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.
REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis
Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.
The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday.
The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend.
Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.
Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.
The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year.
As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call.
Serena Williams leads a high-quality line-up in Lexington
Twenty-three time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams will be the top seed at the inaugural edition of the Lexington Open from 10th August 2020 on the same week as the Prague Open. The Lexington Open will be the first US tournament of the US hard court season, which will continue with the Western and Southern Open and the US Open, which will be held in the same venue at Flushing Meadows in New York.
Serena was very close to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, but lost four times in a Major final after giving birth to her daughter Olympia.
The US legend will play her first match since she hepled the US team beat Latvia in the Fed Cup last March in Everett. There Serena beat Jelena Ostapenko but she was defeated by Anastasija Sevastova.
Williams will lead a star-studded line-up, which features this year’s Australian Open finalist and former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka, Sloane Stephens, Johanna Konta, Amanda Anisimova and Yulia Putintseva, Ons Jabeur, Victoria Azarenka, Heather Watson and US rising star Cori Gauff.
Sabalenka won two consecutive editions of the Wuhan tournament in 2018 and 2019, in Shenzhen in 2019, the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and the Doha final in 2020.
Stephens won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2017 and reached the final at 2018 Roland Garros. She finished runner-up to Elina Svitolina at the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore. The US player lost to Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez in Monterrey in her last WTA Tour match before the pandemic.
Amanda Anisimova won her maiden WTA title in Bogotà in 2019 in her first professional tour tournament on clay. Last year the young US player beat Simona Halep en route to becoming the youngest semifinalist at the French Open since 2006. This year Amanda lost to Serena Williams in the semifinal in Auckland last January.
Johanna Konta reached the French Open semifinal and the Rome Final in 2019. The British player enjoyed her best year in 2017, when she won the Miami title and reached the Wimbledon semifinal rising to her best ranking at world number 4.
The Top seed Open will be the first WTA tournament to be played in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States. The Kentucky tournament will feature a 32-player singles draw and a 16-player doubles field.
Kremlin Cup Becomes Latest Tournament Thrown Into Uncertainty
Will there be tennis in Russia this year?
There could be a new blow to both the ATP and WTA Tour’s with officials admitting that the venue of Russia’s top tennis tournament is yet to be approved.
The Kremlin Cup in Moscow is one of three events to be currently included on the provisional WTA Calendar beyond the French Open along with Seoul, South Korea and Linz, Austria. This year’s 2020 tennis season has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought the sport to a standstill since March. Due to the virus all events set to take place in China later this year have been axed which includes the season-ending WTA Finals.
Shamil Tarpischev, who is the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, has said hopes of the Kremlin Cup taking place in 2020 depends on one venue in Moscow which he describes as the ‘only option.’ The tournament was held at the Olympic Stadium between 1990-2018, but it is currently going through a two-year renovation. Last year it took place at a temporary location at the Krylatskoye Ice Palace.
However, Tarpischev said the only place the tournament can be hosted in 2020 is at the CSKA track and field arena. The federation has already applied to use the venue but they are yet to get the necessary authorisation.
“CSKA is overcrowded, and therefore they have not given us an answer yet,” The Russian tennis chief told Tass news agency on Wednesday. “We are waiting for a decision in the near future, we sent all the letters. But this is our only option – there is nowhere else to play [VTB Kremlin Cup] this year.”
Should they get the green light, officials intend to hold the men’s and women’s tournaments separately instead of their original plan of a combined event. Tarpischev has said the ATP event will take place from October 19 to October 25. Although this is yet to be confirmed by the ATP, who have not published their calendar for events taking place after September. Meanwhile, the women’s event is set to take place during the first week of November (2-8).
The Kremlin Cup is currently classed as an ATP 250 event for the men and a Premier for the women. Andrey Rublev and Belinda Bencic are the reigning champions.
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