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

 

ATP

Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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ATP

David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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Madison Keys battles past Simona Halep to reach the quarter final in Cincinnati

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Madison Keys beat this year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5 to advance to the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year.

 

Madison Keys stopped a five-match losing streak against Simona Halep after a thrilling three-set match scoring her first win over the Romanian player in five years.

After beating Halep in their first head-to-head match in 2014, Keys lost five consecutive matches against her Romanian rival, including four in 2016. They met for the first time since the 2016 WTA Finals, where Halep beat Keys 6-2 6-4 in a round-robin match.

Keys never faced a break point and dropped just eight points in four service games and reeled off nine of the eleven points on Halep’s first serve to cruise through to a 6-1 win in 20 minutes.

In the second set Halep dropped her serve twice, but she converted three of the ten break points. The Romanian player held her serve at love for the first time in the match to win the second set sending the match to the third set.

Keys went up a 3-0 lead in the decider and earned four break points for 4-0. Halep converted her fifth break points at deuce and held serve at love to draw level to 3-3. Keys did not convert a match point at 5-4, but she sealed the win by breaking serve with a forehand winner in the 12th game at deuce to the delight of the home crowd.

“I think I played really smart tonight. Obviously I played a really good first set, and I don’t think she played her best tennis in the first set. I think the third set we played a pretty high level of tennis. I think it was the first time that I played a little bit more within myself and didn’t try to do too much too soon. She has been number 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before I could take a deep breath. I am really happy after losing my lead in the third set, I was able to get back. It definitely reminds me that when I am in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone”, said Keys.

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