WTA IW: Serena Williams wins her first match at Indian Wells since 2001 - UBITENNIS
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WTA IW: Serena Williams wins her first match at Indian Wells since 2001

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TENNIS WTA IW – Serena Williams made an emotional return to Indian Wells after 14 years of absence with a 7-5 7-5 win over Monica Niculescu. Diego Sampaolo

 

Serena Williams made an emotional return to Indian Wells after 14 years of absence with a 7-5 7-5 win over Monica Niculescu. Niculescu provided a stiff challenge. Niculescu did not hit any aces in the whole match but she won 68 percent of her first serve points. However Serena prevailed in straight set thanks to her 13 aces.

It was an emotional day for Serena who received a standing ovation when she walked onto the Centre Court. Emotions affected Serena in the early stages of the match. Niculescu, who had never beaten a top-five player in her career, started better and opened up a 2-0 lead in the first set. Williams dropped two of her first four service games in the first set. At 3-5 for Niculescu the US legend held her first serve to love and got the break clawing her way back into the match. Serena had to save two break points in the 11th game but she managed to hold serve. Niculescu made a costly error at 40-40 and dropped the first set. Serena was broken early in the second set but she broke back immediately. The second set went on serve when Serena broke serve before clinching the win with 7-5 on her fourth match point.

I feel really good. I feel like the nerves have gone away. I feel better. I was a little nervous. The weeks leading up were nerve-wracking. I am good that I was able to do it. I just wasn’t able to get through that match. It was a super tricky one for me”, said Williams

Simona Halep rallied from a second down to beat Daria Gavrilova 2-6 6-1 6-2. Halep got the first break of the match in the third game of the first set after Gavrilova made two double faults and two backhand errors. Halep started committing too many unforced errors and dropped five consecutive games to drop the first set with 6-2. The second set started with a series of breaks but Halep was more solid on serve and drew level with a 6-1 win forcing the match to the decider. Halep committed four double faults at the start of the third set but she managed to hold serve. Halep broke serve and cruised to 6-2 to advance to the next round.

Heather Watson beat Camila Giorgi 7-5 7-5. The Italian committed 18 double faults and 54 unforced errors. Giorgi broke serve in the fourth game of the opening set but she committed three double faults at 3-2 enabling Watson to break back. Watson dropped serve again in the next game to go down 3-4. Giorgi committed two double faults and a forehand error to drop her serve for 4-all. At 6-5 for Watson, Giorgi made her 10th double fault and Watson converted her set point to clinch the first set with 7-5.

Watson cruised to 5-0 in the second set after a series of double faults from Giorgi. The Italian broke her losing streak of seven consecutive games by holding her serve. Giorgi clawed her way into the match by drawing level to 5-5 but she committed three errors with her return to drop the 11th game. Giorgi committed two unforced errors and another double fault to drop the final game of the match.

Agnieszka Radwanska eased past Allison Riske with 6-3 6-1. Radwanska won the first five games of the match to open up a 5-0 lead. Riske saved a set point to hold her serve for the first time in the match. Riske broke serve but Radwanska closed out the first set on the third set point. Radwanska broke serve early in the second set and opened up a 4-0 lead before closing out the match with 6-1.

Sloane Stephens beat Angelique Kerber 7-6 (8-6) 6-2. Kerber went up a break twice in the first set to lead 3-0 and 5-3 but Stephens forced the set to the tie-break. Kerber saved two set points but dropped the tie-break with 6-8. Stephens, who hit 37 winners in the match, won the second set easily with 6-2.

Garbine Muguruza came back from a set down to edge Irina Falconi in three sets with 4-6 6-2 6-3. After a first set marked by seven breaks Falconi got the decisive break in the ninth game. Muguruza saved three set points but dropped the first set with 6-4. Muguruza won 82 percent of her first serve points and clinched the second set with 6-2. Falconi won just 25 percent of her second serve points. Muguruza won the third set with 6-3 setting up an intriguing third round match against Karolina Pliskova.

Ekaterina Makarova cruised past her doubles partner Elena Vesnina with 6-4 6-0. Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova beat Barbora Strycova Zahlavova with a double 6-3

World Number 11 Lucie Safarova, who won her first Premier-level tournament in Doha, beat Mona Barthel 6-4 7-6 (7-4). Safarova got the decisive break in the fourth game to win the first set There were more breaks in the second set where Barthel took the lead with 2-1. Safarova broke back in the next game to open up a 4-2 lead. Barthel forced the second set to the tie-break after a series of errors from the Czech player. Safarova won the most crucial points in the tie-break and won it with 7-4 to set up her next match against Elena Svitolina.

ATP

Cincinnati Daily Preview: Major Champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka Square Off

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Andy Murray practicing this past week in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

For the second consecutive week, a combined ATP Masters/WTA 1000 event is being staged in North America.  This week, it’s the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The singles draws in American’s heartland are loaded: the ATP draw features 14 of the world’s top 16, while the WTA draw features all 16 top-ranked players.

 

Most notably, Serena Williams will play what is assumedly the next-to-last event of her career, and will face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round.  And Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals due to his ongoing left foot issues.

Monday’s action is headlined by Major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who will play each other for the 22nd time. 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Center Court

Their rivalry dates all the way back to 2005, when Wawrinka defeated Murray in Davis Cup.  Their most prominent encounter took place in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, when Stan outlasted Andy in a five-setter that lasted over four-and-a-half hours.  And neither man has been the same since that grueling battle.  Just weeks later, Murray’s hip problems derailed his career, while Wawrinka would undergo knee surgery.  Both men have now battled multiple serious injuries over the last five years.  Overall Andy is 12-9 against Stan, and 8-4 on hard courts.  Murray has gritted his way to 22 victories this year, while Stan is only 3-7 since returning from foot surgery this spring.  Based on current form, as well as Murray’s history at this event, where he is a two-time champion, the Brit is the favorite on Monday.


Matteo Berrettini (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Berrettini returned from surgery on his right hand in June, and promptly went on a 12-match win streak.  However, he unfortunately missed Wimbledon due to testing positive for COVID-19.  And last week in Montreal, Matteo lost in the opening round, though that one-sided loss to Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t look quite as bad after Pablo’s fantastic run to his first Masters 1000 title concluded on Sunday.  Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing year for Tiafoe, who is only 20-17 and has suffered some painful losses.  At Wimbledon, he lost a four-and-a-half hour fourth round match to David Goffin despite having a two-sets-to-one lead.  And just last week in Montreal, Frances was up 4-0 in the third over Taylor Fritz before losing the last six games of the match.  Their only previous meeting occurred four years ago on clay in Rome, where Matteo was victorious in his home country in straight sets.  Can Tiafoe avenge that loss in his own home country?  Frances often excels during night matches in the United States, with his five-set win over Andrey Rublev at last year’s US Open serving as a prime example.  But Matteo has been the much stronger performer for a few years now, and his potent serve/forehand combo makes him the favorite.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Anisimova has reached the second week of every Major this season, while Kasatkina has won 18 of her last 24 matches, which includes a title run this month in San Jose.  Amanda leads their head-to-head 2-0, and dominated Daria 6-2, 6-0 at the beginning of this year.

Jil Teichmann vs. Petra Kvitova – Teichmann was a surprise finalist here a year ago.  Kvitova is only 17-15 this season, though she did win a title on grass in June.  They’ve played three times since last year, with Jil claiming two of those three matches.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov (16) – Shapovalov has now lost nine of his last 10 matches dating back to May.  Meanwhile it’s been over four months since Dimitrov has won more than two matches in a row.  Grigor is 2-1 against Denis, and 2-0 on hard courts.

Sloane Stephens (WC) vs. Alize Cornet – It’s been a streaky season for Stephens, with nine of her 11 victories coming at just two events.  Cornet has achieved two noteworthy results this season: reaching her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne, and ending Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.  This is their first career meeting.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Canada Daily Preview: Championship Sunday Features Halep/Haddad Maia and Hurkacz/Carreno Busta

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Hubi Hurkacz this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Sunday in Toronto, Simona Halep plays for her third title at this event.  She faces a surging 26-year-old in Beatriz Haddad Maia, who has already defeated four top 15 players this week, including world No.1 Iga Swiatek.

 

In Montreal, Hubi Hurkacz is vying for his second Masters 1000 title, after winning his first last year in Miami.  In Sunday’s championship match, he plays Pablo Carreno Busta, who at 31-years-old has reached his first Masters 1000 final in his 52nd appearance.


Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Simona Halep (15) – 1:30pm on Centre Court in Toronto

What a season Haddad Maia is having.  She started the year ranked 83rd in the world, but with 43 match wins and three titles at all levels, she will debut inside the top 16 on Monday.  She is the first Brazilian to reach a WTA 1000 singles final.  Beatriz credits her 2022 success to focusing on being more aggressive.  But Halep is a player who has achieved much success by absorbing her opponents’ power and using it against them.  And after a solid yet underwhelming season, Simona says her fire is back this week in Toronto.  This will be her fourth meeting with Haddad Maia, and her third this year.  She leads Beatriz 2-1, though they split their two 2022 encounters.  In a match of this magnitude, which is new territory for Haddad Maia, Halep’s experience and more consistent style make her the favorite to win her third title in Canada.


Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Hubi’s path to this final has been a complicated one.  All four of his matches went the distance, and he even had to save a match point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas.  Meanwhile, Pablo had advanced to his first Masters 1000 final rather decisively, only dropping one set to this stage.  Hurkacz and Carreno Busta are 1-1 at tour level, as each earned a hard court victory over the other last year.  Three of the four sets they contested were decided by tiebreaks, which is not surprising given their contrasting styles.  Hubi will look to dictate matters with his serve, while Pablo will look to extend points and force Hurkacz into long baseline rallies.   However, Hubi often doesn’t mind participating in long rallies.  As impressive as Carreno Busta’s level has been this week, Hurkacz has been the better player this season.  Hubi’s serve and powerful groundstrokes make him a slight favorite to win his second Masters 1000 crown.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez – Gauff and Pegula were finalists this year at Roland Garros.  If they win on Sunday, Gauff will become the new world No.1 in doubles, and be the youngest player to do so since Martina Hingis.  Melichar-Martinez and Perez have already defeated three seeded teams this week.

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (3) vs. Dan Evans and John Peers – Koolhof and Skupski lead the year-to-date doubles rankings, and are playing for their sixth title of the season.  This is only the second event in 2022 for Evans and Peers as a team.  Evans was also a semifinalist this week in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP

Canada Daily Preview: Semifinal Saturday Features Ruud/Hurkacz and Pegula/Halep

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Simona Halep on Friday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

The singles and doubles semifinals will be played on Saturday in Canada.  In Montreal, a new men’s singles champion will be crowned, and Hubi Hurkacz is the only semifinalist to have previously won a Masters 1000 event (Miami, 2021).  Hurkacz is also in the doubles semifinals, so it will be a busy day for Hubi.  In singles, he faces a finalist from this year in Miami, Casper Ruud.

 

In Toronto, Simona Halep is the only former champion remaining, and is two wins away from her third title at this event.  On Saturday, she plays Jessica Pegula, who is into the semifinals in Canada for the second straight year.  Like Hurkacz, Pegula is also in the doubles semifinals.  She’s teaming with Coco Gauff, who will become the new doubles No.1 if they win the title.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 12:00pm local time in Montreal and 1:00pm in Toronto.


Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Hurkacz ended the winning streak of Nick Kyrgios on Friday, taking him out in three sets for the second time this season.  But Ruud was even more impressive on Friday, bouncing back from a marathon victory on Thursday over Roberto Bautista Agut to overwhelm Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, dropping only three games.  Predominantly known as a clay court player, Casper is also establishing himself as a considerable threat on hard courts.  That’s especially true in North America, where Ruud has claimed 16 of his last 19 matches.  But Hubi’s success on this surface remains superior, as does his serving prowess.  While Ruud prevailed in their only previous encounter, just a few months ago at Roland Garros, Hurkacz is the favorite on a hard court.


Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Simona Halep (15) – 1:00pm on Centre Court in Toronto

Halep has been dominant through four rounds this week, advancing without the loss of a set.  Simona has quietly put together a strong record of 36-10 this season, though she’s yet to achieve a big result, with only one title at the 250 level at the start of the year.  Pegula only dropped one set this week, to defending champion Camila Giorgi.  And similar to Halep, she’s accumulated a solid record this year (29-14) without winning a title.  This will be the first career meeting between these two players.  Considering Halep is now 25-6 lifetime at this event, and the way in which she has easily prevailed all week, her superior movement and defense should be enough to reach her fourth final in Canada.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Dan Evans – Carreno Busta has played superbly this week, eliminating the likes of Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini without losing a set to this stage.  Dan Evans has survived two grueling three-setters in as many days.  This is their first career meeting.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Karolina Pliskova (14) – Haddad Maia has earned three big wins across the last three days over Iga Swiatek, Belinda Bencic, and Leylah Fernandez.  Pliskova is looking to reach the Canada final for the second straight year.  They have split two previous encounters, both on hard courts.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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