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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Dominic Thiem rallies from one set down against Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the final at Thiem’s 7 in Kitzbuhel

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Dominic Thiem came back from losing the first set to beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-2 en route to reaching the final at the Thiem’s 7 tournament. Thiem earned two breaks in the third and fifth games to race out to a 4-1 lead. Bautista Agut got both breaks back in the sixth and eighth games to draw level to 4-4 forcing the match to the tie-break. The Spanish player won the tie-break 7-5 to take the opening set.

 

Thiem slowly found his rhythm again in the second set and earned two break points in the fourth game but he was not able to convert them. The home star dropped only two points on his serve until the end of the second set and converted two of the three break points to clinch the second set 6-2.

Thiem earned a break in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead and held on his next service games. The tournament organizer sealed the third set 6-2 with his double break with a blistering return on the match point in the eighth game securing his spot in the final. Thiem will face either Andrey Rublev or Matteo Berrettini in the final.

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Former Roland Garros champions and five top 20 players to highlight a great edition of the Ladies Open in Palermo

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The Ladies Open WTA International in Palermo will be the first tournament to be held next August since last February.

 

The Italian tournament will feature a great line-up which includes two confirmed past Roland Garros champions Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko and five top 20 players. There is a good chance that 2018 French Open and 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep could be added in the field.

“We are glad about Simona Halep’s great interest in Palermo Ladies Open. We will be waiting for her at the Country Club for an historic edition of the Palermo tournament. We have been in contact with Halep’s manager for some time. We have been talking for days about her potential participation in Palermo. She is one of the best players in the world and her presence would contribute to make an already high-level tournament extrahordinary. We will leave our doors open to her for as long as possible, as well as for other top ten players that will want to resume their season in Palermo”, said tournament’s CEO Oliviero Palma.

The other stars who have signed up to the Ladies Open are 2019 Roland Garros champion Marketa Vondrousova, two Grand Slam semifinalists Elise Mertens (2018 Australian Open) and Anastasija Sevastova (2018 US Open), Aryna Sabalenka (winner at the Wuhan Open in 2018 and 2019, WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and Doha in 2020) and Elina Rybakina (winner in Hobart and finalist in St. Petersburg and Dubai in 2020), Dayana Yastremska (winner of three tournaments in Hong Kong in 2018, Thailand and Strasbourg in 2019).

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova lift the titles in Perugia

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Lorenzo Sonego and Liudmila Samsonova won the Zzz Quill Tennis Tour in Perugia. Sonego followed up his Italian title won the previous week in Todi with a 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 win over Croatia’s Viktor Galovic (world number 269 and number 7 seed) in the final of the Perugia tournament.

 

“Galovic started very well. It was difficult to adjust to his game and improve during the match. I maintained the right attitude and I managed to win the title. I enjoyed two fantastic weeks in Todi and Perugia. This confirmed my good work in training in the past two weeks. I gave my best and I am confident for the rest of the season”, said Sonego.

World number 117 Liudmila Samsonova won the women’s title came back from one set down to beat world number 307 Stefania Rubini 4-6 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in the women’s final after saving two match points.

“I won a very tough final with a lot of ups and downs. I am happy that I played many matches. It was one of my goals on the eve of the tournament. I showed that I am able to keep the level of my tennis high, when I play focused”, said Samsonova.   

 

 

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