ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Will Alexander Zverev Deny Novak Djokovic The Title? - UBITENNIS
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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Will Alexander Zverev Deny Novak Djokovic The Title?

Novak Djokovic plays for his record-tying sixth championship at the ATP Finals, but a 21-year-old phenom stands in his way.

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Six months ago, Novak Djokovic even qualifying for the ATP Finals seemed nearly unfathomable.  In mid-May, he arrived in Rome with a 6-6 record on the year, having not won a Major in two years.  But in the second half of 2018, Djokovic has played some of the best tennis of his career, especially this week in London.  Since Wimbledon, he’s 35-2, with two Majors and two Masters 1,000 titles. He comes into this final having not dropped a set this week, and as per Ravi Ubha on Twitter, is vying to become the first man to win this event without losing a set since Ivan Lendl in 1986.  Regardless of the result today, Djokovic will end the year as world No.1 for the fifth time. A win today would give him an over 2,000-point lead over world No.2, Rafael Nadal, heading into 2019.

 

His opponent on Sunday is playing for the biggest title of his career.  Sascha Zverev has won nine titles in his young career, including three Masters 1,000 events.  Zverev though is yet to get to the latter stages of a Major, with only one Major quarterfinal appearance, and an ordinary 22-14 record at Grand Slam events.  A win today would be a significant next step in his career advancement. Unlike Djokovic, he’s not played his best in the past few months. Sascha’s last title came in July, and this is his first final since that time.  He advanced out of the round robin stage this week despite some instances of lackluster play, but really upped his game to take out Roger Federer in Saturday’s semifinals. He’ll need to raise his level even higher to stay with Novak on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic vs. Sascha Zverev


These two met just four days ago in round-robin play, a match which Djokovic won comfortably, dropping just five games.  Novak has all won all his matches this week without being threatened, dominating all comers. The best returner in the world is yet to have his serve broken in this tournament.  As highlighted by Enrico Maria Riva on Twitter, Djokovic has lost only 19 points this week on his first serve. And in even more terrifying news for Zverev fans, Novak has lost only 13 points on his second serve, and five of those were double faults.  If Djokovic continues to serve like that on Sunday, it’s hard to imagine Zverev having a chance.

Sascha himself served extremely well on Saturday against Federer, winning 88% of first serve points, and 64% of second serve points.  And he was really ripping his groundstrokes, moving Roger back in the court. Utilizing his power will be crucial for Zverev against Djokovic, as will getting off to a strong start.  After dropping the first set to Novak four night ago, it appeared at times he was not giving his best effort in the second. I’m confident Sascha will not do the same in the biggest final of his career today, but a victory over Djokovic when Novak is playing like this is an extremely tall order.  In a week where only one of fourteen singles matches have gone to three sets, let’s hope Zverev can at least make this an interesting and prolonged final. However, a Zverev win on Sunday would be quite a shock. Djokovic will be a heavy favorite to tie Federer with his sixth ATP Finals trophy.

 

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Frances Tiafoe Translates Performance Into Results In Cincinnati Opener

Frances Tiafoe is hoping performances translate into results as he reaches the second round in Cincinnati.

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Frances Tiafoe (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

After producing gutsy performances in close defeats, Frances Tiafoe finally translated that into victory with a 7-6(3) 4-6 7-6(5) win over Matteo Berrettini in Cincinnati.

 

The American is one of the most unique players on the tour with his potential clear to see but isn’t always known for deep tournament results.

Tiafoe’s big serve, dangerous groundstrokes and charismatic personality makes him one of the most enjoyable players to watch on tour but that doesn’t get you wins on the tour which the American has found out the hard way.

In recent years though Tiafoe has slowly been improving results and earning some big wins but has often lacked consistency in wins despite performing to his best level.

However that might be about to change as Tiafoe earned a gutsy and huge win over Matteo Berrettini in his Cincinnati opener as he came through a last set tiebreak against the Italian.

The victory may be a surprise to some but for the American it’s been coming as his recent performances have shown, “People don’t understand, obviously results haven’t really shown how well I’ve been playing. I’ve been playing some great tennis, honestly,” Tiafoe told the ATP website.

“I really just needed this. I know it’s a first-round match…. But everyone knew why I needed this against a quality player, so it was big. I know I’ve beaten a lot of these guys, but it hasn’t happened of late. So it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get over the hump. But I’m happy I get another chance to play again.”

Tiafoe will be hoping consistency can be part of his game as the end of the season approaches and there would be nothing better for the American than to make a deep run at his home grand slam at the US Open.

Next for Tiafoe will be fellow American Sebastian Korda, who he has a 3-0 head-to-head record against before potentially facing John Isner or Hubert Hurkacz in the third round.

Tiafoe’s 2022 Season So Far:

Adelaide 1: R2 (l. Kokkinakis)

Adelaide 2: R1 (l. Paul)

Australian Open: R2 (l. Fritz)

Indian Wells: R3 (l. Rublev)

Miami: R4 (l. Francisco Cerundolo)

Houston: Quarter-Finals (l. Isner)

Barcelona: R3 (l. Auger-Aliassime)

Estoril: Final (l. Baez)

Madrid: R1 (l. Garin)

Rome: R1 (l. Krajinovic)

Roland Garros: R2 (l. Goffin)

Queen’s Club: R1 (l. Wawrinka)

Eastbourne: R1 (l. Bublik)

Wimbledon: R4 (l. Goffin)

Atlanta: Semi-Finals (l. Brooksby)

Washington: Quarter-Finals (l. Kyrgios)

Montreal: R2 (l. Fritz)

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Fan Told To Leave Match At Western And Southern Open Over Size Of Her Ukrainian Flag Speaks Out

Organisers at the tournament have also issued a statement concerning what happened and why the individual was asked to leave the court.

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Image via https://twitter.com/CincyTennis/

A woman says security at the Western and Southern Open threatened to call the police if she did not leave a qualifying match after complaints were made by a Russian player about her Ukrainian flag. 

 

Lola, who is originally from Uzbekistan but now lives in America, was seen at the tournament over the weekend using a Ukrainian flag to cover herself whilst watching a match between Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya. It is understood that one of those players, who are both Russian, made a complaint to the umpire. Prompting the official to speak directly to Lola which then resulted in a member of security getting involved.  

During an interview with Local 12 News, Lola has given her account of the incident that occurred. Saying the match was stopped twice due to a dispute over the issue. 

“’You’re not being nice. You need to put the flag away,’” Lola said she was told by the umpire. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.”

Russia is currently involved in a war with Ukraine after launching a military attack on the country on February 24th. A move which has prompted widespread condemnation from both the western world and the sporting world. At this year’s Wimbledon Russian players were banned from participating, as well as players from Belarus which is a country accused of supporting Russia. On both the ATP and WTA Tour’s players from both those countries are only allowed to compete as neutral athletes. 

In wake of the incident, the Western and Southern Open issued a statement saying that the size of Lola’s flag breached the tournament’s policy. Lola said she was informed about the rule 15 minutes after being asked to leave the court and was allowed back into the venue once she put her flag in the car. 

“Per the Western and Southern Open’s bag policy, as stated on the tournament’s website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 [inches] (46 x 46cm) are prohibited,” a spokesperson for the tournament said in an email to Reuters.
“Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and, after doing so, was allowed to remain at the tournament.”

The tournament declined to comment on the conduct of the umpire and said it is for the WTA to do so. 

Meanwhile, local charity Cincy4Ukraine say they have contacted a lawyer to see if Lola’s first amendment rights were violated. If there is a suggestion that this has been the case, a court hearing could take place should Lola want to take legal action. 

As for the Russian players involved, Kalinskaya beat Potapova 7-5, 6-1, to reach the main draw and will play Martina Trevisan. Potapova has also made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and will play Simona Halep. 

Kalinskaya, Potapova and The WTA have not publicly commented on the incident so far. 

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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