French Open Day 15 Preview: The Men’s Final - UBITENNIS
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French Open Day 15 Preview: The Men’s Final

Rafael Nadal goes for his astonishing 11th title at Roland Garros, against the only man to defeat him on clay in the past two years.

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Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

World Number One Rafael Nadal’s level of dominance on clay over the past 13 years cannot be overstated.  

 

He is 85-2 at Roland Garros, with 10 titles and a 21-0 combined record in semifinals and finals. Rafa owns 56 career titles on clay, with only eight losses in clay court finals.  It’s been over three years since he lost a final on clay. Earlier this year, he won his eleventh title at two different clay court events: in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He is now 414-36 lifetime on clay, an all-time best 92% winning percentage after 450 career matches on the surface.  Nadal needs to win this match to hold onto his number one ranking. Rafa comes into this final having only dropped one set in the tournament, and with only one loss on clay this year. That loss, as well as his only clay court loss last year, came at the hands of Dominic Thiem. The Austrian also beat Nadal on clay in Buenos Aires on 2016, though Nadal has six career clay victories against Thiem.  They’ve actually never faced each other on any other surface.

For Thiem, this is his first career major final, on the heels of two consecutive semifinal appearances at Roland Garros.  This is the only Grand Slam event where he’s advanced passed the fourth round. Following his heartbreaking five-set loss to Juan Martin Del Potro in the fourth round of last year’s US Open, Dominic went just 3-6 on the ATP tour through the end of 2017.  Thiem stalled again in the fourth round at the next major, getting upset by 97th-ranked Tennys Sandgren in another five-setter.  But as usual his results picked up on the clay, with his title in Buenos Aires being his first in one year’s time.  Eight of Thiem’s ten career titles have come on clay, with his most recent triumph coming the week prior to the French Open in Lyon.  He’s dropped three sets during this fortnight, so he’s not advanced to this stage as cleanly as Nada.l Despite this being his fifth straight week of play, and already his 12th tournament of the year, he should still be fresh following two straight-set victories in the quarters and semis.  He also had two days off between those rounds, whereas Nadal played on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday due to rain delaying the conclusion of his quarterfinal.

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So does Thiem have a chance?  A small one, yes. He’ll take confidence from his three career victories over Nadal on clay, though none of those were best-of-five.  It will be critical to grab an early lead, as Nadal is a great frontrunner, especially on this surface. Rafa may be vulnerable at the beginning of the match: he’s gotten off to slow starts in both of his last two rounds.  Thiem will need to hit big without completely going for broke, and will need a lot of winners. Both men will be standing near the front row behind them when receiving serve, so it will be crucial for both to quickly establish court positioning near or within the baseline early in the point, as Paul Annacone outlined this week on Tennis Channel in the US.  But Thiem will have many factors working against him, such as his one-handed backhand, Nadal’s experience edge, and Nadal’s current momentum. And remember: Rafa has never lost at this stage of the French Open. I don’t see that changing on Sunday. While I hope Thiem gives us a competitive final, an outcome other than an historic eleventh crown for the king of clay would be shocking.

Route to the final

Nadal
R1 d. (LL) Simone Bolelli 64 63 76(9)
R2 d. Guido Pella 62 61 61
R3 d. No. 27 Richard Gasquet 63 62 62
R4 d. Maximilian Marterer 63 62 76(4)
QF d. No. 11 Diego Schwartzman 46 63 62 62
SF d. No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro 64 61 62
Total time on the court – 15:24

Thiem
R1 d. (Q) Ilya Ivashka 62 64 61
R2 d. Stefanos Tsitsipas 62 26 64 64
R3 d. Matteo Barrettini 63 67(5) 63 62
R4 d. No. 19 Kei Nishikori 62 60 57 64
QF d. No. 2 Alexander Zverev 64 62 61
SF d. Marco Cecchinato 75 76(10) 61
total time on the court – 13:36

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Resilient Daria Kasatkina Shuts Out The Critics To Win Silicon Valley Classic

After what has been a roller-coaster past few weeks, the Grand Slam semi-finalist is gaining momentum on the court.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Russia’s Daria Kasatkina says she has ‘no time for bulls**t’ after staging a fierce comeback to win the Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose.

 

Kasatkina won 12 out of the last 15 games played to beat Shelby Rogers 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2, to claim her first title of the season and fifth overall. During the match, she dropped only four points behind her first serve in the last two sets. The triumph caps off what has been an impressive week for the Russian who has also beaten Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, Aryna Sabalenka and Paula Badosa.

“It’s a tough journey, which is still going on. I’m happy with the way things are going, especially this season, but I don’t want to stop, because I did this mistake already one time and I don’t want to repeat it,” Kasatkina said afterwards. “I’m still hungry for the wins.”

San Jose was the first tournament the 25-year-old has played since opening up about her personal life. During an interview with vlogger Vitya Kravchenko, Kasatkina came out as gay and revealed that she is in a relationship with former ice skater Natalia Zabiiako. Zabiiako was also present at the tournament cheering Kasatkina on from the sidelines. During the same interview, she also spoke out against the Russian war in Ukraine.

Kasatkina’s decision to speak out about two sensitive topics prompted a big reaction both in her native Russia and elsewhere. The country currently has a ‘gay propaganda’ law which prohibits the promotion of ‘non-traditional’ relationships to minors. Furthermore, it is an offence in the country to label the conflict in Ukraine as a war, instead, officials refer to it as a ‘special operation.’

“For sure there was a negative part and positive part,” Kasatkina said of the reaction to her interview,“ and I was able to focus just on the positive parts and get the energy. I was just focused on playing tennis this week. I don’t have much time for bulls—t, like the internet, the comments and everything. You have to think of the job first. You have to be focused on what is the most important and the other things that happen after.”

Kasatkina said she has received support from her fellow peers on the Tour, including runner-up Rogers who was playing in her first Tour final for six years.

“It’s really brave of her and a lot of people are really proud of her,” Rogers said. “She always has a smile on her face and is just a joy to be around. So, she’s handling it really well. She’s a strong girl.”

As a result of her triumph in San Jose, Kasatkina has re-entered the world’s top 10 this week in ninth position.

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Canada Daily Preview: The Williams Sisters Return to Action, Plus Andy Murray Faces Taylor Fritz

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Serena Williams this past week in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

The Canadian Open is a unique ATP Masters/WTA 1000 combined event on the tennis calendar, as the men and women alternate between two different cities each year.  In 2022, the WTA tournament is in Toronto, while the ATP tournament is in Montreal.

 

The WTA singles draw is loaded, featuring 26 of the top 27 players in the world.  It includes world No.1 Iga Swiatek, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, defending champion Camila Giorgi, Naomi Osaka, Venus and Serena Williams, and Canada’s own Leylah Fernandez and Bianca Andreescu

“The Big Three” are absent in Montreal, but plenty of top names are present.  They include world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and Canadians Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov

Monday’s WTA schedule in Toronto is tremendous, boasting 39 Major singles titles (Serena, Venus, Halep, Kvitova, Ostapenko, Stephens, Kenin, Krejcikova, Rybakina), plus Leylah Fernandez.  Montreal’s Order of Play includes Stan Wawrinka and Denis Shapovalov, plus a blockbuster first round encounter between Andy Murray and Taylor Fritz.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto, and 12:00pm in Montreal.  But with thunderstorms forecast throughout the day in both cities, it could be a challenging day for fans and players alike.


Nuria Parrizas Diaz (Q) vs. Serena Williams (SR) – Second on Centre Court

It is quite odd to see both Venus and Serena Williams unranked, yet neither currently possesses a ranking over a year since their last singles victories.  Serena’s three-set, over three-hour loss in the first round of Wimbledon was her first match in a full year.  Obviously eager for match play three weeks ahead of the US Open, she’s looking for her first win since last year’s Roland Garros.  Her opponent is a 31-year-old from Spain who reached a career-high ranking of No.45 this season.  Diaz won 51 matches at all levels in 2021, and reached the third round of this year’s Australian Open.  While she’s certainly not a pushover, this a rather kind first round draw for Serena in a WTA 1000 tournament.  It should serve as a good indication of Serena’s current level a month after her Wimbledon loss to Harmony Tan.


Andy Murray (WC) vs. Taylor Fritz (10) – Not Before 2:00pm on Court Central

This is a first-time meeting between the three-time Slam champion and this year’s victor in Indian Wells.  It’s been a dramatic year for Fritz, as that Masters 1000 title was the biggest of his career.  But after defeating an injured Rafael Nadal in that final, Nadal would avenge that loss in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, where Taylor lost a heartbreaker in a fifth-set tiebreak.  And this past week in Washington, Fritz retired down 4-1 in the third set to Dan Evans, as he was suffering in the extreme heat.  Murray also experienced disappointing losses at those same two events.  At Wimbledon, he was defeated in four sets by John Isner, a player he was previously 8-0 against.  And in Washington, Andy lost a three-hour battle to Mikael Ymer.  Currently ranked 50th in the world, Murray would love to improve his ranking and earn a victory over a top 15 player.  But Fritz is the much more in-form player, with 31 wins in 2022, and is the favorite to prevail.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Elena Rybakina vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – The freshly-crowned Wimbledon champion is 0-1 since that life-changing feat, losing to Daria Kasatkina last week in San Jose.  Bouzkova also had her best Slam run at last month’s Wimbledon, when she reached the quarterfinals.  Rybakina leads their head-to-head 2-0.

Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Emil Ruusuvuori – Wawrinka is just 3-6 since returning from two left foot surgeries.  Ruusuvuori earned impressive victories this past week in Washington over Mackie McDonald and Hubi Hurkacz.

Barbora Krejcikova vs. Karolina Pliskova (14) – Krejcikova has been struggling in singles since returning from an arm injury at Roland Garros, but earned her fifth Major title in doubles at Wimbledon.  Similarly, Pliskova is only 10-12 this season after suffering a hand injury in December.  Yet Pliskova is 3-0 against Krejcikova.

Sloane Stephens vs. Sofia Kenin – This is a battle of Major champions, though neither of them arrive in strong form.  Despite a quarterfinal run in Paris, Stephens has a losing record on the year.  And Kenin is on a seven-match losing streak, as an injury forced her to miss much of this season. 

Denis Shapovalov vs. Alex de Minaur – Shapovalov is on a terrible streak of his own, having lost eight of his last nine matches.  De Minaur is coming off a title run in Atlanta last month.  And the Australian has claimed both of their previous meetings at tour level.

Storm Sanders (Q) vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – This will be Leylah’s first match since a stress fracture left her foot immobilized in a boot for weeks following the French Open.  Sanders is an accomplished doubles player who is ranked 279th in the world in singles. 

Jil Teichmann vs. Venus Williams (WC) – After returning to competition in mixed doubles at Wimbledon, this is Venus’ first time playing singles since last August.  That’s the same month Teichmann was a surprise finalist in Cincinnati.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Iga Swiatek Downplays Recent Winning Streak Ahead Of North American Swing

The world No.1 is refusing to get ahead of herself going into the US Open.

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Iga Swiatek - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Iga Swiatek says her focus is on the present and not the past as she makes her final preparations ahead of the North American hardcourt swing. 

 

The two-time French Open champion dominated the women’s Tour earlier this season with a remarkable 37-match winning streak that saw her win six titles in a row. Becoming the first woman to record that many consecutive wins since Martina Hingis did so back in 1997. In total, she was unbeaten for 135 days during a period where she topped the world ranking for the first time following Ash Barty’s retirement from the sport. 

However, in recent weeks things haven’t gone entirely smoothly for the Pole who was knocked out in the third round at Wimbledon by Alize Cornet. Then on home territory at the Warsaw Open, she fell in the quarter-finals to Caroline Garcia who went on to claim the title. 

Swiatek will be hoping to regain some momentum at the National Bank Open in Toronto which will get underway on Monday. It will be only her second appearance at the tournament and her first since 2019 when as a qualifier she stunned Caroline Wozniacki before falling to Naomi Osaka.  

“I know there are many players who did even more, but I’m pretty proud of what I did in the first part of the season,” Swiatek told reporters on Saturday. “I hope this gives me some freedom to play freely because I don’t have to prove anything. On the other hand, it can also pressure me, so I’m just trying not to think about what happened but prepare for what’s coming.”

Despite her recent blips on the Tour, Swiatek will be the favourite to triumph in Toronto. She has won every WTA 1000 tournament which has taken place so far this year. In total she has played 51 matches in 2022, winning 46 of them. 

Despite the success, the 21-year-old is keen to improve her game even further. She is currentl;y coached by Tomasz Wiktorowski who has previously worked with Agnieszka Radwanska. 

“I just hope I’m not going to be only focused on winning, winning, winning because I want to also improve some stuff in my game,” Swiatek explains. “We had time to practice a little bit more after Roland Garros and after Wimbledon. So I hope that I’ll implement those things.”

In her draw, Swiatek will face either Shelby Rogers or Veronika Kudermetova in her opening match. Rogers is currently playing at the Silicon Valley Classic and has reached the final. Then she could play Leylah Fernandez in the next round. Also in her section of the draw are Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Mugurza. All of which are potential quarter-final opponents. 

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