Preview: Olympic History Beckons As The Singles Draws For Rio Is Announced - UBITENNIS
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Preview: Olympic History Beckons As The Singles Draws For Rio Is Announced

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The Olympic Tennis Centre in Rio de Janeiro.

By Jakub Bobro and Adam Addicott

 

The draw has taken place for the Olympic singles tournament in Rio de Janeiro. A total of 128 players (64 men and 64 women) will battle it out for just six medals at the newly built Olympic Tennis Centre. This year could see the record books be rewritten as Serena Williams aims to become the most decorated tennis player in Olympic history and Andy Murray bids to be the first man to successfully defend an Olympic title.

Men’s Singles

The match that will attract all eyes on tennis in Rio will be the 1st Round encounter between World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 2012 Bronze medallist Juan Martin Del Potro. The match will have a special ring to it, as Del Potro defeated Djokovic in a Bronze Medal match in London 2012, stopping him from reaching a medal at the Olympics. Can the Argentine cause another big upset and do the same in Rio? Probably not, but it’s still a less than ideal opponent to start the Olympics against, and all the pressure will be all on Djokovic.

If Djokovic does get past this first hurdle, it should all be straightforward from there, until the medal matches. In the second round, the Serb will face a softer opponent in Joao Sousa or Robin Haase, neither of which will have a real chance to upset Djokovic. 14th seed Jack Sock should be Djokovic’s first seeded opponent, despite being 25th in the rankings. The first real test after Del Potro will be the 5th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. In case the French player falls on his way to the quarterfinals, other possible opponents include 10th seed Roberto Bautista Agut, Gilles Muller, or even the returning Jerzy Janowicz. Djokovic’s last opponent on the way to the final should be 3rd seed Rafael Nadal.

World No. 5 Rafael Nadal is definitely the draw winner among the top seeds, and he needs it. The Spaniard hasn’t played since Roland Garros, and there are a lot of question marks surrounding Nadal’s fitness. Despite that, Nadal will play all 3 events. In singles, Federico Delbonis will start him off. In the second round, Nadal will be faced with a declining Andreas Seppi or Illya Marchenko. He should again have no problems there. The nine-time French Open champion won’t have too much trouble in the 3rd round either, his possible opponents being a slumping Gilles Simon or Borna Coric. Nadal’s quarterfinal opponent will most probably be 8th seed David Goffin or 11th seed Pablo Cuevas, where he again will be a huge favourite. Rio gives the 30-year-old get a chance to play himself into form to give Djokovic a run for his money.

Second seed and defending champion Andy Murray will anchor the bottom half, and on paper has a very tough draw. However, with a closer look, Murray shouldn’t have too much trouble reaching the finals. His opener against Serbia’s Viktor Troicki looks tough on paper, but Murray has a winning 7-0 head-to-head against Troicki, and the Serb hasn’t won since Wimbledon. In the second round it will be either No. 145 Mirza Basic or former Top 10 player Juan Monaco. At this point in his career, Monaco can do little to none damage on hard courts, so it should be smooth sailing for Murray. In Round of 16, he will face one of Benoit Paire, Lukas Rosol or Fabio Fognini. All are, on paper, tough opponents, but are far from their best forms. Murray’s quarterfinal opponent will come from the weakest part of the draw, anchored by No. 12 David Ferrer and No. 22 Steve Johnson. The unseeded players are also not too threatening, strongest of which are Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jan-Lennard Struff. Murray’s semifinal opponent will be one of the trio, Nishikori, Monfils and Cilic. All those players have a shot, especially Monfils who is in great form.

Women’s singles

The Women’s draw will be headlined by four-time Olympic gold medallist Serena Williams. This year the world No.1 is bidding to win two medals at the games and become the most decorated tennis player in Olympic history. She will start her singles campaign against Australia’s Daria Gavrilova, a player who she has defeated once in straight sets at the 2013 Doha Open. Beyond the first round, Williams could play Alize Cornet in the second round followed by 15th seed Elina Svitolina. In the last eight, the top seed should expect to play either Petra Kvitova or Roberta Vinci. Williams’ potential route is all but certain with a series of dangerous floaters in her section. Unseeded players Heather Watson, Caroline Wozniacki and Ekaterina Makarova all have the ability to cause upsets and set up a showdown with the American. Regardless of the outside threats, it was be a huge surprise if any of these players are able to stop the world No.1 from going deep in the draw. Another medal is extremely likely for Williams, but the question is what one?

Joining Williams in the top half is French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, who will experience a tough opening match against Jelena Jankovic. The Spaniard has lost to Jankovic in their three previous meetings on a hard-court, including one this year in the Fed Cup. Her sole win over the Serbian occurred three years ago in Roland Garros. If Muguruza moves past the first round, she will play either Japan’s Nao Hibino or Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu. Further on in the tournament, the Spaniard could face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova followed by 5th seed Venus Williams. The luck of the draw is not on Muguruza’s side with a series of dangerous opponents standing in her way. She will need to be at the top of her game if she wants to avoid a similar fate to her early exit at the Wimbledon Championships.

Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber heads the bottom half. The German will start her medal bid against Colombia’s Mariana Duque in what will be their first meeting for six years. After what is expected to be a straightforward opening match, Kerber will play Eugenie Bouchard or Sloane Stephens in the second round. The clash between Bouchard and Stephens has the chance to be one of the highlights of the first round. Beyond the first two rounds, Kerber could play Sam Stosur followed by a potential quarter-final clash with Johanna Konta or Svetlana Kuznetsova. The outcome of Kerber’s route is one that is the hardest to predict. Konta, Kuznetsova and Bouchard all have the ability to grab a shock win, however, it is their consistency that is brought into question. If Kerber wants to be the first German medallist in tennis since 2004, she will need to display her best game from the onset.

Agnieszka Radwanska has been handed an interesting route to the last eight. Starting against Saisai Zheng, a player who lost in the first round in five out of her last six tournaments, the fourth seed could be pushed to her limits in the second round if she meets Daria Kasatkina. This Russian is currently at a ranking high of 27th and has defeated two top 10 players this year (Venus Williams and Roberta Vinci). Kasatkina will start against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. Later on in the tournament, Radwanska could play Barbora Strýcová followed by Canadian Open runner-up Madison Keys. Carla Suarez Navarro also features in Radwanska’s section and will play Ana Ivanovic in the first round. Radwanska is known for her outstanding defensive play that has brought her back from the brink of losing in numerous matches this year. If anybody is up for a challenge, it is the 27-year-old Polish player. 

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Auger Aliassime overcomes slow start to beat Seppi in Washington

The Canadian looked down and out early in the match but bounced back to avenge a loss he suffered at the French Open in June.

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Second seed Felix Auger Aliassime survived a huge scare in his opening match at the Citi Open in Washington.

The Canadian was on the verge of being upset by the Italian Andreas Seppi but battled back to beat him 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 59 minutes. Blasting a total of 25 winners and nine aces in the win.

 

“In my mind, I wanted to find a way to come back. To get that early break in the second really helped me a lot and I think I served a little bit better and I put more volume and height on my shot,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I was more patient and in the first set I was missing too quickly in the rallies so digging deep physically and mentally allowed me to come back nicely in the match and to finish strong in the third set. I am happy with the way things turned around for me today”.

It was the world number 88 with the better start to the match and after both players held their opening service games he had two chances to get the early break and took a 2-1 lead. After consolidating the break, the Italian set up another breakpoint with a stunning forehand winner, broke again for a 4-1 lead, and served out the first set.

Auger-Aliassime was keen on getting back into the match and wanted to avoid a second straight upset loss to the Italian. After holding serve in the first game of the second set he had two chances to take an early lead and broke for the 2-0 lead with a forehand up the line of his very own on breakpoint. That was enough for him to serve out the second set and send the match into a decisive third set to decide the winner.

It was the Canadian who repeated what he did in the second set holding the opening service game and breaking Seppi’s serve with a sublime passing shot. The Italian responded the next game by breaking right back but failed to consolidate the break as the world number 15 broke again with his powerful backhand winner.

At 5-2, the Auger-Aliassime found himself at match point and it took him five attempts before being able to convert and seal the match. Avenging a loss he suffered at Roland Garros.

After the match in his post-match press conference, the Canadian was asked if he had the loss to Seppi at the French Open in the back of his mind during the match.

” In a way yes of course because we played once and he beat me and as a player, you never want to go down twice in a row against a player but it happens but in my case, I really wanted to find a way to win that match and get revenge just for myself to try and get the win”. he said.

Auger Aliassime will now face the winner of the second-round match between Jenson Brooksby or Frances Tiafoe in the third round.

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National Bank Open Suffers Tripple Blow As Top 10 Stars Pull Out

Canada’s most prestigious tennis event will be missing some top names in the women’s draw but organisers remain confident the tournament will still be a hit.

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The tournament director of the National Bank Open says he is ‘still counting on exceptional players’ after a series of high-profile names pulled out of the women’s draw in Montreal.

 

Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek have pulled out of the event after competing in the Olympic Games. Osaka, who lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony, lost to Marketa Vonmdrousova in the third round. Meanwhile, Swiatek fell in the second round to Spain’s Paula Badosa.

“I am sorry to be missing out on Montréal this year,” said Osaka who reached the quarter-finals in 2019. “Sending my best to all the fans there, the tournament and the staff. I hope to see you all in Canada next year.”

Former French Open champion Swiatek said her decision to not play in Canada is because she wants to have a break after an ‘intense’ first half of the season. So far this year the world No.8 has won 28 out of 35 matches played, winning two titles in Rome and Adelaide. She has played at the Canadian event only once in her career which was two years ago when she reached the third round as a qualifier before losing to Osaka.

“I am very sorry but this year I will not be able to play in Montréal,” said Swiatek. “The first part of the season was so intense that I need a couple of days off to rest and prepare for the next few months. I’m looking forward to playing in Canada in 2022.”

Sofia Kenin completes the trio of withdrawals from the WTA 1000 event. The American is still recovering from a foot injury that has sidelined her from the Tour since Wimbledon.

“I’m really disappointed to withdraw from the event in Montréal next week,” said Kenin. “While I’m making progress, my foot injury is not where I need it to be to play at the highest level. I feel another week of recovery and rehab is necessary. I want to thank Tennis Canada for all its efforts in holding the event during such challenging times. Best of luck to all the players.”

Commonly known as the Canadian Open, both a men’s and women’s event are held during the same week but in different locations. This year the women will be playing in Montreal and men in Toronto. Each year they alternate between the two cities. Last year’s edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tournament director Eugène Lapierre is confident this year’s women’s draw will still live up to expectations despite the absence of some top names.

“We are still counting on exceptional players in the draw, including the 2019 champion, our very own Bianca Andreescu, as well as World No.3 Aryna Sabalenka and two-time National Bank Open champion Simona Halep. Fans should expect a few surprises because the draw has so much depth. Anything is possible, and that means some exciting tennis is in store!” He said.

Sabalenka will be the top seed in the women’s draw. The main draw will start on Monday.

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Vasek Pospisil survives scare at Citi Open

The Canadian battled back from a set down in what was a tricky opening encounter.

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Vasek Pospisil was pushed to limits by qualifier Emilio Gomez in his opening match at the Citi Open.

The Canadian required three sets to beat the Ecuadorian qualifier 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 after two hours and 11 minutes of play. He hit a total of 10 aces en route to the second round.

 

” It’s always good to get through a tough one and I felt dialed in during the second set,” said Pospisil. “I was a little bit distracted during the first set but I am glad to get match play and getting the win is important so I am happy I got it done”.

The first three games of the opener went on serve and at 2-1 the Canadian had three chances to take an early break but the world number 165 saved all three and held serve. At 3-3, Pospisil played a poor service game and Gomez took full advantage by breaking him at love. That one break of serve was enough for him to serve out the first set.

The Canadian was determined to stay alive in the second and broke the Ecuadorian early to take a 2-0 lead and managed to turn it into a double break for a commanding 4-0 lead. Gomez got one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the world number 61 would serve out the second set to force a decider.

The third set started with three breaks of serve but it was the Canadian that was finally able to hold serve and consolidate a break. That break was enough for him to serve out the match and complete the comeback.

Pospisil will next face the young American Sebastien Korda in the third round who is the 12th seed this week in the American capital.

” It’s going to be a tough one because he is playing some great tennis this year and he is an up and comer and a great player,” he said of Korda. “I will have to play really well to win that one because he is a dangerous player so I will have to serve well and return well”.

Other results

It was a busy day one at the Citi Open being held at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC with some thrilling matches. Kei Nishikori beat Sam Querrey in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 and Marcus Giron pulled a three-set comeback against Ilya Marchenko 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.

In the battle of the Belorussians, Ilya Ivashka beat Egor Gerasimov in straight sets 7-5, 6-4. Meanwhile, Jenson Brooksby avenged a loss to the South African Kevin Anderson by beating him in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.

Andreas Seppi needed three sets to dispatch Yasutka Uchiyama of Japan 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, Ricardas Berankis beat the American qualifier Mitchell Kreuger in straight sets 7-6, 6-2, and Daniel Elahi Galan beat another American Tommy Paul in straight sets 6-4, 6-3.

Finally, in the last match of the day an American favourite, Jack Sock advanced to round two after his Japanese opponent Yoshito Nishioka was forced to retire due to injury during their match.

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