French Open Day 1 Preview: Three Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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French Open Day 1 Preview: Three Must-See Matches

Sunday in Paris, Roland Garros 2018 gets underway. It’s the only major to commence play on a Sunday, with the first round of the singles draws spread across three days.

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Alexander Zverev (zimbio.com)

In the men’s draw, Rafael Nadal is the prohibitive favourite to win his mind-boggling 11th French Open title. Dominic Thiem, the only man to defeat Nadal on clay in the past two years, is in the other half of the draw. The bottom half of the men’s draw is stacked, with names like Thiem, Zverev, Wawrinka, Nishikori, and Djokovic.

The women’s draw is full of contenders, with a total of 50 major singles titles represented. This will be the Grand Slam return for the owner of 23 of those titles, Serena Williams. For two-Time French Open Champion Maria Sharapova, it’s her first appearance in Paris since 2015. And no less than six women have the chance to leave Roland Garros as the world number one: Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, and even France’s own Caroline Garcia.

While the staggered men’s and women’s first rounds makes for a lighter Day 1 schedule, there’s still plenty of good tennis to see on Sunday. The men’s side will feature number two seed Alexander Zverev, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, Kei Nishikori, and French fan favourite Gael Monfils. Action on the women’s side includes the Rome champion from just last Sunday in Elina Svitolina, Seven-time Major Champion Venus Williams, 2017 US Open Champion Sloane Stephens, and the Defending French Open Champion Jelena Ostapenko. All those male and female names are big favourites on Sunday, while the following matches may prove to be the more compelling contests.

Lucas Pouille vs. Danill Medvedev

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24-year-old Lucas Pouille is the top-seeded Frenchman, but is yet to have a strong showing at his home Slam. Despite being a two-time major quarter-finalist, he’s yet to advance passed the third round in Paris. Pouille though does know how to win in France, as he took the title in Montpellier just a few months ago with victories over fellow countrymen Benoit Paire, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Richard Gasquet. And he was the hero for his Davis Cup team in 2017, clinching the tie and the cup for his country in Lille. Lucas though does not arrive in Paris with good clay results this year, going just 1-4 in the European clay events. He’s in a crowded quarter of the draw, with Sascha Zverev, Thiem, Wawrinka, and Nishikori. Russian Danill Medvedev had a breakthrough in January, as he came through qualifying to win the first title of career in Sydney. But the 22-year-old has the same 1-4 clay court record as Pouille coming into the French Open, and he’s on a four-match losing streak. It’s a winnable opening round for two streaky players who could use a victory, both of whom could be dangerous in the draw if they get hot. Their two previous meetings took place last year, and Pouille won both of them. With the French crowd behind him, I like Pouille’s chances to prevail again here.

Francesca Schiavone vs. Viktoria Kuzmova

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Schiavone is just a few weeks shy of 38-years-old, and had planned to retire last year. But her love of the game, which has been clearly evident over her two decades of professional play, has kept her on the tour despite a lack of results. The 2010 French Open champion is now ranked 265th in the world, having not won a tour-level match all year. She had to come through three rounds of qualifying to reach her 19th career main draw at Roland Garros. The veteran is always fun to watch, never one to hide her passion on the court. Her opponent is on a winning streak, having won an ITF clay event in her home country of Slovakia just last weekend. She also won a hard court ITF event in Shenzhen earlier this year. The 20-year-old is on the rise, now at a career-high ranking of 84. This will be her French Open main draw debut. The contrasts here between opponents are obvious. This first career meeting should have a boisterous outer-court crowd. The winner will likely face Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.

David Goffin vs. Robin Haase

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France is the home of many memories for David Goffin, both bitter and sweet. It was at the 2012 French Open where David Goffin came out of nowhere as a lucky loser to make the fourth round at his first-career major, even taking a set off his idol Roger Federer. Last year at Roland Garros, he slipped on the tarp at the back of the court and had to retire from his third round match with an ankle injury, which also forced him to miss Wimbledon. Just six months ago at the David Cup final in Lille, Goffin defeated Frenchmen Lucas Pouille and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets, though Belgium still went down in defeat 3-2. The draw was pretty kind to David, as he has a good path to return to the quarter-finals in Paris, or perhaps go even farther. The only higher seed in his quarter is Grigor Dimitrov, who has struggled of late. However, Novak Djokovic is a potential quarter-final opponent for Goffin. Robin Haase has nice memories from last year in a French-speaking city, as he advanced to his first Masters 1,000 semifinal in Montreal. Goffin holds a 4-1 record against Haase, but Robin’s win came on clay in Gstaad last summer. They played just a few weeks ago in Madrid, and Goffin won in straight sets. While the 44th-ranked Haase is a tricky first round opponent, I expect Goffin to win today, and to be a factor in the second week of the tournament.

Full order of play (time is GMT+1)

Court Philippe-Chatrier

Play starts at 11am

Viktor TROICKI (SRB) vs Grigor DIMITROV (BUL) [4]

Alizé CORNET (FRA) [32] vs Sara ERRANI (ITA)

Lucas POUILLE (FRA) [15] vs Daniil MEDVEDEV (RUS)

Jelena OSTAPENKO (LAT) [5] vs Kateryna KOZLOVA (UKR)

Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Play starts at 11am

Ajla TOMLJANOVIC (AUS) vs Elina SVITOLINA (UKR) [4]

Elliot BENCHETRIT (FRA) vs Gael MONFILS (FRA) [32]

Qiang WANG (CHN) vs Venus WILLIAMS (USA) [9]

Ricardas BERANKIS (LTU) vs Alexander ZVEREV (GER) [2]

Court 1

Play starts at 11am

Kurumi NARA (JPN) vs Barbora STRYCOVA (CZE) [26]

Kei NISHIKORI (JPN) [19] vs Maxime JANVIER (FRA)

Johanna KONTA (GBR) [22] vs Yulia PUTINTSEVA (KAZ)

David GOFFIN (BEL)[8] vs Robin HAASE (NED)

Court 3

Play starts at 11am

Madison BRENGLE (USA) vs Anett KONTAVEIT (EST) [25]

Jozef KOVALIK (SVK) vs Pablo CARRENO BUSTA (ESP) [10]

Francesca SCHIAVONE (ITA) vs Viktoria KUZMOVA (SVK)

Federico DELBONIS (ARG) vs Thomaz BELLUCCI (BRA)

Court 6

Play starts at 11am

Saisai ZHENG (CHN) vs Ekaterina MAKAROVA (RUS)

Nicolas JARRY (CHI) vs Jared DONALDSON (USA)

Oscar OTTE (GER) vs Matteo BERRETTINI (ITA)

Magdalena FRECH (POL) vs Ekaterina ALEXANDROVA (RUS)

Court 7

Play starts at 11am

Damir DZUMHUR (BIH)[26] vs Denis KUDLA (USA)

Jennifer BRADY (USA) vs Amandine HESSE (FRA)

Ivo KARLOVIC (CRO) vs Corentin MOUTET (FRA)

Magda LINETTE (POL) vs Zarina DIYAS (KAZ)

Court 9

Play starts at 11am

Petra MARTIC (CRO) vs Yafan WANG (CHN)

Martin KLIZAN (SVK) vs Laslo DJERE (SRB)

Guido ANDREOZZI (ARG) vs Taylor FRITZ (USA)

Alexandra DULGHERU (ROU) vs Christina MCHALE (USA)

Court 18

Play starts at 11am

Gregoire BARRERE (FRA) vs Radu ALBOT (MDA)

Arantxa RUS (NED) vs Sloane STEPHENS (USA)[10]

Fernando VERDASCO (ESP) [30] vs Yoshihito NISHIOKA (JPN)

Chloe PAQUET (FRA) vs Pauline PARMENTIER (FRA)

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Rafael Nadal Boosts Olympic Preparations With Norrie Victory, Advances To Maiden 2024 Quarter-Final

Rafael Nadal reached his first ATP quarter-final in Bastad.

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Rafael Nadal boosted his preparations for the Olympics with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Cameron Norrie in Bastad.

The win means that Nadal is into his first ATP quarter-final of the season with an impressive straight sets win.

It didn’t all go Nadal’s way as the Spaniard was tested in the opening set with Norrie producing some consistent and attacking play.

The British number two managed to create some tough moments for Nadal but ultimately Norrie lacked that killer instinct to make it count.

That was the difference between him and Nadal as the Spaniard used the forehand to move Norrie out of position, therefore finishing the points off with ease.

A break in the seventh game put Nadal in control but the former champion in Bastad had to work hard to close out the opening set with Norrie pushing for the break.

However, Nadal did secure the opening set 6-4 with some incredible hitting.

As expected though Nadal’s level dropped in the second set as he still hasn’t managed to find his consistent level.

A sensational passing shot at the net saw Norrie break before consolidating to take a 4-1 lead.

It was an incredible turnaround for the Brit but a lack of composure and concentration allowed Nadal a chance to get back in the match.

Get back in the match Nadal did as he managed to sustain a high level of play throughout the next period of the match, securing five games in a row to claim the win.

After the match Nadal spoke about how crucial it was for him to improve his rhythm, “I think I played in some moments good tennis, in some moments I need to play a little bit more aggressive, but that is part of the journey today,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“Great feelings. I’ve been a while without playing on the Tour, since Roland Garros.  To have the chance to compete well against a great player like Cameron is a great feeling.

“I haven’t been competing very often, so matches and victories like today help. To be in rhythm the whole match and hold the pressure on the opponent the whole match, that’s something that I need to improve, because I didn’t play enough.”

Nadal will now aim for a tenth win of the season when he plays fourth seed Mariano Navone on Friday.

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Billie Jean King Cup Relocates From Sevilla To Malaga, Takes Place Alongside Davis Cup Final Eight Tournament

The Billie Jean King Cup has been relocated from Sevilla to Malaga.

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The Billie Jean King Cup Finals will now take place in Malaga and will be alongside the Davis Cup final eight tournament.

The ITF announced the news today that the Billie Jean King Cup Finals will be relocated from Sevilla to Malaga.

It will take place on the 13th-20th November and will be alongside the Davis Cup final eight tournament which will start on the 19th of November and will conclude on the 24th of November.

Speaking about the change tournament director Conchita Martinez spoke about the passion Malaga will bring to the event and has revealed that they have contacted existing ticket holders about the change, “I know that Malaga, just a two-hour drive from Sevilla, will deliver the exceptional atmosphere and passion that fans of the Billie Jean King Cup have come to know and love,” Martinez stated.

“We have informed all existing ticket holders of the changes and will be reissuing tickets for the new location, with the option of refunds for those who require them. We are set for a blockbuster fortnight of tennis this November and I can’t wait to welcome the tennis world to Malaga this November.”

The news will be disappointment to some ticket holders about the late change as the ITF continue to be unorganised when it comes to logistical events around the team competitions.

However, Malaga will aim to bring a unique atmosphere as the event will aim to boost the attendances of both team competitions.

The event will see four first round matches, four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final.

Here is the draw below with Canada looking to defend their title from last year.

Canada v BYE

Germany v Great Britain

Australia v BYE

Slovakia v USA

Spain v Poland

Czech Republic v BYE

Japan v Romania

Italy v BYE

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays Carlos Alcaraz for the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship

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Carlos Alcaraz after winning his semifinal on Friday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 14 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in gentlemen’s singles and mixed doubles.

One year ago, Novak Djokovic was on a 34 match Wimbledon win streak, playing for his fifth consecutive title, and had not lost a match on Centre Court in a full decade.  But in a spectacular five-hour five-setter, Carlos Alcaraz upset the all-time great to win his first Wimbledon title.  On Sunday, we get the rematch, as Djokovic looks to avenge that painful loss, and Alcaraz looks to defend a Major title, and win back-to-back Majors, for the first time.


Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

They followed up last year’s championship match here with another fantastic final just a month later in Cincinnati, where Djokovic saved championship point to eventually win in a third-set tiebreak, and after nearly four hours of play.  Novak would go on three weeks later to win the US Open, while Carlitos was not the same player for some time.  Alcaraz would not reach another final at any event for over six months, until this past March in Indian Wells. 

Despite a few surprising losses, and an injury that disrupted his season, Alcaraz is now a strong 32-6 on the year, and a superb 17-1 at Majors.  Carlitos has been able to quickly rebound from upsets at smaller events, like his loss to Jack Draper a few weeks ago at Queen’s Club, and up his level for the big events.  He’s dropped five sets through six matches, most of which have contained some sloppy play at times, yet Carlitos has played his best when it mattered most to reach his fourth Major final.  And he’s 3-0 thus far in Major finals.

2024 has been a surprisingly subpar season in the illustrious career of Djokovic.  Not only has he not won a title to date, he hadn’t advanced to a final until now.  Playing a more limited schedule, he’s just 23-6 this season.  And it was just a month ago that he was forced to withdraw from the Roland Garros quarterfinals after suffering a knee injury, which required surgery and put his Wimbledon status in doubt.  Yet Novak has recovered almost miraculously, dropping only two sets to this stage, though he did receive a quarterfinal walkover of his own from an injured Alex de Minaur.

Overall Djokovic is 3-2 against Alcaraz, and they’ve split two meetings at Majors, both of which took place a year ago.  In the 2023 Roland Garros semifinals, Carlitos started cramping after just two sets of play, and provided little resistance in sets three and four.  That made his five-set victory in this final a month later all the more surprising.

Novak has not appeared to be significantly hampered by his surgically-repaired knee, though there’s no way it can be 100%.  So if another five-setter takes place on Sunday, that has to favor Carlitos, especially since he is an amazing 12-1 when pushed to five sets in his young career.

But the Djokovic CV at this tournament, and at this stage of Majors, is beyond formidable.  Since the start of The Championships in 2014, he is 59-3 at SW19.  And during the same span at all Majors, he is 42-8 in semifinals and finals.  Novak just very rarely loses matches like this, especially on Centre Court.

On a that surface usually favors the aggressor, Djokovic has been able to change that narrative with his stifling defense and court coverage.  However, Alcaraz is one of the only players Djokovic has ever faced who can match him defensively, and at times dictate play against him with his risk-taking style.  We saw here a year ago just how frustrated Novak became by Carlitos’ game, damaging the net post by breaking his racket against it after getting broken in the fifth set.

Yet as many have mentioned these last two weeks, Djokovic “has that look about him,” meaning the steely determination and confidence that he was lacking during the first six months of this year appear to be back.  He is extremely motivated to reassert himself atop the game, in a season where the new generation of Alcaraz and Sinner won the first two Majors. 

If Carlitos gets off to another slow start on Sunday (he’s lost the first set in three of his six matches thus far), or suffer lapses in his level again, Novak will take advantage of that better than any of the defending champion’s previous opponents.  And while he’ll surely do so at some point in his career, until Alcaraz defends a Major title, or wins back-to-back Majors, it’s hard to favor him to do so.  I’m backing Djokovic to win his eighth Wimbledon title, and his historical 25th Major singles title, the most of all-time.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Santiago Gonzalez and Giuliana Olmos vs. Jan Zielinski Su-wei Hsieh (7) – The Mexican team of Gonzalez and Olmos are playing for their first Major title, as Olmos is 0-1 in Major finals, while 41-year-old Gonzalez is 0-4.  Zielinski and Su-wei won this year’s Australian Open as a team, the first Major title of Zielinski’s career, while Su-wei has now won eight between women’s doubles and mixed, and is 8-1 in Major finals.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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