Italian Open Thursday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day - UBITENNIS
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Italian Open Thursday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day

All eyes will be on Rafael Nadal as he takes on the new Canadian No.1

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Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

Thursday in Rome, all third round matches in both the men’s and women’s draws will take the court, making for another full day of great matchups at Parco del Foro Italico. On the men’s side, top seed Rafael Nadal could be on a collision course with second seed (and champion in both of the past two weeks) Alexander Zverev in what would be a blockbuster final. But many other big names are in their way, such as Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro. On the women’s side, while a resounding favourite does not exist, an extremely intriguing draw does. Seven of the top 10 seeds remain, along with multiple-major winners Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Angelique Kerber. With 16 singles matches to take place, here’s a look at two of the many intriguing clashes on the schedule.

 

Rafael Nadal vs. Denis Shapovalov

Prior to last week, Shapovalov had zero tour-level wins on clay. By comparison, Nadal has 404 career clay victories. The young Canadian has become quite the phenomenon, and it all began with his thrilling victory over Nadal at the Rogers Cup last summer, 7-6 in a final set tiebreak. That’s the match that put Shapovalov on the tennis map. Less than a year later, the 19-year-old is now the Canadian number one, surpassing Milos Raonic with his run in Rome this week. And this run is on the heels of last week’s run in Madrid, his second career Masters 1,000 semifinal. Nadal will certainly be out to avenge the loss from Montreal last year, especially on his precious clay. The number one ranking is also on the line for Nadal, as he needs to win the title in Rome to regain it from Federer, as well as to have any chance to be number one following the French Open. As hot as Shapovalov has been, it’s hard to imagine him going up 2-0 in his career against the king of clay. Still this should be a fun battle of lefties on Campo Centrale.

Caroline Garcia vs. Sloane Stephens

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Here we have two top 10 players meeting in the third round, and two prominent names to consider for deep runs at Roland Garros in two weeks. It was just last year where Garcia made the quarter-finals at her home Slam event. The Frenchwoman then went on a tear in the fall, winning back-to-back tournaments in Wuhan and Beijing. Her results have simmered a bit in 2018, but she’s reshown her clay prowess by making the semis in both Stuttgart and Madrid. Stephens went on an eight-match losing streak following her US Open breakthrough, but rebounded to take the title in Miami. Sloane is due for some success outside the US, so why not on the clay? She advanced to the fourth round at the French Open four years in a row between 2012 and 2015. This is a fresh match-up, as they’ve only played twice, and not since 2014. I expect this to be a close one, but Garcia would appear to be the favourite due to her recent results on the clay.

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Jamie Murray Wants More Funding For Scottish Tennis Ahead Of Challenger Event

Jamie Murray wants more funding for Scottish Tennis after admitting disappointing response from the LTA.

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Jamie Murray (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Jamie Murray has spoken out on his frustration at the LTA for not giving Scottish enough funding ahead of the Glasgow Challenger event. 

 

The seven-time grand slam champion is getting ready for the Murray Trophy in Glasgow which begins this week where he will be competing.

However one of the concerns right now is the lack of funding it is receiving despite the success of the Murray brothers, who have won a combined ten grand slams between them.

Ahead of the event in Glasgow, the doubles specialist think more can be done to capitalise on their success, “I think so. Certainly from what we’ve achieved over the last however many years, going back to our junior days of playing,” Murray said to STV News.

“If you think about the Scottish players that have represented us in Davis Cup and won ties, I would say they do (deserve more funding), We’re a country after all, not a county.

“Things could have been better over the last ten years to make the most of what Andy has been achieving. Up here Tennis Scotland are doing their best to take things forward. We haven’t always had the best deal from the money that the LTA gets to hand out to Tennis Scotland.”

It’s certainly an issue that has been raging on for the last few years that both Andy and Jamie Murray have been very passionate about.

But only time will tell whether the Lawn Tennis Association listen to the concerns of the two men have been responsible for Great Britain’s recent tennis success.

As for Murray he will be partnering John-Patrick Smith in the event, which is taking place this week and is looking to continue his momentum after winning the US Open mixed doubles title.

Now for the Brit, his main goal is to win Wimbledon as he looks to achieve more doubles success, “It’s been exciting for me in the last few years to go to these level of tournaments and feel you’ve got a genuine chance to win,” Murray admitted.

“For me, Wimbledon would be the biggest goal until the end of my career, to win the men’s doubles. It didn’t work out for me this year but next year. There’s always next year.”

 

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Karolina Pliskova lifts her fourth title of the season in Zhengzhou

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Number 1 seed Karolina Pliskova cruised past number 7 seed Petra Martic 6-3 6-2 after 1 hour and 36 minutes in the final of the Zhengzhou Open, an inaugural WTA Premier tournament. The final was postponed by six hours after torrential rain.

 

Pliskova came back from 0-2 in the first set by winning 12 of the next 15 games to win her fourth title this season after Brisbane, Rome and Eastbourne. The Czech player is the fifth top seed to win a tournament this season after Aryna Sabalenka in Shenzhen, Alison Van Uytvanck in Budapest, Caroline Garcia in Nottingham and Anastasjia Sevastova in Jurmala.

Pliskova took a re-match against Martic, who beat the Czech player in four of their previous five head-to-head matches and won their third round clash at Roland Garros.

Pliskova saved two of her three break points and converted four of her eight break points.

Martic earned an early break with a forehand return winner to open up a 2-0 lead in the first set. As the match resumed after a rain delay Martic did not convert a double break point. Pliskova broke back in the fourth game with a forehand winner to draw level to 2-2.

Pliskova saved a break point chance in the seventh game with a forehand down the line. The Czech player broke serve in the eighth game, when Martic made a forehand error and sealed the first set 6-3 with a service winner.

Pliskova dropped only six points on her first serve in the second set and broke serve in the third game when Martic sent a backhand slice wide. The former world number 1 player held her serve with an ace before breaking for the second time in the fifth game. She hit four winners to seal the win, as she was serving for the match at 5-2.

“I think I played good matches. Of course, not all the matches were perfect, the week never can be really perfect because it’s so many days and so many things can be just different every day. I beat tough players, which I maybe lost to a couple of times before. I think that was the biggest plus of this week, especially with Petra. These wins are always important. It doesn’t matter where you play, which tournament you play, but it’s always important. To get the trophy is always special. It does not matter really which tournament or how big the tournament is, it’s always good”, said Pliskova.  

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Nao Hibino beats Misaki Doi in all-Japanese final in Hiroshima

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World Number 146 Nao Hibino beat Misaki Doi 6-3 6-2 in the all-Japanese final of Haa-Cupid Japan Open in Hiroshima.

 

Doi broke serve at 15 in the second game with a deep return, but she dropped her serve at love in the third game. Dou earned another break with a forehand to open up a 3-1 lead. Hibino pulled the break back in the fifth game, when Doi sent her backhand long.

Hibino reeled off nine consecutive games from 1-3 down to build up a 6-3 4-0 lead with two consecutive breaks in the seventh and ninth games of the first set and two more breaks in the first and third games of the second set. Doi dropped her serve in six consecutive service games and hit 8 winners to 14 unforced errors. Doi pulled back one break in the fifth game. Hibino broke for the third time at deuce to win the second set 6-2.

Hibino claimed both the singles and the doubles titles at the same tournament for the first time in her career. She teamed up with Doi to clinch the doubles title with a 6-3 4-6 10-4 win over Christina McHale and Valeria Savinykh.

“I was so nervous today, so much more than the semifinals, but because I experienced being nervous in the semifinals, I knew what to expect. I was able to stay positive during the match today”, said Hibino.

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