Madrid Open Preview: History Beckons As Alexander Zverev Faces Thiem In The Men's Final - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Preview: History Beckons As Alexander Zverev Faces Thiem In The Men’s Final

The two will lock horns for the sixth time on Sunday in what will be a historic occasion for both players.

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Alexander Zverev (zimbio.com)

In a big upset, Spaniard Rafael Nadal is not present for Sunday’s final in Madrid. Instead, we have two of the top candidates to be the next player to breakthrough and win their first major title.

 

Alexander Zverev vs. Dominic Thiem

For 21-year-old Zverev, this is his fourth career Masters 1000 final. All of these have come within the past year, and he already has two Masters titles, including one on clay in Rome last year. That success has brought him to a career-high number three in the world. A win here may help him to finally translate that success over to the majors. He is yet to advance further than the fourth round at a Grand Slam event, though it seems only a matter of time (and not much time at that) before that changes. Zverev is yet to drop a set this week, and he’s on an eight-match winning streak after taking the title last week in Munich.

For 24-year-old Thiem, this is his second career Masters 1000 final. His only previous appearance came last year at this same event, where he lost in two tight sets to Nadal. The Austrian has been the second best clay court player over the past few years. He’s a two-time French Open semifinalist, and owns multiple clay victories over not only Nadal but also Novak Djokovic. Following his defeat of Nadal earlier this week, he seems like the player with the best chance to compete with Rafa at Roland Garros. Thiem toughed out two very tight matches in his first two rounds this week, but played stellar tennis against both Nadal and Kevin Anderson.

Thiem owns a 4-1 record against Zverev, including all three times they’ve played on clay. They haven’t played in over a year, and Zverev is a much more complete player today. None of their previous matches have been straight sets, so this has the potential to be a highly competitive and compelling final. This is a tough one to call, as both come into this final playing with a lot of confidence. If Thiem is hitting his shots on Sunday as well as did the past two days, his big game could overwhelm and frustrate Zverev. Dominic will be hungry to win his first title at this level, especially against his younger opponent who already has two. His past success against Zverev, especially on clay, should prove valuable and propel him to the biggest title of his career.

Five things to know about the men’s final

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  1. Zverev is bidding to become only the fifth active player to win three tour titles at Masters level. Joining Rafael Nadal (31), Novak Djokovic (30), Roger Federer (27) and Andy Murray (14).
  2. Should Thiem win, he would become the First Austrian to win a Masters title since Thomas Muster at the 1997 Miami Open.
  3. So far in the Madrid tournament, Thiem has dropped his serve seven times. Zverev is yet to be broken, winning all 38 of his service games. On the other hand, Thiem has hit more aces at 19-14.
  4. Heading into the final, both players have won 25 matches on the tour so far this season. Thiem has a win-loss record of 25-6 (16-3 on the clay). Meanwhile, Zverev’s stands at 25-7 (12-2 on clay).
  5. Whoever wins will become the first player from their country to win the Madrid trophy (male or female).

The head-to-head record

2016 Munich (Germany on clay) – Thiem won 4-6 6-2 6-3
2016 Nice (France on clay) – Thiem won 6-4 3-6 6-0
2016 Roland Garros (France on clay) – Thiem won 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 6-3
2016 Beijing (China on hardcourt) – Zverev won 4-6 6-1 6-3
2017 Rotterdam (Netherlands on hardcourt) – Thiem won 3-6 6-3 6-4
Zverev leads 4-1

The men’s final will take place on Sunday at 18:30 local time (GMT+1).

ATP

Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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ATP

David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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Madison Keys battles past Simona Halep to reach the quarter final in Cincinnati

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Madison Keys beat this year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5 to advance to the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year.

 

Madison Keys stopped a five-match losing streak against Simona Halep after a thrilling three-set match scoring her first win over the Romanian player in five years.

After beating Halep in their first head-to-head match in 2014, Keys lost five consecutive matches against her Romanian rival, including four in 2016. They met for the first time since the 2016 WTA Finals, where Halep beat Keys 6-2 6-4 in a round-robin match.

Keys never faced a break point and dropped just eight points in four service games and reeled off nine of the eleven points on Halep’s first serve to cruise through to a 6-1 win in 20 minutes.

In the second set Halep dropped her serve twice, but she converted three of the ten break points. The Romanian player held her serve at love for the first time in the match to win the second set sending the match to the third set.

Keys went up a 3-0 lead in the decider and earned four break points for 4-0. Halep converted her fifth break points at deuce and held serve at love to draw level to 3-3. Keys did not convert a match point at 5-4, but she sealed the win by breaking serve with a forehand winner in the 12th game at deuce to the delight of the home crowd.

“I think I played really smart tonight. Obviously I played a really good first set, and I don’t think she played her best tennis in the first set. I think the third set we played a pretty high level of tennis. I think it was the first time that I played a little bit more within myself and didn’t try to do too much too soon. She has been number 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before I could take a deep breath. I am really happy after losing my lead in the third set, I was able to get back. It definitely reminds me that when I am in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone”, said Keys.

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