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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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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