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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Serena Williams Confident In Bid For Grand Slam History Claims Patrick Mouratoglou

Patrick Mouratoglou says that Serena Williams is confident of another grand slam victory despite recent setbacks.

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Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou (@BBCSport - Twitter)

Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that the American is confident in her bid for more grand slam history. 

 

Despite the American not winning a set in her last four grand slam finals, Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that she is still confident in winning another grand slam again.

Serena’s last grand slam win was at the Australian Open in 2017 before taking a break from the sport to become a mother.

Although it has been a struggle, Mouratoglou believes time is on the 37 year old’s side, “I think time is working for her,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports.

“I think she was much better at the US Open than she was at Wimbledon and Wimbledon better than Roland Garros. 

“She is getting back in shape and the more in shape she will be the more dangerous she will be. I think she has started to play really good tennis.”

Losses to Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have exposed Serena’s lack of confidence and how nervous she is in the grand slam finals.

However Mouratoglou believes that Serena’s historic moment will come sooner rather than later, “It is one match for history and the pressure is quite high,” he said.

“I am not in her mind but I can figure she is playing one match for history. This is the highest pressure anyone can have in life and on the other side of the court she plays girls who have zero pressure because it is their first final.

“They are going to play many [Grand Slams], they are young, they are excited, enthusiastic so they play without pressure and that makes a big difference. But at some point she will figure out how to deal with that.”

Serena’s next tournament is scheduled to be the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in late October, should she qualify although there is a good possibility that we won’t be seeing on a tennis court until next year.

Will 2020 be the year that Serena finally figures out how to deal with the pressure of creating more history for herself? Only time will tell.

 

 

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat Italian Next Gen star Jannick Sinner in St. Petersburg

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat 18-year-old Italian Next Gen rising star Jannick Sinner 6-3 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 40 minutes. Kukushkin fended off nine of the eleven break points he faced.

 

Sinner, who turned 18 last month and received a wild-card to take part at the next November’s ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, did not convert three break points in the first game, but Kukushkin saved them to hold his first game.

Kukushkin, who won his only title in St.Petersburg in 2010, was the first to break serve in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Sinner earned three break points but Kukushkin fended them off. Sinner saved a break point in the eighth game but Kukushkin served out the opening set on his first set point.

Kukushkin went up a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead, Sinner converted his second break-back point to draw level to 2-2. Kukushkin got a break lead for the second time but Sinner rallied from the break down for the second time to draw level to 4-4. Sinner earned set point at 5-4 to force a decider, but Kukushkin saved it to draw level to 5-5. Kukushkin got a mini-break in the tie-break to win the tie-break 7-4.

Adrian Mannarino, who won his first ATP Tour title in s’Hertogenbosch, beat Stefano Travaglia 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 19 minutes. Travaglia held his first two service games at love and broke serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Mannarino converted his first break-back point for 3-4. Both players held their serve to draw level to 5-5. Travaglia saved a break point, but he made two double faults to drop his serve in the 11th game for 5-6. Mannarino served out the first set on his first point.

Travaglia saved a break point at the start of the second set, but Mannarino converted his second chance.

Travaglia earned two break-back points in the second game but did Mannarino saved them to open up a 2-0 lead. Mannarino went up a 3-0 lead. The Frenchman saved a break point in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead and sealed the win on his first match point.

 

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Despite New WTA Guidelines, Could Kim Clijsters’ Return Be Marred By Aberration?

Kim Clijsters will not have any restriction in the number of wildcards she receives. But she also deserves more in her upcoming third stint on the Tour

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Kim Clijsters, 2010 US Open, US Open
Photo Credit: WTA Tennis/Getty

By the time, Kim Clijsters makes her return to professional tennis in 2020, around eight years will have passed since her second retirement from the WTA Tour. In this near-about octet of years, there have been several changes on the Tour, especially for those women attempting a return post maternity. But where does the 36-year-old stand amid these alterations?

 

The Belgian was one of the earlier trendsetters – of this decade – to resume her professional activity after becoming a mother for the first time. In 2009, when she returned during the American hard-court summer, the subject never gained as much traction as it did when Williams returned to the game, in 2018 after her pregnancy hiatus in 2017.

Clijsters’ win at the US Open that year – the first for an unseeded player – stifled the mushrooming of any possible avenues of such ranking tweaks back then. Over the next couple of years, as Clijsters ascended in the rankings boosted by her performances, including re-attaining her career-high of no. 1, the topic became moot.

Now, after all these years, in spite of the WTA bringing in modifications to its rules – by way of provision of special ranking to women re-joining the Tour after motherhood, among other factors – Clijsters’ continues to remain an outlying scenario. The obvious reason for this is the lapsing of time of the four-time Major champion’s returning to pro tennis. According to the new rules, a player who is out of the Tour on account of pregnancy must make a comeback within three years after her child’s birth, at most.

Her previous successes and titles ensure Clijsters will never lack for wildcards from tournaments, as per the WTA regulations. However, the question stemming here is should an exception be made for the former world no. 1 vis-à-vis the special ranking while overlooking the passing of years?

When announcing her imminent return to the Pro Tour on the WTA Insider podcast, Clijsters mentioned about challenging herself. “I don’t feel like I want to prove something. I think for me it’s the challenge…,” she said.

“The love for the sport is obviously still there. But the question still is, am I capable of bringing it to a level where I would like it to be at and where I want it to be at before I want to play at a high level of one of the best women’s sports in the world. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything, but I want to challenge myself and I want to be strong again. This is my marathon. This is where I’m saying, ‘OK, let’s try this’.”

Clijsters’ path to trying this while taking it on as a challenge need not come at a cost of her being immediately pushed off the deep end in terms of encountering a higher-seeded opponent. The present state of the WTA would make it for an interesting match-up – whenever it happens – but it would also be akin to defeating the purpose underlining her return, regardless of how confident the 2011 Australian Open champion is with her timing.

The norms, too, could be nudged into further relooking easing them towards a player’s preference in ascertaining her post-childbirth return instead of clubbing them, at large. After all, as significant as Williams’ laurels were to usher in changes, Clijsters’ stunner yet again proves the variety that exists in women’s decision-making.

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