinals, winning his last two, and five of his last six. 

Their only previous meeting was one of the best matches of 2022.  In the semifinals of Madrid, Alcaraz prevailed 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) after over three-and-a-half hours.  And that was just a day after defeating his idol, Rafael Nadal, for the first time.

Best-of-five almost always favors Djokovic, who is one of the sport’s best endurance players of all-time.  But 36-year-old Novak has not been fully healthy at any point this season.  And 20-year-old Carlitos is one of tennis’ fittest athletes, and has already proven his best-of-five prowess last summer in New York, when he won three consecutive five-setters, including an over five hour one against Jannik Sinner, just to make the final.

Betting against Djokovic, especially with so most history on the line, is a dangerous proposition.  This past January in Melbourne, he decimated the field despite being far from 100% physically.  But on Friday, I give the slight edge to Alcaraz.  He’s been the better and healthier player in 2023, and in this rare instance, best-of-five may not favor Novak.  And based on how long it took them to play three sets in Madrid, this could easily turn into a five or six hour contest.


Casper Ruud (4) vs. Sascha Zverev (22) – Not Before 5:30pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

2023 has been a tale of two seasons for Casper Ruud.  In the first three months, he was just 5-6, after an exhibition tour with Rafael Nadal shortened his off-season.  But Casper is now 16-5 on clay, and into his second French Open semifinal with the loss of three sets thus far.

Zverev was over three hours into his semifinal here a year ago with Nadal, with the second set yet to be completed, when he suffered an awful ankle injury which ended his season.  He is 21-14 on the year, and 13-5 on clay.  This is a third consecutive French Open semifinal for Sascha, though he’s yet to advance farther.  Two years ago, he lost a five-setter to Stefanos Tsitsipas in this round.

Zverev leads their head-to-head 2-1, with all three matches taking place on hard courts at Masters 1000 events.  Sascha claimed both of their 2021 meetings in straight sets, (Cincinnati, Bercy), while Casper took their 2022 meeting in three sets (Miami).

In 2023 on clay, Ruud should be favored to reach his second straight Roland Garros final.  His defense will be key in stifling Zverev’s offense, which while improving as the season progresses, is still not back to its peak level.  And Sascha is just 1-4 in Major semifinals, and has lost five of his last six semifinals overall.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Casper Ruud Topples Rune To Reach French Open Semis

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Casper Ruud came out on top in his all-Scandinavian clash with Holger Rune to seal his place in the semi-finals of the French Open. 

 

Ruud, who is seeded fourth in the draw, battled to a 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, win over his Danish opponent in what was a topsy-turvy encounter on the Philippe Chatrier Court. It is the second year in a row that the Norwegian has defeated Rune in the last eight of Roland Garros and he now leads their head-to-head 6-1. He is through to the last four of a major for only the third time in his career. 

“I’m very relieved. I came into this match trying to not play with pressure but it is not easy when you’re playing a big match against Holger who is never easy,” Rune said during his post-match interview. “He is very aggressive. Luckily for me the first two sets he wasn’t feeling it too well. He made a lot of errors and I got a lot of points for free.’
“That helped settle my nerves but he fought back in the third set. In the fourth set, I was lucky to keep that break.”

The highly anticipated nighttime clash began in one-way fashion with Ruud claiming 12 out of the first 15 games with relative ease as an erratic Rune struggled to find his game on the court, hitting a total of 40 unforced errors during the first two sets. 

It wasn’t until the third frame that Ruud finally faced some resistance on the court as his opponent orchestrated the crowd to get behind him. Prompting the 20-year-old to hit a series of impressive shots to revive his hopes.

However, Rune’s comeback was short-lived as Ruud broke once more midway through the fourth set as he moved to a game away from victory. He earned his first match point at 5-2 following a double fault from his rival but failed to convert. Two more opportunities then came and went for Ruud before he managed to serve the match out in the following game.

“I think I did well,” he replied when asked about how he handled his nerves. “I kind of looked at it (the match) as if he was the favourite. He won the last time we played and he has had a better year than me so far.’
“He was hoping to get into his first (Grand Slam) semi-final and I was hungry to get into another semi-final. Luckily it worked out well for me.”

Awaiting the 24-year-old in the semi-finals on Friday will be Alexander Zverev who defeated Tomás Martín Etcheverry in four sets. He trails their head-to-head 1-2 but they have never faced each other on clay. 

“Ruud has been there before. He was in the final here last year, so he knows exactly what it means and what it takes,” Zverev told reporters.  

Ruud is now 16-5 this season when it comes to playing matches on the clay. Since the start of 2020, he has registered 86 wins on the surface which is more than any other player on the ATP Tour.

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