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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Emma Raducanu Finding Positives Ahead Of Eastbourne Return And ‘Pristine’ Wimbledon Experience

Emma Raducanu will play Eastbourne for the first time this week.

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Emma Raducanu is finding the positives as she looks forward to a big next few weeks.

The former US Open champion is preparing to play Wimbledon for the first time in two years.

Last year, Raducanu was undergoing multiple wrist surgeries but now the Brit returns to her home Grand Slam.

In an exclusive interview with Porsche Raducanu described Wimbledon as ‘Pristine’ as she prepares for a big two weeks at SW19, “I’m looking forward to competing at Wimbledon this year,” Raducanu explained.

“Obviously, Wimbledon is Wimbledon, and that speaks for itself, but I’m most looking forward to the stage which I missed last year and now I’m looking forward to coming back and being in a better place than I was in 2022!

“For me, it’s always about the rich history and traditions, like the pristine grass courts and iconic white dress code. It’s always the tournament that every player dreams of winning.

“The courts at Wimbledon are obviously pristine and look beautiful. The aesthetics and tradition that come with the tournament are unparalleled. Being a British player at Wimbledon is incredible, the atmosphere is hard to put into words.

“I particularly love court 1 because I feel the fans get more involved, that coupled with everything else that Wimbledon brings gives you extra motivation to perform well.”

Heading into Wimbledon, Raducanu enters the tournament with a semi-final in Nottingham and is now prepared to play in Eastbourne for the first time.

Ahead of Eastbourne, Raducanu admitted she is finding the positives in her preparation and is looking forward to her experience in Eastbourne, “Preparation has been going well thanks. I have had a good last few days training in London before Eastbourne this week so excited to get going,” Raducanu stated.

“Yes, I took a lot of positives from Nottingham. I performed well, and it showed me that my game is strong on the grass, so yes, it’s given me positivity heading into Wimbledon. Most importantly for me though at Wimbledon I feel in a place where I’m in love with the sport. Whatever happens this Wimbledon, I have full belief in myself for the years to come too.

“I’ve never played in Eastbourne, it’s on the water which I like, minus the wind maybe and it’s another home tournament where I get to play in front of a home crowd! That’s the best part.”

Raducanu will face fellow Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens in a blockbuster opening round match on Tuesday.

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Tommy Paul Downs Lorenzo Musetti Wins Maiden Grass Court Title At Queen’s Club

Tommy Paul is the new American number one!

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Tommy Paul has won his maiden grass court title at Queen’s Club after defeating Lorenzo Musetti 6-1 7-6(8).

The fifth seed was too good for the Italian who never really got going as Paul claimed his first title at ATP 500 level.

It was Paul’s third ATP title of his career and moves to world number 12 after an impressive week.

Heading into the final, Paul had beaten Jack Draper and Sebastian Korda and the American continued his red-hot form in the opening set.

Incredible movement on the grass as Paul played efficient counter-attacking tennis as he frustrated Musetti early on.

The American secured the early break for a 3-0 lead as the world number 13 dictated with power and touch.

Looking for a response, Musetti aimed to dictate play on the backhand and the Italian’s serve was firing in the next game as he secured his only hold of the match.

However, Paul was too consistent and solid as the American broke again and would soon win the opening set 6-1.

In the second set, Musetti started more positively as he was more proactive and aggressive as he looked to control his power more.

Paul managed to outlast Musetti’s early power to keep moving the Italian about and creating angles to hit winners into.

After a controlled start, Musetti produced a reckless seventh game as erratic unforced errors saw Paul break for a 4-3 lead.

The American was calm and collected for the majority of the match but when serving for the match Paul faltered under pressure.

Too many missed first serves saw Musetti with an opportunity to break back and the Italian didn’t need a second invitation as a crisp backhand return winner sealed the break back to level the set at 5-5.

An inspired Musetti applied pressure on Paul with some phenomenal hitting from the baseline as he secured consistent winners.

The American held his nerve to force a second set tiebreak as the American looked to overcome some jitters.

It looked like Musetti was going to cruise to the tiebreak but the Italian squandered a 4-1 lead in what was a highly entertaining tiebreak.

In the end Paul would win the tiebreak 10-8 and secure his first ATP 500 title as well as becoming the new American number one.

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Jannik Sinner Wins Maiden Grass-Court Title In Halle

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Jannik Sinner - Parigi 2024 (foto X @ATPTour_ES)

Jannik Sinner has reached another milestone in his blossoming career after claiming his first title on grass at the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle. 

The world No.1 ousted fifth seed and doubles partner Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(8), 7-6,(2), in a tightly contested encounter. Sinner was sternly tested by the big-hitting Pole who knocked French Open finalist Alexander Zverev out of the tournament on Saturday. Nevertheless, he managed to come out on top to become only the eighth player in PIF ATP ranking history to claim a trophy in his first tournament as world No.1.

“This means a lot,” Sinner told TennisTV. “It was a tough match against Hubi. I knew that I had to serve really well. You play only a couple of really important points throughout the whole set. I tried to produce in the best possible way in the important moments. 
“I’m very happy about this tournament because it’s my first time winning (a title) on a grass court. It’s a good feeling.”

Proceedings got underway with a 53-minuite opening set which saw no breaks of serves during the first 12 games played. However, each player had one opportunity to do so during the early stages. In the tiebreak, Sinner continued to be troubled by Hurkacz after failing to maintain a 5-2 lead. Then at 6-5, he was unable to convert his first set point due to an ace from his opponent. He missed a second opportunity to do so before prevailing on his third by hitting a shot deep to the baseline that his rival returned into the net. Making Sinner the first player to take a set off Hurkacz this week. 

It was a case of deja vu in the second frame with both players standing strong behind their serve. Hurkacz was unable to find a way to break but he did win over the crowd after hitting a fantastic over-the-shoulder passing shot without looking to win a point. 

Meanwhile, Sinner continued to weather the storm as he closed in on victory. The second tiebreaker saw him capitalised on back-to-back unforced errors from his rival en route to a 5-1 lead. Two points later he earned his first match point with the help of another costly mistake from across the court before closing the match out with ease.

Sinner’s latest victory is only the second time he has beaten a top 10 player on the grass with his first triumph being against Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon two years ago. He is also the second player to win Halle whilst ranked No.1 in the world after Roger Federer. 

Heading into Wimbledon, the 22-year-old has won four ATP trophies so far this season on three different surfaces. He has now won 38 out of his last 41 matches played. 

“I’m looking forward to it,” Sinner said of the next Grand Slam. “Last year I made the semis and played some good tennis. So let’s see what’s coming this year. 
“For sure I’m more confident on this surface. Obviously, the grass here (in Halle) might be a bit different to Wimbledon but I have a week to prepare so hopefully it is going to be a good tournament.”

Sinner is the 17th active male player to win a tour-level title on all three surfaces. 

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