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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Coco Gauff reaches her maiden WTA final at the age of 15 in Linz

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US 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff cruised past German former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4 after 91 minutes to reach her maiden WTA singles final at the Upper Austria Ladies Open in Linz.   

 

Gauff lost in the final round of the qualifying tournament but she claimed her spot in the main draw as a lucky loser. After entering the main draw as a lucky loser Gauff scored three wins over Stefanie Voegele, Kateryna Kozlova, Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic  consolidating her spot in the top 100.

Gauff saved nine of the ten break points she faced and won 71 % of her second serve points.

Petkovic earned the first break of the match in Gauff’s opening game, but Gauff broke straight back in the second game with a passing shot down the line in the next game. After holding serve Gauff earned two break points. The US teenager broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead after a backhand error from Perkovic. Gauff earned three set points in the 10th game and converted her first chance after a netted return from Petkovic.

Gauff faced three break points at 2-1, but she held on her serve to draw level to 2-2. The US player converted her sixth break point chance to take a 3-2 lead after a double fault from Petkovic.

Gauff saved two break points with a volley and a drop-shot, when she served for the match at 5-4, and sealed the win on her second match point.

Gauff set up a final against 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who came back from one set down to beat last year’s Linz finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. Ostapenko fended off one match points at 6-5 in the second set and two more match points at 5-4 in the third set of the 2-hour and 21-minute match.

Alexandrova broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to take the opening set 6-1. The Russian player fired an ace on her second set point to seal the first set after 30 minutes.

Alexandrova went up an early break to build up a 3-1 lead. Ostapenko broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Alexandrova fended off three break points to draw level to 4-4. Alexandrova broke serve at love to take a 5-4 lead earning the chance to serve for the match. Alexandrova hit an ace to earn her first match point, but she did not convert her chance, as she sent her backhand long. Ostapenko broke serve to draw level to 5-5 setting up a tie-break. Ostapenko earned her first set point at 5-5 in the tie-break, as Alexandrova missed a forehand wide. Ostapenko sealed the second set to force the match to the third set, as Ostapenko fired a service return wide.

Both players traded breaks in the first and second games of the decisive set. Alexandrova fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the 10th game to earn two match points, but she made unforced errors to miss both her chances. Ostapenko hit a forehand winner to draw level to 5-5. Alexandrova saved a match point at 6-5 with a return winner, but Ostapenko sealed the win on her second match point.

 

 

 

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Alexander Zverev Boosts ATP Finals Chances After Reaching Shanghai Final

Alexander Zverev boosted his chances of reaching the ATP Finals after reaching the Shanghai final.

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Alexander Zverev (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev has boosted his chances of qualifying for the ATP Finals after defeating Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-4 in the Shanghai semi-finals. 

 

It was a routine performance from the German as he only lost seven points on his serve to reach the Shanghai Rolex Masters final.

After losing in the semi-finals last year to Novak Djokovic, Zverev wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2019 as he broke in each set to claim victory.

In his post-match interview with atptour.com, the 22 year-old admitted it was a great feeling to win today, “It feels great, obviously,” Zverev explained.

“I felt like I’ve played some decent tennis this week and being in a Masters 1000 final here in Shanghai is also something very special for me. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can play some good tennis tomorrow.”

The win now means that Zverev has opened up a 330 point lead between him and his opponent today, who is in eighth place in the race.

This is crucial for the German if he wants to defend the ATP Finals crown that he won last year when he beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back.

Tomorrow, he will play in-form Daniil Medvedev in his sixth Masters 1000 final and although he leads their head-to-head 4-0, he is taking nothing for granted, “We’ve played some fantastic matches, all going my way until now,” Zverev said.

I hope tomorrow that will not change. But he’s been playing some fantastic tennis, sixth final in a row, US Open finalist, won Cincinnati.

“He’s probably the best player in the world right now. I hope it’s just going to be a good match tomorrow.”

Both men are looking for their first Shanghai title as well as momentum heading into the season-finale in London next month.

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Heather Watson sets up final against Rebecca Peterson in Tianjin

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Unseeded players Rebecca Peterson and Heather Watson set up a final at the Tianjin Open WTA Tournament.

 

Rebecca Peterson came back from one set down to beat Ons Jabeur 0-6 6-4 7-5 after 2 hours and 9 minutes.

Jabeur won all the first five games, which went to deuce, and closed out the opening set with a bagel with a hold at 30 in the sixth game.

Peterson bounced back in the second set by breaking serve twice in the eighth and tenth game to clinch the second set 6-4.

Jabeur got an early break to open up a 3-1 lead. Peterson broke back in the sixth game and saved a break point in the ninth game. The Swedish player closed out the match with a break at 6-5.

“Today was a really tough match. She played well, I could not find my rhythm and I had to fight for every point, so I am happy that I got the win at the end. At the end of the season, everyone feels that their body is sore and they are tired. I am going to recover as well as I can and for sure I will be ready for tomorrow”,said Peterson.

World number 125 Heather Watson cruised past Veronika Kudemertova 6-1 6-4 after 1 hour and 14 minutes to reach her fourth WTA final and the first since Monterrey 2016. Watson dropped nine points in nine service games and saved all three break point chances she faced.

The British player broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to close out the first set 6-1 after 25 minutes. Kudemertova saved two break points in the third game of the second set before Watson got the break to take a 3-2 lead. Watson saved three break points in the sixth game to hold on her service game. Kudemertova fended off two match points on serve before Watson closed out the match with a hold at 30.

“Yesterday was a really tough match and I think all those hours on court helped me play well today, so it was a good thing. It’s my first time here in Tianjin, so it’s a great first experience for me. I am looking forward to playing the final and hopefully I can play as well as I managed today”,said Watson.

 

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