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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Roger Federer Survives Tsonga Test To Reach Halle Quarter-Finals

Roger Federer reached the quarter-finals in Halle after a tough three set win over Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

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Roger Federer (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

Roger Federer edged out Jo-Wilfred Tsonga 7-6(5) 4-6 7-5 to reach the quarter-finals in Halle as he searches for a 10th title. 

 

The nine-time champion didn’t have it all his own way against the dangerous Frenchman as he edge to victory to reach the last eight.

A crucial break in the eleventh game sealed the win for Federer as he had his first test on a grass court in 2019 as he bids for a 10th title.

Tomorrow, Federer will face Roberto Bautista Agut in the last eight.

Today would test Federer’s grass-court ability as he was up against a player that had beaten him on grass before and was capable of outpowering him.

There were signs of that early on in the match as Tsonga used his first serve to dominate play and cause trouble for the nine-time champion.

It wasn’t only on serve that the Frenchman looked comfortable as he even created two break points on the Federer serve early on.

However some short and sharp points for the 37 year-old sealed a crucial hold of serve as he looked to build on his first round win over Millman.

After saving set point with a big serve down the middle, Tsonga felt confident in his game as a first set tiebreak loomed between the pair.

Despite leading by the early mini-break, Tsonga had become too predictable with his serving patterns and Federer used his experience to take advantage.

A mini-break of his own and another big serve sealed the deal for Federer as he took the tiebreak 7-5 in 50 minutes.

The consensus was that the opening set was crucial in Tsonga’s chances of getting a much-needed win and that’s what it turned out to be as he had lost the momentum.

Another serve out wide became too regular for Federer on return as he smashed home a forehand winner for the break in the first game.

However it was too late to rule out Tsonga just yet, remember he did overturn a two set deficit against Federer eight years ago at Wimbledon.

These memories are still in Tsonga’s memory today and after pressurising Federer, he finally earned his reward as the Swiss couldn’t handle a powerful forehand as he conceded the break advantage.

There was a new-found aggression about Tsonga towards the end of the second set as the momentum was now with him.

Some stunning forehands had Federer on the ropes and a break in the last game secured the set as this match would be heading to a deciding set.

The momentum was firmly with the Frenchman as he created a few break points to put the nine-time champion under pressure.

For Federer now, he had to raise his level as Tsonga was now dominating the majority of the rallies with his powerful forehand.

Despite the opportunities though, the world number 77 couldn’t convert and would eventually be punished as the top seed pounced in the big moment.

Some smart returning saw a break in 11th game and a hold to 30 sealed the win as he reaches the quarter-finals in what was a big test.

Next up for Federer in his bid to win a 10th title is Roberto Bautista Agut tomorrow.

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On-Court Coaching: A Terrible Idea Or The Next Logical Step In Men’s Tennis?

Whilst the WTA Tour has relished the on-court coaching rule for the past 11 years, opinion among the men’s tennis elite reflect a completely different scenario.

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Nick Kyrgios of Australia is pictured in action during day four of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 19, 2019. (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON: Five games into his opening match Fernando Verdasco looked lost on the court at The Queen’s Club. Down a double break and only able to take two points off his opponents serve, he glared towards the camp in the crowd. They could not say anything without getting Verdasco a penalty. Something his female counterparts don’t fear.

 

On-court coaching has been allowed on the WTA Tour since 2008. A process where the coaches of players are allowed to interact with them during changeovers to issue advice and so forth. The bosses of the WTA at the time said it was done to add entertainment value and give insight to fans watching. 11 years on from that decision, other tournaments have started their own experiments.

The US Open, which was the first major to introduce equal prize money back in 1973, has outlined their plans. Involving allowing coaches to shout to players from the sidelines in between points. A move that was undoubtedly triggered by last year’s women’s final where Serena Williams was penalized for receiving coaching. Something her guru Patrick Martogolou, who is a supporter of on-court coaching, initially admitted to before she later denied took place. It was assumed that organizers wanted to implement this change in 2019, but it appears that this will not happen now.

Should these changes occur, it will move men’s tennis closer to the prospect of on-court coaching. Something that raises one crucial question – do the players want it on the ATP Tour?

“I personally don’t feel that there is a need for it. Obviously, the WTA does it, but I feel there is no need because I’m used to not having it on the court.” Kyle Edmund said at the Fever-Tree Championships on Sunday.

Critics of the technique argue that it takes away the player’s ability to think for themselves. Making them mentally weaker. In the Open Era, there has never been a grand slam main draw where the competitors could seek help from anybody else during matches. However, what about a compromise similar to the one proposed by the US Open?

“With the debate concerning having coaching off the court in terms of speaking, as other sports do, I’d say I’m more interested in that aspect.” Edmund indicates.

Nick Kyrgios could potentially be the kind of person who would benefit from a change in the rules. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, he admits that he struggles mentally during the big tournaments. So potentially having somebody to speak to him during matches could help.

However, the Australian doesn’t have a mentor and is a fierce critic of on-court coaching. Arguing that it could create an uneven playing ground if it was implemented in men’s tennis.

“I don’t agree with it at all. I think on-court coaching shouldn’t be a part of the sport.” He stated.
“I don’t think — like, it’s supposed to be one on one. You’re supposed to figure out things yourself when you’re out there on the court.”
“For guys who don’t have a coach, like myself or guys who can’t afford a coach, it’s not really a level playing field when you have a guy that’s literally talking to their players on the court. It makes no sense.”

Kyrgios’ view is one that has been backed by one of the biggest names in men’s tennis – Roger Federer. In the German city of Halle, the Swiss Maestro was questioned about on-court coaching.

“I don‘t support on-court coaching, I think that I have the best team in the world, and so I don‘t think it‘s fair that I could profit from that and another guy, who has maybe no coach can‘t benefit at all.” Federer explained.

2019 prize money rankings (as of 17/6/2019)
1. Rafael Nadal $6.28M
20. Jan Lennard-Struff $910, 090
50. Filip Krajinovic $521, 146
100. Marcelo Melo $306, 269
200. Elias Ymer $83, 342

A logical step forward?

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Daniil Medvedev was straight to the point when asked his own opinion of the subject. Saying such a change will have zero benefits for him. Although he believes changing the rules is only logical. During numerous matches coaches in the crowd has been caught making gestures towards their players. Something that is hard to police for the umpires.

“I am for it. Not because it will benefit me because I don’t think it will. Even if I asked my coach to come onto the court one time per match.” Medvedev told Ubitennis.
“But when we see a lot of sports it is allowed. During matches, they can say anything and when you are working with your coach almost 365 days a year and he can’t say anything, it’s a bit strange.’
“It won’t change a lot (for me), but I think it should be legalized.”

There is also the role of technology in the debate. Application software company SAP works alongside the WTA. Under the rules, they are able to provide coaches with real-time data so they can feedback to players during matches. Something some argue enhances the quality of matches.

“The WTA introduced the on-court coaching rule in 2008. That gave SAP the opportunity to bring real-time data to players and coaches as they need it,” SAP’s Global Sponsorships Technology Lead Jenni Lewis told intel.co.uk.
“And they need it as the match is happening, so the coach can go out during on-court coaching and share that information.”

Tennis is a sport that has developed a reputation of priding itself on its history and rightfully so. However, the downside is trying to maintain a balance between traditionalists and those driving for change. Illustrated by past debates concerning the use of tiebreakers in the final set of grand slam matches, the unique rules set out at the next Gen Finals and the fallout over the Davis Cup revamp.

Given these sticking points, would the ATP really want to bother with on-court coaching?

Only time will tell.

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Matteo Berrettini: “The top 10 and a Grand Slam semifinal are my goals”

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Last week’s Stuttgart champion Matteo Berrettini beat sixth seed Nikoloz Basilashviil 6-4 6-4 after 70 minutes to set up an all-Italian second round match at the Moventi Open in Halle.

 

Before this week’s week match Basilashvili led over Berrettini 2-1 in his previous head-to-head matches, but the Italian player beat his Georgian rival in the first round in Winston Salem last year.

Berrettini saved both break points he faced to stay unbroken in the sixth consecutive match on grass this season. Last week the 23-year-old Italian player won the Stuttgart tournament without dropping his serve in the whole tournament.

In his opening round match in Halle Berrettini produced another solid performance breaking serve in the fifth game of the first set and in the ninth game of the second set.

“I take a match at a time. It is strange to be ranked world number 22 but I would lie if I said that the top 10 and a Grand Slam semifinal are not my goals. I am surprised that I adjusted so well to different conditions. It’s always difficult to play another tournament after winning a title the previous week. In Stuttgart I beat unbelievable guys. I never lost my serve, but all the matches were so close. I am really happy for what I did on the court because it was mentally really difficult to stay there and I am really proud of myself”, said Berrettini.

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