Dominika Cibulkova shocks seventh seed Ana Ivanovic - UBITENNIS
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Dominika Cibulkova shocks seventh seed Ana Ivanovic

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Dominika Cibulkova

Dominika Cibulkova

Ana Ivanovic  became the highest profile player to fall from the women’s game on Day 1 at the US Open, as she fell to former top ten player Dominika Cibulkova in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

 

The match had been billed as one of the most intense clashes of the opening round, and for fans seeking an upset, it did not disappoint.

Cibulkova had been ranked as high as ten in March last year after reaching the final of the 2014 Australian Open, but Achilles surgery and poor form highlighted by a first round exit at Wimbledon, saw her enter this year’s US Open with a unseeded ranking of fifty.

Ivanovic meanwhile, has enjoyed an inconsistent season. She fell in the first round of the Australian Open, before a semifinal showing at Roland Garros. She then fell early in the second round of Wimbledon.

Cibulkova put her poor season firmly behind her, as she won a close opening set by margin of breaking Ivanovic’s serve three times, to Ivanovic’s two breaks.

Cibulkova then moved ahead 3-1 in the second set, and had a break opportunity to move up 4-1. Ivanovic though, staged a fierce comeback, saving the break point, and winning five straight games to level the match at a set apiece.

Cibulkova then took control of the third set, using her powerful forehand, and forcing Ivanovic onto her unfavoured backhand, breaking to establish a 4-1 lead. Ivanovic threatened briefly to break back, but this time Cibulkova held her nerve to secure victory on her second match point.

Cibulkova will play Jessica Pegula of the United States in the second round, who defeated . Ivanovic’s defeat opens up the top half of the draw, as she was Serena Williams potential semifinal opponent following Maria Sharapova’s withdrawal. Eugenie Bouchard and Carla Suarez Navarro are the main beneficiaries of Ivanovic’s early exit.

 

 

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Daria Kasatkina Praises New Racket After Discovering Form Ahead Of Roland Garros

Daria Kasatkina talked about her new racket after improving her form ahead of Roland Garros.

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Daria Kasatkina (@5SportsNet - Twitter)

Daria Kasatkina has given praise to her new racket after finding her form ahead of Roland Garros.

 

The Russian heads into the second grand slam of the season in some form after reaching the semi-finals in Rome.

Kasatkina reached her first semi-final at WTA1000 level since Sydney in January and has been having a good and progressive season.

The world number 20 defeated the likes of Leylah Fernandez and Paula Badosa on her way to the last four as she heads into Roland Garros with confidence.

After her quarter-final match in Rome UBITennis had the chance to ask Kasatkina about her new racket and how she found out about the Artengo brand, “I don’t know the player, first of all. Second of all, I fall in love with this racquet first time I took it,” Kasatkina admitted.

“It was last pre-season. I was trying racquets. This one was like a blind testing. I didn’t know what was the racquet. It was just a black frame. I tried it and I was like, What the… What is this? I was playing on the baseline, trying all the shots, all the strokes. I was like, What is this racquet?

“When they tell me the brand, I was like I thought they were making fun of me. I didn’t even know that this brand exist. They told me, If you like the racquet, take it, which I did. I’m really happy with the way this racquet is. I’m happy how I feel on the court with the racquet. This the most important because in our sport, tennis racquet is the most important thing. You cannot hesitate with this one. I’m really happy that I did this move.”

It’s one thing to love the racket in a pre-season trial but it’s another thing for the racket to adjust to a specific game style consistently on the tour week-in and week-out.

However that’s what has happened with Kasatkina and the Russian told reporters that it’s mainly to do with the spin that the racket produces, “Well, for me this racquet fits my game good because I’m spinning,” Kasatkina told the press.

“When I spinning the ball with this racquet, I felt like I can accelerate the ball more, ball was going with more power but the same or more control than before. This is the most important for me, to be able to feel that I can hit spin, I’m controlling the ball. This is exactly what I have. I’m happy with this way.”

Kasatkina’s happiness has translated into results with two WTA1000 semi-finals as she heads into Roland Garros with confidence, “Well, in January I liked how my tennis was. I think I was playing really good in Australia,” Kasatkina said when asked about her season so far.

“Then I had couple of not best weeks. Also getting COVID. Here and there was not the best. I a little bit went out of my shape. Was a tough, tough way to get back.

“Yeah, after Indian Wells, in Miami we start to work really a lot. I spend a lot of hours on the court playing, a lot of exercising with a thousand balls where I have to put a thousand balls inside the court. Was super tough, annoying, pain in the ass to make these practices.

“Then I realized that this one is something what I need to feel better on the court. I’m happy that I, together with Carlos and my team, we discovered this one.”

Kasatkina will now look to build on a new-found happiness and confidence at Roland Garros which starts on Sunday with the draw at 6:45pm local time.

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Steve Flink’s French Open Men’s Tournament Preview

There are five players who have the potential to claim the 2022 trophy but who is the favourite and why?

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Il campo Philippe Chatrier di Parigi

For the vast majority of fans in every corner of the globe, this is the best time of the year in the world of tennis. In less than a week, the French Open will commence at Roland Garros. The leading players will fight furiously across a fortnight to determine who will secure the most prestigious clay court prize in the sport. 

 

Over the past 17 seasons in Paris, the redoubtable Rafael Nadal has emerged victorious no fewer than 13 times. In that span, Novak Djokovic has taken the title twice (2016 and 2021), while the Swiss duo of Stan Wawrinka (2015) and Roger Federer (2009), have been victors once. To be sure, Nadal has been more dominant on the dirt than any other player at the rest of the majors, and by a wide margin indeed. It is inconceivable that anyone will ever approach his Roland Garros record. No one will come even close.

Until a few weeks ago, Nadal seemed to be the prohibitive favorite once more on his favorite surface in Paris. Already confident after capturing his record 21st Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open in late January, Nadal took his third title of the season in Acapulco and then surged into the final at Indian Wells unbeaten on the season. But his 20 match winning streak was broken by the American Taylor Fritz as a compromised Nadal competed with a fractured rib on the California hard courts.

That kept the Spaniard out of Monte Carlo and Barcelona and off the courts for too long. He returned in Madrid and barely survived an ordeal against David Goffin, saving four match points against the Belgian to reach the quarterfinals. Then he lost in three sets to his teenaged compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in a stirring generational battle. Nadal moved on to Rome in search of an eleventh crown on the Italian clay. He accounted for John Isner in his opening match but then bowed out against the left-handed Canadian dynamo Denis Shapovalov in the round of 16.

It was not simply that Nadal lost to a player who nearly beat him a year ago in Rome, but the way he departed was what made it so disconcerting. He started that contest tremendously, playing almost vintage Rafa clay court tennis, dropping only a single game in a stellar opening set. But eventually he was beaten 1-6, 7-5, 6-2. From 2-2 in the final set, he lost 14 points in a row and eventually four consecutive games, moving timidly as the foot ailment that kept him away from tennis for most of the second half of 2021 haunted the Spaniard again. A lesser man than Nadal would have retired before the final bell had rung against Shapovalov, but the Spaniard stayed out there, faced the music and took his punishment, knowing he was going to lose.

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Now he will be preoccupied by the foot issue all the way up to the start of Roland Garros. Even if it improves, the injury will weigh heavily on his mind. And so he no longer is the clear favorite heading into the next Grand Slam championship. I still believe his outlook could change decidedly over the next ten days if the pain diminishes and he can practice properly, if he can get through a few early round matches largely free of pain.

But that is no guarantee. In my estimation, the co-favorites are Djokovic—fresh from sealing his sixth Italian Open title and his first tournament win of 2022—and Alcaraz, who has captured his last two clay court tournaments in Barcelona and Madrid after opening his clay court campaign with a surprising loss in Monte Carlo against Sebastian Korda.

In my view, Djokovic’s chances of succeeding are marginally better than Alcaraz’s, simply because the Serbian is such a seasoned competitor who knows his way around the big occasions much better than Alcaraz. This will be, after all, the 67th Grand Slam tournament of Djokovic’s extraordinary career, and his 18th consecutive appearance at Roland Garros. He has been pointing toward Paris ever since being barred by the Australian government from competing in Melbourne. For him, it was a cruel irony that not only was he prevented from playing the 2022 Australian Open—and perhaps coming through for the tenth time at that tournament—but in turn Nadal improbably pulled off one of the most remarkable triumphs of his career to rule in Melbourne for the second time. It was a double-whammy for Djokovic, who watched his greatest rival move past him at the majors.

The view here is that Djokovic has left that devastating disappointment behind him, but the feeling grows that his motivation to defend his title in Paris has grown immeasurably. He wants this title at Roland Garros very badly. Here is a man who stood only one match away last year from establishing himself as only the third man in history— and the first since Rod Laver in 1969— to win the Grand Slam. Losing in New York at the U.S. Open to Daniil Medvedev in the final was a devastatingly potent pill to swallow for the incomparably ambitious Djokovic. Moreover,  the humiliating experience of being granted a vaccine exemption by the Australian Open this year, but ultimately being barred from the tournament, left him for months with a deeply wounded psyche.

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Djokovic started his season late in Dubai, losing in the quarterfinals to Jiri Vesely. He did not reappear on the ATP Tour until Monte Carlo, dropping his opening contest in the round of 32 to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. His lack of stamina in the final set of that 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-1 defeat was strikingly apparent. Djokovic moved on to Belgrade and struggled inordinately all through the tournament, conceding the first set in all four matches he played, falling in the final against Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-0. The way he finished that skirmish was strikingly similar to his setback in Monte Carlo. A thoroughly depleted Djokovic was a shadow of his normal physical self in the final set.

The world No. 1 realized he needed to step up his training regimen and recover his customary durability and match playing ruggedness swiftly. After a week off, he went to Madrid and lifted his game significantly, casting aside Gael Monfils and Hubert Hurkacz with his old efficiency, physicality and ruthlessness. Although he lost a classic semifinal encounter with Alcaraz that was exceedingly well played on both sides of the net, Djokovic took something substantial away from that defeat against the Spaniard. The match lasted three hours and thirty five minutes and went right down to the wire before Djokovic was narrowly beaten by the exuberant Spaniard in a final set tie-break. But the Serbian knew that he was getting much closer to the top of his game, and this time he was not fatigued at the end of a strenuous showdown.

On to Rome went Djokovic, and he came through handsomely to claim his 87th career title and his 38th Masters 1000 tournament. Not only that, but he played five more valuable matches in the process and did not drop a set, finishing off his confident run with triumphs over Felix Auger-Aliassime, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Although Auger-Aliassime pushed Djokoivic to 7-5, 7–6 (1), the Serbian remained poised after leading 5-3, 30-15 in both sets and not holding his serve. That was a good sign. In his meeting with Ruud, Djokovic surged to 5-1 in the first set but did not serve it out at 5-2. That was apprehension, pure and simple. But once more he recaptured his emotional equilibrium and came away with a convincing 6-4, 6-3 victory.

At the last hurdle against Tsitsipas, Djokovic was tested mentally and emotionally again. He played perhaps his best set of the season to open the final, not granting the Greek stylist a single game. His forehand firepower and unerring controlled aggression was the key to his success. But soon Djokovic trailed 2-5 in the second set. And yet, he was not conceding anything. Djokovic roared back to force a tie-break and emerged deservedly with a 6-0, 7-6 (5) victory over the fellow he beat in a five set final at the French Open a year ago—not to mention a five set semifinal the year before.

Tsitsipas in my view is the logical fourth most likely champion this year in Paris. His clay court level of play en route to Roland Garros was much like the way he played in 2021. Tsitsipas defended his Monte Carlo title, lost to Alcaraz in a spirited clash in the quarterfinals of Barcelona, was beaten by Zverev in the semifinals of Madrid and then made his run to the final of Rome. That consistency puts him in good stead for Roland Garros.

He will surely be in the thick of the battle for the third year in a row at the French Open, but Tsitsipas may need some good fortune with the draw if he is going to secure his first major title at long last. His records against the three chief favorites for the title in Paris are not stellar. Tsitsipas is now 2-7 against Djokovic and he has lost his last six appointments against the Serbian. The Greek is also 2-7 against Nadal and 0-3 versus Alcaraz, including two meetings this season and one memorable showdown at the U.S. Open last year won by the Spaniard in a fifth set tie-break.

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In my view, only one other player can be taken seriously as an authentic contender for the Roland Garros trophy— Sascha Zverev. The 6’6” German should have won the U.S. Open two years ago, squandering a two set lead against Dominic Thiem and later serving for the match in the fifth set before suffering a harrowing defeat. Last year in Paris he lost in a five set, penultimate round duel against Tsitsipas. Zverev has twice won the Masters 1000 title in Madrid and once was victorious in Rome.

He is an accomplished, all surface player, although he has yet to fully find his footing on grass. But after blazing through the second half of 2021– winning an Olympic gold medal and his second Nitto ATP Finals title in that span—Zverev has been disappointing thus far in 2022. He has played nine tournaments this season and has not garnered a title. On the clay he was good but not great, losing two semifinals in Monte Carlo and Rome to Tsitsipas, but defeating Tsitsipas to reach the final of Madrid before losing decisively to Alcaraz.

I put Zverev down at No. 5 on my Roland Garros list of contenders, but don’t give him much of a chance. To me, it will all come down to Djokovic, Alcaraz and Nadal, with Tsitsipas possibly finding a way into the conversation if everything falls into place. Nadal is slated to be seeded fifth. That could complicate his task. How can a champion who has won 105 of his 108 matches at Roland Garros be seeded so low?

Be that as it may, Nadal will approach this edition of the world’s premier clay court tournament dealing with deep inner doubts. He played only five clay court matches this year in his two tournaments, not nearly enough to give him the security he would  have under normal circumstances. Only a fool would underestimate the greatest clay court player who has ever lived. Even in his current state of physical uncertainty, Nadal remains a larger that life figure who has turned dreams into reality over and over again. Nadal—who will turn 36 during the tournament— knows that he won’t have many more opportunities to rule again at Roland Garros, and that fact alone must be weighed against his recent physical misfortunes.

And yet, looming large and driven by their own large dreams are the two front runners in my view—top seeded Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz, who should be seeded sixth. What works for and against Alcaraz is this inescapable fact: Roland Garros will be only his sixth appearance at a major tournament in his brief but sterling career. His best showing yet was at the U.S. Open last year, when he reached the quarterfinals.

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So what business does this precocious 19-year-old have winning the French Open at such an early stage of his evolution? Quite simply, he has played the game this year like a wily veteran in many ways, winning four titles altogether, taking his last two titles on the clay, composing himself with extraordinary maturity, playing with a strategic acumen that totally belies his years.

This can work both ways. Alcaraz has never dealt with expectations—both his own and from a multitude of learned observers— like those surrounding him this year. In the end, he might stare into that stark reality and blink. But he is just as likely to look at the Roland Garros fortnight and see it as nothing more than an opportunity he is ready to seize. This kid is reminiscent in temperament to the 19-year-old Nadal who won his first major at Roland Garros in 2005.

In the last analysis, I am picking Djokovic. He has had Roland Garros in the forefront of his mind for months. Every match he has played across the spring on the red clay has been made more purposeful by his unwavering goal to win a third title at Roland Garros and a 21st major as well. He has brought forth a better version of himself with every tournament he has played since his clay court campaign commenced unceremoniously in Monte Carlo.  I believe he is going to realize his lofty goal in Paris.

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Daniil Medvedev Weighs Up French Open Chances Following Geneva Defeat

The Russian say he ‘needs to be in the zone’ to achieve a good result at the major.

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Daniil Medvedev during Miami Open presented by Itau Tennis tournament on Saturday, March 26, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Carlos Goldman/ South Florida Stadium)

Daniil Medvedev believes he can pose a danger at next week’s French Open but has refused to label himself as one of the favorites for the title.

 

The world No.2 returned to competitive action at the Geneva Open on Tuesday for the first time since March after missing most of the clay swing due to a hernia operation. Medvedev lost his comeback match 6-2, 7-6(5), to French veteran Richard Gasquet who hadn’t beaten a member of the world’s top two since 2005.

Inevitably there were signs of rust from Medvedev given his recent absence from the Tour but he believes he is heading in the right direction. He will now work further on improving his game heading into the Grand Slam.

“I don’t play my best tennis on clay courts. I know that I’m capable of making some good results, as I did in the past. But for this I kind of need to be in the zone,” news agency AFP quoted Medvedev as saying.
“I don’t feel as confident on clay as on other surfaces, that’s why I lost 7/5 in the tie-break finishing with a double fault. It’s disappointing but I’ve had tougher losses in my career.
“Physically I felt not bad. With more days of practice, I should be ready for Roland Garros.”

The French Open is Medvedev’s worst Grand Slam in terms of matches won in his career. After losing in the first round four years in a row, he broke new territory in 2021 by reaching the quarter-final stage before losing in straight sets to Stefanos Tsitsipas. His win-loss record at Roland Garros currently stands at 4-5.

“I haven’t played for a month and a half, two months. I’m going to try to work both physically and tennis-wise and hopefully I can find the game I had there last year — which is not going to be easy,” he said.

The 26-year-old has played in the final of 23 Tour events but only one of those was on clay. That was at the 2019 Barcelona Open where he lost the title match to Dominic Thiem. Furthermore, only three out of his 29 wins over top 10 players have occurred on the surface.

With only one match under his belt heading into the French Open, Medvedev admits that it is a bit unknown about how he may perform. Although should the Russian managed to find some rhythm in his game, he believes a solid run is possible.

Clay for my body is the most dangerous surface. For me it’s clay courts — every time, every year I have some problems where I cannot be 100 percent,” he explains.
“I’m not a favourite for Roland Garros but I do want to play well. If I can find my level again, I can be dangerous.”

So far this season Medvedev has won 16 out of 22 matches played with his best result being runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open. In February he became the first player outside of the Big Four to become world No.1 since Andy Roddick in 2004.

In French Open history only one Russian man has won the singles title which was Yevgeny Kafelnikov back in 1996.

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