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

ATP

Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Roger Federer Claims Happiness Over Tennis Retirement In Emotional Last Match

It was an emotional evening in London as Roger Federer said goodbye to tennis.

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Roger Federer (@LaverCup - Twitter)

Roger Federer has said that his retirement from tennis was full of joy not sadness after an emotional occasion at the Laver Cup.

 

The career of one of the greatest tennis players of all time is over after 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer played his last match of his career at the O2 Arena in London.

Federer teamed up with Rafael Nadal to take on Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock with the American pairing claiming victory 4-6 7-6(2) 11-9 to level the tie for Team World at 2-2.

However celebration was limited as the whole venue celebrated, cried and soaked up the emotion that Roger Federer’s career was over.

There were tears from Federer, his family as well as rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the end of an era was upon Tennis.

Even a performance from Ellie Goulding saw the Arena’s emotion get stronger as the Swiss maestro said goodbye to a sport he has played since he was a kid.

However despite the tears Federer claimed after the match that it was a day of celebration not sadness as he closed a big chapter of his life, “It’s been a wonderful day. I’m happy, not sad. It feels great to be here. I’m happy I made it through,” Federer told the BBC website.

“It’s been the perfect journey. I’d do it all again. Everyone’s here, the boys and girls. My wife has been so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn’t.

“Being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn’t feel the stress so much even if I felt something would go during the match. I am so glad I made it through and the match was great. I couldn’t be happier.”

After 1,750 matches in his career, Federer now faces the prospect of leaving the sport he has know for over 20 years as a professional tennis player.

But Federer gave the biggest hint yet that he wants to continue to be apart of the sport for the future.

Speaking to the press Federer claimed that he wants to travel around the world to say thanks to those who didn’t have a chance on Friday evening, “Hopefully we’ll see each other again on a different type of tennis court, somewhere around the world,” Federer was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“I think the message from me was just making sure I relay my passion for the sport to the fans. I have no plans whatsoever, where, how, when. All I know, I would love to go and play places I have never played before or go say thank you for years to come to all the people that have been so supportive of me.

“The hard part about the Laver Cup was that tickets were already sold out. The people who maybe would have also loved to be here couldn’t make it. Maybe there is another way down the stretch we can party all together.”

An incredible career was celebrated, rejoiced and soaked in by the whole of Tennis and now Federer gets to reflect on a once in a lifetime career.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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