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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Who Are The Best Hard Court Creators In The Last 12 Months?

Here are some of the best players at earning break points on a hard court in the last 12 months.

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Garbine Muguruza (@Tennis - Twitter)

As the Australian Open, slowly, approaches UbiTennis looks at the biggest hard court creators from the last 52 weeks.

 

Although winning matches are determined on how many break point opportunities you convert, to convert the break points you need to create them in the first place.

This can be the biggest challenge but for the players below this isn’t a problem as they are able to consistently create break point opportunities on a hard court.

Starting with the women, it may be a surprise to nobody that Garbine Muguruza, one of the more aggressive returners on the tour leads the way, earning on average 10.4 break points in the last 52 weeks on a hard court.

Muguruza’s hard-hitting style mixed with controlled placement puts her in pole position to punish her opponents on return.

There are also other big hitters in the top 10 such as Petra Kvitova, who averages 9.6 break points while Aryna Sabalenka earns 9.5 break points on a hard court.

While 2020 grand slam champions Iga Swiatek (9.8) and Naomi Osaka (9.3) also feature on this list.

Meanwhile on the men’s side it is Roger Federer who leads this list on average earning 10.8 break points, slightly more than Garbine Muguruza who is on top of the women’s list.

Federer is just ahead of Roberto Bautista Agut with 10.5 break points. This shows just how much Bautista Agut has improved on hard courts in the last 12 months being able to create so many break point opportunities with his return game.

Also featuring on this list are Alexander Zverev (9.2), Novak Djokovic (8.5) and Daniil Medvedev (8.3).

These are the players to look out for when seeing the players who are most likely to create opportunities in their respective draws and who the biggest servers may want to avoid in the Australian Open.

Here are the full lists of the top 10 from each tour and remember the Australian Open is set to begin on the 8th of February.

WTA Top 11 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks

  1. Garbine Muguruza – 10.4
  2. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – 10.2
  3. Saisai Zheng – 9.9
  4. Iga Swiatek – 9.8
  5. Anett Kontaveit – 9.6
  6. Petra Kvitova – 9.6
  7. Petra Martic – 9.6
  8. Aryna Sabalenka – 9.5
  9. Ons Jabeur – 9.5
  10. Simona Halep – 9.3
  11. Naomi Osaka – 9.3

ATP Top 12 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks

  1. Roger Federer – 10.8
  2. Roberto Bautista Agut – 10.5
  3. Alexander Zverev – 9.2
  4. John Millman – 8.9
  5. Dominic Thiem – 8.9
  6. Guido Pella – 8.8
  7. Cristian Garin – 8.5
  8. Novak Djokovic – 8.5
  9. David Goffin – 8.4
  10. Adrian Mannarino – 8.3
  11. Daniil Medvedev – 8.3
  12. Grigor Dimitrov – 8.3

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Further 23 Players In Hard Quarantine After More Positive Tests On Charter Flight

More players head into hard quarantine ahead of the first grand slam of the year.

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A further 23 players have been told that they are being placed into hard quarantine after another positive COVID-19 test on a charter flight from Abu Dhabi.

 

Players were notified this evening in Australia that there was a positive test on the Abu Dhabi charter flight. Although it looks it wasn’t a player who tested positive it now means 23 more players will now go into hard quarantine.

This follows the news of 24 players going into hard quarantine after two positive tests from a charter flight from Los Angeles.

It is understood from several journalists that among those who are now being placed into hard quarantine from the Abu Dhabi flight are Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, Bianca Andreescu, Angelique Kerber, Marta Kostyuk, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ons Jabeur.

Although there are only 47 players in hard quarantine so far, there is a fear that this number could rise with more COVID test results still waiting to come back.

Before the charter flights, Andy Murray, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Madison Keys and Amanda Anisimova were denied entry into Australia via the chartered flights due to positive COVID results.

The first set of tournaments in Australia are set to begin on the 31st of January with the Australian Open due to begin on the 8th of February.

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ANALYSIS: Daniil Medvedev’s Run At The ATP Finals – Win Against Nadal Was The Turning point

Using two types of graphs, UbiTennis takes a closer look at the five matches won by Daniil Medvedev at the 2020 ATP Finals.

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Let’s analyse the five matches won at the ATP Finals by Daniil Medvedev, using the graphical representations provided by Federico Bertelli. We have renamed the graphs as “The ride”, recalling the famous Wagnerian composition. The first series of graphs is made up of decision trees and illustrates the trend of Medvedev’s and his opponents behind their respective serves, from the first round robin match to the final won against Dominic Thiem.

 

These are the details of his debut match against Zverev. The graph is easy to read: on the right (in blue) the times he held his serve are represented, while the time he broke his opponent are on the left (in red). The thicker the segment that connects two scores, the more frequently that ‘path’ of play has been covered.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/39qVQVmRFll9YWeGxM_Dl-qEBE7Z2iwMHIfrEa6v5WwIKELuSfGEYrmgVQkDzPhlhsEthmsawLr4Cx-hi-NC15wcu85Yjt_unBZPfFJWpWoyoW5JS1Xbzxf63e2tZnzu0Z_RDCg
https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/72lIM46LmWsHKBUr3Rhw7oYq4Lto4obP0mA7E_kQH9bVB58TMEhC1Onixq0M8tZch1ZG4v8Hmf_Ntxss48abHouM1wqaPgRaQSeAcsSbJCZAY1Tea-lYVQzeStc61ayblLIasXM

Medvedev’s solidity holding serve is undeniable, because he performed best in deuce receiver and deuce server situations. It can also be observed how the Russian got broken just once in his first three matches, against Zverev at 30-40, while against Nadal he was particularly in trouble with his own serve, as the Spaniard was the only one who broke him several times, taking advantage of some favourable scoring situations such as 0-40, 15-40 and deuce receiver.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/e0lb0_yVnzwb24LWS-xN7qdhxz4DqiNqCBEolubVLln3Qv_7Na99-mCi4WU_k9UrBT4T4H2OqcnxnlYEcO8TX4LtwMA3nkLW94JK6hnnEEshOXFd9_HNZ6seBhP56_deatR2Rig
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/IPBeJdkVLRtQewleS-MxR7QHtzpehhO8wIslpXwlGLisR7KrzSbMng2lAUoAdjIMj2EWBPWhA838l2AJX27anuWFex_oIUSFdMHfoQWDlpW8DoLUx209sVr8cg7qdfvOdfJojX8

However, against Thiem, although Medvedev found himself tangled in a decider, the trend reverts back to that of the round matches: the only chance that Thiem had to snatch the serve was on the deuce receiver. He had no other chance from 40-40. 

https://www.ubitennis.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Medvedev-finals.jpg

The graphical analysis, corroborated by the thickness of the oblique blue lines, also shows the growing solidity of the Russian from match to match, winning the opening two points in his service games. This is a sign of a growing confidence in his game as the Russian advanced towards the final stages of the tournament, e.g. the semi-final and the final.

As for the situations in which Medvedev was particularly proficient on his opponent’s serve, the deuce receiver stands out, a circumstance that was present in all five matches, followed by the 30-40 – he broke on this situation against Zverev and Schwartzman.

AN OVERVIEW

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/vjDrxErqtjvDOnK9dhmExHj5OiMeiNHupX3ffY3sKFBPPQ39Yb7Gipu39P5_XYAlGoBbgeILp7kDrYKrQBoaVRJHSzD731_9doLJ2GVFq4xafnYhzlBeyORsZ4HY5UB88OHV3ao

The second series of graphs on Medvedev’s Valkyrian ride consists of radar graphs illustrating the classic statistics shown at the end of each match, which are equivalent to the following percentages – starting from the top and going clockwise: percentage of first serves in play, percentage of points won with his first and second serve, break points saved and converted, points won on the return against first and second serve, total points won, total points won on the return and on serve. What you see above is the diagram of Medvedev’s debut match: it is easy to see that he did better than Zverev in all statistics except for the percentage of first serves in play.

From the analysis of the first three matches of the group stage, even though the yellow area is predominant in almost all the statistical percentages, it’s clear that Medvedev was more effective in saving break points than his opponents (more than 80 percent against Zverev and 100 percent against Djokovic and Schwartzman), as well as in converting them. Against Schwartzman, he was actually bettered in the percentage of points won with the second service and in points won on the return against the opponent’s second serve.

https://www.ubitennis.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/bbb.jpg

However, in the next two matches the percentage profiles of break balls saved and converted change because Nadal’s and Thiem’s numbers are higher than the Medvedev’s. So, ultimately, it means that Medvedev conceded fewer break points and managed to convert those that his opponents offered him during the match. 

That shows a great solidity.

If the general statistical profile of the Medvedev’s match against Thiem is similar to that of the matches won against Djokovic and Zverev, and in some ways to the one against Schwartzman as well, the statistics outline against Nadal is totally abnormal and should be considered as an outlier. The percentage of points won returning Nadal’s second serve and on his own second serve were the crucial ones. We will analyse this aspect in another article that will deal with Medvedev’s positioning on the return.

In conclusion, from the analysis of the statistical profiles, it appears that the semi-final bout against Nadal was the toughest obstacle that Medvedev had to overcome in his ride to success in a tournament in which he turned out more than anyone to be able (perhaps naturally) to give the match the desired direction, even when the numbers were not completely by his side.

Article by Andrea Canella; translated by Alice Nagni; edited by Tommaso Villa

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