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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Angelique Kerber Splits With Rainer Schuettler After Eight Month Partnership

Angelique Kerber has parted ways with Rainer Schuettler after an eight month partnership which ended in Wimbledon disappointment.

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Angelique Kerber (@Wimbledon - Twitter)

Three time grand slam champion Angelique Kerber has split with her coach Rainer Schuettler after an eight month partnership. 

 

It’s been a topsy-turvy year for the German so far after reaching the finals in Indian Wells and Eastbourne as well as being 11th in the Race To Shenzhen rankings.

However after losing in the first week of all three of her grand slams so far, last year’s Wimbledon champion has decider to end her partnership with Rainer Scheuttler.

The 31 year-old made the announcement on Twitter as she admitted it was a tough decision to make but a necessary one to make, “Moving forward, it’s never easy to change – especially when you work with great people like Rainer,” Kerber said.

“But for now, we’ve decided that it’s the right time for a fresh start. He has become a friend and I‘m thankful for his hard work & dedication in the last months.”

A couple of days ago, Kerber also said it was time to embrace the challenges moving forward as she looks to improve her sluggish form ,“This time of year feels very different compared to last year, but it’s still part of the same journey,” Kerber explained on Twitter.

“Whether you‘ve won or lost the last match- it‘s done, it‘s over and it can‘t be changed. It‘s about the lessons you learn from both outcomes that will determine your path. 

“There have always been ups and downs, twists and turns in my career that I accept as part of my story as an athlete. Even more, I‘ve learned to deal with it and embrace the challenge moving forward.”

Although Kerber and Schuettler have become good friends, the results never really translated when it really mattered most as Kerber couldn’t keep her focus on the big occasions.

A very brave decision to do it more than half way through the season though as Kerber looks to finish the season strong in a frustrating year.

Next for the former world number one is the Rogers Cup in Toronto, which starts on the 5th August.

 

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Johanna Konta Speaks About Charity Work Ahead Of Second Half Of Season

Johanna Konta talks about her work with charity as she looks to end the season strong.

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Johanna Konta (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Johanna Konta has spoken about her charity work as she prepares for the final grand slam of the season. 

 

It has been an encouraging 2019 so far for the Brit after reaching the finals in Rabat and Madrid as well as reaching the last four at Roland Garros.

Although that was met with disappointment and criticism at Wimbledon after her quarter-final exit to Barbora Strycova, Konta is looking to continue the momentum in the American summer.

However for now, the world number 15 is taking her mind off tennis to focus on her charity work and in particular tackling homelessness.

Recently Konta visited the prime minister on the subject and spoke to the WTA Website about why she feels passionately about homelessness, “Homelessness has always been a big thing that’s close to my heart, that I want to help,” Konta said.

“I met a young lady called Kenny, who has come through Centre Point and it’s through them that she’s got her shift here with The Clink.”

The Brit is an ambassador for the charity CentrePoint, who support young homeless people in London since 1969 as homelessness has been a big problem in the UK.

The Clink provided catering for the event an 10 Downing Street, which was about bringing young people who are at risk of violence and helping them talk to businesses and role models to see how they can not take to crime.

On her visit, Konta explained why it was a dream come true to go to 10 Downing Street, “I feel like you’re walking through history, especially as you walk up the stairs and you see all the Prime Ministers through time. It’s inspiring and I feel very lucky.”

Next for Konta is the Rogers Cup in Toronto, which starts on the 5th of August as she prepares for the final grand slam of the year at the US Open.

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Wimbledon Day 13 Preview: The Gentlemen’s Final

In a championship match with significant GOAT implications, Roger Federer plays for a record-extending 21st Major, as Djokovic defends his title and vies for his 16th.

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Roger Federer (@Wimbledon - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

In 25 days, Roger Federer will turn 38 years of age. Remarkably, here he is in his 31st Major final, and his 12th at The All England Club. His most recent Slam final came 18 months ago in Australia, where he defeated Marin Cilic in five sets. Playing the French Open last month for the first time since 2015, and advancing to the semi-finals on his worst surface, provided Roger with considerable confidence. After falling to Rafael Nadal in Paris, he avenged that loss here on Friday in a thrilling semi-final. But in order to win his ninth Wimbledon, he’ll need to do something he’s never done before: defeat both Nadal and Djokovic at the same Grand Slam event.

One year ago, Novak Djokovic arrived at SW19 ranked outside the top 20. After holding all four Majors at once, he hadn’t claimed another in over two years. But a semi-final victory over Nadal would propel Djokovic to win three consecutive Slams. He’s now the definitive world No.1, and looks to pull within four Major titles of Federer, and within two of Nadal.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Roger Federer (2)

This is their third time playing in the gentlemen’s singles final. In 2014, Djokovic pulled out the win in five sets, a turning point in Novak’s career having lost his last five Major Finals outside of Australia. A year later, Djokovic prevailed in four. Overall Novak has the slight edge in their head-to-head 25-22, and has taken eight of their last 10 meetings. At Majors, Djokovic leads 9-6, and hasn’t lost to Federer at a Slam in seven years, which was their first Wimbledon matchup in the 2012 semi-finals.

Both men needed three sets and about three hours to win their semi-finals, though Federer’s match against Nadal was the tighter and more draining affair. For Roger, coming back less than 48 hours later to play the other GOAT contender, who is also nearly six years younger than Federer, is a huge ask. But if Roger plays with the same energy he did on Friday, he has a shot. He’ll need to serve even better than in the semi-finals, as he faces the best returner in the game.

The crowd could play a critical role here. They’ll undoubtedly be raucously behind Roger, and we saw on Friday against Roberto Bautista Agut how bothered Novak can get by crowds cheering for his opponent. He receives it as disrespect, though he often seems to thrive on it. But Novak would be wise to not outwardly mock the Centre Court audience today, as it will only increase their enthusiasm for Federer. On paper, Djokovic is a solid favourite. There’s no real weakness in his game, and the best-of-five format plays to his advantage, especially if this goes the distance.

However, we saw on Friday the magic Roger is still capable of on Centre Court. He’ll know this may be one of his last chances to win a Major, though will that inspire him or unsettle him? We saw Serena Williams tighten up under similar circumstances yesterday. While I don’t think this will be a blowout like the ladies’ championship match, Djokovic will be too much for Federer to overcome in the end. Novak will be joining Simona Halep at the champions ball on Sunday evening.

Other notable matches on Day 13:

In the ladies’ doubles final re-scheduled for today due to the length of the gentlemen’s doubles final, singles standouts Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova (3) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu (4), who upset the defending champion in the semi-finals.  Singles semi-finalist Strycova would become the new doubles No.1 with a win today.

In the mixed doubles final, which has unfortunately been bumped to No.1 Court, French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Latisha Chan (8) vs. 42-year-old Roberto Lindstedt and Jelena Ostapenko, who is a former junior champion here, and was a singles semifinalist a year ago.

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