French Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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French Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

On Wednesday in Paris, the singles players begin the second round, on a day highlighted by the names Rafa and Roger.

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Marin Cilic (photo by Gianni Ciaccia)

With both of those all-time greats being heavy favorites against relatively unknown Germans, let’s turn our attention to what look to be the more competitive matches on the schedule. Two former world No.3’s will meet, both of whom are struggling to find their form. The 2015 men’s singles champion goes up against one of 2019’s fastest-rising players. And two of France’s most popular players will face tough, seeded opposition. Another rather chilly forecast in Paris could enable some prolonged battles on Wednesday.

Marin Cilic (11) vs. Grigor Dimitrov

Both men arrived at Roland Garros with nearly as many defeats this season as wins. Since winning the Davis Cup to end 2018, Cilic has battled injury and illness. He’s yet to get past the quarterfinals at any tournament played this year, and hasn’t beaten a seeded player either. Dimitrov’s woes have been going on for much longer. Since winning the biggest title of his career at 2017’s ATP Finals, he’s won no titles, and only reached one final. Grigor recently split with his longtime coach, Dani Vallverdu, though Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek remain a part of his team. Dimitrov is barely ranked inside the top 50, and is only 8-8 lifetime at the French Open. Cilic has achieved more much success here, reaching the quarterfinals in each of the last two years. Marin won easily on Sunday, while Grigor needed five sets to put away Janko Tipsarevic after having a two-set lead. Cilic has won four of their five meetings, though they’ve all taken place on hard courts. All of this makes Cilic feel like the favorite, but when you consider how little confidence he currently possesses, a Dimitrov upset would not be shocking.

Stan Wawrinka (24) vs. Cristian Garin

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The winner between Cilic and Dimitrov will face the winner here. Wawrinka has worked his way back up to be a seeded player, but this is one of the toughest unseeded opponents he could draw in the second round. Chilean Cristian Garin, who turns 23 tomorrow, already has 20 wins on clay this season. That includes two titles (Houston, Munich) as well as being a finalist in Sao Paulo. But is Garin ready to upset the former champion on this Major stage? This is a considerable step up from the smaller events Cristian has thrived at. However, Wawrinka is not exactly brimming with confidence right now. Since March, he went just 6-6 heading into this tournament, and arrived here on a three-match losing streak. That includes an opening round loss last at his home tournament of Geneva last week. In their first career meeting, I actually give the slight edge to Garin, the player who’s done a lot more winning of late.

Kei Nishikori (7) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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Over the past 18 months, Tsonga has only played a total of 40 matches. He’s another former top five player who’s career has been derailed by injuries, something Nishikori can definitely sympathize with. Jo is currently ranked outside the top 80, though in recent months has been using wild cards and his protected ranking to gain some wins at smaller tournaments. Nishikori meanwhile did not have a strong clay court season, winning just six matches in four tournaments. Kei holds a 5-3 edge over Jo, but Tsonga won their only match on clay. That was in the quarterfinals of this tournament four years ago, a match decided in five sets. With the French fans on Court Philippe-Chatrier firmly behind him, Jo may just rise to the occasion again on this day.

Petra Martic (31) vs. Kiki Mladenovic

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Similarly, the Court Suzanne-Lenglen crowd will be loud in their support of Mladenovic. It was two years ago in Paris when Kiki made a thrilling run to the quarterfinals. But since that time, she’s struggled mightily in singles, while maintaining some strong results in doubles. She recently hired Sascha Bajin, the former coach of Naomi Osaka, and her singles results have immediately rebounded. Including qualifying rounds, Mladenovic has garnered 10 match wins over the past six weeks. Just two weeks ago in Rome, she beat three top 25 players: Ash Barty, Belinda Bencic, and Caroline Garcia. Petra though got the better of Kiki last month in the quarterfinals of Istanbul, in a clay court quarterfinal decided by a third set tiebreak. Martic went on to win that title, and has quietly become a consistent performer on tour. She has twice reached the fourth round here, as recently as 2017. But this is another case where the Parisians could play a crucial role in the match outcome. I expect Mladenovic to recapture some of the magic of two years ago and prevail.

Kiki Bertens (4) vs. Viktoria Kuzmova

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Speaking of Kikis, one of the tournament favorites will end the day’s play on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Bertens is one of three players, along with Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova, who can leave Paris as the world No.1. It was three years ago at Roland Garros when Kiki first broke through at a Major, with a surprising run to the semifinals. But at the 11 Majors since, Bertens has only once advanced out of the first week. Kiki has flourished outside of the Majors, most recently raising the trophy in Madrid, where she took out three top 10 players in as many days. She has already faced Kuzmova twice this year. The 21-year-old from Slovankia prevailed in a third set tiebreak in Dubai, with Bertens getting revenge a month later in Miami in another three-setter. Viktoria is fully capable of taking advantage if Kiki repeats her history of not playing her best at the Majors. Despite the newfound pressure of being one of the favorites, I still see Bertens finding a way through an opponent she knows very well.

Other notable matches on Day 4:

  • In a rare appearance on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, 11-Time champion Rafael Nadal (2) vs. 29-year-old Yannick Maden (Q), who just got his first-ever Grand Slam win on Monday.
    2009 champion Roger Federer (3) vs. Oscar Otte (LL), who was also winless at Majors prior to this tournament.
  • Estoril champion Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) vs. Hugo Dellien, a 25-year-old from Bolivia, and another man who just got his first Grand Slam victory.
  • Sloane Stephens (7), a finalist last year, vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo. Sloane defeated Sara in two tiebreak sets earlier this year on the clay of Charleston.
  • Rome champion Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Kristina Kucova (Q), who is ranked outside the top 200.

Order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier – 10:00 BST start

[7] Sloane Stephens v Sara Sorribes Tormo
[7] Kei Nishikori v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Oscar Otte v [3] Roger Federer
Viktoria Kuzmova v [4] Kiki Bertens

Court Suzanne-Lenglen – 10:00 BST start

Kateryna Kozlova v [9] Elina Svitolina
Yannick Maden v [2] Rafa Nadal
[31] Petra Martic v Kristina Mladenovic
Benoit Paire v Pierre-Hugues Herbert

Court Simonne-Mathieu – 10:00 BST start

[6] Stefanos Tsitsipas v Hugo Dellien
Kristina Kucova v [2] Karolina Pliskova
Grigor Dimitrov v [11] Marin Cilic
[15] Belinda Bencic v Laura Siegemund

Court 1 – 10:00 BST start

Garbiñe Muguruza [19] vs Johanna Larsson
Richard Gasquet vs Juan Ignacio Londero
[24] Stan Wawrinka vs Cristian Garin
Johanna Konta [26] vs Lauren Davis

Court 7 – 10:00 BST start

[19] Guido Pella vs Corentin Moutet
Mandy Minella vs Anastasija Sevastova [12]
Anastasia Potapova vs Marketa Vondrousova
[21] Alex de Minaur vs Pablo Carreno Busta

Court 6 – 10:00 BST start

Zhang Shuai vs Kaia Kanepi
Filip Krajinovic vs Roberto Carballes Baena
[17] Diego Schwartzman vs Leonardo Mayer
Rebecca Peterson vs Donna Vekic [23]

Court 14 – 10:00 BST start

Elise Mertens [20] vs Diane Parry
[27] David Goffin v Miomir Kecmanovic
Nicolas Mahut v Philipp Kohlschreiber

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Caroline Wozniacki’s Father Criticises WTA For Lack Of Help For Mothers On Tour

Caroline Wozniacki was not given a wildcard for Rome or Roland Garros.

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Piotr Wozniacki has labelled the WTA as ‘amateur’ for their treatment of mothers on tour as he claims that Caroline Wozniacki should have had more wildcards.

The former Australian Open champion has played ten events since she announced her comeback last year.

Wozniacki has recovered her ranking to 117 in the world and her comeback has resulted in a fourth round appearance at the US Open as well as a quarter-final result at Indian Wells.

However the Dane has not been successful in gaining wildcards recently with both Rome and Roland Garros not offering Wozniacki one.

It’s a decision that Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, has not been happy with as he explained with Sport.PL, “The WTA believes that it is operating in an amateur fashion in the world of the largest professional women’s sport of all sports in the world. They sign contracts with the players and the players are obliged to do certain things under these contracts. And what do they get? Nothing, really nothing!” Piotr was quoted by tennisuptodate as saying.

“All wild cards, and there were 8 of them, were given to the Italians. I understand promoting their players, but how can you give the right to play in a tournament of this rank to such girls who should not even think that they could play in a Masters yet?

“Caroline was number one in her ranking. She won a Grand Slam tournament, won the Masters, played in almost 60 finals of their tournaments and won 30. So we are talking about a complete tennis player, someone who did a great job, who certainly increased the popularity of tennis, who earned a lot of money herself, but let them earn money. even much more.

“And it turns out that when someone like Caroline Wozniacki comes back as Caroline Wozniacki and family, she is no longer welcome. We can’t even prepare Caroline’s starting plan! We train, we prepare, and it turns out that there is nothing to do.

“This is happening because today in tennis everything is based only on relationships, on acquaintances, and not on clear rules. The thing is that if we know the organizers or tournament directors, we get a chance to play, but if we don’t know someone somewhere, they don’t want us there.

“Naturally, after the maternity break, my daughter had zero points. It takes a lot of time to start from scratch and reach the top, but we would do it patiently, but how can we do it when you don’t let a girl like that work for it? The rules in tennis today are such that there is no longer a mandatory wild card for someone who was once in the top 20, had a long break and came back.

“This card was really helpful for tennis players coming back after having a baby and for those coming back from serious injuries. And now Caroline, Angelique Kerber or Naomi Osaka are dependent only on someone else’s decisions. Since last year, all wild cards are the property of the tournaments, and the WTA washes its hands of them.”

It’s clear the Wozniacki family is disappointed as the Dane could be set to cancel her comeback next year.

However there is optimism that Wozniacki will receive one at Wimbledon as she has had past success on grass courts.

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Iga Swiatek Demolishes Aryna Sabalenka To Seal Third Rome Title

Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title after a dominant victory over Aryna Sabalenka.

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Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title by dominating Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-3 to send a big message of intent ahead of Roland Garros.

The world number one completed the Madrid and Rome double with a sensational performance.

Now Swiatek is the titleholder for the three biggest clay court titles as she will aim to defend her Roland Garros title.

The contest was a rematch from the Madrid final but this was far from the three hour contest that was produced in Spain.

Swiatek raised her level of play while Sabalenka committed way too many unforced errors throughout the contest.

The Pole broke on two occasions to wrap up a comfortable 37 minute set as her forehand was doing a lot of damage.

There was a comeback in the second set from the Australian Open champion as she produced effortless and consistent power, making the second set very competitive.

The world number one was forced to save break points as she just managed to be more stable on big moments.

A more controlled second set from Swiatek was rewarded towards the end of the set as once again Sabalenka crumbled under pressure when it mattered.

Two late breaks of serve completed the Swiatek surge as the Pole enters the second Grand Slam of the season in dominant form.

As for Sabalenka it’s a disappointing performance that she will look to put right at Roland Garros.

Roland Garros starts on the 26th of May where Swiatek is defending champion.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev Plays Nicolas Jarry for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Nicolas Jarry on Friday night in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Sunday features three championship matches: the finals in men’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles.

On Sunday in Rome, Sascha Zverev will play for his first Masters 1000 title in over two years, while Nicolas Jarry will play in his first-ever final above ATP 250 level.  Zverev leads their head-to-head 4-2, but they are tied at 2-2 on clay.  Which man will walk away with the title?


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Nicolas Jarry (21) – Not Before 5:00pm on Center Court

Zverev is 27-9 this season, and lost only one set on his way to this championship match.  That came in the semifinals against another Chilean, Alejandro Tabilo.  This is Sascha’s first ATP final since September of last year, and he’s playing for his first Masters 1000 title since 2021 in Cincinnati.  Zverev will soon go on trial in his home country of Germany, as he faces charges of domestic abuse.

Just like eventual champion Andrey Rublev in Madrid, Jarry arrived in Rome on a four-match losing streak.  And he had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a Masters 1000 tournament, so this result is quite surprising.  But 28-year-old Jarry is a tall presence (6’7”) who thumps the ball.  As per Tennis Channel, he was averaging 89 mph on his forehand during his three-set semifinal victory over Tommy Paul.  Nico has claimed a trio of three-setters on the way to the biggest match of his career, most notably upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

Zverev certainly has a huge edge in experience at this level, and in finals.  This is his 33rd ATP final, where he holds a record of 21-11.  And it’s his 11th Masters 1000 final, where he is 5-5.  Jarry has only previously appeared in six finals, all at 250-level, where he is 3-3.  But clay is the Chliean’s specialty, as all seven of his career finals have come on this surface.

Yet sometimes experience has a negative impact, particularly when you have suffered some painful losses.  Zverev has lost four of his last six Masters 1000 finals, and he is infamously 1-6 in Major semifinals.  So he has a lot of recent scar tissue from high-profile matches.

In that way, Jarry may benefit from a lack of experience.  While he’ll certainly be nervous on this big occasion, Nico has displayed plenty of confidence and composure against more experienced players throughout this event.  And he owns two prior victories over Zverev.  But when these two met in another final, five years ago in Geneva, Sascha saved two championship points to prevail.  That’s a result that sticks with both players throughout their rivalry.

However, I’m picking Jarry to pull off the upset and win the biggest title of his career on Sunday.  Zverev has a history of getting tight and playing more defensively in crucial moments.  Jarry’s aggressive mindset can take full advantage of such passive play.  And with so many top ATP players currently battling injuries, Zverev will likely feel a lot of pressure to win this title ahead of Roland Garros, especially as the much higher seed on this day.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (1) vs. Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic – The top seeds are playing for their sixth Masters 1000 title as a team, and own a record of 5-1 in finals at this level.  Arevalo and Pavic are vying for the first Masters 1000 title of their new partnership for 2024.  Both teams are yet to drop a set this fortnight. 

Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe (3) vs. Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini – This is the first tournament for the team of Gauff and Routliffe, though both have won big doubles titles with other partners.  This is the biggest final to date for the Italian team of Errani and Paolini, though Errani won five WTA 1000 doubles titles alongside Roberta Vinci a decade ago, while Paolini won the WTA 1000 event in Dubai earlier this year in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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