Fed Cup Final in Prague: Petra Kvitova opens with Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova, then Maria Sharapova takes on Karolina Pliskova - UBITENNIS
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Fed Cup Final in Prague: Petra Kvitova opens with Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova, then Maria Sharapova takes on Karolina Pliskova



The Draw Ceremony of the 2015 Fed Cup Final was held in the Old Town Hall in Prague. Petra Kvitova will face Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova in the first match. Karolina Pliskova will replace this year’s Roland Garros finalist Lucie Safarova in the second Saturday’s singles match against Maria Sharapova.


Kvitova, who recently reached the final at the WTA Finals in Singapore and won three of the last four editions of the Fed Cup in 2011, 2012 and 2014, leads 6-3 in her head-to-head matches against Pavlyuchenkova. The Czech star, twice Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014 and world number 5, dropped just five games in her only head-to-head match played this year against Pavlyuchenkova on clay in Madrid.

Kvitova has won 20 times in her 22 Fed Cup matches since 2011 losing just to Ana Ivanovic in 2012 and Roberta Vinci in 2013.

Sharapova and Pliskova will clash for the first time in their careers in the second singles match on Saturday. Both players are in good form. Sharapova reached the semifinal at the WTA Finals in Singapore after missing most of the summer due to injury problems following the Wimbledon semifinal.

On Sunday Kvitova will face Sharapova in a re-match of the recent semifinals of the WTA Finals in Singapore where the Czech player won 6-3 7-6 (7-3). The second reverse rubber on Sunday will feature Pliskova and Pavlyuchenkova. Pliskova beat Pavlyuchenkova 6-2 6-4 in their only head-to-head match in Dubai earlier this year,

Barbora Strykova and Lucie Safarova could face Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina in the possible Sunday’s doubles match.

Pliskova won a WTA title in Prague and finished runner-up to Venus Williams in the final at last week’s Elite Trophy in Zhuhai and in four more finals in Sydney, Dubai, Birmingham and Stanford. The young Czech player will make her second appearance in the Fed Cup. She made her debut in Quebec City where she beat Canadian players Francoise Abanda and Gabriela Dabrowski.

Czech Republic will take on Russia for the third time in a Fed Cup Final. The first time dates back to 1988 when former Czechoslovakia beat former Soviet Union 2-1 in Melbourne. In 2011 Czech Republic beat Russia 3-2 in Moscow.

The home team has won three of the last four titles (2011, 2012 and 2014) and has not been defeated since a 3-2 defeat against the USA in 2009. Russia will bidding to win their fifth Fed Cup after their previous triumphs in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

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Who can beat Carlos Alcaraz?



The No. 1 is about to step out on court in his new role as the favourite for the title. We take a look at some possible hurdles on his way


In the aftermath of Barcellona and Madrid, a 11 match winning streak on clay with 4 sets lost along his way, a halo of invincibility appeared to be floating around Carlos Alcaraz. He had just sailed back from his expedition across the Americas carrying a rich treasure on his galleon: two titles, Indian Wells and Buenos Aires, a final in Rio, lost to Norrie, but played in imperfect physical conditions, and a semifinal in Miami, where he lost to Sinner, the player who could really be his nemesis.

Even more impressive than the stats was the way he had soared through his matches with joyful exuberance, inebriating with a stinging variety of shots.  Delight for viewers, hell for his opponents.

Carlos appeared poised for a season like Roger Federer in 2004. The Swiss great, one year after securing his first Major at Wimbledon, had one of best seasons: a win loss record of 74-6, 3 majors and 3 Masters 1000. No loss to top 10 players.

Then came the Alcaraz’s defeat to Fabian Marozsan, ranked No.135, in the second round in Rome. A mediatic earthquake, one of the greatest upsets in recent years. But has Carlos really returned to human dimension, which notoriously wavers between wins and losses?

Of course not. He is still the player who in 2023 has won most matches on clay: 20. Above all his win-loss percentage is staggering: 90.91%. He’s followed by Medvedev (83.3%) Rune (81.3) and Rublev (80%).

Therefore the loss to Marozsan must simply be framed within an overall analysis of Carlos Alcaraz’s rare stumbles.     

Most players, however domineering, have had an Achilles heel, which they have mitigated throughout their career. Federer’s topspin backhand, Djokovic’s serve for instance were not initially as effective as they were to become.

Even the pickiest critics will find it hard to detect a flaw in Alcaraz’s technical endowment. And against a player who can execute any shot, from any inch of the court, who can alternate power and finesse, hammer and caress from the baseline with unaltered gesture, who can serve cannonballs and kicks, who can serve and volley and even serve and dropshot, who can retrieve the unretrievable, not only will any gameplan get unsettled, and sooner or later fall apart, but planning a strategy for the match can seem a pointless task. Shrewd planning envisages a plan B, should A not work. But against Alcaraz further spelling may be required: plan A, plan B, then a plan C, still a D, and on and on, striving to find an escapeway from defeat.

Who are the players who can seriously pose a threat? Which is the gameplay Alcaraz has shown to suffer so far, in his young career?

His nemesis is Sinner so far. After losing to the red-haired Italian in Umag, 31 July 2022 Alcaraz said: “Jannik, second time you beat me this year, I’m going to figure out how to beat you this year”. Which he did, in the epic  5 hour five setter in the US Open quarter final where he was just one point away from yet another defeat.

This year they are 1-1. Whereas most players are annihilated by the power and angles Alcaraz is able to generate, Sinner remains unfazed, and while hitting and counter hitting from the baseline, he succeeds in stretching the Spaniard to the end of the tether, on all surfaces.

As did Djokovic, in their only encounter, the famous and enthralling semifinal in Madrid last year. Alcaraz was at his top whereas Djokovic was nearing his best form. The score, 6-7 7-5 7-6, eloquently tells the story. Novak not only can erect an impenetrable wall, as Sinner, but can draw from an endless stock of tactical resources. He has also deftly employed dropshots in his past Roland Garros campaigns and can challenge Alcaraz in one of his favourite domains.

Zverev stunned Alcaraz in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last year by dominating him long through the match.  He constructed his victory with a high percentage of first serves, 73%, which allowed him to snatch control of the rallies. He was able to restrain unforced errors and land hefty, spinning and deep groundstrokes off both sides which forced Alcaraz to back away and muffled his penetration.

This year Zverev is still seeking such to recover such heights, but his achievement can be taken by others as a model to imitate.

The battle Jan Lennard Struff put up in the Madrid final a few weeks ago shows that players who are able to serve proficiently and return aggressively, finishing off rallies in few strokes, not letting Alcaraz make a first move, stand their chance.

That’s how Fabian Maroszan rose to fame. Alcaraz may have been in energy saving mode that day, but the Hungarian earned his glory by constantly aiming to dictate, scything forehands while standing right on the baseline and landing dropshots, giving Carlos a taste of his own medicine.    

It is also interesting to recall how Emil Ruusuvuori won the first set against Alcaraz in the round of 32 in Madrid by hitting through returns with crisp anticipation, landing them on the baseline and continuously catching Alcaraz off guard. Another tactic to be taken into account.

A fascinating coincidence is that Alcaraz’s side of the draw is crammed with players who have inflicted defeat on him in the past. In order of potential clashes he could face in the third round Lorenzo Musetti, who beat him in the 2022 Hamburg final playing with an intensity he has not so often been able to maintain over a whole match.  The quarter final could present him with Felix Auger-Aliassime or Sebastien Korda. The American surprisingly beat him at his debut on clay in Montecarlo last year, but Alcaraz shortly took revenge, brushing him aside in Paris at the third round.

Aliassime beat Alcaraz on two occasions in the 2022 fall season. First in the Davis Cup group phase in Valencia, one week after the Spaniard’s triumph at the US Open, then at the Swiss Indoor in Basel.

In his press conference on Sunday, Juan Carlos Ferrero said that Alcaraz is a better player this year, perhaps hinting that his protegee is not likely to incur such setbacks anymore.

And indeed history does not generally bother the young, it’s them, who are making it.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Djokovic, Alcaraz, Wawrinka, Thiem Play on Monday



Court Suzanne-Lenglen has a new look in 2023, as it’s been fitted for a roof starting next year (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Day 2 in Paris is the second of three days featuring first round singles action.


Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will make their 2023 Roland Garros debuts on Monday, with both being heavy favorites in their opening rounds.  So this preview will dive deeper into the first round matches of two other Major singles champions: Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem, both of whom are fighting to regain their form of yesteryear.

Two of the day’s other most appetizing matchups include two Italians with previous success at this tournament.  Fabio Fognini will look to upset a top 10 seed when he takes on a struggling Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Martina Trevisan plays a resurgent mother in Elina Svitolina.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (10) vs. Fabio Fognini – Second on Court Simonne-Mathieu

Auger-Aliassime is a meager 13-9 this season, and just 1-2 on clay.  Felix has not been fully healthy, as only a few days ago, he withdrew from Lyon due to a shoulder injury.  A year ago at this event, he pushed Rafael Nadal to five sets, while being coached by Uncle Toni.  But in this match, FAA is on upset alert, against a former Roland Garros quarterfinalist.

That result for Fognini occurred 12 years ago in Paris.  The biggest title of Fabio’s career also came on this surface, when he won Monte Carlo in 2019.  The 36-year-old Italian is only 4-9 on the year, though two of those victories took place recently on clay in Rome, when he defeated both Andy Murray and Miomir Kecmanovic.

Their only prior encounter also occurred and clay, which was four years ago in Rio.  Felix prevailed in straight sets on that day.  But on this day, the unpredictable Fabio may be a slight favorite to eliminate the tenth seed in the opening round.

Stan Wawrinka vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas – Second on Court 14

Wawrinka’s French Open title run took place eight years ago.  Stan reached the quarterfinals or better at this tournament in five of the last 10 years.  But injuries have derailed the 38-year-old’s career in recent years, and he’s just 12-10 this season at tour level.

35-year-old Ramos-Vinolas was a quarterfinalist in Paris seven years ago.  His only Masters 1000 final also came on this surface, six years ago in Monte Carlo.  A year ago here, he gave Carlos Alcaraz a scare, going up two-sets-to-one before losing in five.  But in 2023, Albert is just 6-16 at tour level.

Wawrinka has dominated their history 7-0, but they haven’t played since they met in the quarters of this tournament in 2016.  Can Stan recapture some of the magic he’s displayed in the past at this event?  On Monday, he’s the favorite to advance against a tough clay court opponent.

Elina Svitolina vs. Martina Trevisan (26) – Third on Court Simonne-Mathieu

On Saturday, in just her third WTA tournament since becoming a mother for the first time, Svitolina became the champion in Strasbourg.  Elina is 22-9 at Roland Garros, having reached the quarterfinals three times. 

Trevisan equaled that result back in 2020, then she surpassed it a year ago, reaching the semifinals of this event.  Yet in 2023, Martina is only 11-13 overall, and 4-4 on clay.

In their first career meeting, Trevisan should be favored.  This will be a quick turnaround for Svitolina from Strasbourg, and she is not yet re-accustomed to playing so many matches within a short time span.

Dominic Thiem vs. Pedro Cachin – Third on Court 6

Between 2016 and 2020, Thiem reached two finals, two more semifinals, and another quarterfinal in Paris.  But since a serious wrist injury sidelined him in 2021, Dominic is 0-2 at this event.  The Austrian is 11-15 this season at all levels, and is coming off two Challenger events on clay earlier this month.

Cachin is a 28-year-old from Argentina who reached the final of a Challenger event on clay in April, before advancing to the round of 16 at the Madrid Masters thanks to impressive victories over Francisco Cerundolo and Frances Tiafoe.  Pedro advanced to the second round of this event in his French Open main draw debut a year ago.

They have never played at tour level, but they did meet at a Challenger tournament last year on clay, with Cachin prevailing in straight sets.  However, it’s worth noting that was Thiem’s first event in nearly a year after returning from injury.  On Monday, I expect the two-time finalist to rediscover enough of his form to prevail.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Karolina Pliskova (16) vs. Sloane Stephens – This is a matchup between two players who have each achieved two Major finals, with Stephens winning the 2017 US Open, yet neither arrives in Paris with much form.  Pliskova got off to a strong start on the year, but is just 2-2 on clay, and has been dealing with a knee injury.  Sloane is 9-11 at tour level, though she is coming off a semifinal run this past week in Rabat.  Stephens leads their head-to-head 4-1, which includes a straight-set win at this event in 2021.

Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Aleksandar Kovacevic – Djokovic is a two-time champion of this tournament, and is 85-16 here lifetime.  He’s reached at least the quarterfinals for 13 straight years, though he’s been battling an elbow injury, and is just 5-3 on clay this season.  Kovacevic is a 24-year-old American who has never been ranked inside the top 100.

Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Flavio Cobolli (Q) – Alcaraz is an excellent 30-3 this year, and won back-to-back titles on clay in his home country before suffering a shocking loss to qualifier Fabian Marozsan in Rome.  This will be Carlitos’ first match at a Major since winning last year’s US Open, as he missed the Australian due to injury.  Cobolli is a 21-year-old Italian qualifier making his main draw debut at a Slam.

Arthur Fils (WC) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (29) – Fils is an 18-year-old French standout who on Saturday won his first ATP title in his home country, defeating Francisco Cerundolo in the final of Lyon.  Davidovich Fokina is just 17-13 on the year, but was a quarterfinalist here two years ago. 

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Jessica Pegula Looking To Overcome Physical And Mental Obstacles At Roland Garros

Jessica Pegula talked about a challenging last couple of weeks after winning her opening match at Roland Garros.



Jessica Pegula (@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Jessica Pegula is looking to overcome recent physical and mental obstacles at Roland Garros after advancing to the second round.


The American began her Roland Garros campaign in fairly comfortable fashion with a 6-4 6-2 victory over compatriot Danielle Collins.

Despite losing her serve on three occasions, Pegula overcame the former Australian Open finalist in straight sets to reach the second round where she will face Camila Giorgi.

Although the match may have been fairly straightforward, the last few weeks have been anything but easy.

As Pegula revealed in her post-match press conference the American has had to overcome mental and physical obstacles in the build-up to Roland Garros, “No, it’s definitely been tough. I think Rome was tough. Yeah, I had a little bit of a nagging injury in Madrid and Rome,” Pegula admitted.

“Then the two-week tournament. Then I got food poisoning last week. There’s been a lot of obstacles, I feel like, the last couple of weeks specifically that have been really tough physically and then taking their toll mentally because of that.

“So it hasn’t been easy, and I saw I have a really tough draw as well, now playing Giorgi, who did well here last year? Yeah. I don’t know. She does well here.

“It’s not easy, especially playing Danielle today I was just happy I was able to really, like, hunker down and focus. Because I don’t think I came in this week feeling my best or feeling the most prepared, but sometimes that happens.

“I’m glad I got through today. Like you said, it’s been a long few years of a lot of matches. I still feel good, but the last couple of weeks have been definitely interesting. The first time, too, playing Madrid and Rome two weeks and being American, we don’t really love being in Europe that much. So it’s definitely been different I think than last year.

“Yeah, I’m happy that I was able to kind of shift my perspective at least today and be able to play really great tennis. Hopefully now that I have two days off I can kind of take that into the next match.”

It’s clear that Pegula hasn’t had the ideal preparation heading into the second Grand Slam of the season as the American looks to establish herself as one of the main contenders.

Speaking of main contenders, Pegula was asked whether it bothers her that she’s not one of the main favourites to win the title in Paris alongside Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.

The world number three said she’s unfazed and is just focusing on the task at hand, “They’ve earned that right,” Pegula claimed.

“They’ve been playing really solid tennis. Iga, we already know from last year. Aryna I felt like broke through in Australia as far as like winning a slam, but I think her results have always been up there. Then Elena at the end of last year as well.

“I mean, to see them being so consistent, I think they’ve earned that right. Obviously ranking-wise I’m still 3, but I’m sure that could change. I could go up or down, whatever. It depends on results.

“But, yeah, I think they’ve earned that title, and I think it’s nice to see three girls dominating. Hopefully I can be part of that conversation, but I think either way it’s still great for women’s tennis. Especially because everyone always talks about the inconsistency and all this stuff.

“I just tend to think it’s because we have a lot of really great depth. It’s nice to see them, yeah, playing really, really good tennis, and I feel like it’s good for the sport as well.”

Pegula will hope to put herself in the conversation with a win over Camila Giorgi, which the American leads their head-to-head 7-2.

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