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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The 2019 ATP Tour Review

Ubitennis.net reviews a great ATP season highlighted by Rafael Nadal’s Roland Garros and US Open titles, Novak Djokovic’s win over Roger Federer in an epic Wimbledon final, Daniil Medvedev’s great hard-court season, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ breakthrough into the top 10 and the rise of Italian players Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner.

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Rafael Nadal (image via Kosmos Tennis)
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The best ATP player of the season

Rafael Nadal celebrated his 200th week at world number 1 in the ATP Rankings. Only five players since 1973 have been ranked at the top for more weeks: Roger Federer (310 weeks), Pete Sampras (286), Novak Djokovic (275), Ivan Lendl (270), and Jimmy Connors (268 weeks).

 

Nadal enjoyed another great season in 2019 by winning four titles, including two Grand Slam titles (Roland Garros and US Open) and two Masters 1000 titles (Rome and Montreal). He also finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final.

He won his 12th Roland Garros title with a victory over Dominic Thiem in the final, confirming his reputation as the King of Clay. Becoming player (male or female ) to win the same Grand Slam tournament 12 times.

Overall, he recorded 58 wins to 7 defeats and finished the season as the year-end number 1 player for the fifth time in his career. The 33-year-old Spanish player is the oldest player to finish year-end number 1 in the history.

The most consistent player: Danil Medvedev

Danil Medvedev leads the ATP Tour in 2019 with a record of 59 match wins, including 46 victories on a hard court. He reached six straight finals since Wimbledon. Winning four titles in Sofia, St. Petersburg and two consecutive Masters 1000 tournaments in Cincinnati and Shanghai. He also finished runner-up in three more finals in Brisbane, Barcelona and the US Open.

Medvedev rallied from two sets down before losing to Nadal after 4 hours and 51 minutes in his first Grand Slam final. He is the first Russian player to reach a Grand Slam final since Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open and the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Novak Djokovic.

The most improved player of the year: Stefanos Tsitsipas:

One year after clinching the ATP Next Gen Finals trophy in Milan, Stefanos Tsitsipas won the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London after beating Dominic Thiem. The young Greek star won two more titles in Marseille on indoor hard court and Estoril on clay and finished runner-up in two more finals in Dubai to Roger Federer and in Beijing to Dominic Thiem.

At the age of 20 Tsitsipas became the youngest Australian Open semifinalist since Andy Roddick in 2003. He is the first Greek player to break into Top 5 and the first Greek to reach a Grand Slam semifinal. At the Australian Open Tsitsipas saved 12 break points against Roger Federer in the fourth round.

Tsitsipas earned 54 match wins this year and beat Rafael Nadal to reach the Madrid Masters 1000 Final before losing to Novak Djokovic in the title match.

The most surprising player of the year: Matteo Berrettini:

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The Italian 23-year-old player broke into the top 10 of the ATP Ranking on 28 October and reached the career-high at world number 8 on 4 November. In his breakthrough season Berrettini became the first ATP Finals singles qualifier from Italy since former number 8 player and current Davis Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti in 1978.

Berrettini won two titles in Budapest on clay and Stuttgart on grass and reached ATP 500 semifinals at Halle, Vienna. He became the first Italian player in history to reach a Masters 1000 semifinal in Shanghai. This season he has achieved a series of milestones for Italian tennis. Including becoming the second Italian player in history to reach a US Open semifinal and the fourth overall. Following in the footsteps of Adriano Panatta, Corrado Barazzutti and Marco Cecchinato. Berrettini also reached the Wimbledon fourth round by defeating Diego Schwartzman after saving three match points.

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Kiki Bertens Believes In Stability And Trust Ahead Of 2020 Season

Kiki Bertens looks for stability in hope of grand slam success in 2020.

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Kiki Bertens (@rogerscup - Twitter)

Kiki Bertens believes stability and trust is the key to success ahead of the 2020 season despite a time of change for the Dutchwoman. 

 

A time of change is approaching for Kiki Bertens as she recently just got married to her physical trainer Remko De Rijke.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5iU5w9hTgf/

It’s not only off the court, change is approaching for the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist as her and coach Raemon Sluiter parted ways during the off-season.

After the split it would have been easy for Bertens to make a radical change to her coaching team but that is not her style as she has promoted Elise Tamaela to a main coaching role.

Even through a time of change, Bertens believes stability is crucial to success, “It takes me a while to be able to trust someone,” she admitted to Dutch website De Telegraaf. 

“And I don’t want to spend that time on something like that. We’re going to continue in the same way for next year. The results were not as expected in the Grand Slams but I had other good weeks. It’s really not that I felt different playing in the Slams than in other weeks in which I could win titles.”

Although the formula to winning a grand slam has yet to be solved, the world number nine has achieved great consistency having won 55 matches in 2019, which also included the biggest title of her career in Madrid.

A new era await for Bertens with her new coach and plenty of praise was given to Elise Tamaela ahead of the new season, “For me the most important thing is that that person knows a lot about tennis. I have to be able to fully trust her,” Bertens said.

“To be able to laugh with that person, eat with her. I prefer to keep the equipment to the minimum possible and be able to feel comfortable in terms of confidence. Sometimes more people in the team only bring more opinions. And that style is not mine.”

This simplistic formula has worked for Bertens in the past and as the 2020 season approaches, she’s not looking to change it.

However will inexperience lead to the same results at grand slams, with the level of the Women’s game rising, Bertens may find that breaking the boundaries of stability is needed.

The former world number four will start her march towards more glory in Brisbane on the 6th of January.

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Caroline Wozniacki Announces Retirement After Australian Open

Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open in January.

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Caroline Wozniacki (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open as a new chapter in her life approaches. 

 

The Dane won 30 WTA singles titles in her career and spent 71 weeks as world number one although a grand slam had haunted her for most of her career.

However that changed in 2018 after an epic win over Simona Halep sealed a dream come true as she won her first grand slam at the Australian Open.

Since winning her maiden slam though, it has been an uphill struggle on the court for Wozniacki as she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Some days the former world number one and on some days, it is a constant battle for her to even wake up in the morning.

Now with other priorities taking over having been married to former NBA player David Lee since June and already studying Business at Harvard, Wozniacki today took the decision to retire from tennis after the Australian Open.

https://twitter.com/MPTenisPodcast/status/1202972268831367168

In a statement on Instagram, Woznaicki told her followers that she had accomplished everything she wanted to and looks forward to the future, “I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court,” she said.

“I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done. In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court.

“Getting married to David was one of those goals and starting a family with him while continuing to travel the world and helping raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis (project upcoming) are all passions of mine moving forward.

“This has nothing to do with my health and this isn’t a goodbye, I look forward to sharing my exciting journey ahead with all of you!

“Finally, I want to thank with all my heart, the fans, my friends, my sponsors, my team, especially my father as my coach, my husband, and my family for decades of support! Without all of you I could have never have done this!”

Although this retirement may have been coming, not many people would have predicted it would come at the scene of her grand slam breakthrough.

Now in the last stretch of her career, the Dane will want to finish on a high as she looks to celebrate a career that has lasted nearly 15 years.

 

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