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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Caroline Wozniacki Calls For More Help To Support Returning Mothers

Caroline Wozniacki has called on the WTA to support returning mothers.

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Caroline Wozniacki has called on the WTA to provide more support for returning mothers.

The Dane is one of a number of top stars that have returned to the tour since becoming a mother.

Recently the likes of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka have all returned to the tour since becoming a mother.

However Wozniacki believes the WTA could provide more support to mothers who plan on returning to the tour, “I think I’ve been treated very well, The tournaments have really embraced me coming back and with kids,” Wozniacki explained to the Press Association.

Where I do share my view, and where a lot of other women on tour share the view, is I think there should be more done for women coming back from maternity leave. It has been looked at because obviously there’s more players now that want to come back but, at the same time, it’s not the same as coming back from an injury.

“As someone who came back after almost four years, I think when you give birth and for the body to recover, you’ve grown a human inside you, there’s a lot of changes that are happening in the body after that. I think in general women deserve more time to feel, ‘OK, now I’m ready, I can really prepare and get ready for competing at the highest level’.

It’s an issue that has made progress but there is still work to do in order to encourage people that it’s possible to make a smooth transition from motherhood to the tennis court.

As for Wozniacki, the Dane recently lost in the first round of Birmingham to Elise Mertens and is now preparing for Wimbledon where she has received a main draw wildcard.

Wimbledon starts on the first of July.

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Could Dan Evans’ Latest Injury Halt Andy Murray’s Olympic Plans?

Andy Murray Olympics hopes could pin down to Dan Evans’ recovery from his latest injury.

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Andy Murray had said that he may not play the Olympic Games if he plays just the singles event.

This could be the last summer that Andy Murray plays competitive tennis as he gears up for a potential Wimbledon farewell.

However Wimbledon may not be the tournament that Murray announces his retirement with the Olympics coming up next month.

The Olympics will take place in Paris and the former gold medallist has been announced in GB’s team ahead of the games.

There is a plot twist to all of this and that plot twist is Murray’s recent comments about whether he would play the Olympic Games.

In a recent interview Murray admitted that he wouldn’t be keen on just playing singles in Paris given the fact that it’s being played on his least favourite surface clay, “There is more chance of me winning a medal in the doubles rather than the singles,” Murray told BBC Sport.

“I’m not 100% sure. It depends a little bit physically how I’m doing and a bit how the next few weeks ago as well. My plan just now is to play but it’s not straightforward.”

The only player that Murray could play doubles with at the Olympics is Dan Evans, which they will probably find out on the fourth of July if they will get into the event.

However there is now a spanner in the works which is Dan Evans’ recent injury with the Brit suffering a nasty fall against Brandon Nakashima at Queen’s Club.

It will be known in the next couple of days how bad Evans’ injury is but after his match in London, the Brit was worried about a potential MCL injury, “I’m worried, no doubt,” Evans told the press association.

“I mean, a good thing, I thought it was my groin. That settled down pretty much straight away. But I think it’s MCL, sort of a bit inside of the knee. There is an issue there, that’s for sure after the testing so far with the physios.

“So I’ve got to wait 48 hours, let it settle, and then get a scan. I’m worried, yeah. That’s the bottom line, of course. Yeah, I’m in limbo a bit. It’s frustrating. If I miss the Olympics or Wimbledon it would be a tough one to swallow, no doubt.

“I don’t know. I’m just, I’m heartbroken at the minute, to be honest. Yeah, it’s tough.”

If the injury to Evans, results in Murray’s Olympics withdrawal then it would be a sad way to end Murray’s Olympics career that has included two gold medals.

However the main importance is that Evans is able to compete in the near future as he aims to be fit in time for Wimbledon.

Wimbledon starts on the first of July with the Olympics taking place 26 days later.

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Former Champion Angelique Kerber And Naomi Osaka Headline Initial Wimbledon Wildcards

Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka headline the Wimbledon wildcards this year.

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Former Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber has headlined the initial Wimbledon wildcards that have been announced this morning.

The German won the title in 2018 after defeating Serena Williams and is aiming to recreate some more magic at SW19 as she receives a wildcard into the main draw.

Although Kerber’s comeback hasn’t gone to plan, the German will hope grass is where she can find some confidence with the Olympic Games also in her plans there.

Another player who will be hoping for a change of fortunes at Wimbledon is former world number one Caroline Wozniacki who has also received a wildcard for the event.

Wozniacki was thrashed this week by Elise Mertens in Birmingham and will be hoping that she can improve her form over the next couple of weeks.

However a player that is in confident form right now is former US Open champion Naomi Osaka who has received a wildcard into Wimbledon.

The former world number one almost defeated Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros and is finding her feet on the grass after struggling in previous years.

On the men’s side Nottingham champion Jacob Fearnley has received a main draw wildcard as well as last year’s Juniors champion Henry Searle.

Here is the full list announced by the AELTC this morning with the final list set to be confirmed later this week or early next week.

Men’s Singles:

  1. Liam Broady
  2. Jan Choinski
  3. Jacob Fearnley
  4. Arthur Fery
  5. Billy Harris
  6. Paul Jubb
  7. Henry Searle
  8. TBA

Women’s Singles

  1. Francesca Jones
  2. Angelique Kerber
  3. Yuriko Lily Miyazaki
  4. Naomi Osaka
  5. Emma Raducanu
  6. Heather Watson
  7. Caroline Wozniacki
  8. TBA

Men’s Qualifying Singles

  1. Oliver Bonding
  2. Charles Broom
  3. Jay Clarke
  4. Felix Gill
  5. George Loffhagen
  6. Jack Pinnington Jones
  7. TBA
  8. Play-Off Place
  9. Play-Off Place

Women’s Qualifying Singles

  1. Emily Appleton
  2. Armani Banks
  3. Sonay Kartal
  4. Hannah Klugman
  5. Clervie Ngounoue
  6. Mika Stojsavljevic
  7. Mingge Xu
  8. Play-Off Place
  9. Play-Off Place

Men’s Doubles

  1. Liam Broady/Billy Harris
  2. Charles Broom/Arthur Fery
  3. Jay Clarke/Marcus Willis
  4. Dan Evans/Henry Searle
  5. Jacob Fearnley/Jack Pinnington Jones
  6. TBA
  7. TBA

Women’s Doubles

  1. Emily Appleton/Yuriko Lily Miyazaki
  2. Alicia Barnett/Freya Christie
  3. Harriet Dart/Maia Lumsden
  4. TBA
  5. TBA
  6. TBA
  7. TBA

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