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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Dominic Thiem rallies from one set down against Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final at Thiem’s 7 in Kitzbuhel

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Dominic Thiem came back from losing the first set to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-2 en route to reaching the final at the Thiem’s 7 tournament. Thiem earned two breaks in the third and fifth games to race out to a 4-1 lead. Bautista Agut got both breaks back in the sixth and eighth games to draw level to 4-4 forcing the match to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-5 to take the opening set.

 

Thiem slowly found his rhythm again in the second set and earned two break points in the fourth game but he was not able to convert them. The home star dropped only two points on his serve until the end of the second set and converted two of the three break points to clinch the second set 6-2.

Thiem earned a break in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead and held on his next service games. The tournament organizer sealed the third set 6-2 with his double break with a blistering return on the match point in the eighth game securing his spot in the final. Thiem will face either Andrey Rublev or Matteo Berrettini in the final.

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Former Roland Garros champions and five top 20 players to highlight a great edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo

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The Ladies Open WTA International in Palermo will be the first tournament to be held next August since last February.

 

The Italian tournament will feature a great line-up which includes two confirmed past Roland Garros champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko and five top 20 players. There is a good chance that 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep could be added in the field.

“We are glad about Simona Halep’s great interest in Palermo Ladies Open. We will be waiting for her at the Country Club for an historic edition of the Palermo tournament. We have been in contact with Halep’s manager for some time. We have been talking for days about her potential participation in Palermo. She is one of the best players in the world and her presence would contribute to make an already high-level tournament extrahordinary. We will leave our doors open to her for as long as possible, as well as for other top ten players that will want to resume their season in Palermo”, said tournament’s CEO Oliviero Palma.

The other stars who have signed up to the Ladies Open are 2019 Roland Garros champion Marketa Vondrousova, two Grand Slam semifinalists Elise Mertens (2018 Australian Open) and Anastasija Sevastova (2018 US Open), Aryna Sabalenka (winner at the Wuhan Open in 2018 and 2019, WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and Doha in 2020) and Elina Rybakina (winner in Hobart and finalist in St. Petersburg and Dubai in 2020), Dayana Yastremska (winner of three tournaments in Hong Kong in 2018, Thailand and Strasbourg in 2019).

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova lift the titles in Perugia

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova won the Zzz Quill Tennis Tour in Perugia. Sonego followed up his Italian title won the previous week in Todi with a 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Croatia’s Viktor Galovic (world number 269 and number 7 seed) in the final of the Perugia tournament.

 

“Galovic started very well. It was difficult to adjust to his game and improve during the match. I maintained the right attitude and I managed to win the title. I enjoyed two fantastic weeks in Todi and Perugia. This confirmed my good work in training in the past two weeks. I gave my best and I am confident for the rest of the season”, said Sonego.

World number 117 Liudmila Samsonova won the women’s title came back from one set down to beat world number 307 Stefania Rubini 4-6 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in the women’s final after saving two match points.

“I won a very tough final with a lot of ups and downs. I am happy that I played many matches. It was one of my goals on the eve of the tournament. I showed that I am able to keep the level of my tennis high, when I play focused”, said Samsonova.   

 

 

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