Roland Garros Men's Singles Preview: Kind start for Murray, plenty of potential pitfalls - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Men’s Singles Preview: Kind start for Murray, plenty of potential pitfalls

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Paire will have a home crowd and a big stage when he takes on Rafael Nadal (Zimbio.com)

The French Open will be upon us before the conclusion of the weekend, and there are some early tests for big players. Key matches through the draw (top to bottom)have been selected for

 

Top seed Andy Murray faces what many might suggest is a difficult first round opponent in Andrey Kuznetsov. Certainly, that may have been the case last year. This year the Russian is struggling. He has won consecutive matches in a main draw ATP event just twice this year. He took Kei Nishikori to five exciting sets in the Australian Open. Nishikori was hurt though through much of the tournament. Therefore though Murray may not have a lot of confidence at present, it likely his opponent does not have much either.

Murray’s potential seeded meeting in the third round is Juan Martin del Potro, a tough task on any surface. However, del Potro has been suffering from a shoulder injury and the other tough player in Murray’s section, Nicolas Almagro, has not played since Rome. The Spaniard was forced to retire with a painful looking knee injury against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal himself has one of the most awkward first round matches. Benoit Paire is amongst the most inconsistent players, capable of stunning tennis that has seen him defeat Stan Wawrinka, or ugly matches where he loses quickly. Nadal’s confidence is likely at its highest point since he last won in Paris, having claimed titles in Madrid and Barcelona. Nadal knows Paire’s strengths and weaknesses and though it should be an enjoyable watch, it should also be a quick one.

Undoubtedly the meeting of the first round is that between ninth seed Alexander Zverev and Fernando Verdasco. Zverev won the most recent clay Masters in Rome. Whilst Verdasco is a former Grand Slam semi-finalist at the 2009 Australian Open, his form has fluctuated since. Yet the Spaniard is known for being one of the few to seriously trouble Nadal on clay on his day. Zverev has proven his ability to win in best of three set matches against the top players, but has yet to seriously prove it in five. This is just the kind of match that a dialled in Verdasco would enjoy. Zverev’s section is tough, with Madrid semi-finalist and clay specialist Pablo Cuevas potentially a hard third-round match.

Nishikori has a history of fitness struggles in grand slam events, with injury hitting him often on the biggest stage (Zimbio.com)

Looking to the next section, Kei Nishikori has arguably a favourable draw. He starts against Thanasi Kokkinakis on his return from injury. Sam Querrey is his seeded opponent in round three and the American has historically performed poorly on European clay. However, Querrey has displayed a confidence in the last twelve months befitting his younger self that climbed into the top 20, and he was within a whisker of defeating Dominic Thiem in Rome. A tougher potential match than some might expect.

Former winner Stan Wawrinka starts against the qualifier Jozef Kovalik. On paper everything points to a Wawrinka win. But this is Kovalik’s surface, and though the Slovak has struggled on hard courts he does have a win against Marin Cilic this year. Stan does have a history of losing early in events to unlikely players in ATP events. The Swiss is a different story entirely at slams though. Complacency cannot be present though, as an off-key Wawrinka could quickly see things go downhill against Kovalik. A much tougher match than it looks.

Frances Tiafoe is one of the hottest players on the Challenger circuit this season, with two titles at that level on clay this year, including one in Aix-en-Provence. It has seen his ranking surge into the Top 70. Fabio Fognini remains one of the best at being consistently inconsistent. The Italian can perhaps only be rivalled in that department by Benoit Paire, and formerly Ernests Gulbis. As improved and talented as Tiafoe is, this match probably rests on Fognini and his mental state. Fognini on song will leave Tiafoe packing his bags early. Anything else and the American probably wins this one.

Richard Gasquet has another qualifier. Like Wawrinka’s match though, Arthur de Greef is not an easy prospect. A strong showing in Bordeaux and qualifying. Gasquet has only played two events since late February after injuries, and results have not been great. Defeats to Yuichi Sugita and Kevin Anderson on clay suggest the Frenchman is not at his best yet. Also, while Gasquet’s backhand remains a thing of beauty, his forehand is not packing a punch that it once did and the Frenchman has vulnerabilities in his game that certainly did not exist two or three years ago.

How could matches be previewed and not include Dustin Brown vs Gael Monfils? The most entertaining match for pure shotmaking at least is sure to be the German’s match with a home favourite. This surface does no good for Brown, whose amazing reflexes and turns are suited for fast grass not slow clay. Monfils can work this surface and will likely have enough firepower and defensive flexibility to make this a quick, if exciting encounter.

It has been a slow year for Philipp Kohlschreiber. A final appearance in a weak draw in Morocco has helped the veteran German flatter to deceive for the most part in 2017. He gave the tennis world one of the most exciting matches of the year to date when he nearly took out World No.1 Andy Murray in Dubai. Kohlschreiber has a tendency to falter later in matches though. He has a chance against Nick Kyrgios, who has been discussing injury issues. If Kohlschreiber can use his wide-sweeping backhand to good effect and keep Kyrgios from his attacking game then the veteran German can do well. A tough draw for Kyrgios.

Feliciano Lopez is unseeded in a slam for the first time in years. The veteran Spaniard’s age is finally catching up with him, and he faces a tough qualifier in Bjorn Fratangelo. Like his famous namesake Fratangelo is most at home on clay and is a former Roland Garros Junior winner. These two met in Houston. However, the faster American clay suited Lopez, whereas the slower French clay suits Fratangelo.

Other potential seeded shocks include Gilles Simon’s match with Nikoloz Basilashvili. The Frenchman seems on a slow decent from a ranking that has stayed inside the Top 30 for much of the last decade. Ivo Karlovic typically has short runs in Paris, and he faces a young Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas who will fancy his chances.

 

 

 

 

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WIMBLEDON: Day Four Talking Points Katie Boulter stuns former world no1 Karolina Pliskova

Katie Boulter caused a big upset on day four at Wimbledon.

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(@katiecboulter - Twitter)

Yesterday was a much better day for British tennis.

 

25-year-old Katie Boulter beat former world number one Karolina Pliskova down in Eastbourne last week, and she repeated the trick on the biggest stage in the world: Centre Court.

She played the match of her life to down last year’s Wimbledon finalist winning 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, rebounding from a set down.

After the match, she dedicated the win to her grandma who passed away this week.

Boulter is into the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.

There was more good news for British tennis as Liam Broady stunned 12th seed Diego Schwartzman.

The Brit battled back to win in five sets 6-2, 4-6, 0-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 with an impressive performance.

Broady makes it into round three of Wimbledon for the first time.

And coming back for the fourth day in a row after fading light could not have been easy for Heather Watson.

But she got the job done, sealing the solitary game she needed to beat China’s Qiang Wang 7-5, 6-4.

She has now given herself a real shot of making week two of Wimbledon.

Iga, Coco, and Rafa through

Elsewhere, world number one Iga Świątek overcame a second set blip to beat Holland’s Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove.

Although ranked well outside the top 100, she put up a gallant fight, going down on Court One, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

The win extends the Pole’s winning streak to 37 matches.

And two-time champion Rafa Nadal had a scare of his own as he rolled through the first two sets.

But a successful junior player, Ričardas Berankis, now 32, played above his level to take the third set.

For the second match in a row, Nadal conceded the third set when two sets up and cruising.

This extended his time on the court. But he wasn’t to be denied, prevailing in four sets, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

The main worry being when more dangerous opponents, than Berankis, in all due respect face the Spaniard, he can ill afford to drop cheap sets when ahead and in the driving seat.

And Coco Gauff beat 34-year-old Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu easily in straight sets,winning 6-2, 6-3.

Best of the rest

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas continued his good form on grass, after capuring a first title on the surface last week at the Mallorca Open.

He streamed past Australia’s Jordan Thompson, triumphing in straight sets 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.

Spain’s Paula Badosa, young star Amanda Anisimova and former champion Simona Halep are also through.

But Brits Jack Draper and Harriet Dart exited to Alex de Minaur and Jessica Pegula, respectively.

And Denis Shapovalov was the major casualty from the men’s draw on Thursday as he surprisingly went down to American Brandon Nakashima in four sets.

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Ons Jabeur On Carrying The Expectations Of A Nation At Wimbledon

The world No.2 is yet to drop a set in the tournament as she eyes a major breakthrough this year at Wimbledon.

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Ons Jabeur (TUN) - Credit: AELTC/Jon Super

Ons Jabeur has got accustomed to knowing that how she performs in the sport will be closely monitored by her home country and its neighbors.

The 27-year-old is a trailblazer for Tunisian tennis after achieving a series of milestones. She is the first Arab woman to win a Tour title, crack the top 10 and reach the quarter-final of a major. Back home she is known by the nickname ‘Minister of Happiness’ which was created by her fellow Tunisians. There is plenty of love for Jabeur but there is also just as much expectation for her to do well.

“Everybody is following me, expecting me to do better and better. I hope I continue being that person that gives them what they’re expecting,” she said.
“I’m just trying my best to break records, to really open the path for the next generation.”

 

At a ranking high of No.2 in the world, Jabeur is trying to rewrite Wimbledon history for the second year in a row. In 2021 she became the first Arab woman to reach the last eight. This year she looks to be in solid form after playing three matches without dropping a set. Her latest win was on Friday when she disposed of Diane Parry 6-2, 6-3. She is yet to lose any more than eight games in a match so far.

“I love playing here (at Wimbledon). I want to keep it (matches) as short as I can. For now, I’m just enjoying really playing on grass,” she said.
“I want to play my best tennis. Obviously, if you’re too comfortable, it’s not that good as well. I’m trying to keep focused.”

Jabeur has already won 33 matches this year, which is the second-highest tally on the Tour after Iga Swiatek. She has featured in four finals, winning titles on the clay in Madrid and Grass in Berlin.

Although like every other tennis player it is a Grand Slam that she desires the most. This year’s Wimbledon is her 21st appearance in the main draw of a major.

It would mean a lot for me, for my family and for my country,” she said of possibly winning Wimbledon. “I just want to keep proving that nothing is impossible and if you put something in your mind, you can achieve it.


At SW19 Jabeur’s next test will be against Belgium’s Elise Mertens. A player who she lost to in straight sets at the US Open last September. Mertens defeated 15th seed and former champion Angelique Kerber 6-4, 7-5, in her third round match.

“I am playing the tennis that I love to see. Obviously, there are a few things to improve. I want to be challenged for the next round, for sure, and see how I handle that pressure.” Jabeur concluded.

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Novak Djokovic Equals Laver’s Grass-Court Winning Streak With Emphatic Wimbledon Win

The world No.3 was in ruthless form as he dropped only seven game in his latest match at The All England Club.

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Novak Djokovic (SRB)- Credit: AELTC/Ian Walton

Novak Djokovic has breezed into the fourth round of Wimbledon after dismissing fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets.

 

The reigning champion was in top form from the onset as he stormed to a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4, win in under two hours. It is the third time in a row he has beaten Kecmanovic on the Tour and the first on grass. In what was a largely clinical display from the former world No.1, Djokovic hit 36 winners and six aces.

“I thought it started off very well, very strong with a lot of good intensity. Good focus,” said Djokovic. “I know Miomir quite well, we train together a lot. I’m really glad that he, alongside a couple of other (Serbian) players is doing well. I wish him all the best. Hopefully, I will get to play against him many more times on the biggest courts.

In only the third all-Serbian men’s match in the Open Era at Wimbledon, Djokovic got off to a perfect start by steamrolling his way through the opener in just 25 minutes. Dropping just six points on his serve and 12 overall in the set. It is the first time he has bagel a player at Wimbledon since doing so against David Goffin in 2019.

Fortunately for Kecmanovic and the Center Court crowd, the second frame was much more competitive with the world No.30 producing glimmers of the tennis that has taken him to two Masters 1000 quarter-finals earlier this year. Three times in two separate games Djokovic had a break point chance but failed to convert.

Continuing to wear down his compatriot, the top seed eventually secured a breakthrough whilst leading 4-3. Playing behind the baseline he slipped on the grass during a rally whilst having another break point chance but this time Kecmanovic hit the ball out to hand him the advantage. Djokovic went on to close out the set with a backhand lob. 

The only blip in the match for Djokovic occurred when he was trying to close the match out. After easing his way to a double break advantage in the third set, he dropped serve for the first time. However, he prevailed on his second chance to serve the match out to seal his 330th Grand Slam main draw win. 

“It means that I have been playing for quite a few years which I’m very grateful for and I’m very blessed to be in this position to compete at the highest level,” Djokovic replied when asked about winning tally ay major events.
“I’m very proud of my consistency at this level.”

Friday’s win is Djokovic’s 24th in a row on the grass which puts him level with tennis great Rod Laver on the all-time list. Only Bjorn Borg (41) and Roger Federer (65) have ever won more matches on the surface. It is the 55th time in his career he has reached the last 16 of a major tournament. 

So far in this year’s draw, he has only dropped one set in three matches played. That was in the first round against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo.

“I think I’ve been playing better and better as the tournament progresses. It is something you wish for as a player that you raise your level of tennis up a notch,” he said.
“I know I can always do better. I always expect the highest from myself but so far, so good. I look forward to the next challenge.”

Djokovic will play Dutch sensation Tim van Rijthoven in the fourth round.

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