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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Dominic Thiem rallies from one set down against Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final at Thiem’s 7 in Kitzbuhel

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Dominic Thiem came back from losing the first set to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-2 en route to reaching the final at the Thiem’s 7 tournament. Thiem earned two breaks in the third and fifth games to race out to a 4-1 lead. Bautista Agut got both breaks back in the sixth and eighth games to draw level to 4-4 forcing the match to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-5 to take the opening set.

 

Thiem slowly found his rhythm again in the second set and earned two break points in the fourth game but he was not able to convert them. The home star dropped only two points on his serve until the end of the second set and converted two of the three break points to clinch the second set 6-2.

Thiem earned a break in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead and held on his next service games. The tournament organizer sealed the third set 6-2 with his double break with a blistering return on the match point in the eighth game securing his spot in the final. Thiem will face either Andrey Rublev or Matteo Berrettini in the final.

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Former Roland Garros champions and five top 20 players to highlight a great edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo

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The Ladies Open WTA International in Palermo will be the first tournament to be held next August since last February.

 

The Italian tournament will feature a great line-up which includes two confirmed past Roland Garros champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko and five top 20 players. There is a good chance that 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep could be added in the field.

“We are glad about Simona Halep’s great interest in Palermo Ladies Open. We will be waiting for her at the Country Club for an historic edition of the Palermo tournament. We have been in contact with Halep’s manager for some time. We have been talking for days about her potential participation in Palermo. She is one of the best players in the world and her presence would contribute to make an already high-level tournament extrahordinary. We will leave our doors open to her for as long as possible, as well as for other top ten players that will want to resume their season in Palermo”, said tournament’s CEO Oliviero Palma.

The other stars who have signed up to the Ladies Open are 2019 Roland Garros champion Marketa Vondrousova, two Grand Slam semifinalists Elise Mertens (2018 Australian Open) and Anastasija Sevastova (2018 US Open), Aryna Sabalenka (winner at the Wuhan Open in 2018 and 2019, WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and Doha in 2020) and Elina Rybakina (winner in Hobart and finalist in St. Petersburg and Dubai in 2020), Dayana Yastremska (winner of three tournaments in Hong Kong in 2018, Thailand and Strasbourg in 2019).

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova lift the titles in Perugia

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova won the Zzz Quill Tennis Tour in Perugia. Sonego followed up his Italian title won the previous week in Todi with a 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Croatia’s Viktor Galovic (world number 269 and number 7 seed) in the final of the Perugia tournament.

 

“Galovic started very well. It was difficult to adjust to his game and improve during the match. I maintained the right attitude and I managed to win the title. I enjoyed two fantastic weeks in Todi and Perugia. This confirmed my good work in training in the past two weeks. I gave my best and I am confident for the rest of the season”, said Sonego.

World number 117 Liudmila Samsonova won the women’s title came back from one set down to beat world number 307 Stefania Rubini 4-6 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in the women’s final after saving two match points.

“I won a very tough final with a lot of ups and downs. I am happy that I played many matches. It was one of my goals on the eve of the tournament. I showed that I am able to keep the level of my tennis high, when I play focused”, said Samsonova.   

 

 

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