Tomas Berdych retirement against Philipp Kohlschreiber paves the way for a potential comeback for Germany in Davis Cup - UBITENNIS
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Tomas Berdych retirement against Philipp Kohlschreiber paves the way for a potential comeback for Germany in Davis Cup

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Berdych looked to feeling the effects of his efforts from Friday and Saturday, as a hamstring injury forced him to retire against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Philipp Kohlschreiber was the beneficiary of an injury retirement from Tomas Berdych to ensure that the Davis Cup World Group First Round encounter between Germany and the Czech Republic would go to a fifth and deciding rubber. Kohlschreiber was leading by two sets, 6-3, 7-5, when Berdych retired with a hamstring injury.

 

Berdych had led the head-to-head with Kohlschreiber 8-1 coming into the tie, but Berdych required significant treatment in the fifth game of the match, and never truly looked comfortable on court, surrendering two break in the first set.

Berdych did at least find some success in the second set, holding serve for most of the set with more comfort than in the first. Yet he could not find any way to get engaged against the Kohlschreiber serve, failing to earn any break points. Berdych was continually serving from behind in the set and he was finally broken at 5-6, handing the German a precious two-set lead.

It looked a long way back for the Czech, who had played an epic five-set match against Alexander Zverev, as well as the doubles with Radek Stepanek on Saturday. He then decided to retire, handing the victory to Kohlschreiber, and ensuring that the tie would be decided by that match between Alexander Zverev and Lukas Rosol at the arena in Hannover. Both men lost five-set matches on Friday Zverev to Berdych, and Rosol to Kohlschreiber.

Rosol leads the head-to-head with Zverev 2-0, having not dropped a set. It is worth noting though that of the four sets that Rosol has won, three have gone to tie-breaks, suggesting that yet another close match could decide this tie.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Friday Delivers Several Blockbuster Quarterfinals

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Seeing fans back in the stands was a welcome sight on Thursday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

But will we be able to see those quarterfinals on Friday?  The forecast in Rome looks rather rainy, especially later in the day, so it may be challenging to complete play.

 

In men’s singles, two of the quarterfinals feature four of the top six players in the world.  Only one day after a three-and-a-half-hour epic against Denis Shapovalov, nine-time champion Rafael Nadal must face Madrid champion Sascha Zverev, who defeated him in the quarters just last week.  And five-time Novak Djokovic takes on Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has claimed 17 of his last 20 matches on clay.

In women’s singles, two-time champion Elina Svitolina plays a Roland Garros champion for the second consecutive day.  On Thursday, Svitolina took out Muguruza in straight sets.  On Friday, she’ll do battle with Iga Swiatek, who has won 12 of her last 13 on clay.  Another French open champ, Ash Barty, will play 17-year-old Coco Gauff for the first time, as Coco looks to upset a seeded player for the third round in a row.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Friday’s play begins at 10:00am local time.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Sascha Zverev (6) – Not Before 12:00pm on Center Court

What will Nadal have left after Shapovalov took him to the limit on Thursday?  Zverev will certainly be the fresher player, and will walk onto court with plenty of confidence.  While Rafa claimed their first five meetings, Sascha has now grabbed their last three, and all in straight sets.  That includes his victory just seven days ago in Madrid, which is part of Zverev’s current seven-match win streak.  And during that span, he’s dropped only two sets.  

In recent years, the quarterfinals of this event have been a stumbling block for Nadal.  He’s lost in the quarters four out of the last six years.  It’s difficult to ever refer to Rafa as an underdog on clay, even when he’s behind in a match.  However, he just might be the underdog on this day.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Iga Swiatek (15) – Not Before 6:00pm on Center Court

Svitolina has been solid yet unspectacular in 2021.  She’s accumulated a 19-8 record, though she hasn’t reached a final since last September in Strasbourg.  As of today, Swiatek has compiled a record of 16-5, which exactly matches her record from 2020.  The reigning French Open champ also won the title in Adelaide this past February.  This will be their first career meeting, and it will be interesting to see how the defense skills of Svitolina match up with the more offensive style of Swiatek. 

Elina won this tournament in 2017 and 2018, so this may be the best venue for her to elevate her season.  And despite Iga’s great successes early in her career, this is the farthest she’s ever been at a WTA 1000 event.   Notably, this is scheduled to be the last match of the evening session on Center Court.  If the match gets onto court, it will likely be played in slow, wet conditions.  Even though Swiatek thrived in cooler weather last fall at Roland Garros, those conditions should favor the game of Svitolina.  And Elina has a huge edge in experience at this level, as she looks to reach her 12th WTA 1000 semifinal.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Djokovic leads their head-to-head 4-2, and 2-0 on clay.  That includes their most recent clash last October at Roland Garros, when Tsitsipas came back from two sets down, only to lose in five.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Coco Gauff – Barty is now 27-4 on the year, and is vying for her fifth semifinal.  Gauff is yet to reach a semifinal this season, but this week she’s played her best tennis in quite some time, taking out both Maria Sakkari and Aryna Sabalenka.

Karolina Pliskova (9) vs. Jelena Ostapenko – Pliskova has advanced to the championship match in Rome each of the last two years.  This is Ostapenko’s second quarterfinal here, and her first in three years.  Pliskova is 4-3 against Ostapenko, and prevailed when they met last month on clay in Stuttgart.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – Rublev is already playing for his 30th win of the year.  Sonego survived an over-three-hour battle with Dominic Thiem, which ended at 11:00pm local time on Thursday night.  Last October in the final of Vienna, Rublev took out Sonego 6-4, 6-4.

Petra Martic vs. Jessica Pegula – Prior to this week, Martic hadn’t won three consecutive matches since last year’s US Open.  Pegula continues to take her career to new heights, as she’s set to debut in the top 30 next week.  The 27-year-old American upset Naomi Osaka two rounds ago.  When they played on clay two years ago in Charleston, the match went to Martic in three sets.

Reilly Opelka vs. Federico Delbonis (Q) – Opelka defeated Aslan Karatsev on Thursday to reach his second Masters 1000 quarterfinal.  For 30-year-old Delbonis, this is his first-ever quarterfinal at this level.  Opelka and Delbonis have never played before, but whoever wins will make their Masters semifinal debut.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Another Stellar Order of Play on Thursday

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Thankfully, these seats will not be so empty come Thursday (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

All round of 16 matches will be played on Thursday, with 47 Major singles titles represented.  There is some rain forecast early in the day, but skies should clear by mid-afternoon, allowing all action to be completed.  And with fans on the grounds for the first time this week, there will be a whole different energy at Foro Italico.

 

Men’s round of 16 action features two matchups where top 10 seeds collide.  Overall, seven of the top 10 men in the world are still alive in this draw.  That includes Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have combined to win this event 14 out of the last 16 years.

On the women’s side, four French Open champions remain.  One of them is Garbine Muguruza, who will take on two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina.  The other three (Ash Barty, Iga Swiatek, and Jelena Ostapenko) all face unseeded yet challenging competition on Thursday.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 10:00am local time.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Matteo Berrettini (9) – Not Before 12:00pm on Grand Stand Arena

This matchup was scheduled to take place in February at the Australian Open, but Berrettini was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to an abdominal injury.  The 25-year-old Italian would miss nearly two months of action, though he’s now 10-2 since returning.  Matteo was the champion in Belgrade and the runner-up in Madrid, so he’s played a lot of tennis over the last few weeks.

Tsitsipas has been busy as well, with an 11-2 record during the European clay swing.  Like Matteo, he earned one title and reached the final of another event (Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, respectively).  They did play at the Australian Open two years ago, when Stefanos claimed a tight four-setter.  They also met in qualifying for the 2017 US Open, with Tsitsipas winning in a third-set tiebreak.  Stefanos’ form this past month on clay has been stellar.  And between this week and the last, he’s played significantly less tennis than Matteo.  Despite Berrettini’s hometown crowd rooting him on, Tsitsipas should advance.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Garbine Mugruza (12) – Not Before 6:00pm on Center Court

Svitolina won back-to-back titles here in 2017 and 2018.  Yet outside of those runs, she’s just 4-5 lifetime in Rome.  On Wednesday, Elina recovered from a tough opening set to defeat Amanda Anisimova in three.  Muguruza has reached three semifinals in Rome, though is yet to advance farther.  She too was forced to come from behind on Wednesday.  Garbine was down two breaks in the third set, when American Bernarda Pera tightened up, allowing Muguruza to take that set 7-5.

This will be the tenth meeting in their rivalry, which Svitolina leads 6-3 at tour level.  However, they’ve split their two clay court matches.  In 2021, Muguruza has been the better player.  She has accumulated a 23-6 record, with one title and two runner-up trophies.  Svitolina is 18-8 on the season, though she’s yet to reach a final.  And against the top 20, she’s just 2-4, with her only two wins coming against Petra Kvitova.  Muguruza did have to withdraw from Madrid last week due to a thigh injury.  But if she’s feeling close to 100%, Garbine is the favorite based on her recent form.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Q) – Djokovic has never lost before the quarterfinals in Rome, but could be challenged by the 21-year-old Spaniard, who is 10-5 on clay this season.  This is their first career meeting.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Barty advanced comfortably on Wednesday despite some strapping on her leg.  24-year-old Kudermetova is an impressive 24-10 in 2021, and was a champion last month on the green clay of Charleston.  This is also their first meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Denis Shapovalov (13) – Denis’ exciting win over Rafa at 2017’s Rogers Cup was his breakout moment, but he’s 0-2 against Nadal since that time.  Shapovalov was a semifinalist in Rome last September, while Nadal has failed to reach the quarterfinals here only once in 16 appearances.

Angelique Kerber vs. Jelena Ostapenko – Their only head-to-head matchup was a significant one.  In the 2018 Wimbledon semifinals, Kerber prevailed 6-3, 6-3 on her way to the title.  Neither player has won three consecutive matches this year, a feat one of them will achieve on Thursday.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (10) – They have split six previous encounters, though Rublev has claimed both their matches on clay, including last month in Monte-Carlo.

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Coco Gauff – Sabalena is on a seven-match win streak, and is 11-1 on clay this season.  Gauff has already survived two three-setters this week.  They met twice last year, with each claiming one victory, and each match going the distance. 

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Kei Nishikori – Sascha and Kei just played last week in Madrid, with Zverev winning 6-3, 6-2.  That victory started Zverev’s current six-match win streak.  Like fellow Madrid champion Sabalenka, he’s only dropped one set during that time.

Iga Swiatek (15) vs. Barbora Krejcikova – The reigning French Open champ has won 11 of her last 12 matches on clay.  Swiatek defeated Krejickova in straight sets earlier this year in Miami.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – Thiem came back from a set down on Wednesday against Marton Fucsovics, while Sonego took out Gael Monfils in the last round.  When they met on clay in 2019, Thiem prevailed in straights.

Karolina Pliskova (9) vs. Vera Zvonareva (Q) – On Wednesday, Zvonareva upset another big-hitting Czech, Petra Kvitova.  Pliskova was the champion here two years ago, and the runner-up last season.  Three years ago in Moscow, Zvonareva dominated Pliskova, allowing her only three games.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Simona Halep Suffers Injury Blow Ahead Of French Open

The Romanian faces a race against time to be fit for the next Grand Slam after a freak injury.

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World No.3 Simona Halep says she is unsure how long she will be away from the Tour after suffering an injury midway through her match at the Italian Open on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion was leading Angelique Kerber 6-1, 3-3, in Rome before she was forced to stop due to pain in her left leg. Halep looked to be in discomfort during a couple points before bringing the match to a stop. Unable to move, an on-court trainer had to help her back to her seat where she received ice treatment on the back of her leg before retiring.

Following the retirement, Halep has confirmed she has suffered a tear in her left calf. The Romanian said it is unclear as to how severe the tear is or how long she will be absent from the Tour. The setback occurs less than three weeks before the start of the French Open. Halep’s most successful major in terms of match victories which she won back in 2018.

“Unfortunately an ultrasound has revealed that I have a tear in my left calf,” Halep said in a statement posted on social media.
“I will get an MRI tomorrow to understand the injury in more detail, but at the moment we are unsure of recovery time.’
“I’m so disappointed to end my tournament in Rome like this but I will do everything I can to take care of the injury and be back as soon as possible. Thanks so much for your support and I’ll keep you posted on my progress.”

The 29-year-old is yet to win a title this season and has enjoyed moderate success on the clay in recent weeks. In Stuttgart she reached the semi-finals before losing to Aryna Sabalenka. Then in Madrid she was ousted in three sets by Elise Mertens in the third Round.

Halep had been regarded as one of the title contenders for the French Open title given her success on the surface in her career. She now faces a race against time to be fit for the tournament which she has played at every single year since 2010.

As for Kerber, she will take on Jelena Ostapenko in the third round in Rome. A win would move her into the last eight of a WTA event for only the second time this year.

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