Grigor Dimitrov is arguably the main reason that Bulgaria now has a place on the ATP World Tour, with the Australian Open semi-finalist adding exposure to a country with a limited tennis background in the men’s game.
The Bulgarian headlines the tournament that also sees Dominic Thiem, Roberto Bautista Agut and David Goffin participate, in an impressive draw considering there are competing events in Quito and Montpellier.
Draw: (My picks highlighted in bold)
(1) Dominic Thiem – Bye
Nikoloz Basilashvili vs Adrian Mannarino
Marco Chiudinelli vs Qualifier
Andrey Kuznetsov vs (8) Martin Klizan
(3) Grigor Dimitrov – Bye
(PR) Jerzy Janowicz vs Dudi Sela
Robin Haase vs (WC) Dimitar Kuzmanov
(WC) Cem Ikel vs (9) Viktor Troicki
(5) Gilles Muller vs Qualifier
Qualifier vs Qualifier
Bye – Roberto Bautista Agut
(7) Marcos Baghdatis vs Steve Darcis
Damir Dzumhur vs Andreas Seppi
(WC) Alexandar Lazarov vs Radu Albot
Bye – (2) David Goffin
- I have yet to select winners in the matches with Qualifiers, as with the identities of some of the players yet to be determined, it would be unfair to speculate. I will note however, that Marco Chiudinelli is in especially poor form so the qualifier that draws him may well have a very good chance.
The tournament draw will Dimitrov need to likely overcome top seed Dominic Thiem if he is to reach the final, whilst Roberto Bautista Agut and David Goffin highlight the bottom half of the draw.
Viktor Troicki moves into a seeding position after Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew with a back injury. Kohlschreiber had played a tough five-set match with Steve Darcis in the Davis Cup and could be feeling the effects still.
That is way I have gone with Darcis to beat seventh seed Baghdatis, as the Belgian’s stunning wins over Kohlschreiber and Alexander Zverev in the Davis Cup, along with a good run in Australia, all point to career-best form for the thirty-two year old.
Similarly, Andrey Kuznetsov is a good shout to beat Martin Klizan, as Klizan has played few matches in the last four months due to injury. He did take Stan Wawrinka to five sets in the first round of the Australian Open, but Kuznetsov did the same with Kei Nishikori.
Jerzy Janowicz is a tough one to call, but he played well in the Quimper Challenger, taking a set from eventual winner Adrian Mannarino in the quarters so I fancy his chances against Dudi Sela.
Carlos Ramos Won’t Umpire Serena Williams’ US Open Matches Following Infamous Clash
They two will be kept apart, but will it be enough to stop people talking about their previous confrontation?
23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos will be kept apart during the US Open following their high-profile spat at the tournament 12 months ago.
During the final of the US Open last year, controversy erupted when Ramos issued Williams with a violation for receiving coaching from the stands. Something which is prohibited in grand slam tennis. A livid Williams denied any wrongdoing immediately after. Suggesting the decision was sexist before calling the official a ‘liar’ and a ‘thief.’ In total, Williams was hit with three violations that resulted in a game penalty.
Stacy Allaster, who is the president of the USTA, has confirmed that Ramos will not be allowed to officiate Williams or her sister’s Venus’ matches during the grand slam. Saying that she didn’t want to cause a ‘distraction.’ This decision is said to be applied only to the 2019 tournament.
“We don’t need to go there,” Allaster told The New York Times in a telephone interview. “There are more than 900 matches here over the three weeks, and there are lots of matches for Carlos to do.”
“We want to be focused on the competition and want to go forward,” she added.
Ramos, who is from Portugal, was never found guilty of doing anything wrong during the match. The International Tennis Federation issued a statement shortly after the incident. In it, they said that Ramos ‘undertook his duties as an official, according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.’
Regardless of the move by the USTA to try and stay clear of the Williams-Ramos incident, it is set to be thrown back into the media spotlight in the coming days. Sports network ESPN will air a documentary called “Serena vs. The Umpire” on Sunday for the first time. It will be narrated by Pulitzer Prize winner Don Van Natta, Jr.
“We’re exploring stories that are unresolved and have layers to them, and that’s certainly the case with what happened at last year’s US Open women’s final,” said John Dahl, Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN Special Projects and Original Content. “With this and subsequent stories, viewers will follow along with Don on his deep dive for truth.”
The TV program is set to include Patrick Mouratoglou, who is the coach of Williams. Pam Shriver and Chris Evert are also set to feature.
The US Open will get underway on August 26th.
Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks
Can the former top 10 player return to peak form in time for the US Open?
Entering into this week’s Western and Southern Open a single win would have been a much needed boost for Madison Keys ahead of the final grand slam of the season.
Keys, a former grand slam finalist herself, has been unable to shine on the women’s tour since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open. In her past three tournaments, she has won one out of four matches played. To make it worse, two out of those three losses were to player’s ranked outside the top 100.
Fortunately for Keys her lull on the tour has ended this week in Cincinnati. An event where she made her debut back in 2012 at the age of 17. In the first round she saw off former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in three sets before brushing aside Daria Kasatkina. However, her most impressive victory took place on Thursday. Taking on Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Keys held her nerve to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, after just over two hours of play. Her first win over a top five player since Angelique Kerber at the same tournament 12 months ago.
“She’s been No. 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to, you know, ever give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before, you know, I could actually take a deep breath.” Keys said following her latest win.
“I think I just kind of trusted myself a little bit, and I didn’t really hold back on any of my shots. I think I made a couple of bad misses, but at the same time I think I did a lot of really good things.”
The triumphs come as Keys and her rivals tune up their game ahead of the US Open. Where the 24-year-old will be defending a wealth of points after reaching the semi-finals there last year. Flushing Meadows is a place of fond memories for former finalist Keys and statistically her most successful grand slam. Winning 19 out of 26 matches played in New York so far in her career.
“It feels a little bit better, a little less stressed. Ask me again in a week and I will be just as stressed.” She commented about her preparation for the upcoming major.
“In order to find that level right before a slam, obviously feels good, but especially after having some tough weeks, being able to kind of put it all together makes me feel a little bit better going into the US Open.”
Growing in confidence once again, Keys takes on tour veteran Venus Williams next. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 2-2, however, they haven’t played each other since 2016. A win would move the American into her first tour semi-final since April when she won the Volvo Open in Charleston.
“But again, she’s obviously playing some really good tennis in order to beat Kiki and then Vekic and all that. I’m going to have to see what she’s been doing well.” Keys previewed about her clash with Williams.
The quarter-final clash between the two will take place on Friday evening not before 19:00 local time. Keys is one of four seeded players remaining in the draw.
Inspired By The Old Guys, Richard Gasquet Reaches Cincinnati Quarters
The former top 10 player gives an estimate on how much longer he will continue playing tennis for.
When Richard Gasquet made his debut at the Cincinnati Masters back in 2005, Diego Schwartzman had just turned 13. 14 years later, the Frenchman continues to prove that age is just a number.
Taking on Schwartzman in the third round of this year’s tournament, Gasquet ousted the Argentine 7-6(6), 6-3, in their clash on Thursday. The encounter was by no means a walk in the park for the world No.56, who was forced to save a duo of set points during the opening tiebreak. Nevertheless, he prevailed with the help of 11 aces as he won 75% of his first service points.
“Of course it was an important first set. He was leading 6-4 in the tiebreak. It was the key of the match to win this set, because it was a one-hour-long set, physically very difficult.” Gasquet said during his press conference.
“I felt more confident winning it and then I could break him start of the second set, winning 3-0. I started well. Of course the last game was tough for me. I felt a little pressure, but it was a good game for me.”
It is only the second time Gasquet has managed to reach the last eight of the tournament and the first since 2016. An impressive outcome for a player who missed the first five months of 2019 due to a groin operation.
At the age of 33, Gasquet is approaching the final stages of his career. Which currently features 15 ATP titles and a ranking best of seventh in the world. However, the Frenchman is only the 15th oldest player currently in the top 100 on the ATP Tour thanks to a growing trend of players playing later in their careers. Something which inspires him.
“I don’t know how long I will play. Maybe two, three years.” He estimates. “It’s tough to say. I still like it (tennis). And of course, it’s a big longevity for me, but you see a lot of players who are playing late now, so it helps for me to play more and more.”
Whilst maintaining an optimistic outlook about his future, Gasquet knows better than anybody the demands the sport has on a person’s body. He also missed a chunk of the 2017 season due to his health and injury.
“When I was 20 years old, I didn’t see physio so much. But now, at 33, I need to see the physio every day.” Said Gasquet.
“That’s the difference, the big difference. As a teenager, when you’re young, of course, it’s easier to recover faster. Now at 33, you have to be very careful.”
Gasquet will play Dominic Thiem next, who is almost eight years younger than him. Should he win, he would reach the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time since the 2013 Miami Open.
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