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Brand New ATP Event In Honor Of Rod Laver To Start in 2017

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Tennis legend Rod Laver attends the Australian Open 2016 Launch at The Shook. (Source: Hu Chengwei/Zimbio.com0

It has been confirmed that a new team event inspired by the Ryder Cup will begin in 2017 on the men’s tour.

 

The event will be called the Laver Cup, in honor of 11-time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver. The event will consist of two teams of six players (Europe and the rest of the world). The 3-day event will select four players per team based on their ranking and then an additional two in what will be called the ‘captains pick’.

It is understood that there will not fixed venue for the tournament, similar to the Davis Cup. It will occur annually in September, except during an Olympic year. The first edition of the event will take place at a yet to be confirmed European indoor venue according to the New York Times.

The purposed team tournament was created by Team8, the agency which represents Roger Federer. The original idea of honoring Laver came from Federer himself. Speaking about the new event on Wednesday, the 34-year-old discussed why he thinks it is important to honor sporting legends such as Laver.

“Rod Laver is someone I’ve always thought was very inspiring,” Federer said on Wednesday.
 “I think it’s important to leave a legacy for the legends, and Rod Laver to me stands out because of his achievements and his character and everything. And that’s when the idea came of the Laver Cup, to name a cup after him and to also have captains which then lead a team of today’s players.”

The event has been backed by Tennis Australia and Jorge Paulo. Paulo is a Brazilian Investor who was named by Forbes as Brazil’s richest man in 2015 with a net worth of $21.30 billion.

Speaking about having an event named after him, 77-year-old Laver spoke of his support for the event.

It’s just a great honor that my name is going to be on this,” Laver said
 “I think all the European players now, they seem to be in the driver’s seat, but I think it will be a fair competition, and I think it will be very competitive. It’s a unique concept in tennis. It’s in golf, and it’s been successful anytime they’ve done it with the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. I’ve never seen those events live, but I’ve watched them on television, and it seems to bring out the nerves.”

The event will consist of three singles matches and one doubles. Participating players will receive prize money, however, they will receive no appearance fees. There is yet to be any comments from other players concerning the proposed event.

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Nine Major Singles Champions in Action on Monday

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A look at one of the outer courts at Ariake Tennis Park (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

The second round begins on Day 3 in both singles and doubles, with fascinating matchups throughout the day all around the Ariake Tennis Park.  Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the headliners of this tennis event, and both will again be considerable favorites on Monday.  But the most inspirational story of this event is Carla Suarez Navarro, who on Sunday earned her first singles win since announcing she is cancer-free just three months ago.  In the second round, she faces Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova.  On the men’s side, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic required an astounding 11 match points to advance in the first round.  Now he’ll take on Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who just a week ago won the biggest title of his career in Hamburg, Germany.

 

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

Karolina Pliskova (5) [CZE] vs. Carla Suarez Navarro [ESP] – Third on Court 3

Suarez Navarro played singles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but went down in three sets during the first round of both events.  Yet on Sunday against Ons Jabeur, one of 2021’s best players, Carla earned her first singles victory since coming back from fighting Hodgkin Lymphoma.  On Monday, she faces the WTA’s “Ace Queen,” who bounced back nicely from the disappointment of losing her second Major final by winning comfortably on Sunday.  Pliskova’s former coach Rennae Stubbs highlighted on NBC’s coverage how Karolina, one of the tallest players on tour, will not mind the high-bouncing conditions on the courts in Tokyo.  Their head-to-head has been rather even, with Pliskova holding a slight edge 4-3.  However, Karolina has claimed their last three meetings, dating back to 2015.  Pliskova’s level can fluctuate from day-to-day, and you certainly don’t want to underestimate the fight of Suarez Navarro, but the fire power of the fifth seed will be tough to overcome.

Pablo Carreno Busta (6) [ESP] vs. Marin Cilic [CRO] – Fourth on Court 1

Carreno Busta may be the seeded player, but he’s never beaten Cilic, who is 4-0 against the Spaniard.  Three of those four victories came on hard courts.  Marin has struggled in recent years, but rediscovered some strong form a month ago grass.  Cilic was the champion in Stuttgart, and was two sets up on Daniil Medvedev at Wimbledon before losing in five.  Hard courts have not been as friendly to Cilic of late, but Carreno Busta has exceled on this surface.  Pablo has reached the semifinals of the US Open twice in the last four years.  Both men have previous success representing their countries: Cilic helped Croatia win the Davis Cup in 2018, with Carreno Busta doing the same for Spain a year later.  But in tight matches, Pablo has been the far better performer over the last few years, and is a slight favorite to earn his first win over Marin.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Jan-Lennard Struff [GER] – Djokovic is 5-0 against Struff, dropping only one of 14 sets played.

Naomi Osaka (2) [JPN] vs. Viktorija Golubic [SUI] – Osaka looked pretty sharp in her opening round on Sunday, her first match in 56 days.  28-year-old Golubic was a surprise quarterfinalist earlier this month at Wimbledon.

Daniil Medvedev (2) [ROC] vs. Sumit Nagal [IND] – On Saturday, Nagal became the first Indian man to win a singles match at the Olympics since 1996.  Medvedev did not appear to enjoy the heat and humidity during his first round, yet still prevailed in straight sets.

Aryna Sabalenka (3) [BLR] vs. Donna Vekic [CRO] – Sabalenka surrendered only three games in her opening round win.  Two years ago on a hard court in San Jose, she defeated Vekic in straight sets.

Iga Swiatek (6) [POL] vs. Paula Badosa [ESP] – Swiatek breezed through her first round match by a score of 6-2, 6-2, but Badosa is an impressive competitor in the midst of a breakout season, with 27 match wins.

Ash Barty and Storm Sanders (6) [AUS] vs. Yifan Xu and Zhaoxuan Yang [CHN] – Barty did not perform well in her first round singles loss, committing more than 50 unforced errors.  But she and good friend Sanders remain one of the most formidable teams in the women’s doubles draw.

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Osaka, Murray, Barty Headline Sunday’s Play

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Naomi Osaka, earlier this week at Ariake Tennis Park (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

Japan’s Naomi Osaka is one of the biggest stars of these Games.  She is reportedly the world’s highest-paid female athlete, and even received the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron during Friday night’s opening ceremonies.  But Osaka has not played a match since withdrawing from Roland Garros nearly two months ago.  That was her reaction to the Grand Slam committee threatening to default her from the event after she stated she would not take part in press conferences, citing mental health concerns.  So much has been said and written about Naomi over the past few months, but now she’ll let her tennis speak for itself.

 

Also on Sunday, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray faces Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who soundly defeated Murray at last summer’s US Open.  Ash Barty will play her first singles match since winning Wimbledon two weeks ago, against the dangerous and highly-entertaining Sara Sorribes Tormo.  And the top two Japanese men in the world both take on top 25-ranked Russians.

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Sunday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Saisai Zheng – Second on Centre Court

Osaka has now won 41 of her last 47 matches, dating back to September of 2019.  That also happens to be the last time she played in her home country, when she won the WTA event in Osaka, Japan.  Notably, half of those six recent losses came on clay.  On hard courts, Naomi is an astounding 39-3 during that same span.  But Saisai can also play on this surface, as she was the champion two summers ago in San Jose.   However, the 27-year-old from China is just 6-12 since March of 2020, and missed nearly a year of action due to the pandemic.  She also does not possess the powerful serve or groundstrokes of Osaka.  When these players met 18 months ago at the Australian Open, Naomi prevailed in straight sets.  The result on Sunday should not be much different.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Centre Court

Felix’s straight-set win last year in New York came just two days after a five-set, nearly five-hour victory for Murray over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.  Andy will be much fresher on Sunday, and should be feeling confident coming off an excellent win on Saturday in doubles alongside Joe Salisbury, as they took out French Open champions Mahut and Herbert.  Darren Cahill pointed out during NBC’s coverage on Saturday how Murray rarely loses to an opponent twice in a row, as he studies what went wrong in his loss, and learns how to exploit his opponents’ weaknesses.  Auger-Aliassime is coming off an excellent run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, an event where his close friend, Denis Shapovalov, defeated Murray.  But with Andy perhaps in his best physical health in years, and considering his previous success representing his country at the Olympics, I like Murray’s chances of figuring out a way to grit his way to victory. Plus, Andy may not be as bothered by the heat and humidity as other players, due to the training he does in Miami, Florida.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – Barty is now a stellar 35-6 on the year, though Sorribes Tormo has tormented many top players this season.  The 24-year-old Spaniard has played grueling matches against Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu, as well as a nearly four-hour encounter with Camila Giorgi.

Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Kei Nishikori – Nishikori was the bronze medalist in men’s singles at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  He’s 1-0 against Rublev, though no one has won more matches since the start of last year than the Russian.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber – Tsitsipas has lost three of his last four matches, with the first being his heartbreaking loss in the French Open final.  But he’s 2-0 against the veteran from Germany, with both victories coming on hard courts.

Aryna Sabalenka (3) vs. Magda Linette – Sabalenka is coming off her first deep run at a Major, losing in the Wimbledon semifinals to Karolina Pliskova 6-4 in the third.  Three years ago on a hart court in Tianjin, she defeated Linette 6-1, 6-3.

Karolina Pliskova (5) vs. Alize Cornet – How will Pliskova bounce back from her second loss in a Slam final?  She is 3-1 against Cornet, though the Frenchwoman is a tricky opponent, who earned three top 20 wins last month on grass.

Hubert Hurkacz (7) vs. Marton Fucsovics – At Wimbledon, both men achieved their best career results at a Major.  Three years ago in Cincinnati, Fucsovics outlasted Hurkacz in a third set tiebreak.

Garbine Muguruza (7) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Muguruza leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches contested on hard courts within the past 18 months. 

Karen Khachanov (12) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka – Both players won epic five-setters at Wimbledon out on Court 18.  At the 2019 Australian Open, Khachanov claimed their only previous meeting in straight sets.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Pursues the Golden Slam

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Novak Djokovic practicing earlier this week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

Novak Djokovic is one Olympic Gold medal and one US Open away from becoming the second player to achieve the Golden Slam: winning all four Majors and the Olympic gold medal in singles within the same year.  Thus far, it’s a feat only accomplished by Steffi Graf in 1988.  Djokovic has already won 21 of 34 matches necessary to do so, with six wins required over the next nine days in Tokyo.  How will Novak perform under the pressure of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

 

While many top names decided to skip this event, the men’s singles draw still features five of the world’s top 10, with seven of the top 10 on the women’s side.  Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev are the men’s top seeds, while Wimbledon champion Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, who had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron on Friday, are the women’s top seeds.  And with so many singles players also competing in doubles, there will be plenty of highly-anticipated doubles matchups. 

The event will be staged at the Ariake Tennis Park, which usually hosts ATP and WTA 500 tournaments shortly after the US Open.  Unfortunately, there will be no fans in attendance due to Tokyo COVID-19 protocols.  Centre Court features a roof in case of rain.

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Belinda Bencic (9) vs. Jessica Pegula – Third on Court 1

Bencic claimed their only previous meeting, though that was six years ago on grass.  However, Pegula has been the much better player of late.  Bencic is only 17-14 on the year, while Pegula is an impressive 27-13.  On hard courts, it’s 7-6 for Benic, and 17-6 for Pegula.  And Bencic has a losing record against top 30 opposition in 2021, and is 0-4 against the top 20.  By contrast, Pegula has accumulated six top 10 victories.  The court speed in Tokyo are reportedly rather slow for a hard court, which will not be as conducive to the American’s flat groundstrokes.  It’s also worth considering results at events where players are representing their countries, and not only playing for themselves, often inspire different players to excel.  But based on recent results, Pegula should still be favored to upset a top 10 seed.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Hugo Dellien – Fourth on Centre Court

At the last two Olympics, Djokovic has experienced heartache at the hands of Juan Martin Del Potro.  In London, the Argentine defeated him in the Bronze Medal match, preventing Novak from getting a medal.  In Rio, Del Potro upset Djokovic in the opening round, resulting in a dramatic scene where both men left the court in tears.  On Instagram this week, Juan Martin even teased Novak, commenting “I’ll be watching you!  This time you have your chance amigo!”  It would be shocking if Djokovic were to lose in the opening round again this year, especially against the 139th-ranked man in the world, who has spent most of this season playing Challenger events on clay.  And Dellien has never defeated a top 20 player in his career.  But it will be telling to see just how fresh and comfortable Djokovic looks just 13 days after winning his 20th Major, and with such history on the line.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Alexander Bublik – This is a rematch from the first round of Roland Garros, when Medvedev prevailed in straight sets to secure his first career victory at that event.

Kiki Bertens (16) vs. Marketa Vondrousova – This will be the last event of Bertens’ career, who just two years ago was ranked as high as No.4 in the world.  At the 2018 US Open, Vondrousova defeated Bertens in a third set tiebreak.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (2) vs. Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury – Murray is the two-time defending gold medalist in singles, and also won a silver medal nine years ago in mixed doubles.  Herbert and Mahut are coming off a French Open title last month, their fifth Major title as a team.

Ash Barty and Storm Sanders (4) vs. Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya – This will be Barty’s first match since her Wimbledon triumph two weeks prior.  Sanders reached the semifinals in women’s doubles at The All England Club.

Elise Mertens and Alison Van Uytvanck vs. Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro – Mertens is now the world No.1 in women’s doubles, following her Wimbledon title with Su-Wei Hsieh.  Muguruza and Suarez Navarro reached the quarterfinals in women’s doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Rajeev Ram and Frances Tiafoe – This is the Russians’ fifth event as a team this season, while Ram and Tiafoe are a newly-formed partnership for this event.

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