Singapore Day 1 Preview and Predictions: Simona Halep a Favorite. All Eyes on Maria Sharapova - UBITENNIS
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Singapore Day 1 Preview and Predictions: Simona Halep a Favorite. All Eyes on Maria Sharapova

Ivan Pasquariello

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The WTA Finals are going to kick off Sunday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova are favored by the rankings, but face immediately tough competition. All eyes will be on the Russian to see how she can play after missing all summer hard court season. Here are our predictions for day one in Singapore.

 

 

(1) Simona Halep (ROU)  vs. (7) Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 

Pennetta Leads 4-1

Simona Halep and Flavia Pennetta will find one another on each side of the net just a month and a half after fighting off in the US Open semi-finals. As we all know, Pennetta dominated that match winning in straight sets by 6-1 6-3. Despite Halep being overall a more complete player than the Italian, she always has suffered to beat Flavia on the tour. The first match was won by Pennetta in Marbella, in 2010. Then the Italian won on clay again, in three sets in Bastad, with Simona retiring down 2-0 in the third set. Those matches were played before Simona had he breakthrough summer season that same year, thus the one match that really we should consider is the one the two played at the US Open in 2013.

Pennetta was coming back from a wrist surgery, but as it happens since 2009, she once again managed to find her magic in New York playing her best tennis in Flushing Meadows. That match was won by Pennetta by 6-2 7-6, but Halep served for the second set, before rain started pouring in Queen’s. When the match resumed, Pennetta looked the freshest, as she broke the Romanian and then won the match in the tie-break.

This year the two met a first time in Miami. That was the first time Halep finally beat Pennetta, winning by 6-3 7-5, coming back from a break down in the second set. It was a very close match, well played by both players. Halep had just more fuel in the tank, and grabbed the win before the match could go to a third set.

Finally, the match played at the US Open this year was both the best performance of the Italian in the year and a non-exceptional showing from the Romanian. Simona was tired after fighting for three sets against Victoria Azarenka and was lacking the brilliancy that allowed her to climb so fast the rankings over the past 2 years.

Here are some highlights of that match:

The question is: can Pennetta repeat a performance like that? Considering how Halep hasn’t played a tournament since the beginning of the month, retiring in the only match she played in October against Arruabarrena at 5-4 in the first set, she will be the fresher player. Pennetta had to go to Tianjin, then Moscow, flying last minute to Singapore once she was sure she had qualified.

Simona last year played possibly her best tennis in Singapore, serving Serena Williams the worst defeat she faced in over a decade. That result and the run to the final means Halep likes the indoor conditions of Singapore and enjoys the big events more than anything else.

Halep is the top seed, considering how Serena Williams is out, but has already folded under pressure before and has learned the lesson. Pennetta has never qualified before for the finals, Halep is at her second consecutive appearance.

One thing Simona suffers in Pennetta’s game is the Italian’s ability to find her rhythm on Simona’s mid-height ball, which land perfectly on her mid-upper body to fire her best shot: the backhand down the line. Pennetta doesn’t love Halep’s game because it takes three shots to take a winner out of the Romanian.

Because of that, physical condition will be key. Halep has had a better preparation, is ready to go. Because of that, I take Halep in straight sets.

Final Prediction: Simona Halep Wins in straight sets

(3) Maria Sharapova (RUS) vs. (5) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 

Sharapova leads 12-2

Maria Sharapova has only played one match and not a single full match since ending her Wimbledon run in the semi-finals losing to Serena Williams. Struggling with a leg injury, Maria didn’t play any tournament before the US Open, but then arrived in New York to complete the first day of interviews, to then decide it would be wiser retiring from the tournament. Back on court in Wuhan, the 5-time Grand Slam champion retired in the third set against Barbora Strycova when the score was 1-2 in the set.

Since that match, Sharapova entered another hiatus and was not seen on a tennis court until arriving to Singapore. On the other end, Agnieszka Radwanska has started playing her very best tennis as the season grew closer to an end. After the defeat to Madison Keys in the third round at the US Open, Lady Aga won the title in Tokyo, reached the semis in Beijing and won another title, her 16th in the career, in Tianjin. The crying girl who entered the French Open press room after another early defeat has been gone since then, replaced by the brilliant, talented tennis player the Polish really is.

Sharapova has only lost to Radwanska 2 times in 14 matches, with the last victory for Agnieszka coming in 2012 in the final of Miami. Since then, the two faced-off 5 more times on a tennis court, with Sharapova winning all matches. In 2015 Radwanska and Sharapova have only played in Fed Cup, with the Russian winning easily by 6-1 7-5 in Krakow.

Here the match highlights:

For Sharapova to decide to play the tournament is a sign that the Russian thinks she can compete, but clearly there is no way Maria is going to play at her best. Considering that and the way Radwanska has played in the last part of the season, I hardly see the Russian grabbing the win.

Maria’s fighting spirit and Agnieszka’s nerves could be worth a set for Sharapova, but not more than that. The impression is that if Sharapova loses the first match easily, she could even consider leaving the tournament in advance.

Final prediction: Agnieszka Radwanska wins in 3 sets.

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Serena Williams Set For Raducanu Challenge In Cincinnati

Serena Williams will play US Open champion Emma Raducanu in one of her final tournaments before the end of her career.

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Serena Williams (@BleacherReport - Twitter)

In what could be the penultimate tournament of her career, 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams takes on US Open champion Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati.

 

Potentially two more tournaments to go before a legend of the sport retires in the form of Serena Williams.

Williams began her farewell tour in Toronto where she went out in the second round to Belinda Bencic and will look to make a bigger impression in Cincinnati.

However an intriguing task awaits in her opening match in Ohio as she will take on US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the opening round.

Raducanu enters the match in uninspiring form having reached the quarter-finals in Washington before an opening round exit against Camila Giorgi in Toronto.

It will be interesting how this match fairs as Williams gets a taste of facing the younger generation before she departs the sport.

That match is in a packed part of the draw where the winner of that match will play the winner of Kaia Kanepi and Victoria Azarenka.

There is also a huge match between Bianca Andreescu and Camila Giorgi with the winner taking on seventh seed Jessica Pegula in the second round.

As for Serena’s sister, Venus Williams, she hasn’t fared much better with her draw as she takes on 14th seed Karolina Pliskova in her opening round.

Also in this section of the draw is fourth seed Maria Sakkari who takes on either a qualifier or Alison Van Uytvanck.

Other highlights of the bottom half of the draw will see Sofia Kenin take on Shelby Rogers while Amanda Anisimova takes on Daria Kasatkina.

Naomi Osaka is also in the bottom half of the draw where she takes on Shuai Zhang.

Meanwhile in the top half of the draw Iga Swiatek will look to bounce back after an early exit in Toronto as she takes on Sloane Stephens or Alize Cornet in her opening round.

Other exciting matches in the top half of the draw sees Simona Halep take on Karolina Muchova while Beatriz Haddad Maia takes on Jelena Ostapenko.

Here is the full Women’s singles draw with Serena Williams expected to play on Monday night:

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ATP

ATP Montreal: Ruud Thrashes Auger-Aliassime To Reach Semis, Mixed Results For Brits

Casper Ruud eased past Felix Auger-Aliassime to set up a semi-final meeting with Hubert Hurkacz in Montreal.

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Casper Ruud (@OBNmontreal - Twitter)

Casper Ruud only dropped three games against Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the semi-finals in Montreal.

 

The Norwegian is into the semi-finals in Canada after a dominant performance over home favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Ruud dominated from the start of the match as he produced a sublime performance only committing nine unforced errors throughout the match to reach the last four.

Ruud has had a good season on hard courts this season and is looking to make his second consecutive hard court Masters 1000 final after reaching the final in Miami.

Speaking after the match Ruud admitted he got a bit lucky but is happy to be in the last four in Canada, “It was one of those days where everything goes in one favour and luckily it was in my favour,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“With a player like Felix, you need to rely on some margins going your way. I didn’t expect them to all go on my side. It was a bit of a difficult start. I got broken but then was able to turn everything around. I hit my spots, made the shots I needed to and make him hit a lot of balls. That was the game plan and it worked well.

“The last hard-court tournament I played in was in Miami where I reached the final. I wanted to make a deep run here. I didn’t think it was too likely, being the first hard-court tournament back, but I have been playing great from the first point in the first match.”

Ruud will look to claim his first Masters 1000 title this week and rise to four in the world in the ATP rankings.

Next for Ruud is the only Masters 1000 champion left in the draw in the form of Hubert Hurkacz.

Hurkacz defeated the in-form Nick Kyrgios 7-6(4) 6-7(5) 6-1 to reach the semi-finals in Canada.

The eighth seed produced some big-serving and bold decision making as he reached his first semi-final since winning the Halle title.

Heading into their match, Ruud leads the head-to-head 1-0 where the Norwegian was victorious at Roland Garros this year.

Mixed results for British hopefuls

Meanwhile it was a mixed night for British players as Dan Evans reached his second career Masters 1000 semi-final while Jack Draper exited the tournament in the last eight.

Evans defeated Tommy Paul 1-6 6-3 6-4 to reach a landmark moment in his career in Montreal.

After his win Evans described the win as ‘extra special’ as he looks forward to a semi-final meeting with Pablo Carreno Busta, “The crowd, that’s what they buy their tickets for. That’s live sport,” Evans told the ATP website.

“You never know what’s going to happen. It was an amazing match, amazing atmosphere. I played on the court before. In the day it was amazing, but at night, there’s something about playing sport at night, it’s extra special.”

Evans will now play Carreno Busta in the last four after the Spaniard defeated British qualifier Jack Draper 7-6(4) 6-1.

Draper defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier in the week but was no match for the resilient Spaniard.

Saturday’s semi-final will be the first meeting between Evans and Carreno Busta.

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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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