Indian Wells Day 13 Preview: The Men’s Semi-Finals - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Day 13 Preview: The Men’s Semi-Finals

It will be Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal for the 39th time in the BNP Paribas Open Semi-Finals… or will it be?

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Roger Federer (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

During his semi-final yesterday against Karen Khachanov, Rafa aggravated the knee tendinitis that has plagued his hard court tennis in recent years. He was still able to finish off the dangerous Russian, but even Nadal himself admits he won’t know how his knee will be for this match until he wakes up today. It’s entirely possible he may retire from yet another hard court tournament. Assuming he is able to play, we’re in for a rekindling of tennis’ most historic rivalry. The other men’s semi-final will feature two men who have advanced to finals at both Grand Slam and Masters 1,000 events, but are yet to win one.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Roger Federer (4)

Rafael Nadal (@BNPPARIBASOPEN – Twitter)

This will be their first match since the Shanghai Masters in October of 2018, nearly a year-and-a-half ago. Nadal holds an overall 23-15 edge in their head-to-head, but he hasn’t defeated Federer in over five years, by far the longest stretch in this rivalry without a Rafa victory since they first met 15 years ago this month. Roger has won all of their five most recent meetings, all of which have been played on hard courts. That run started at the 2015 Basel event.

It famously continued in the 2017 Australian Open final, which is really the match that turned this rivalry around.  Federer came back from down a break in the fifth to beat his toughest opponent. The bigger racquet face he changed to during an injury layoff in 2016 played a significant role. Roger went on to beat Rafa at this tournament two years ago, and then again two weeks later in the Miami final.

Their last three matches have all been straight set wins for Federer, ever since that Australian Open final. Both men have advanced to this semi-final without dropping a set, with Federer only losing his serve once in four matches. Roger has looked exceptionally sharp, and is on a 9-match win streak coming off his 100th career title in Dubai two weeks ago. Considering their recent history, the court surface, and Nadal’s knee, Federer is the favourite to reach his 9th Indian Wells final.

Dominic Thiem (7) vs. Milos Raonic (13)

Dominic Thiem (@OanaVancea – Twitter)

Both of these men should be fully rested ahead of this semi-final.  Unlike Nadal and Federer, they got a day off between their quarterfinal and semi-final matches. And Thiem got Thursday off as well when Gael Monfils withdrew from their quarterfinal. Dominic didn’t lose a set in his other three matches at this tournament, while Milos only dropped one in four matches.

Raonic is yet to face a seeded player at this event, but he’s 2-0 lifetime against Thiem. Both of those matches were on hard courts, and Milos took both in straight sets. Thiem though is a much-improved hard court player since they last met in 2016, and he’ll prefer the slower hard court in Indian Wells. However, Raonic has achieved much more previous success in the desert than Thiem. This is the first Indian Wells semi-final for Dominic, while Milos has advanced this far in all of his last four appearances. I like the big-serving Canadian’s chances to reach his second final in tennis paradise.

Other notable matches on Day 13:

Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubot (@ESPNtenis – Twitter)

In the women’s doubles final, the best team in the world, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1), vs. two top 15 singles players, Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka.

In the men’s doubles final, an established team of Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo (6) vs. a newly-formed team of Nikola Mektic and Horacio Zeballos.

 

 

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Novak Djokovic Equals Laver’s Grass-Court Winning Streak With Emphatic Wimbledon Win

The world No.3 was in ruthless form as he dropped only seven game in his latest match at The All England Club.

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Novak Djokovic (SRB)- Credit: AELTC/Ian Walton

Novak Djokovic has breezed into the fourth round of Wimbledon after dismissing fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets.

 

The reigning champion was in top form from the onset as he stormed to a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4, win in under two hours. It is the third time in a row he has beaten Kecmanovic on the Tour and the first on grass. In what was a largely clinical display from the former world No.1, Djokovic hit 36 winners and six aces.

“I thought it started off very well, very strong with a lot of good intensity. Good focus,” said Djokovic. “I know Miomir quite well, we train together a lot. I’m really glad that he, alongside a couple of other (Serbian) players is doing well. I wish him all the best. Hopefully, I will get to play against him many more times on the biggest courts.

In only the third all-Serbian men’s match in the Open Era at Wimbledon, Djokovic got off to a perfect start by steamrolling his way through the opener in just 25 minutes. Dropping just six points on his serve and 12 overall in the set. It is the first time he has bagel a player at Wimbledon since doing so against David Goffin in 2019.

Fortunately for Kecmanovic and the Center Court crowd, the second frame was much more competitive with the world No.30 producing glimmers of the tennis that has taken him to two Masters 1000 quarter-finals earlier this year. Three times in two separate games Djokovic had a break point chance but failed to convert.

Continuing to wear down his compatriot, the top seed eventually secured a breakthrough whilst leading 4-3. Playing behind the baseline he slipped on the grass during a rally whilst having another break point chance but this time Kecmanovic hit the ball out to hand him the advantage. Djokovic went on to close out the set with a backhand lob. 

The only blip in the match for Djokovic occurred when he was trying to close the match out. After easing his way to a double break advantage in the third set, he dropped serve for the first time. However, he prevailed on his second chance to serve the match out to seal his 330th Grand Slam main draw win. 

“It means that I have been playing for quite a few years which I’m very grateful for and I’m very blessed to be in this position to compete at the highest level,” Djokovic replied when asked about winning tally ay major events.
“I’m very proud of my consistency at this level.”

Friday’s win is Djokovic’s 24th in a row on the grass which puts him level with tennis great Rod Laver on the all-time list. Only Bjorn Borg (41) and Roger Federer (65) have ever won more matches on the surface. It is the 55th time in his career he has reached the last 16 of a major tournament. 

So far in this year’s draw, he has only dropped one set in three matches played. That was in the first round against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo.

“I think I’ve been playing better and better as the tournament progresses. It is something you wish for as a player that you raise your level of tennis up a notch,” he said.
“I know I can always do better. I always expect the highest from myself but so far, so good. I look forward to the next challenge.”

Djokovic will play Dutch sensation Tim van Rijthoven in the fourth round.

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Djokovic, Kerber, Alcaraz Face Seeded Opposition

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A shot of a double rainbow over the grounds on Thursday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Third round singles action begins on Friday, which is the first day seeded players clash in the draw.  Novak Djokovic, Angelique Kerber, and Carlos Alcaraz will all face seeded opposition on Friday.  And in perhaps the day’s most marquee matchup, Italy’s Jannik Sinner takes on John Isner, who eliminated Andy Murray on Wednesday.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Friday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Ons Jabeur (3) vs. Diane Parry – 1:30pm on Centre Court

Jabeur is now on a seven-match win streak, dating back to her title run two weeks ago in Berlin.  She has earned two comprehensive victories this week, dropping just four games in each of her first two rounds.  Parry is a 19-year-old who also nabbed her first two matches in straight sets.  And just a few weeks ago, Diane also reached the third round of her home Slam in Paris, where she upset Barbora Krejcikova in the defending champion’s return from an injury layoff.  There is plenty of promise in Parry’s game, but upsetting the new world No.2, whose style of play is a great fit for grass courts, would be a shocking result.


Angelique Kerber (15) vs. Elise Mertens (24) – Second on No.1 Court

Kerber got off to a terrible start this season, with a record of 2-8.  Surprisingly, Angie found her form on her worst surface, with a clay title run in Strasbourg.  Since last year, the 2018 champion is 15-3 on grass, and has not lost a set this week.  Mertens is now into her 18th consecutive third round at a Major, though just barely.  She needed to save two match points in the second set on Wednesday, before coming back to play an extended third set on Thursday, to eventually prevail 7-5 in the third.  Elise claimed their only previous encounter in three sets, which occurred three years ago in Doha.  But on grass, Kerber should be considered the favorite.  Angie thrives off the low bounces these lawns provide.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic (25) – Second on Centre Court

After Djokovic was prevented from playing the Australian Open in January, it’s Kecmanovic who benefited from taking the top seed’s place in the draw.  Miomir took full advantage, reaching the second week of a Major for the first time.  And he has continued that momentum throughout the year, accumulating 27 match wins through six months.  But he will likely be outmatched by his fellow Serbian on Friday.  Djokovic is on a 23-match win streak at Wimbledon, and after some subpar form in his opening round, he comfortably dispatched of Thanasi Kokkinakis on Wednesday.  Novak has claimed both his previous encounters with Kecmanovic, making him a clear favorite to reach the round of 16 at The Championships for the 14th time.


Jannik Sinner (10) vs. John Isner (20) – Third on No.2 Court

Isner demoralized the British audience on Wednesday by earning his first victory over two-time champion Andy Murray in nine tries.  John’s serving was extra impressive in that match, striking 36 aces across four sets.  But the rest of his game was highly effective as well, with 82 winners and only 32 unforced errors.  And as Ben Rothenberg highlighted on Twitter, he broke Murray twice after only breaking him once across their previous eight matches.  Meanwhile, Sinner came into this event 0-4 in main draw matches on grass, yet gained two four-set wins this week over Stan Wawrinka and Mikael Ymer.  Jannik and John’s head-to-head is tied at 1-1, with Isner prevailing last year in Cincinnati, and Sinner prevailing later in the year in Davis Cup.  As monstrous as Isner’s serve can be, maintaining his high level from Wednesday in all aspects of his game will be challenging.  I give the slight edge to the more well-rounded game of Sinner, whose penetrating groundstrokes should earn him a few breaks of serve.


Carlos Alcaraz (5) vs. Oscar Otte (32) – Third on No.1 Court

Despite only playing two grass court matches in his career prior to this fortnight, Alcaraz appears pretty comfortable on this surface.  After surviving a tight five-setter in the first round against Jan-Lennard Struff, Carlitos prevailed in straights in the last round.  But his opposition on Friday is quite a formidable grass court player.  Otte is a 28-year-old who, as a qualifier, pushed Andy Murray to five sets at this event one year ago.  And Oscar is now 7-2 on grass this season, coming off back-to-back semifinals in Stuttgart and Halle.  He also reached the second week of last summer’s US Open, and is now ranked inside the top 40.  Yet based on what we’ve seen Alcaraz achieve this season, building a record of 34-4 with four titles, the 19-year-old’s mix of power, speed, and finesse should be enough to overcame the veteran from Germany.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Frances Tiafoe (23) vs. Alexander Bublik – These are two of the sport’s most entertaining players to watch.  And both are in strong form, each winning all six sets they’ve contested this week.  They played just last week in Eastbourne, with Bublik victorious in three sets. 

Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs. Irina-Camelia Begu – Ostapenko has twice reached the quarters or better at this event, and was the runner-up a week ago in Eastbourne.  Begu is a 32-year-old who reached the second week of Roland Garros a few weeks ago.  And Begu took their only prior matchup, four years ago in Madrid on clay.

Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Tatjana Maria – Sakkari has easily advanced to this stage, and is vying for her fourth appearance in the round of 16 out of the last six Slams.  Tatjana is a 34-year-old who upset Sorana Cirstea in the last round.  In the first round of this year’s Australian Open, Sakkari defeated Maria in straights.


Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Rafael Nadal Gives His Verdict On Three WTA Stars After Reaching Wimbledon Third Round

The Spaniard was very complimentary when it came to talking about three of the biggest names in women’s tennis at present.

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Spain’s Rafael Nadal describes Iga Swiatek’s run of 37 consecutive wins as ‘amazing’ and he is also impressed by two younger stars in the women’s game.

The world No.4 spoke about the trio of WTA players following his roller-coaster 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, win over Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis. A match where he admits he didn’t ‘have the best start.’ In the fourth set Nadal had to endure a 50-minute rain delay before returning and sealing his place in the last 32 at The All England Club for the 11th time in his career.

“The fourth set has been the level of tennis for me, an important improvement. The rest of the things I have room to improve.” He commented.

Nadal’s triumph occurred on the same day as Swiatek also booked herself a place in the third round. Like the Spaniard, she also endured a roller-coaster match. The Pole has won six titles in a row and is only the second woman since 1990 to reach straight 37 wins after Martina Hingis. She has managed to win a set 6-0 17 times already this year. In total she has won 43 matches in 2022 which is 11 more than any other player on the WTA Tour (as of today).

The dominance of the 20-year-old hasn’t gone unnoticed by Nadal who more than a decade ago in 2008 was on a 32-match winning run before losing to the formidable Novak Djokovic.

I texted her a couple of times because it’s unbelievable the way that she’s playing. It’s unbelievable the way that she’s able to hold her concentration and the winning spirit for such a long time.” Nadal said of Swiatek.
“I think when she’s playing well, it’s very difficult to stop her because her shots are a little bit different, with a lot of power. She’s able to move well. I think she has shots that are very difficult to stop for the rest of the girls.”

 

Swiatek’s game style is one that has been heavily influenced by the 22-time Grand Slam winner who she has named as one of her idols. During an interview with Eurosport France earlier this year she said ‘I wanted to play topspin like him (Nadal). He is the reason why I play like this. Rafa has always been my idol.”

Another player who Nadal spoke highly of was Emma Raducanu who he describes as a ‘very important character’ to the sport. The Brit burst onto the scene last year by winning the US Open after coming through three rounds of qualifying. However, since then Raducanu is yet to make another Tour final and crashed out in the second round at Wimbledon on Wednesday to Caroline Garcia.

“I think she’s a very important character for our sport,” he said. “I know she’s having a tough year, but on the other hand she already won a slam at a very early stage of her career. That gives her I think calm to take her time to keep improving and to keep having chances in the near future. I really hope that she will.”

The maturity of Coco Gauff has also been hailed by Nadal. Despite being only 18 she has reached the final of the French Open this year and has been ranked as high as fifth in the world. This year’s Wimbledon is already her 11th main draw appearance in a major.

I like the way that she talks to the crowd, to the press at the end of the matches. She’s fresh. She’s natural. Looks very mature in her thoughts,” said Nadal.
“I like the way that she plays. She fights for every ball. Even sometimes when she’s not playing that well, she keeps fighting till the end, running for every ball.’
“If she’s able just to improve a little bit with this physical performance that she has, we will probably be talking about a multi-Grand Slam winner.”

Nadal will play Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego in his third round match at Wimbledon. 

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