PREVIEW: Will Experience Elevate Kuznetsova And Federer To Indian Wells Glory? - UBITENNIS
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PREVIEW: Will Experience Elevate Kuznetsova And Federer To Indian Wells Glory?

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The veterans of the tour have taken control of Indian Wells with four players over the age of 30 preparing for the finals of the prestigious BNP Paribas Open.

For the first time since 2006, the Californian crowd will see an all-Russian clash between Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Vesnina. Meanwhile, the men will follow with an all-Swiss battle between Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka. It is only the second time in history a Masters 1000 final has featured two Swiss players after Monte Carlo 2014.

The women’s final (18:00 GMT)

A year ago nobody would have predicted this final between Kuznetsova and Vesnina. In 2016 Vesnina crashed out in the first round of qualifying, whilst Kuznetsova was slowly making her way back into the world’s top 10 for the first time since 2010.

“That was a big turnaround now for me, from first round of qualies and now being in the final. This is a dream,” Vesnina said in her post-match press conference.

This time round the disparity between the two is significantly smaller. Eighth seed Kuznetsova progressed to her 12th mandatory final by edging past Karolina Pliskova is a tense semifinal encounter. Meanwhile, 14th seeded Vesnina has enjoyed a dream journey. In the fourth round she defeated soon to be world No.1 Angelique Kerber by dropping only six games. Vesnina then continued her momentum with wins over Venus Williams and Kristina Mladenovic.

There is little to deduce from their previous meetings on the tour. The two have played each other twice before with Kuznetsova winning their most recent meeting in 2014 (Estoril on the clay).

“She plays pretty aggressive tennis. That’s it. I play more defensely, but my spin is my key, probably.” Kuznetsova said about Vesnina.

If all goes according to stats, Kuznetsova is expected to triumph in the desert. She has the greater experience and higher ranking. Still, it is set to be a hard task against a player such as Vesnina, who is currently at an all-time high in confidence at the age of 30.

“She obviously liked playing here with the balls flying and jumping quite high. She’s using her forehand — like, powerful forehand topspin here a lot. Brings a lot of points.” Vesnina said about her Fed Cup teammate.
“It’s going to be very difficult match, you know, when you’re playing against kind of the — from the same country. You know, it’s never easy, but I’m going to just enjoy.”

Declaring that she feels ‘fresh in her mind’, Kuznetsova has the edge in this encounter. Benefiting from the greater experiencing of playing in big tournaments, the Russian has the power and variety to tame her rival. Furthermore, she is also a two-time finalist at Indian Wells.

On the other hand, women’s tennis is anything but predictable.

route to the final

Round 1 KUZNETSOVA
Bye
VESNINA
Bye
Round 2 Def Johanna Larsson (SWE) 7-6(3), 6-4 Def Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-4, 7-5
Round 3 Def Roberta Vinci (ITA) 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 Def Timea Babos (HUN) 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
Round 4 Def Caroline Garcia (FRA) 6-1, 6-4 Def Angelique Kerber (GER) 6-3, 6-3
Quarter-finals Def Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) 6-3, 6-2 Def Venus Williams (USA) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Semifinals Def Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 7-6(5), 7-6(2) Def Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-4

The men’s final (from 20:00 GMT)

After the Women’s will be Switzerland’s finest. Four-time champion Federer faces compatriot Stan Wawrinka in what will be a repeat of this year’s Australian Open semifinal, which Federer triumphed in five sets.

In what will be their 24th meeting on the tour, it will only be the second time that the two have played each other in a final after Monte Carlo 2014. Federer currently has a dominating 21-3 win-loss record against his rival and has won every since match they have played on a hard-court (14-0).

Nevertheless, it will be far from simple for the 35-year-old. Wawrinka has illustrated his ability to shine in the big tournaments on American hard-courts by defeating Novak Djokovic to win last year’s US Open, continuing his three-year trend of winning a major trophy each season.

As the year’s go by, Federer has been more severely tested in his encounters against Wawrinka. Since 2014, four out of their eight meetings have gone to a deciding set, but Federer has won six of them.

“I think he’s (Wawrinka) cleaned up his game really nice on the faster court. He’s the reigning US Open champ and back in his first American tournament. He’s back playing. It shows that wasn’t a surprise, you know, that he won the US Open.” Said Federer.
“And I think he does a really nice job of defending and then creating — going from defense to offense, you know. He’s improved his serve. Especially as he goes deeper in the tournament, you know, confidence builds. That’s when he’s harder to Stop.”

Trailing their head-to-head, Wawrinka is remaining upbeat about his Masters title chances. This week is his 90th appearance at a Masters event (compared to Federer’s 124th). His sole triumph occurred in 2014 on the clay when he stunned Federer in Monte Carlo. This time round, things are different as the three-time grand slam champion relish in being pain-free following a knee issue at the start of the year.

“So far the season has been good, even though. I had an injury, and I had to take some time off and do some hard work at home to get back fit and ready. I am really happy with the way I’m playing, and I’m really enjoying to be here and playing a final” Said Wawrinka.

Federer’s experience of playing in 44 Masters 1000 finals could prove pivotal in the match. Inevitably the Californian crowd will be rallying behind him, but that alone will not be enough to tame the talent of somebody like Wawrinka. For Wawrinka the crucial factor will be if he is able to maintain consistency in the match and cope with Federer taking time away from his shot-making.

Crowd favourite Federer might have the slight edge to take the title based on experience, but he will need to fight harder than before to succeed. Federer’s fourth round clash against Rafael Nadal turned out to be a one-way victory, but don’t expect the same against Wawrinka.

Route to the final

Round 1 FEDERER
Bye
WAWRINKA
Bye
Round 2 Def Stephane Robert (FRA) 6-2, 6-1 Def Paolo Lorenzi (ITA) 6-3, 6-4
Round 3 Def Steve Johnson (USA) 7-6(3), Def Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 7-5, 6-3
Round 4 7-6(4) Def Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-2, 6-3 Def Yoshihito Nishioka  3-6, 6-3, 7-6(4)
Quarter-finals Def Nick Kyrgios (AUS) – walkover Def Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(2)
Semifinals Def Jack Sock (USA) 6-1, 7-6(4) Def Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 6-3, 6-2

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Jannik Sinner: “Rafa Nadal is superior in his head and knows exactly what to do and when to do it”

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Jannik Sinner made a major breakthrough season in 2020 winning his maiden ATP title in Sofia becoming and reached his first Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros in his debut at this tournament at the age of 19. He has become the youngest player to win an ATP Tour title. 

 

“After the final in Sofia I felt emotional. I am human, but I feel the emotions inside me. I was very happy but I know that I have to work very hard. Before the victory ceremony I was a bit angry as I was still trying to understand why I had lost the second set. It was a strange season. I would have liked to play more matches and learn more about the life on the Tour and how to train with the biggest players on the circuit. I am now feeling more comfortable than last year”, said Sinner.

The Italian player is the first debutant beat Alexander Zverev en route to reaching the Roland Garros quarter final since Rafael Nadal achieved this feat in 2005 en route to his first French Open title. 

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Paris after playing at great level in the first two sets. En route to the quarter final in Paris Sinner beat David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and Alexander Zverev. 

“Rafael Nadal is superior in his head. He pulls very hard but above all he understands the decisive moments. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s really something else a tennis player. What I am missing to get there ? Well, the blows and the body, as well as the body. Let’s say a little bit of everything. The doctor said I still have to finish growing and developing. The truth is that I have to improve myself in every aspect, both physically and mentally. It takes time to get there”, said Sinner in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

Sinner was disappointed about Zverev’s comments after their match at Roland Garros. 

“I respect Zverev a lot because he has got more experience on the circuit, and he is great player. However, I do not respect his statements after his defeat to me at Roland Garros. He contradicted himself a lot. He said he had fever, but in the third and fourth sets, he ran more than me”, commented Sinner. 

Sinner became the youngest quarter finalist at a Grand Slam tournament since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006. The player coached by Riccardo Piatti earned the biggest win in his career when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his his maiden third round at Masters 1000 level in Rome.

Jannik has reached his career best ranking at world number 37. 

In the interview Sinner talked about his passions outside tennis.  

“I like to go karting and play football every now and then. I cheer on AC Milan because my first roommate was an AC Milan fan and he also and he also made me passionate as the days went by. In general I also follow the chairs on Netflix and I believe that in Australia. ”, said Sinner. 

Sinner talked about his relationship with Riccardo Piatti. 

“Riccardo is my coach, but also a good friend. We talked about tennis all the time. During the lockdown we watched a lot of past tennis matches together”. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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