By Matthew Marolf
On the men’s side, we have the top five players in the world, three of whom are legends named Roger, Rafa, and Novak. And the other two were the finalists here just last year. Joining them in the quarterfinals are a three-time Major champion, the 2014 US Open champion, and a 20-year-old who seems primed for future greatness.
In the women’s semi-finals, we have the reigning French Open champion, last year’s French Open finalist, last year’s Madrid finalist, and a 22-year-old who just yesterday defeated the world No.1 for the second time in two months. The following is a look at how the day will play out, in order of scheduled start time.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Marin Cilic (9)
While Djokovic hasn’t been at his best of late, he owns a decisive 16-2 edge over Cilic. Marin’s only victories have come on an indoor hard court, and on grass. And considering Cilic came into this event with a losing record on the year, this should be smooth sailing for the world No.1.
Simona Halep (3) vs. Belinda Bencic
As per WTA Insider, Bencic is now 5-0 against top five opposition this year. That now includes two wins at the expense of Naomi Osaka, plus victories over Petra Kvitova, Karolina Pliskova, and Halep herself. The Halep upset took place on a hard court in Dubai. Belinda is 2-1 against Halep, though they’ve never met on clay, with should favour Simona.
Bencic is finally back to top form after several years of battling injuries. The 22-year-old will return to the top 15 on Monday, while Halep is just two wins away from reclaiming the world’s top ranking. It will be difficult for Bencic to back up yesterday’s big win, which went all the way to 7-5 in the third. And Halep has taking care of business easily this week, having yet to drop a set.
Roger Federer (4) vs. Dominic Thiem (5)
This is a rematch of the Indian Wells final from earlier this year. As per the ATP, Thiem is one of only a handful of players to have played Federer at least five times and have a winning record. Their only previous meeting on clay was actually Roger’s last clay tournament, the 2016 Italian Open. Thiem won that day in straight sets. Dominic should be considered the favourite today in Roger’s first clay event in three years, and only a day removed from Federer’s dramatic match from yesterday with Gael Monfils.
Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (8)
This will be the only singles match of the day played on Arantxa Sanchez. These two youngsters have split their previous two matches, both competed on hard courts last summer. Zverev won this event a year ago, but only has 15 wins so far this year, with no titles. Tsitsipas has won six matches in just the last nine days, having won the first clay title of his career last week in Estoril. Stefanos’ current level of confidence makes him the favourite here.
Kiki Bertens (7) vs. Sloane Stephens (8)
Bertens has been the most consistent clay court player on the WTA tour over the past several seasons. Since 2016, she’s accumulated 70 match wins on this surface. And just yesterday, she took out the No.2 seed, Petra Kvitova. Stephens is 2-0 against Bertens, though both their matches have gone the distance.
Sloane is newly-engaged and working with a new coach, Sven Groeneveld. This has been her best week of 2019: her four match wins this week are the most she’s garnered at any event this year. But Bertens is a force on this surface, and will likely return to the final here for the second straight year.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stan Wawrinka
The day will conclude with a rematch of the 2017 Roland Garros final. Nadal won easily on that day, and has prevailed over Wawrinka in 17 of their 20 matches. One of Stan’s victories did come on clay, at the 2015 Italian Open.
And he looked impressive in dispatching of Kei Nishikori on Thursday. However, with the illness concerns that surrounded Nadal earlier this week seemingly behind him, Rafa is the clear favourite to reach his 11th semi-final in his nation’s capital.
Coco Gauff reaches her maiden WTA final at the age of 15 in Linz
US 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff cruised past German former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4 after 91 minutes to reach her maiden WTA singles final at the Upper Austria Ladies Open in Linz.
Gauff lost in the final round of the qualifying tournament but she claimed her spot in the main draw as a lucky loser. After entering the main draw as a lucky loser Gauff scored three wins over Stefanie Voegele, Kateryna Kozlova, Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic consolidating her spot in the top 100.
Gauff saved nine of the ten break points she faced and won 71 % of her second serve points.
Petkovic earned the first break of the match in Gauff’s opening game, but Gauff broke straight back in the second game with a passing shot down the line in the next game. After holding serve Gauff earned two break points. The US teenager broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead after a backhand error from Perkovic. Gauff earned three set points in the 10th game and converted her first chance after a netted return from Petkovic.
Gauff faced three break points at 2-1, but she held on her serve to draw level to 2-2. The US player converted her sixth break point chance to take a 3-2 lead after a double fault from Petkovic.
Gauff saved two break points with a volley and a drop-shot, when she served for the match at 5-4, and sealed the win on her second match point.
Gauff set up a final against 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who came back from one set down to beat last year’s Linz finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. Ostapenko fended off one match points at 6-5 in the second set and two more match points at 5-4 in the third set of the 2-hour and 21-minute match.
Alexandrova broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to take the opening set 6-1. The Russian player fired an ace on her second set point to seal the first set after 30 minutes.
Alexandrova went up an early break to build up a 3-1 lead. Ostapenko broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Alexandrova fended off three break points to draw level to 4-4. Alexandrova broke serve at love to take a 5-4 lead earning the chance to serve for the match. Alexandrova hit an ace to earn her first match point, but she did not convert her chance, as she sent her backhand long. Ostapenko broke serve to draw level to 5-5 setting up a tie-break. Ostapenko earned her first set point at 5-5 in the tie-break, as Alexandrova missed a forehand wide. Ostapenko sealed the second set to force the match to the third set, as Ostapenko fired a service return wide.
Both players traded breaks in the first and second games of the decisive set. Alexandrova fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the 10th game to earn two match points, but she made unforced errors to miss both her chances. Ostapenko hit a forehand winner to draw level to 5-5. Alexandrova saved a match point at 6-5 with a return winner, but Ostapenko sealed the win on her second match point.
Alexander Zverev Boosts ATP Finals Chances After Reaching Shanghai Final
Alexander Zverev boosted his chances of reaching the ATP Finals after reaching the Shanghai final.
Alexander Zverev has boosted his chances of qualifying for the ATP Finals after defeating Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-4 in the Shanghai semi-finals.
It was a routine performance from the German as he only lost seven points on his serve to reach the Shanghai Rolex Masters final.
After losing in the semi-finals last year to Novak Djokovic, Zverev wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2019 as he broke in each set to claim victory.
In his post-match interview with atptour.com, the 22 year-old admitted it was a great feeling to win today, “It feels great, obviously,” Zverev explained.
“I felt like I’ve played some decent tennis this week and being in a Masters 1000 final here in Shanghai is also something very special for me. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can play some good tennis tomorrow.”
The win now means that Zverev has opened up a 330 point lead between him and his opponent today, who is in eighth place in the race.
This is crucial for the German if he wants to defend the ATP Finals crown that he won last year when he beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back.
Tomorrow, he will play in-form Daniil Medvedev in his sixth Masters 1000 final and although he leads their head-to-head 4-0, he is taking nothing for granted, “We’ve played some fantastic matches, all going my way until now,” Zverev said.
“I hope tomorrow that will not change. But he’s been playing some fantastic tennis, sixth final in a row, US Open finalist, won Cincinnati.
“He’s probably the best player in the world right now. I hope it’s just going to be a good match tomorrow.”
Both men are looking for their first Shanghai title as well as momentum heading into the season-finale in London next month.
Heather Watson sets up final against Rebecca Peterson in Tianjin
Unseeded players Rebecca Peterson and Heather Watson set up a final at the Tianjin Open WTA Tournament.
Rebecca Peterson came back from one set down to beat Ons Jabeur 0-6 6-4 7-5 after 2 hours and 9 minutes.
Jabeur won all the first five games, which went to deuce, and closed out the opening set with a bagel with a hold at 30 in the sixth game.
Peterson bounced back in the second set by breaking serve twice in the eighth and tenth game to clinch the second set 6-4.
Jabeur got an early break to open up a 3-1 lead. Peterson broke back in the sixth game and saved a break point in the ninth game. The Swedish player closed out the match with a break at 6-5.
“Today was a really tough match. She played well, I could not find my rhythm and I had to fight for every point, so I am happy that I got the win at the end. At the end of the season, everyone feels that their body is sore and they are tired. I am going to recover as well as I can and for sure I will be ready for tomorrow”,said Peterson.
World number 125 Heather Watson cruised past Veronika Kudemertova 6-1 6-4 after 1 hour and 14 minutes to reach her fourth WTA final and the first since Monterrey 2016. Watson dropped nine points in nine service games and saved all three break point chances she faced.
The British player broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to close out the first set 6-1 after 25 minutes. Kudemertova saved two break points in the third game of the second set before Watson got the break to take a 3-2 lead. Watson saved three break points in the sixth game to hold on her service game. Kudemertova fended off two match points on serve before Watson closed out the match with a hold at 30.
“Yesterday was a really tough match and I think all those hours on court helped me play well today, so it was a good thing. It’s my first time here in Tianjin, so it’s a great first experience for me. I am looking forward to playing the final and hopefully I can play as well as I managed today”,said Watson.
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