Italian Open Friday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day - UBITENNIS
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Italian Open Friday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day

Perhaps the three best male players of all-time highlight the men’s quarterfinals, while the WTA No.1 takes on the WTA’s hottest player.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by Gianni Ciaccia, copyright @Sport Vision)

Federer and Nadal are just one win away from facing off in Saturday’s semifinals.  Rafa will play a familiar foe in his elder countryman, while Roger will square off against the newest member of the top 10 who is nearly half his age.  And Djokovic will renew his rivalry with the beloved big man, Juan Martin Del Potro.

 

On the women’s side, Madrid Champion Kiki Bertens is just two wins away from becoming the new world No.2, but the world No.1 stands in her way on Friday.  In other action, a resurgent Victoria Azarenka meets one of the tour’s most consistent performers, Karolina Pliskova. After one of the most frantic orders of play you’ll ever see on Thursday, Friday looks to be another captivating day at Foro Italico.

Naomi Osaka (1) vs. Kiki Bertens (6)

Both women played two matches yesterday due to the complete rainout on Wednesday, though Osaka advanced much more efficiently than Bertens.  Naomi won both matches in straight sets, while Kiki played six sets of tennis and was on court for a full hour longer than Osaka. These two split their two previous meetings, though both were played on hard courts.  And Osaka retired after the first set when they played last fall at the WTA Finals. Kiki will walk onto the court with an eight-match win streak, and is the stronger play on clay. But will she be burnt out after playing so much over the past two weeks?  Perhaps, though I still consider her the favorite. Osaka is just 10-5 since her Australian Open triumph, and hasn’t beaten a top 20 player in that time.

Roger Federer (3) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (8)

This will also be the third meeting between these two players, all within the past few months.  Of course it was at the Australian Open where the 20-year-old upset the 37-year-old in four tight sets.  Federer avenged that loss just a few weeks later in the final of Dubai to win his 100th career title.  Tsitsipas now holds victories over all of the Big Three, and will now have played each of those all-time greats within the past seven days.  Stefanos upset Nadal in the Madrid semifinals last week, but was taken out by Djokovic in the final. Both of these players also played twice yesterday, though Roger was the only one to face any complications.  He needed to save two match points in a third set tiebreak to outlast Borna Coric. I’m concerned about how Federer’s body will respond to having played two matches on clay in one day. While I’m sure he’ll dislike the idea of losing again to his younger opposition, it’s hard not to favor Tsitsipas on this day.

Other Notable Matches on Friday in Rome:

  • Madrid Champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Juan Martin Del Potro.  Del Potro won the first two matches of this latest injury comeback just yesterday, but is only 3-15 lifetime against Djokovic.
  • Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Fernando Verdasco.  A title-less Nadal this year may finally be finding his mojo, losing just two of 26 games played yesterday.  He’s only lost to Verdasco in three of 20 meetings, though one of Fernando’s wins did come on clay.
  • Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. Victoria Azarenka (WC).  Azarenka leads their head-to-head 4-3, and just defeated Pliskova on clay a few weeks ago in Stuttgart.
  • Kei Nishikori (6) vs. Diego Schwartzman.  They played a great match at last year’s US Open.  This should be good too: all three of their meetings have been tight, with all three going to Nishikori.
  • Johanna Konta vs. Marketa Vondrousova.  Konta has never been a good clay court player, but has impressed this week.  Vondrousova is coming off her second straight upset over Simona Halep.
  • Maria Sakkari (Q) vs. Kiki Mladenovic (Q).  It’s rare to see two qualifiers face off in the quarterfinals.  Mladenovic seems rejuvenated since hiring Naomi Osaka’s former coach, Sascha Bajin.

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Matteo Berrettini boosts his chance to qualify for the ATP Finals in London with win over Grigor Dimitrov in Vienna

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Matteo Berrettini boosted his chance to qualify for the ATP Finals in London with a 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-1) over Grigor Dimitrov in a match between two US Open semifinalists at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. With this win Berrettini reached the third round at this ATP 500 event boosting his chance to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

 

Both players held serve in the first eight games of the first set. Dimitrov saved two break points in the ninth game of the opening set at deuce. Berrettini won his service game at 15, as he was serving to stay in the set.  They went on serve setting up a tie-break. Berrettini got a mini-break on the 11th game to win the tie-break 7-5.

Dimitrov saved a break point in the second game of the second set. The Bulgarian player fended off a match point forcing the second set to the tie-break. Berrettini cruised through to a a 7-1 lead in the tie-break setting up a third-round match against either Hyeon Chung or Hyeon Chung.

Berrettini will face the winner of the match between Hyeon Chung and Andrey Rublev.

Gael Monfils beat Austrian wild card Dennis Novak 2-6 7-5 6-3 setting up a re-match against Italian Next Gen star Jannik Sinner.

Sinner beat Monfils last week in Antwerp. The 18-year-old Italian player became the youngest ATP Tour semifinalist since Borna Coric in Basel in 2014.

Karen Khachanov was leading 6-3 4-6 4-1 when Marton Fucsovics was forced to retire. The Moscow player will face either Sam Querrey or Diego Schwartzman in the quarter final.

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Franulovic talks about the present and the future of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

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Director Franulovic, what does it mean for you to have an Italian winner in your tournament after 50 years ?

 

“For me it was an amazing result. Italian fans love Monte-Carlo. They are knowledgeable and warm like in football. It was fantastic to have an Italian winner after Pietrangeli”.

 Would you have imagined one year ago that two Italian players would fight for one of the qualifying spots for the ATP Finals in London and that one of the two players would win your tournament ?

 “No, I would have not expected it. As I always say you can never say anything in sport because everything is cyclical. Fognini won our tournament. Berrettini made a big breakthrough and went on to reach the US Open semifinals and has now a good chance to qualify for the ATP Finals in London. Sonego has also achieved good results. Sinner is now coming to the fore..”

 It’s the first time after decades that Italian tennis is doing better than French tennis. How do you explain that ?

 “I don’t think it’s a problem of facilities, because French tennis can rely on the income from Roland Garros. It’s simply a matter of players. Italy has a new generation of young players. France has remained still and has not produced new tennis players after the generation of Tsonga and Gasquet, who are no longer young. I don’t think it’s an organisation problem, but simply because sport in cyclical.

 How has the Country Club changed since you became the Tournament Director in 2005 ?

 “A lot has changed, but we cannot expand the Country Club for obvious reasons. We have done everything possible to improve the comfort of players, the quality of our service for media starting from the new press room. The biggest difference is at communication level. Social media, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter did not exist in 2005. Everything has changed and the Country Club looks a different place compared to the venue of 2005”.

What about the line-up of players of the 2020 edition. Are you still dreaming to have Federer in Montecarlo ?

 “It’s very unlikely, if you look at his schedule, it is more restricted due to anagraphic reasons. I think it will be even more restricted. He will play the Grand Slam tournaments and the tournaments, which he likes visiting with his family. All the other big players starting from Nadal and Djokovic are expected to take part in our tournament”

 Will Next Gen players take over the “Old” Gen ? Danil Medvedev is the hottest player at the moment ?

 “I expected that this could happen two years ago. It did not happen, but it is clear that it is going to be more likely every year. I did not expect that Medvedev would be the first player to produce a major impact on the ranking. I expected that Tsitsipas, Shapovalov would take over and instead….

 

Another question from a tennis fan, how can the Davis Cup live together with the ATP Cup on too close dates ?

 

“The two team events are too close, but before giving my opinion I would wait to see how they will work. I am sure that if they should not work well, the ATP and the ITF will be open to find an agreement. I think that the ATP will be more willing to take a step back, because the Davis Cup is more than 100 years old, like our tournament and it’s the only event run by the ITF.

 

Does the new Davis Cup convince you ?

 

“The old formula felt the burden of the years. The world has changed compared to the times when I played with Panatta and Bertolucci. Players had to travel to South America three days after playing at the Australian Open. It is no longer manageable. When I played tennis travels were more complicated, but they were not so long”.

 

 

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Zeljko Franulovic: “The success of Italian players is very important for our tournament”

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The 114th edition of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters was officially presented to the Italian media representatives today during a press conference at the Palazzo Giureconsulti in Milan near the Duomo cathedral. Every year the organisers of the Monte-Carlo Masters 1000 tournament hold their traditional press conference in Milan to promote their event among Italian fans.

 

The Monte-Carlo tournament is the first ATP Masters 1000 tournament of the European clay season. The next edition of the Monte-Carlo tournament will be held from 11th to 19th April at the historic Country Club clay court.

Zeljiko Franulovic, who won the Monte-Carlo tournament in 1970, has been working as Tournament Director since 2005, the year when Rafael Nadal won the first of his eleven titles at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. Franulovic looked back to another very successful edition of the famous Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

“The quality of players, a record number of spectators and TV viewers have contributed to the success of the past edition. Prince Albert opened the doors to players, who visited the Prince’s Palace in Monaco. Monte-Carlo loves tennis and players love this tournament. About 400 journalists from all over the world attended the tournament. Our tournament was broadcast in over 200 countries. Ten television channels, including Sky Italy, attended the tournament on site. This was a record for our tournament. We have improved our facilities in the Monte-Carlo Country Club by adding a new restaurant, a new interview room for media and a “Club de Loge”,said Zeljko Franulovic.

Last April Fabio Fognini won the first Masters 1000 tournament of his career by beating Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic 6-3 6-4. Fognini became the first Italian player to win the Monte-Carlo title since 1968, when Nicola Pietrangeli triumphed for the third time in his career.

 “The 2019 edition of our tournament was highlighted by the triumph of Italian tennis star Fabio Fognini. Next Gen players, like Stefanos Tsitsipas, Danil Medvedev and 18-year-old Canadian player Felix Auger Aliassime, Alexander Zverev have made their breakthrough this season. In Monte-Carlo Auger Aliassime was beaten by Alexander Zverev. Medvedev reached the semifinal after beating Novak Djokovic. This season has been particularly successful for Italian tennis players. The 2019 edition was very successful in terms of ticket sales with 135.650 spectators. No less than 40000 spectators came from Italy. I am very happy with the recent results of Italian players Fabio Fognini, Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner. Berrettini continued his progress in the months after our tournament and reached the semifinal at the US Open. Italian Next Gen star Jannik Sinner has recently come to the fore breaking into the top 100 for the first time of his career at the age of 18 and I hope that he will be in the group of the best Next Gen players soon. The success of Italian players is very important for our tournament. The ticket sale for the 2020 edition is going well. Italian fans and Italian tennis clubs have shown their continuous support over the years. We suggest our loyal Italian fans should go on our official website to buy the still available tickets as soon as possible”.

 

The 2020 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters promises to be another successful edition. The Draw Ceremony will be attended by defending champion Fabio Fognini on Friday 10th April. The Kids Day, which attracted 1700 children in 2019, will be held on 12th April (Easter’s Day). The calendar of events also features the Great Night of Tennis on Friday 17th April.

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