Indian Wells Day 12 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Day 12 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day

The women’s finalists will be decided today, and we’re also just one round away from a possible Federer/Nadal semifinal.

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Rafael Nadal (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Roger and Rafa both have to win today against tough 22-year-old opponents. Federer will face Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, who has already upset three seeded players during this tournament. Nadal will square off with Russia’s Karen Khachanov, who already won a Masters 1000 title last November in Bercy. And how about a day schedule that includes not only Roger and Rafa, but also Novak Djokovic? He’s in the doubles semifinals with Fabio Fognini, facing the established team of Lukasz Kubot and Mercelo Melo.

As the men’s semifinalists are solidified on Friday, both women’s semifinal matches will be decided. And in both, proven WTA commodities will be challenged by red-hot youngsters: yet another 22-year-old, and an 18-year-old Canadian. Belinda Bencic and Bianca Andreescu have been racking up wins this year by blasting winners past their opponents. But Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina are two of the tour’s best defenders, and will not give up their spots in the final without a fight.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Karen Khachanov (12)

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Nadal is 5-0 lifetime against Khachanov, with all those matches taking place within the past two years. But the last time they met, it was a thriller. In the US Open third round just six months ago, Rafa needed four sets, as well as four hours and 23 minutes, to get through this big-hitting opposition. Now they’ll play again on US soil, and Khachanov will only need to win two sets to be victorious today, a more feasible task against Nadal. Since winning the biggest title of his career at the Paris Indoors four months ago, Karen really struggled, with a 4-5 record coming into this tournament. He lost in his opening round of all three tournaments he played in February. But Khachanov has built momentum over the past week in Indian Wells, a run highlighted by a straight set win over John Isner, the eighth seed. Nadal meanwhile has rebounded nicely at this tournament, coming off disappointing losses at the Australian to Novak Djokovic and in Acapulco to Nick Kyrgios. Rafa is fully comfortable playing in Indian Wells, even citing this as his favorite tournament of the year. He enjoys being outside of a big city, and is a guest at the home of the tournament owner, Larry Ellison. While I hope this match is even half as good as the last time they met on US soil, Nadal is a strong favorite to advance to a likely 39th meeting with Federer.

Angelique Kerber (8) vs. Belinda Bencic (23)

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Belinda Bencic is back. After suffering from multiple injuries over the past few seasons, the 22-year-old is on fire in 2019. She started the year by teaming with Roger Federer to defend their Hopman Cup title. And now she’s on a 12-match winning streak, having won the Premier 5 event in Dubai just a few weeks ago. In that one week, she secured four top 10 wins, over Sabalenka, Halep, Svitolina, and Kvitova. All four of those matches were three-set wins, two of which went to a third set tiebreak. And in another three-setter just yesterday, Bencic outlasted Karolina Pliskova in a great display of ball striking from both sides of the net. And surprisingly, Bencic has won three of four matches played against Kerber. Two of those wins were on US hard courts, in New York and Cincinnati. Kerber did win their last meeting, but that was on grass at Wimbledon last year. Bencic is much better on hard courts than grass, and is playing at an elite level again now. Can her aggressive returns and pinpoint groundstrokes remain consistent against the defensive skills of Kerber? Based on what we’ve seen of late, I say yes, especially if this goes three sets. And we may just see her play against a rising star even younger than her in the final.

Other notable matches on Day 12

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  • Elina Svitolina (6), who has already survived back-to-back dramatic three setters to reach this semifinal, vs. Wild Card Bianca Andreescu, who just destroyed Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals
  • Roger Federer (4) vs. Hubert Hurkacz, in their first career meeting
  • Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo (6) vs. Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini

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Simona Halep Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of Miami Open Bid

The world No.3 says she hopes to form a good ‘connection’ with her new mentor.

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Simona Halep (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Former world No.1 Simona Halep has confirmed that a familiar face has returned to her team.

Speaking with reporters at the Miami Open on Wednesday, the French Open champion has appointed compatriot Daniel Dobre as her head coach. Dobre had previously worked with her during 2015 and beyond alongside Darren Cahill. He is also a former mentor of Alexandra Dulgheru.

“I have a Romanian coach, someone I’ve worked with before, even during my time with Darren,” Halep said during the WTA Access Hour at the Miami Open on Wednesday. “His name is Daniel Dobre. We worked before Darren as well, so he knows me pretty well, and I feel happy with this decision.”

Halep has been on the search for a coach since the ending of her highly successful collaboration with Darren Cahill in November. Cahill, who is a former top 15 doubles player himself, called it quits due to family reasons. Since then, the 27-year-old had a brief stint with Thierry Van Cleemput. However, that partnership was short-lived.

“So we tried for one week and it’s finished,” Halep told WTA Insider last month. “We decided to stop because we are not a good fit together. He’s a good person, a very nice person, but on court the chemistry is not there.”
“We couldn’t fit each other tennis-wise. Personally, he is a very nice person. We are friends.”

Currently ranked third in the WTA rankings, Halep enters this week’s Miami Open with a win-loss record of 12-5 so far this season. Reaching the final of the Doha Open last month. More recently she suffered a shock loss in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells to Marketa Vondrousova.

Chasing after her first title since the Canadian Open last August, the Romanian has said she hopes for form a good ‘connection’ with Dobre.

“I trust him, and we had a good collaboration in the past,” Halep explained. “The most important thing is that I feel good with him. We have a good connection, and it makes things easier.”
“I need to feel a connection, inspiration. You always want a coach with the best technique, but after 20 years of playing tennis, you can’t change much technically or tactically. For me, the most important thing is connection.” She added.

Halep, who is seeded second in Miami, will play either Taylor Townsend or Johanna Larsson in her opening match.

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For Naomi Osaka, Her Five-Way Battle To Stay At No.1 Continues In Miami

Five players and one position – here are the different scenarios Osaka and her rivals are facing in Miami.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Once again, there is more than a hefty amount of prize money at stake for Naomi Osaka as she enters the Miami Open.

The two-time grand slam champion is targeting a strong run at the Hard Rock Stadium in order to maintain her place as the top ranked player on the WTA Tour. Osaka became Asia’s first ever No.1 on January 28th following her Australian Open triumph. However, since then she has failed to reach the quarter-finals at two consecutive tournaments. Losing in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships to Kristina Mladenovic, and in the fourth round of Indian Wells to Belinda Bencic.

“Miami is a tournament that I grew up watching. Since I live in South Florida, I literally went to the venue and watched all the pros, and I always wanted to be like them. I’m fortunate enough to be in this situation now.” Osaka said after her loss to Bencic.

A total of five players have a shot of becoming world No.1 by the time the tournament ends. The most straightforward way for Osaka to maintain her top spot is by reaching the final in Miami. This year will be her four main draw appearance in the tournament, but she is yet to progress beyond the third round and has lost in the second round the past two years. Osaka can also remain No.1 if she reaches the quarter-finals and Simona Halep or Petra Kvitova doesn’t win the title.

Kvitova has already been agonisingly close to the top spot. Losing in the final of the Australian Open to Osaka in a match where the winner became world No.1. The Czech can claim the position by winning the tournament. If she reaches the final, she needs Osaka to lose before the fourth round.

Kvitova has already contested two finals this year, but Miami is statistically her worst performing Premier Mandatory event. Heading into this year, she has only won 50% (9/18) of matches player. She has never been further than the Quarter-final in Miami back in 2014. Although the Czech will be hoping the change of venue (Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium) will play in her favour.

Halep has achieved a win-loss of 12-5 so far this season, but she is yet to win a title. The Romanian’s chances of claiming the top spot is resting very much on how her other competitors perform. Should she reach her maiden Miami final, she would need Osaka to lose before the third round and both Kerber and Kvitova to not win the title.

Kerber has already spent a total of 34 weeks as the queen of the WTA rankings. Fresh off reaching the final in Indian Wells, which she lost to Bianca Andreescu, the German is hoping to continue her momentum. However, to dethrone Osaka she is required to win the title to have a chance. On top of that, Osaka must lose before the third round.

“Miami, it’s a new tournament completely. The conditions are completely different. Everything starts from zero.” Said Kerber.
“I’m really looking forward because for me, it’s the first time there with the new venue and everything.” She added.

Finally, Elina Svitolina is also required to win the tournament is she wants to become world No.1. Furthermore, she needs Osaka to not win a match and Kvitova to reach the final. A tough ask, but the women’s game is known for its unpredictability.

In the draw, all seeded players have a bye in the first round.

Race to No.1

R128
R64
R32
R16
QF
SF
FNL
CHAMP
player
Osaka  5966
5991
6021 6076 6171 6346 6606 6956
Kviotova  5440
5465
5495 5550 5645 5820 6080 6340
Halep 5402
5427
5457 5512 5607 5782 6042 6392
Kerber
 5110
5135
5165 5220 5315 5490 5750 6100
Svitolina
 5020
5045
5075 5130 5225 5400 5660 6010

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Five Things To Watch Out For In The Miami Open Men’s Draw

With a pay cheque of $1,354,010 at stake for the winner, here is the storylines to follow this year in Miami.

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Novak Djokovic (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

2019 marks the dawn of a new era for the 35th edition of the Miami Open.

From this year, the event will be hosted at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens after previously being held in Key Biscayne for 21 years. The venue is known best as the home to NFL team Miami Dolphins and will host the prestigious Super Bowl in 2020. Following its development into a tennis venue, a temporary 14,000 capacity premier court has been built within the stadium. There are also 27 further courts built around it.

The men’s draw for the tournament took place on Monday with plenty is interest surrounding the top names in the sport. Here are five things to following throughout the Masters 1000 tournament.

Novak’s shot at history

Novak Djokovic is the most successful player in the history of the tournament alongside Andre Agassi with six titles each. This year he will be bidding to become the most decorated male player in the history of the Miami Open with a seventh title.

The world No.1 will be keen to make up for a disappointing run in Indian Wells, where he was stunned in the third round by Philipp Kohlschreiber. Making it the first time he has failed to reach at least the quarter-finals of an event since the Canadian Open in August.

“I’m going to have Marian (Vajda), my coach, joining us in Miami.” Djokovic told reporters last week. “There is plenty of time until my first singles match there. Things to work on, without a doubt. I’m not at my highest level. I know that. But I’m slowly building, and hopefully I’ll be able to peak in Miami.”

Whilst it is expected that the Serbian will rapidly recover from his recent misfortunes, he needs to keep his guard up in the draw. Djokovic’s opening match could be against Tomas Berdych, who has he defeated in 25 out of their 28 meetings. Providing Berdych defeats the unpredictable Bernard Tomic in his opening match. Further, in the draw, the top seed could face challenges from John Millman and Roberto Bautista Agut. Although there are other threats lurking in his section, including defending champion John Isner being a possible quarter-final opponent.

Djokovic currently has a win-loss record of 42-6 in the tournament. He made his debut back in 2006.

Federer on course for Wawrinka test

After being denied the Indian Wells title by Dominic Thiem, Roger Federer aims to get back on track. He will be hoping that history will not repeat itself after getting knocked out in the second round of the tournament 12 months ago.

“Everybody’s got to get used to center court or the conditions at the new site. I’m eager to find out how it’s going to be like.” The three-time champion said about the new venue.
“I feel really good, so why shouldn’t I go into the tournament and to the event confident? But then again, we’ll see what the draw is like. We will see how I feel in six days. There is still a lot of open question marks.”

Federer’s path to the title could see him lock horns once again with Stan Wawrinka in the third round. A player he defeated in straight sets only last week. He could start against Australia’s Matthew Ebden, who plays a qualifier in his opening match.

“I’m going to Miami. The body is perfectly fine. That also always keeps me upbeat, and I feel it’s a privilege when I feel this way leaving a tournament.”

Making his debut back in 1999, Federer has won 50 main draw matches at the tournament and last won the title in 2017.

Thiem’s sunshine double bid

Fresh off winning his maiden Masters 1000 title, Dominic Thiem is aiming to continue his winning momentum. After a lacklustre start to the season due to illness, the Austrian defeated four seeded players on route to the Indian Wells title, including his third career win over Federer.

“What makes me happy that I turned pretty bad start to the season to a very good one. I’m back in the top 8 in the race. I’m 4 in the rankings, which is my best ranking. So I turned it from really bad into really good.” Said Thiem.

Thiem now has the chance of achieving the sunshine double, where a player wins both Indian Wells and Miami within the same month. The milestone is a rare occurrence in the sport. In fact, only seven men and three women has achieved it.

Thiem’s draw has ensured that he will play nobody ranked higher than 16th seed Gael Monfils until at least the quarter-final stage. Monfils is currently recovering from an Achilles injury. The 25-year-old has only made it to the quarter-finals of Miami in one out of four attempts. However, it has been reported by some that the courts at the Hard Rock venue are slower. Something that favours Thiem’s game.

The Next gen clan

20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas didn’t have a pleasant experience in his first match as a top 10 player. Losing in straight sets to Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is another rapidly rising star of the men’s game. Seeking to make up for it in Miami, Tsitsipas will be playing in a Masters 1000 main draw for only the 12th time in his career.

Seeded eighth in the draw, the Greek is hoping to reach the quarter-final of a Masters event for only the second time in his career. In order to do that, he may need to overcome either Denis Shapovalov or Marin Cilic in the third round. He could play fellow Next Gen player Ugo Humbert in his opening match if the Frenchman wins his first round match against a yet-to-be decided qualifier.

28th seed Frances Tiafoe in the youngest American player in the top 100. He faces a potentially tricky start to his campaign. Awaiting him will be either former French Open semi-finalist Ernests Gulbis or ex junior world No.1 Miomir Kecmanović. Kecmanović was a surprised quarter-finalist in Indian Wells.

List next gen players in the top 100 (w/c 18/3/2019)

Ranking
Player
Age
Playing 2019 Miami Open
57 Felix Auger-Aliassime 18 Yes
23 Denis Shapovalov 19 yes
95 Miomir Kecmanovic 19 yes
10 Stefanos Tsitsipas 20 yes
26 Alex de Minaur 20 no
63 Ugo Humbert 20 yes
98 Casper Ruud 20 yes
3 Alexander Zverev 21 yes
34 Frances Tiafoe 21 yes
56 Taylor Fritz 21 yes
58 Reilly Opelka 21 yes
61 Jaume Munar 21 yes
99 Andrey Rublev 21 yes

Crunch time for 2018 finalists

Reigning champion Isner and runner-up Alexander Zverev will be feeling the pressure in the tournament. Isner, who has won one title since his triumph in Miami 12 months ago, is defending 1000 points. Meanwhile, Zverev is defending 600.

Isner has enjoyed a solid start to 2019 be winning 10 out of 16 matches player. Reaching the semi-finals of three consecutive tournaments before losing in the third round at Indian Wells to Karen Khachanov. Nevertheless, Isner must advance to at least the semi-finals in Miami to have a chance of remaining in the world’s top 10. A position he has held since September 10th 2018.

Meanwhile, Zverev has already contested a final on the tour this season at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. However, the German has been hindered by illness recently and looked far from his best during his latest match on the tour.

This year Isner is seeded seventh and Zverev second.

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