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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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.

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There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.

 

Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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