Italian Open Sunday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Finals - UBITENNIS
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Italian Open Sunday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Finals

The road to Roland Garros will come to an appropriate crescendo, as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet for the first time this year on clay.

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R5afael Nadal (photo by Roberto Dell'Olivo )

It was a year ago at this very tournament, and against this very opponent, when Djokovic finally began to resemble his old self.  Due to an elbow injury, Novak was just 6-6 when he arrived in Rome a year ago. But it was his semifinal match here, where he lost a tight match to Nadal, when the tennis world began to recognize the champion of yesteryear.  A year later, he arrived in Rome having won the last three Majors, as well as the Masters 1,000 event last week in Madrid.

 

Thus far, this clay season must be considered a significant disappoint for Nadal.  2015 is the only other year since 2005 when Nadal arrived in Rome without a clay title to his name.  That was also the only year Djokovic defeated Nadal at Roland Garros. Rafa though appears to be regaining confidence as this week progresses.  This match will be Nadal’s biggest clay court test this season, and will be a strong indicator of where exactly his game is heading into the French Open.

Also on Sunday, Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta play for one of the biggest titles of their careers on championship Sunday in Rome.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)

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This will be the 54th meeting in the most prolific men’s rivalry of the Open Era.  Overall Djokovic leads 28-25, though Nadal leads 16-7 on clay.  Novak is 16-11 at Masters 1,000 events, and 7-5 in Masters finals.  At this event, Rafa holds a 4-3 edge, and they’ve split the four finals they’ve played here.  Since they met one year ago in Rome, Djokovic has twice defeated Nadal. The first time was their over five-hour five-setter at last year’s Wimbledon, a pivotal match in tennis history.  The last time was the Australian Open final, when Novak destroyed Rafa, losing only eight games. Both of those matches will be forefront in the minds of both men today. Normally I would give Djokovic the decided edge considering their recent history, but Nadal will be the much fresher of the two on this day.  Djokovic required over five-and-a-half hours to overcome his Argentinian opposition in the last two rounds, in matches that went late into the night. Nadal meanwhile is yet to drop a set this week, and played during the day on both Thursday and Friday. With this final being played at 4:00pm local time, that’s a big advantage for Nadal.  Whoever wins today will re-take the lead for most Masters 1,000 titles, as both men currently hold 33. I like Nadal’s chances to make that 34 on Sunday.

Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. Johanna Konta

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After some disappointing results earlier last year, Pliskova has slowly but steadily built momentum since last summer.  She’s now 26-7 on the year, and into her third final. With a win today, she would pass Kiki Bertens and Simona Halep to become the new world No.2, which would be significant heading into the French Open draw.  Konta has similarly struggled since 2017, though she’s only more recently rediscovered her game. Historically a terrible clay court player, she’s now 10-2 in the surface this season. This is her second clay final in the last three weeks.  She’s already defeated two top 10 players in this tournament, while Pliskova is yet to face a seeded player. Karolina leads their head-to-head 5-1, with Johanna’s only victory coming in a third set tiebreak on a hart court in Beijing. But all their matches have been tight, with five of the six going to a third set.  In Pliskova’s last final, two months ago in Miami, she was shown up on the big stage by Ashleigh Barty. Is Pliskova ready to claim her second Premier 5 event, equaling her biggest career title? She’ll have to avoid getting down on herself, as she’s prone to do on the court. In a match that feels it could easily go either way, I’ll give Pliskova the slight edge.  She has a lot more recent experience in big matches, and has a history of winning third sets over Konta.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday in Rome:

  • In the women’s doubles final, singles champions Ashleigh Barty and Victoria Azarenka go for their first title as a team vs. Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Demi Shuurs (8).
  • In the men’s doubles final, Barcelona Champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (3) vs. Wimbledon Finalists Raven Klaaasen and Michael Venus (6).

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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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