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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Kiki Bertens Believes In Stability And Trust Ahead Of 2020 Season

Kiki Bertens looks for stability in hope of grand slam success in 2020.

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Kiki Bertens (@rogerscup - Twitter)

Kiki Bertens believes stability and trust is the key to success ahead of the 2020 season despite a time of change for the Dutchwoman. 

 

A time of change is approaching for Kiki Bertens as she recently just got married to her physical trainer Remko De Rijke.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5iU5w9hTgf/

It’s not only off the court, change is approaching for the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist as her and coach Raemon Sluiter parted ways during the off-season.

After the split it would have been easy for Bertens to make a radical change to her coaching team but that is not her style as she has promoted Elise Tamaela to a main coaching role.

Even through a time of change, Bertens believes stability is crucial to success, “It takes me a while to be able to trust someone,” she admitted to Dutch website De Telegraaf. 

“And I don’t want to spend that time on something like that. We’re going to continue in the same way for next year. The results were not as expected in the Grand Slams but I had other good weeks. It’s really not that I felt different playing in the Slams than in other weeks in which I could win titles.”

Although the formula to winning a grand slam has yet to be solved, the world number nine has achieved great consistency having won 55 matches in 2019, which also included the biggest title of her career in Madrid.

A new era await for Bertens with her new coach and plenty of praise was given to Elise Tamaela ahead of the new season, “For me the most important thing is that that person knows a lot about tennis. I have to be able to fully trust her,” Bertens said.

“To be able to laugh with that person, eat with her. I prefer to keep the equipment to the minimum possible and be able to feel comfortable in terms of confidence. Sometimes more people in the team only bring more opinions. And that style is not mine.”

This simplistic formula has worked for Bertens in the past and as the 2020 season approaches, she’s not looking to change it.

However will inexperience lead to the same results at grand slams, with the level of the Women’s game rising, Bertens may find that breaking the boundaries of stability is needed.

The former world number four will start her march towards more glory in Brisbane on the 6th of January.

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Caroline Wozniacki Announces Retirement After Australian Open

Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open in January.

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Caroline Wozniacki (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open as a new chapter in her life approaches. 

 

The Dane won 30 WTA singles titles in her career and spent 71 weeks as world number one although a grand slam had haunted her for most of her career.

However that changed in 2018 after an epic win over Simona Halep sealed a dream come true as she won her first grand slam at the Australian Open.

Since winning her maiden slam though, it has been an uphill struggle on the court for Wozniacki as she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Some days the former world number one and on some days, it is a constant battle for her to even wake up in the morning.

Now with other priorities taking over having been married to former NBA player David Lee since June and already studying Business at Harvard, Wozniacki today took the decision to retire from tennis after the Australian Open.

https://twitter.com/MPTenisPodcast/status/1202972268831367168

In a statement on Instagram, Woznaicki told her followers that she had accomplished everything she wanted to and looks forward to the future, “I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court,” she said.

“I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done. In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court.

“Getting married to David was one of those goals and starting a family with him while continuing to travel the world and helping raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis (project upcoming) are all passions of mine moving forward.

“This has nothing to do with my health and this isn’t a goodbye, I look forward to sharing my exciting journey ahead with all of you!

“Finally, I want to thank with all my heart, the fans, my friends, my sponsors, my team, especially my father as my coach, my husband, and my family for decades of support! Without all of you I could have never have done this!”

Although this retirement may have been coming, not many people would have predicted it would come at the scene of her grand slam breakthrough.

Now in the last stretch of her career, the Dane will want to finish on a high as she looks to celebrate a career that has lasted nearly 15 years.

 

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Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Venus Williams are the stand-out names in Adelaide

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Four top 10 players Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens and former Grand Slam champions Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber will grab the headlines at the Adelaide International from 12 to 18 January 2020.

 

A total of seven Grand Slam champions and five former world number one players will take part in the Adelaide WTA tourament.

This year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty leads a star-studded line-up, which includes 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens and seven other members of the top 20.

The Main Draw also features Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske, Sloane Stephens and Danielle Collins, World Number 30 Quang Wang. World Number 12 and this Rome WTA Premier finalist Johanna Konta will play her first tournament since the US Open following a knee injury.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams has been announced as the Top 20 wildcard.

“It is always exciting to play at a new tournament in front of new fans. I have had so many memorable times times in Australia over the years and I am looking forward to discovering Adelaide and all it has to offer”, said Venus Williams.

The men’s line-up includes 2019 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, Alex De Minaur, Lucas Pouille and Andrey Rublev.

“The full list of players is a real who’s who of tennis, from Australia’s favourite Ashleigh Barty to the iconic Venus Williams, right through to the young talent of Alex De Minaur and the experienced campaigner Novak Djokovic in the men’s field”, said South Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway.

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