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Italian Open Monday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day

There are some big clashes in Rome as preparation for Roland Garros continues in the ‘Eternal’ city.

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Victoria Azarenka (zimbio.com)

By Matthew Marolf

Coming out of last week in Madrid, there are many questions heading into this week in Rome. Can Rafael Nadal start up another winning streak and take his eighth Italian Open title? Will the big-hitting men and women who dominated in the altitude of Madrid be able to carry that success over to Rome? And can other top names who have struggled to gain momentum on the clay step up this week? With Roland Garros just two weeks ago, the answers to these questions will have a significant impact on the next Grand Slam event.

Naomi Osaka vs. Victoria Azarenka
Osaka appears to be a future major champion in the making. Since her big breakthrough title in Indian Wells, and her subsequent victory over Serena Williams in Miami, Osaka’s results have understandably dipped a bit. That’s a lot for a 20-year- old take in. A very different story is unfolding on the other side of the net, as a two-time former major champion tries to make her comeback after the birth of her child, and the ensuing custody battle that kept her away from tennis. Azarenka impressively made the semi-finals in Miami, just her second tournament since last July. But Vika ran into a hot Karolina Pliskova in Madrid, though she pushed her all the way to 7-5 in the third. Azarenka easily her only previous meeting with Osaka at the 2016 Australian Open, but obviously both players are in much different places today. Based on Azarenka’s hunger and experience, and I give her the edge in this one.
Fabio Fognini vs. Gael Monfils
The night session will be headlined by two of the most entertaining players on tour. But they can also be two of the most frustrating to watch, as their play doesn’t always live up to their supreme talents. Neither player has picked up many wins thus far on the European clay. Monfils is just 1-2 since returning from a back injury that kept him out for about a month. Fognini is on a three-match losing streak dating back to Monte Carlo. Both will be looking to get some wins ahead of the French Open. Their career head-to- head is fairly tight at 4-3 Monfils, with Gael winning their last two matches. They have played a few epic encounters previously on the clay of Roland Garros. Fognini prevailed 9-7 in the fifth in 2010, while Monfils got revenge in another five-setter in 2014. One would think playing in his home country would inspire Fognini, but logic doesn’t often apply to either of these men. Let’s hope they both up their level from recent weeks, and showcase the shot making, athleticism, and personality that has earned both of them so many fans.

 

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Kyle Edmund And Jack Sock Complete Laver Cup Line-Up

Kyle Edmund and Jack Sock complete the line-up for this year’s Laver Cup.

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Kyle Edmund (zimbio.com)

Kyle Edmund and Jack Sock have completed the line-up for the upcoming Laver Cup, which takes place in Chicago next month. 

The duo were the captain’s picks for both Team Europe and Team World as the Europeans look to defend the title that they won in Prague in the inaugural event last year. The captain of Team Europe, Bjorn Borg had this to say on Edmund, “I’m delighted to welcome Kyle to Team Europe as my final captain’s pick, Kyle is an outstanding young player who’s achieved some great results and big wins over top players. I’m also impressed with his meticulous and methodical approach to the sport and believe he will be a great fit with the team.”

Meanwhile Jack Sock seemed happy to compete in the competition again as he has been picked by John McEnroe, despite his poor singles form, “I can’t wait to play Laver Cup again, It was one of the highlights of the year for me and I’m so excited about playing here in the United States, at home, and in the great sports city of Chicago. The United Center is going to be loud, the crowds will be awesome, and it will be fantastic to have the home support.”

So here are the teams competing to win the Laver Cup in Chicago this year in what is looking like an entertaining weekend:

Team Europe                                                           Team World

Roger Federer                                                                Juan Martin Del Potro

Novak Djokovic                                                             Kevin Anderson

Alexander Zverev                                                          Diego Schwartzman

Grigor Dimitrov                                                             Nick Kyrgios

David Goffin                                                                   John Isner

Kyle Edmund                                                                 Jack Sock

The Laver Cup takes place on the 21st to the 23rd of September, with singles and doubles matches occurring throughout the weekend. The first team to reach 13 points wins the Laver Cup.

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Madrid To Become First Host Of Davis Cup Finals In 2019

Madrid will host the first Davis Cup Finals in 2019, with Lille and Indian Wells to host the next two years.

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Manolo Santana (zimbio.com)

Madrid will become the first host of the new Davis Cup in 2019 as an agreement was reached between the Spanish Federation and Kosmos. 

It was initially thought that Lille would get to host the week long tournament in November next year, with Madrid being tipped to host the competition in 2020. However it looks like Madrid has received the nod ahead of Lille as this was the main reason why the Spanish Federation voted for the new Davis Cup reforms in Orlando last Thursday.

The Madrid city council and representatives of Kosmos have been in long negotiations for the past months as it seems the Spanish city will host the tournament next November. The move means that next year they will host the Mutua Madrid Open on Clay in May and will host the Davis Cup Finals in November on hard courts. The possible venues suggested for the 18 team event next year includes the Caja Magica, where the Madrid Open is held, and the WiZink Center.

The tournament, which has the financial backing of Kosmos which is funded by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, will have 18 teams competing in six round robin groups, 4 quarter-finals, 2 semi-finals and a final. It is expected that world number one Rafael Nadal will compete in the finals as he is one of the few players to back the reforms.

The finals will have 12 qualifiers, 2 wildcards as well as this year’s current semi-finalists, which are France, Spain, USA and Croatia. After Madrid, the venues for the next two years is set to be Lille and Indian Wells. The finals are expected to be controversial, with scheduling problems being the key problem as well as key stars such as Lucas Pouille and Alexander Zverev boycotting the event.

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Petra Kvitova Knocks Off Radwanska In New Haven Blockbuster

The No. 3 seed defeated a fellow former champion in Connecticut.

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Petra Kvitova (zimbio.com)

Petra Kvitova looked like the three-time New Haven champion that she is, racing out to an early lead and doing enough late to hand Agnieszka Radwanska a 6-1, 7-6 defeat in a highly anticipated first round match.

The No. 3 seed dominated from the opening stages. She earned break point in Radwanska’s first service game, then hit a superb backhand winner on break point two games later. The pressure did not stop there, as she pushed Radwanska to deuce at 1-4 and hit two more backhand winners for a double-break edge.

The second of those winners, a low-flying first ball strike that zipped across the net and inside the corner, summed up Kvitova’s early domination. Things worked so well for her the world No. 5 that she converted her first set point despite mishitting a volley.

Kvitova won every point on her first serve in the set, losing just five in the match and winning nearly 60 percent of the Pole’s first serve points.

Radwanska, the 2016 champion in New Haven, did not play poorly but looked all-but-extinguished when Kvitova broke at love to open the second set. But the world No. 39 fought back, breaking on consecutive occasions to go up 3-1, only to double fault on break point and return the set to level terms.

After several near-misses, Kvitova took control in the tiebreak. She secured the decisive mini-break with an aggressive forehand near the net, then closed her victory with another rocketed forehand — her 35th winner of the match.

The Czech player, who may now be the tournament favorite after top seed Simona Halep withdrew earlier Monday, will next meet Zarina Diyas, who beat Maria Sakkari in straight sets.

Elsewhere, Cincinnati semifinalist Aryna Sabalenka continued her blistering summer with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Samantha Stosur. The 20-year-old Belarussian won her fifth match in eight days thanks to exceptional serving — eight aces and an 80 percent first serve win percentage — and struggles from Stosur, who saved only one of four break points and nabbed barely a third of second serve points.

Sabalenka, ranked 25th, staved off break points at 3-3 in the first set, then broke in the next game and saw out the set. She broke Stosur, the US Open winner seven years ago, on consecutive occasions in the second set to cruise home.

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