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French Open Day 14 Preview: The Women’s Final

Sloane Stephens in 6-0 in tournament finals. Simona Halep is 0-3 in major finals. Will both of those streaks be extended or extinguished?

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Simona Halep (zimbio.com)

World Number One Simona Halep has a lot of demons to exercise on Saturday, especially Parisian ones.  Twice before she’s made it to this stage of the French Open, and twice before has fell just short of the finish line.

Four years ago, she played an over three-hour, grueling final against Maria Sharapova, losing 6-4 in the third. That loss in her first major final was tantalizing, yet digestible.  It was her loss here last year that was a real crusher. She was up a set and a break against a 20-year-old who had never won a WTA title of any kind, yet still went down in defeat. And just this year in Melbourne, she survived match points in two separate prolonged battles, as well as an ankle injury, yet lost another three-set major final 6-4 in the third.  Despite all of that baggage, Simona continues to get right back on her feet and put herself into a winning position again. She’s now held the number one ranking for the better part of the past year, and finds herself in her third final out of the last five majors. The top-ranked player now leads the tour with 34 wins in 2018. Can Simona finally have her Grand Slam moment?  Or will she join a list of players to lose their first four major finals, which includes Ivan Lendl, Kim Clijsters, and Andy Murray? If you’re Simona, that list should relieve some tension from your body on Saturday, as those three players all went on to win multiple majors. If she were to lose today, all hope is not lost. In the semifinals on Friday, she brought her best stuff and outhit an in-form Garbine Muguruza in impressive fashion.  But can she do the same for two full sets in today’s final?

Newly-Anointed American Number One Sloane Stephens’ comeback story is pretty remarkable.  A year ago, she was just returning to the court after missing almost a full year of tennis due to a foot injury.  Strangely enough, it was following a loss to Halep in Washington DC last summer when she went on a 15-2 run on the North American hard courts, including a shocking run to her first major title.  Then she startlingly went on an eight-match losing streak from September of last year until February of this year. A return to the USA helped Sloane get her groove back, as she won her first Premier Mandatory event in Miami.  And after a lackluster clay court season, she’s now found success outside of the US, and is into her second major final. Sloane does not shrink on big occasions such as this: in fact, she plays her best tennis.

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Halep has a 5-2 edge in their head-to-head, and has prevailed the last four times they played.  That dates back to their only meeting at Roland Garros in 2014. On clay, Halep is 2-0. All seven of their matches have been straights sets, which is not shocking considering how streaky Stephens can be, as well as Halep’s old tendency to go away when she’s down early in a match.  That old habit can still pop up from time to time, though Simona has put a lot of mental energy into correcting that pattern. Exhibit A would be her quarterfinal comeback against Angelique Kerber after going down two breaks to start that match.

Both players have similar games: great defensive skills, a low number of unforced errors, and high-percentage offense at the right times.  However, the deciding factor in this match may go beyond the X’s and O’s. It may come down to who can play more freely at the decisive moments, and history shows Stephens is the much more likely candidate for that role.  Halep is the more likely candidate to have an off day following a top-notch semifinal effort, especially under the weight of this occasion. All things considered, the result here is very much in doubt. In yet another Grand Slam event, the women’s draw has been more unpredictable and intriguing.  Hopefully we get a high-quality final, but we’re guaranteed an emotional one.

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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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