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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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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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