Madrid Open Saturday Preview: The Men’s Semi-Finals And The Women’s Final - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Saturday Preview: The Men’s Semi-Finals And The Women’s Final

With six top 10 players in today’s singles action, we should be in for some great battles on the penultimate weekend of the Mutua Madrid Open

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Dominic Thiem (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

In the women’s final, we have the two best WTA clay court players of the past several years.  In the men’s semi-finals, we have the three best ATP clay court players of the past several years, plus a 20-year-old who’s on a seven-match win streak on the terra baute.  Today will go a long way in deciding who are the favourites heading into Roland Garros.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Dominic Thiem (5)

Djokovic should be extremely fresh for this semi-final, thanks to the withdrawal of Marin Cilic from yesterday’s quarterfinal. On the other hand, Thiem is coming off a dramatic win just yesterday over Roger Federer, where he saved two match points in an extended second set tiebreak. Since the Australian Open, Thiem has been the better of the two players.  Prior to this week, Djokovic was just 5-3 since winning his 15th Major.  Thiem meanwhile won the biggest title of his career in Indian Wells, and also hoisted the trophy just two weeks ago in Barcelona.

Novak easily took their first five meetings, but Dominic took the last two, both of which were played on clay. Two years ago at Roland Garros, Thiem upended Djokovic in straight sets. And last year in Monte Carlo, Thiem came back from a set down to eliminate Djokovic. It’s reasonable to say the winner here should be considered the second favourite for the French Open, of course behind Rafael Nadal.

Novak hasn’t defeated a player ranked inside the top 40 since the Australian, so he’ll need to considerably up his level from what we’ve seen over the past few months to prevail. Based on recent form, it’s hard not to consider Thiem the favourite, though I do expect Djokovic to start building up momentum heading into Roland Garros.

Simona Halep (3) vs. Kiki Bertens (7)

This is a rematch from last year’s final in Cincinnati, where Bertens came back from a set down to upset the then-world No.1 for the biggest title of her career. Overall Halep leads their head-to-head 3-2, and they’ve split their two matches on clay. Halep has been less than her best self in 2019, coming off a back injury that prematurely ended her 2018  She also split with Darren Cahill in the offseason. But she finally seems to have herself sorted out this week, playing the best tennis of her year thus far.

Bertens returns to the Madrid final for the second straight year, having lost to Petra Kvitova in 2018. The 27-year-old is coming off the best season of her career, where she qualified for the WTA finals for the first time. And she hasn’t slowed sown this year, already with 23 match wins. She’s yet to drop a set this week in Madrid, and beat two top 10 players in the past two days. With a win today, Bertens would debut in the top five, while Halep would regain the No.1 ranking if she takes the title. Kiki is the player who with more confidence at this time, and I like her chances to defeat Halep in another significant final.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (8)

In three previous meetings, Nadal is 3-0 against Tsitsipas, having yet to drop a set. That includes a match on clay last year in Barcelona, as well as earlier this year in the Australian Open semi-finals. Is Tsitsipas ready to test Nadal for the first time?

Judging by Nadal’s form yesterday, it will be a tall task. We finally saw the Rafael Nadal of old yesterday in his demolition of Stan Wawrinka, losing just three games. And Tsitispas must be a bit weary coming into this semi-final, having played a total of 11 singles and doubles matches over the past 10 days. In the 10 times Nadal has played in the semis of this tournament, he’s 9-1. On clay in his home country’s capital, he’ll be the strong favourite to reach his 10th final.

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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.

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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. 

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Serena Williams leads a high-quality line-up in Lexington

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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. 

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Kremlin Cup Becomes Latest Tournament Thrown Into Uncertainty

Will there be tennis in Russia this year?

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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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