French Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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French Open Day 5 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

In a blockbuster second round match, a pair of two-time Major champions will collide.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

In the first round, Victoria Azarenka took out the 2017 French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko. Now she’ll face the winner of the last two Grand Slam events, who narrowly escaped defeat on Tuesday. Also on Day 5, two of the WTA’s most impressive young competitors will square off in what should a fierce contest. And Thursday’s schedule also features defending champion Simona Halep, and 23-time Major singles champion Serena Williams. On the men’s side, six top 10 seeds in Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Sascha Zverev, Juan Martin Del Potro, Fabio Fognini, and Karen Khachanov will all take to the court.

 

Naomi Osaka (1) vs. Victoria Azarenka

Naomi Osaka played just terribly for a set-and-a-half in her first round. She was able to turn the match around just in time, breaking Anna Karolina Schmiedlova as she served for the match. Naomi will need to drastically up her level today against Azarenka, who already has two wins over top 10 players during this clay court season. They have split their two previous meetings. Azarenka easily won at the 2016 Australian Open, when she was at her best and Osaka was still developing her game. But last year on the clay of Rome, Naomi dropped just three games. Osaka has been struggling with injury over the past few months, pulling out of both Stuttgart and Rome, though Naomi appeared healthy on Tuesday. And she has had a lot of changes in her life to adjust to, including a coaching change. She should feel relief having survived two days ago, as going out in the first round as the world No.1 after winning the last two Majors would not have felt good. But I’m picking the hungry Azarenka to send a message that she’s back by taking out the top seed.

Aryna Sabalenka (11) vs. Amanda Anisimova

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This is a rematch from the last Major, where the 18-year-old American upset one of the WTA’s fastest-rising stars. Many now have also anointed Anismova as a future Major champion, with that future predicted to come sooner than later. Adding to her fledgling resume, Amanda also won her first WTA title last month, on the clay of Bogota. And two weeks ago in Rome, she fought Kiki Bertens all the way to 5-5 in the third, before losing the last two games. Sabalenka meanwhile has cooled off a bit since winning her third title in a five-month span to start this year, with just 15 match wins since the second week of January. But she’ll detest the idea of losing to her younger opposition again, so I suspect the strong-willed 21-year-old will pull out a tight match.

Ash Barty (8) vs. Danielle Collins

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These two just played three lopsided sets a few weeks ago in Madrid. Each set had a score of 6-1, with Barty taking the first and the third. It took only an hour and 22 minutes to play three sets on that day. Many Danielle Collins matches can play out in that way, as she’s a go-for-broke player who can smother opponents when she’s on, and spray errors all over the court when she’s off. She was a surprise semifinalist this year in Australia, where she dropped just two games to world No.2 Angelique Kerber in a stunning fourth round effort. Of course that was the same tournament where Barty reached her first Major quarterfinal. The Australian No.1 followed up on that result by winning the title in Miami. Ash is not thought of as a clay court specialist, but the eighth seed is in an open part of the draw where she could easily make a run to the second week. I expect her variety will frustrate Collins, and lead Ash to another victory over the American.

Juan Martin Del Potro (8) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka

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This could prove to be a compelling contrast in styles, with the 6’6” righty facing the 5’7” lefty. Earlier this year at Delray Beach, a less-than-100% Del Potro took out Nishioka in straight sets. And the big man is much more comfortable on clay than Nishioka, who possessed just one match win on clay this year heading into Roland Garros. But the 23-year-old showed he can successfully diffuse some powerful strokes when he outlasted Felix Alissiame Auger in a third set tiebreak at Indian Wells this past March. While I expect a fun match, I still consider Del Potro the solid favorite.

Fabio Fognini (9) vs. Federico Delbonis

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Here are two ATP veterans who love to play on the dirt. All but one of Fognini’s nine career titles have come on clay, including his Masters 1,000 triumph in Monte Carlo last month. Likewise, both of Delbonis’ titles have been earned on the terra baute. The 28-year-old from Argentina was a semifinalist just last week in Geneva. Fabio holds a 4-2 edge in their head-to-head, with almost all matches played on clay. But only one of those matches was decided in straight sets: their most recent meeting last year in Bastad, which went to Fognini. This could easily develop into another prolonged battle, with the unpredictable Italian being the favorite based on recent results. And also consider Delbonis’s 7-20 record at Grand Slam events.

Other notable matches on Day 5:

  • Serena Williams (10), who recovered quickly after dropping the first set in her opening round, vs. Kurumi Nara (Q), the 238th-ranked player in the world.
  • 2018 Champion Simona Halep (3) vs. Magda Linette, a 27-year-old from Poland.
  • 15-Time Major champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Henri Laaksonen (LL), a 27-year-old from Finland.
  • Last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem (4), who needed four sets to defeat an American wild card on Monday, vs. Alexander Bublik, a 21-year-old who has spent most of the past year on the challenger circuit after suffering a broken ankle last year.
  • Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Elias Ymer, another young champion from the challenger tour. What will Zverev have left after playing nearly 12 hours of tennis over the past seven days?

Order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier – 10:00 BST start
Men’s Singles Second Round
D.THIEM [4] vs A.BUBLIK

Women’s Singles Second Round
S.WILLIAMS[10] vs K.NARA

Women’s Singles Second Round
C.GARCIA[24] vs A.BLINKOVA

Men’s Singles Second Round
M.KLIZAN vs L.POUILLE [22]

Court Suzanne-Lenglen 10:00 BST start
Women’s Singles Second Round
N.OSAKA [1] vs V.AZARENKA

Men’s Singles Second Round
N.DJOKOVIC [1] vs H.LAAKSONEN

Men’s Singles Second Round
A.MANNARINO vs G.MONFILS [14]

Women’s Singles Second Round
S.HALEP [3] vs M.LINETTE

Court Simonne-Mathieu – 10:00 BST start
Women’s Singles Second Round
E.ALEXANDROVA vs S.STOSUR

Men’s Singles Second Round
M.YMER vs A.ZVEREV [5]

Men’s Singles Second Round
Y.NISHIOKA vs JM.DEL POTRO [8]

Women’s Singles Second Round
P.HON vs M.KEYS [14]

Court 1 – 10:00 BST start
Women’s Singles Second Round
A.SABALENKA [11] vs A.ANISIMOVA

Women’s Singles Second Round
D.COLLINS vs A.BARTY [8]

Men’s Singles Second Round
F.VERDASCO [23] vs A.HOANG

Men’s Singles Second Round
F.FOGNINI [9] vs F.DELBONIS

Court 7 – 10:00
Women’s Singles Second Round
K.SINIAKOVA vs M.SAKKARI [29]

Men’s Singles Second Round
D.LAJOVIC [30] vs E.BENCHETRIT

Men’s Singles Second Round
L.HARRIS vs B.CORIC [13]

Court 6 – 10:00 BST
Men’s Singles Second Round
P.CUEVAS vs K.EDMUND [28]

Women’s Singles Second Round
S.KENIN vs B.ANDREESCU [22]

Women’s Singles Second Round
D.KASATKINA [21] vs M.PUIG

Men’s Singles Second Round
T.FRITZ vs R.BAUTISTA AGUT [18]

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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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