Indian Wells: Well Look Who it is! - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells: Well Look Who it is!

Joshua Mason

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Serena, Venus e Richard Williams ad Indian Wells

 

 

While Indian Wells is heating up, with Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios the latest casualties, Ubitennis take a look at the Californian Tournament and its standing in the tour. It has been more known for controversy in the last fourteen years, but is California’s major tournament and has always been one of the top priorities for pros.

 

The tournament which started in 1974 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden boasts £5.1m prize money for women and £3.6m for men. The tournament is owned by Oracle owner Larry Ellison who purchased it back in 2009. It is a major tournament and the 3rd biggest in America after Miami Open and of course the US Open. It draws all the main players from around the world, but has on occasion been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

 

We are able to talk about it now, as Serena is making her second return appearance and is more reflective, but Indian Wells has been tainted by the incidents that took place in 2001. That year both Williams sisters managed to make it into the Semi-Finals, only for Venus Williams to pull out due to injury. Being in the area of the country known for its UFO sightings, conspiracy theories abound, and there were rumours that Richard Williams decides who wins and loses when the two of them play, and in this case was making an easy path for Serena. The theory was largely believed and when Serena walked out to play the final she was heavily booed. Serena’s father then stated that to go along with this malicious booing he was also on the receiving end of racial slurs from the crowd. On this basis the Williams Sisters boycotted the tournament for 14 years.

Serena returned last year and is the favourite for the 2016 tournament with betting tipsters and Venus is back for the first time since the incident. This boycott was complicated not just for tournament organisers, but for tour marketing. The Williams sisters denied their contractual obligations and refused to promote the tournament. The WTA decided to allow this and luckily avoided any further controversy.

 

Racism aside, the Indian Wells Tournament is a tremendous show of the sport’s popularity. Interest in the Grand Slams is expected, but other tournaments have to fight for every person through the door. In Indian Wells’ case it boasts the most spectators outside of the Grand Slams with 450,000 visitors during the 8-day event! This incredible show proves that tennis can attract people out of the Slams. The fact that the Indian Wells Tennis Garden has the second biggest Tennis stadium in the world, means that there aren’t so many disappointing views that you may find at smaller places.

 

Indian Wells is a tremendous start to the Tennis season and with both Williams’ sisters finally back, it can finally hold its head high once again. As long as Nick Kyrgios doesn’t ruin it…

Editorial

Miami Open Daily Preview: Which of the Men’s Semifinalists Will Play for Their First Masters 1000 Title on Sunday?

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Roberto Bautista Agut is the only remaining man who has previously reached a Masters 1000 final (twitter.com/atptour)

The Spanish No.2 was a finalist at the 2016 Shanghai Masters, losing to Andy Murray.  23-year-old Andrey Rublev, 24-year-old Hubert Hurkacz, and 19-year-old Jannik Sinner are all making their Masters 1000 semifinal debuts. 

 

Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be contested, featuring two of the top teams in the world, and two teams that just formed this fortnight.

Roberto Bautista Agut (7) vs. Jannik Sinner (21) – 1:00pm on Grandstand

Their only previous meeting was only two weeks ago, in the Dubai round of 16.  It was an extended affair, with Sinner prevailing 7-5 in the third.  On that day, Jannik struck 16 aces, and saved five of seven break points.  It will be crucial for Sinner to serve well again today, as he won only 38% of second serve points in Dubai.  But that will be challenging on the slow-playing hard courts in Miami.  As Jim Courier highlighted on Tennis Channel, Bautista Agut normally excels on faster surfaces.  However, he’s adjusted better to these heavy conditions than opponents who also like fast courts, such as John Isner and Daniil Medvedev.  Sinner doesn’t mind slower court speeds, as evidenced by his quarterfinal run at last year’s Roland Garros.  Yet, the 32-year-old Roberto certainly has the experience edge over the Italian teenager, especially at this stage of a big tournament.  In a match that will see a plethora of flat-hitting rallies, I give Roberto the slight edge.  He is never an easy out, is exhaustingly consistent, and should be able to break Sinner a bit more easily than in Dubai.

Andrey Rublev (4) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (26) – Not before 7:00pm on Grandstand

These two have also only met once before, and that occurred last September in Rome, with Hurkacz upsetting Rublev in three sets.  Their stats in that match were extremely similar, with Hubi’s ability to pull out a first set tiebreak being the difference maker.  Unlike the first men’s semifinal, neither of these players received a day of rest prior to this match.  Hurkacz finished his quarterfinal many hours before Rublev, whose match with Sebastian Korda was delayed multiple times by rain.  But Rublev spent about an hour less on court yesterday, as Hurkacz had to fight back from a set and a break down against Stefano Tsitsipas.  And the Russian has been the ATP’s winningest player since the start of 2020, with 61 match wins.  During that same time span, Hurkacz has only accumulated 28 wins.  Rublev’s power game is relentless regardless of the surface speed, and his current confidence level is unmatched.  I like Andrey’s chances to advance to Sunday’s championship match.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (5) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek – The Japanese team won their first 12 matches of the year, but then went on a four-match losing streak heading into this event.  For Mattek-Sands and Swiatek, this is their first tournament as a team.  They’ve dominated the competition so far without dropping a set, allowing their opponents only 10 games across six sets.

Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani (8) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos – Carter and Stefani have reached two finals this season, but are yet to win a title.  Dabrowski and Olmos are another team finding success in their first event as a unit.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Miami Open Daily Preview: Two Top Five Players Face Off in a Marquee WTA Semifinal

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Ash Barty is 12-2 in 2021 (twitter.com/WTA)

World No.1 Ash Barty takes on world No.5 Elina Svitolina for a spot in Saturday’s women’s championship match.  The other WTA semifinal will also take place on Thursday, with 2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu battling Maria Sakkari, who yesterday upset Naomi Osaka.  And there will also be two men’s quarterfinals contested, featuring four of the ATP’s most promising young stars.

 

Throughout this event, the women’s singles draw will be a day ahead of the men’s.  On Thursday, the women will play their semifinals, while the men’s bottom half completes quarterfinal play.

Each day this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule.  Thursday’s play will begin at 1:00pm local time.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (2) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (26) – 1:00pm on Grandstand

Tsitsipas is vying for his sixth career Masters 1,000 semifinal, while this would mark the first for Hurkacz.  Hubi’s only previous Masters quarterfinal appearance also came in the United States, two years ago in Indian Wells.  Stefanos not only has the experience edge over Hubert, but also a considerable edge in their rivalry.  Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head 5-1, though Hurkacz’s only victory is also their only previous meeting in North America (the 2019 Rogers Cup).  And it’s worth noting their last five matches have all gone the distance.  While Hurkacz officially represents Poland, he spends plenty of time training in Florida, so he’s fully comfortable in the hot and humid Miami conditions.  Tsitsipas should be the fresher of the two: Hurkacz has spent over two hours longer on court to reach this stage.  That includes Hubi’s victory over Milos Raonic in the last round, which was decided by a third set tiebreak.  With all that in mind, I would consider Tsitsipas the slight favorite in what should be a tight affair.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Elina Svitolina (5) – Not before 3:00pm on Grandstand

Ash Barty has been impressive this fortnight, in her first tournament outside of Australia in over a year.  She’s fought her way to a trio of three-set victories despite her level at times failing her.  She defeated two in-form Belarusians in the last two rounds: Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka.  And with Naomi Osaka’s loss yesterday, Ash is guaranteed to retain the No.1 ranking, which should alleviate some pressure.  However, this has been a problematic matchup for the defending champion in the past.  Barty is 1-5 lifetime against Svitolina, with her only win coming in their most recent meeting, the championship match of the 2019 WTA Finals.  Their two encounters before that were on American hard courts, with Svitolina claiming four of five sets played.  But Svitolina arrived in Miami having lost three of her last four matches, and only one of her 18 career final appearances have come in the United States.  And Barty has a lot more tools at her disposal should any parts of her game go awry.  So I like Barty’s chances to reach her second consecutive championship match in Miami.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Bianca Andreescu (8) vs. Maria Sakkari (23) – This is the other women’s semifinal.  Andreescu is coming off three consecutive three-setters, including an exceptionally grueling one just last night against Sara Sorribes Tormo.  Sakkari required only a little over an hour to dispatch of Naomi Osaka earlier in the day yesterday.

Andrey Rublev (4) vs. Sebastian Korda – This will be the last men’s quarterfinal.  Since the start of 2020, 23-year-old Rublev is a sensational 60-13.  Since the start of 2021, 20-year-old Korda is 15-4 at all levels.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (7) – This men’s doubles semifinal features two of the ATP’s hottest doubles teams.  Mektic and Pavic have already accumulated three titles this year.  Ram and Salisbury have won 10 of their last 12 matches.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Miami Open Daily Preview: Naomi Osaka Goes for a 24th Straight Win

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Naomi Osaka has not lost a match since the tour restart last August (twitter.com/WTA)

Osaka’s opponent on Wednesday is Maria Sakkari, who epically saved six match points on Monday, eventually prevailing in a third set tiebreak over Jessica Pegula.  And a revitalized Bianca Andreescu takes on Sara Sorribes Tormo, who is 12-1 this month, and was the champion in Guadalajara.  In the top quarter of the men’s draw, the seeds have held, making for a marquee quarterfinal between Daniil Medvedev and Roberto Bautista Agut.  And one of tennis fastest-rising stars, Jannik Sinner, faces one of the sport’s flashiest stars, Alexander Bublik.

 

Throughout this event, the women’s singles draw will be a day ahead of the men’s.  On Wednesday, the women’s bottom half will complete the quarterfinals, while men’s top half begin quarterfinal play.

Each day this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule.  Wednesday’s play will begin at 1:00pm local time.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Maria Sakkari (23) – 1:00pm on Grandstand

Osaka leads their head-to-head 3-1, though Naomi’s three victories have all gone to a third set.  But Sakkari is a much-improved player since they last met in January of 2020.  The 25-year-old from Greece has gone 31-15 since that loss, and as per Tennis Abstract, has accumulated a winning record against top 10 opposition.  But defeating the four-time Major champion on her favorite surface, and when she hasn’t lost in recent memory, is a huge ask.  That’s especially true following the physical and emotional toll of her comeback victory in the last round, a match that lasted nearly three hours in the Florida heat.  Osaka has played much less tennis this past week: she received a walkover in the third round, and claimed her other two matches in straight sets.  And there’s not much Sakkari does better on-court than Osaka.  All this makes Naomi the favorite to reach her first semifinal in Miami.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (7) – Not before 8:30pm on Grandstand

They’ve met twice before, with both matches occurring on hard courts, and both matches going the way of the Spaniard.  The first was four years ago in the final of Chennai, before Medvedev became the top player he is today.  But the other was just last summer at the Western & Southern Open, where Bautista Agut prevailed in three sets.  Medvedev suffered from cramps two rounds ago, though looked just fine in a straight set victory yesterday over Frances Tiafoe.  He may even be the fresher player today, as Bautista Agut outlasted John Isner in an extended third-set tiebreak, saving a match point along the way.  However, Roberto is one of the fittest players on tour, and matches against Isner don’t involve many grueling rallies.  Daniil has now won 27 of his last 29 matches.  And with this being a night match, his body won’t suffer as much as in the heat of the day.  I like Medvedev’s chances of figuring out a way to earn his first victory over Bautista Agut after a significant battle.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Bianca Andreescu (8) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – Andreescu is coming off impressive back-to-back wins against Amanda Anisimova and Garbine Muguruza.  And while Sorribes Tormo has taken 12 of 13 matches in March, none of those wins were against a top 10 player.

Jannik Sinner (21) vs. Alexander Bublik (32) – They just played two weeks ago in Dubai, with Sinner prevailing 6-4 in the third.

Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek – this is a women’s doubles quarterfinal featuring two recent Roland Garros singles champions.

Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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