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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Casper Ruud rallies from one set down to beat local star Matteo Berrettini in Rome quarter finals

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Norway’s Casper Ruud came back from one set down to beat local favourite Matteo Berrettini 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) after nearly 3 hours on the famous Nicola Pietrangeli Court reaching the first Masters 1000 of his career at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Ruud has improved his win-loss record to 12-2 on clay this season after winning the Buenos Aires title and reaching the final in Santiago de Chile in last February’s Golden Swing last February. 

Ruud now leads 2-1 in his three head-to-head matches against Berrettini. The Scandinavian player player Berrettini at Roland Garros last year. Berrettini scored his only win over Ruud at the US Open this year. 

Ruud has improved on his father Christian’s record at Masters 1000 level. Christian reached his only quarter final at this level in Monte-Carlo in 1997. 

Berrettini broke serve after a double fault from Ruud on the break point in the first game. The 2019 US Open semifinal saved a total of three break points in the second, sixth and tenth games. Berrettini closed out the first set with a drop-shot on the set point and closed out the first set 6-4 with a forehand volley.

Ruud earned his first break in the second game of the second set to build up a 3-0 lead taking advantage of forehand errors from Berrettini. 

Berrettini saved a double break point with an ace at 2-5. Ruud held serve at love with a backhand error from Berrettini to close out the second set 6-3 forcing the match to the decider. Ruud converted his fourth break point in the first game to take a 1-0 lead with a forehand winner up the line. Berrettini broke back on his second chance in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Ruud came back from 2-4 down to win the tie-break 7-5 claiming his 17th win of the season. 

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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal Hail Return Of Fans To Italian Open

The top two players on the ATP Tour give their reactions to the return of a crowd in Rome.

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Tennis stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have welcomed a government decision allowing fans to attend the Italian Open during its final two days.

 

On Friday Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed that 1000 people will be allowed to attend the event on both the semi-final and final days. A move the government minister describes as a ‘first but significant, step toward the return of normalcy in sports.’ Until now the tournament had been held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic amid fears that allowing a crowd to attend the event may trigger an outbreak of the virus. As part of the conditions there will be rules in force concerning mask wearing, social distancing and reserve seating.

“If we are going to have 1,000 people, it’s better than no people for sure because we all miss the fans, and part of our professional careers in sport is playing in front of them,” Djokovic said following his third round win over Filip Krajinović.
“I’m really glad that that’s going to happen.” He added.

The Italian Open will be the first major tennis tournament on the men’s Tour to welcome fans since resuming after its five-month break due to the pandemic. Both the Western and Southern Open, as well as the US Open, were held behind closed doors. Meanwhile, at the upcoming French Open plans for 11,500 fans to attend the event daily has been more than halved to 5000 following a ruling from French officials.

“The situation is how it is. Very difficult and very unpredictable, so it is normal that things are changing quickly,” Nadal commented on the changes surrounding crowd capacities.
“It is normal that the people who have to make decisions, they do with the best precaution possible. I don’t expect easy decisions and I don’t expect things are prepared in advance because it’s difficult to know how the pandemic evolves during day situations.’
“Changes can change a lot. So if the situation is good enough, fantastic.”

When it comes to where the semi-finals and finals of the tournament could be played due to the admission of fans, world No.1 Djokovic is hoping officials will stick to the premier court. Arguing that it is ‘much better quality’ than the other courts at the Foro Italico.

“I heard also they are considering to use Pietrangeli or NextGen court for semi-finals and finals,” he said.
“I hope it’s not the case, because the quality of the clay and quality of the centre court is, in my opinion, much better than the other courts.”

In order for both Djokovic and Nadal to play in front of Italian fans they must both come through their quarter-final matches. Djokovic will play German qualifier Dominik Koepfer and Nadal locks horns with eighth seed Diego Schwartzman.

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Novak Djokovic Survives Krajinovic Battle To Seal Last Eight Berth In Rome

Novak Djokovic reached an 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@ATPTour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic survived a tough battle in Rome to beat Filip Krajinovic 7-6(7) 6-3 to reach the last eight.

 

Although the World Number one got the victory, it was a tough battle as he fought his compatriot for a place in the Quarter-Finals.

Breaks were shared to start the match as Krajinovic brought his fearless game to the top seed.

Djokovic created a total of ten break points, with only one executed as Krajinovic saved two set points in the tenth game to hold for 5-5.

After two comfortable holds, a tiebreak settled the winner of the first set as Djokovic was having a hard time to contain Krajinovic’s power.

The world number one battled from 3-0 down to edge the tiebreak 9-7 and win the opening set in 88 minutes.

Once Djokovic had survived the Krajinovic stormed, he took control and went into another gear as a break of serve in the third game was all that was needed to seal his place in the quarter-finals.

Winning 47% of his 2nd return points was key as Djokovic reaches his 85th Masters 1000 Quarter-Final of his career.

Next for Djokovic will be either talented teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti or Dominik Koepfer.

In other results today, Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov set a last eight showdown after tight three set wins.

Shapovalov edged out Ugo Humbert 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4 while Dimitrov defeated Jannik Sinner 4-6 6-4 6-4 in a tough match.

There were also third round wins for Casper Ruud and Matteo Berrettini.

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