Madrid Open Monday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Monday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day

The road to Roland Garros escalates to a new level this week in Spain’s capital city.

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Victoria Azarenka (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, cpyright @Sport Vision)

On the men’s side, Nadal and Djokovic are the top seeds, but can’t be considered the heavy favorites considering their recent form.  Rafa is title-less in 2019 with five tournaments played, which includes two clay events he’s won 11 previous times in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.  Meanwhile, Novak is just 5-3 since winning his third straight Major in Australia. And then there’s Roger Federer, who is returning to clay for the first time since 2016.  Joining them in the men’s draw are Stan Wawrinka, Monte Carlo Champ Fabio Fognini, Barcelona Champ Dominic Thiem, a returning Juan Martin Del Potro, and a retiring David Ferrer.

 

On the women’s side, all of the top 20 players in the world entered this event, with the exception of Serena Williams, who will return next week in Rome.  The women’s singles event already played their opening matches over the weekend, and 7 of the 16 seeds went out in the first round. Elina Svitolina, Aryna Sabalenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Madison Keys, Anett Kontaveit, Qiang Wang, and Julia Goerges are all already gone.  But through to the second round are World No.1 Naomi Osaka, Stuttgart Champ Petra Kvitova, French Open Champ Simona Halep, and Wimbledon Champ Angelique Kerber.

Sloane Stephens (8) vs. Victoria Azarenka

This is a rivalry that got off to a bitter start back in 2013.  In the Australian Open semifinals, Azarenka would leave the court due to anxiety issues, creating an extended break in the action right when Stephens was mounting a comeback.  Vika would win that event, her second and last Major title to date. Overall Azarenka won the first three matches in their head-to-head, but Stephens has won the last three, all taking place in 2018.  All six of their previous meetings took place on hard courts. The clay surface should favor Stephens, a finalist at Roland Garros one year ago. Azarenka has struggled to regain her form following an extended break from the sport due to the birth of her first child and the ensuing custody battle.  She did exhibit some positive signs in April, by making the final in Monterrey and the quarters in Stuttgart. Stephens meanwhile is only 11-7 this year after splitting with her former coach, Kamau Murray. But Sloane made two big announcements last week: her engagement to soccer player Jozy Altidore, and a new coach in the experienced Sven Groeneveld.  Stephens should be feeling positive given her recent news, and given her recent victories over Azarenka. This match will serve as a good indicator as to the French Open chances for both of these former Major champions.

Juan Martin Del Potro and Kei Nishikori vs. Fabio Fognini and Robert Lindstedt

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This will be the first match of the day on Stadium 3.  Normally a first round doubles match would not be the men’s match of the day, but this will be Juan Martin Del Potro’s return to the court.  Since suffering a knee injury in Shanghai last October, Del Potro has only played three matches. His knee was obviously not fully recovered when he tried to come back in Delray Beach earlier this year, but hopefully three more months of rest and rehab has changed that.  Juan Martin has entered both the singles and doubles draws this week. In doubles, he teams with a friend who also knows all too well how injuries can impact your career, Kei Nishikori. They’ll face two accomplished doubles players in Fognini and 42-year-old Robert Lindstedt.  That duo will be the favorites, but I’m curious to see how close to 100% Del Potro appears to be, as well as see Juan Martin and Kei playing together on a doubles court.

 

Other Notable Matches on Monday in Madrid:

  • Petra Kvitova (2) vs. Kristina Mladenovic.  Kvitova is a three-time champion in Madrid, and is 5-1 lifetime against Mladenovic
  • Kiki Bertens (7) vs. Jelena Ostapenko.  Bertens has been one of the WTA’s best clay court players over the past several seasons, while the 2017 French Open champion is only 7-13 in 2019

 

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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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Coco Gauff joins strong line-up in Auckland

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US 15-year-old tennis sensation Coco Gauff will start her 2020 season at the ASB Classic in Auckland joining a strong line-up, which also features former Grand Slam champions Caroline Woniacki, Jelena Ostapenko, Serena and Venus Williams, Jelena Ostapenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova and double defending champion Julia Goerges, reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and this year’s Roland Garros semifinalist Amanda Anisimova.

 

The line-up of the 2020 edition of the Auckland tournament will be a mix of youth and experience. Williams, Kuznetsova, Wozniacki and Goerges have collected a total of 127 titles between them.

Serena Williams won 23 Grand Slam titles and clinched 72 WTA titles. This year the US legend reached two finals at Wimbledon and at the US Open.

In last year’s edition of the Auckland tournament Andreescu came through the qualifying round before beating world number one players Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki en route to reaching her first WTA Final. Andreescu went on to win three titles at Indian Wells, Toronto and the US Open. One year ago the Canadian player of Romanian origin was ranked world number 178 and is now sitting at world number 5 in the WTA Ranking.

Gauff became the youngest player to qualify for the main draw at Wimbledon last summer and went on to reach the main draw before losing to Simona Halep. Gauff reached the third round at the US Open and won her first WTA title in Linz after beating World number 8 Kiki Bertens along the route.

Organisers of the Auckland tournament also confirmed that 18-year-old rising star Amanda Anisimova will take take part at this event from 6th to 12th January 2020.

The line-up is completed by Petra Martic and Cici Bellis. Martic has reached her career high ranking of 15 after winning her first WTA title in Istanbul. The Croatian player has reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and at the US Open and the final in Zhengzhou.

Bellis is coming back from an injury. The US player was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year at the age of 18. She reached the semifinal of the Oracle 125 tournament in Houston.

“This is clearly the best field we have ever had ever in Auckland. It will be the first time we have had two top 10 players, when you add in three further Grand Slam winners, double defending champion Julia Goerges, and two prospects on the WTA Tour Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova”, said tournament director Karl Budge.

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The ATP announces the nominees for the 2019 Awards

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The ATP has announced the nominees for the player-voted categories Awards: Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award.

 

Comeback of the year:

The candidates for the Comeback Player of the Year Award are Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka.

Murray underwent second right hip surgery on 28th January and missed five months and made his come-back at Queen’s, where he won the doubles title together with his partner Feliciano Lopez. He made his singles return at Cincinnati as wildcard losing to Richard Gasquet in the first round. He earned his first singles comeback win at Zhuhai before losing to eventual champion Alex De Minaur in the second round. He reached his first quarter final after his comeback at the China Open in Beijing beating Matteo Berrettini in the first round before losing to eventual champion Dominic Thiem. The Scotsman completed his comeback by winning the Antwerp title against Stan Wawrinka.

Rublev sustained a back injury at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2018 and made his comeback during the 2019 summer season when he reached the final in Hamburg losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili. Last August Rublev scored the biggest win of his career so far in Cincinnati where he beat Roger Federer in the third round in straight sets. He went on to lose to eventual champion Danil Medvedev in the quarter finals. At the US Open Rublev beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios before losing to Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round. Rublev advanced to his ATP Masters 1000 doubles final in Paris Bercy with his teammate Karen Khachanov losing to Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicholas Mahut.

Tsonga fell to world number 262 in ATP Rankings on 5th November 2019 (his lowest since number 284 on 25th September 2006). In 2019 he won two titles on French soil at Montpellier and Metz and reached the quarter final at Rotterdam, Lyon and Paris Bercy.

Wawrinka missed almost three months due to injury problems in 2018, but he started his comeback in 2019 when he reached his first tournament final in over 20 months, where he lost to Gael Monfils in three sets. He beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round at Roland Garros in an epic five-set match that lasted 5 hours and 9 minutes, and he went on to advance to his first Grand Slam quarter final in two years. He went on to lose to his compatriot Roger Federer in four close sets. At the US Open Wawrinka advanced to the quarter final after defending champion Novak Djokovic pulled out after losing the first two sets. It was the first match between Djokovic and Wawrinka in the 2016 US Open final. Wawrinka went on to lose the quarter final to Danil Medvedev. Wawrinka reached the final at Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Most improved player of the year:

 The candidates for the Most Improved Player of the Year are Danil Medvedev, Felix Auger Aliassime, Matteo Berrettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev improved his best ranking from world number 16 on 15th January to world number 5 at the end of the year. The 23-year-old Russian player won four titles in Sofia, Cincinnati, St. Petersburg and Shanghai and reached five more finals in Brisbane, Barcelona, Washington, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal and at the US Open. He led the ATP Tour this season with 59 match wins to 21 defeats.

Tsitsipas was ranked world number 15 last January and ended the season ranked world number 6 with three titles at Marseille, Estoril and at the ATP Finals in London. He was the first Greek player to break into the top 5 and the first Greek to reach the Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open. He earned 54 wins this season. He became the youngest player to beat Nadal on clay. He scored the biggest win of his career over world number 1 Djokovic in Shanghai Masters 1000.

Berrettini improved his ranking moving up from world number 52 on 7th January 2019 to his career-high at number 8 at the  end of the year. The Italian player won two titles in Budapest and Stuttgart and reached the semifinal of the US Open. He became the first Italian player in history to win a match at the ATP Finals when he beat eventual finalist Dominic Thiem. He ended the season with a record of 43 wins to 25 defeats.

Auger Aliassime started the season as the world number 106 on 7th January 2019 to number 21 at the end of the season. The 19-year-old reached three finals in Rio de Janeiro, Lyon and Stuttgart and qualified for his first Masters 1000 semifinal in Miami.

Newcomer of the year:

The candidates for the Newcomer of the Year Award are Felix Auger Aliassime, Casper Ruud, Miomir Kecmanovic, Jannik Sinner, Mikael Ymer, Corentin Moutet, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Alexei Popyrin.

Jannik Sinner started the year ranked world number 553 and reached his career high as world number 78. The Italian 18-year-old player won three ATP Challenger titles in Bergamo, Lexington and Ortisei and qualified for his first ATP 250 semifinal in Antwerp. He lost to Stan Wawrinka in the first round in his debut Grand Slam tournament at the US Open.

Casper Ruud improved his ranking from world number 111 to world number 54 and reached the final in Houston.

Miomir Kecmanovic improved his best ranking from world 126 to number 59 at the end of the year and finished runner-up to Lorenzo Sonego in the Antalya final.

Mikael Ymer improved from world number 196 to world number 74 and won four Challenger titles at Noumea, Tampere, Orleans and Mouilleron le Captif.

Corentin Moutet ended the season ranked 83 at the end of the year. He reached the third round at Roland Garros and won two Challenger titles at Chennai and Lyon.

World number 87 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina reached the semifinal at Estoril and won two finals in Seville and Liuzhou. He was ranked world number 241 last January.

Alexei Popyrin finished the year ranked 97 after reaching the third round at the Australian Open and at the US Open.

 

The candidates for the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Diego Schwartzman and Dominic Thiem. This award is given to the player, who conducted himself at the highest of professionalism and integrity, who competed with his fellow players with the utmost spirit of fairness and who promoted the game through his off -court activities.

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