Simona Halep Faces Tough Task To Overhaul Kvitova As Madrid Champion - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Faces Tough Task To Overhaul Kvitova As Madrid Champion

Simona Halep faces a tough task in trying to overhaul Petra Kvitova in Madrid.

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Simona Halep (@MutuaMadridOpen - Twitter)

Simona Halep faces a tough task in her bid to overhaul Petra Kvitova as Madrid champion as preparation for Roland Garros continues. 

 

The Romanian is looking to build momentum ahead of her Roland Garros title defence next month in Paris. But a tough draw in Madrid has made her life difficult in looking to overhaul Petra Kvitova in Madrid.

After winning in Stuttgart last week, Kvitova is looking to successfully defend her title in the Spanish capital and faces Sofia Kenin in the first round.

Meanwhile the likes of Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza are looking to keep up their strong reputations on the clay.

1st Quarter 

World number one Naomi Osaka headlines the draw as she looks to extend her advantage at the top of the WTA rankings. A tough test against Dominika Cibulkova could stop her progress though with a potential third round match with Anett Kontaveit on the cards.

Osaka’s potential last eight opponent is Karolina Pliskova, who is only just recovering from a viral illness. The Czech Republican starts against Ukrainian rising star Dayana Yastremska. Also in her section is Belinda Bencic, who starts against Alison Van Uytvanck , and a crunch match between Aryna Sabalenka and Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Overall this section of the draw is mixed with power and a couple of excellent matches.

2nd Quarter

This is where we find Roland Garros champion Simona Halep, who has won twice in Madrid before. A match against a qualifier kicks off her campaign with a potential second round meeting with Johanna Konta awaiting her.

Also in this section we have Carla Suarez Navarro taking on Maria Sakkari in what is expected to be a high-quality match. Also Elina Svitolina returns from her injury to take on Pauline Parmentier as she looks to set an early bench-marker for the clay season.

Should the seeds and previous year’s form match up then we could be set for a titanic last eight match between Halep and Svitolina, two of the favourites for Roland Garros next month.

3rd Quarter

The third quarter of the draw sees Angelique Kerber take on Lesia Tsurenko in the opening round. The German will look to complete her career grand slam in Paris next month but has a complicated relationship with the red dirt. A possible second round meeting with Garbine Muguruza could await should the Spaniard get past Istanbul champion Petra Martic.

Out of sorts Sloane Stephens also appears in this section as she teams up with new coach Sven Groenefeld for the first time this week. A qualifier awaits for the American with a second round meeting with Daria Kasatkina and Victoria Azarenka on the cards.

Also in this section in the draw sees Caroline Wozniacki and in-form Donna Vekic.

4th Quarter

In the final quarter of the draw, defending champion Petra Kvitova will play Sofia Kenin in the opening match. The Stuttgart champion also has Barbora Strycova, Caroline Garcia and Madison Keys in her section of the draw.

Should Kvitova make the quarter-finals, a rematch of last year’s final and the Stuttgart final awaits in Kiki Bertens, who plays Katerina Siniakova in round one. Bertens will also fancy her chances in Paris next month as she plays the winner of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova versus Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.

Here is the full draw, with main draw action beginning on Saturday:

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Rafael Nadal Claims Revenge On Tsitsipas To Reach 50th Masters 1000 Final

Rafael Nadal is into the Rome final after a 6-3 6-4 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas as he makes his 50th Masters 1000 final.

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Rafael Nadal (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal claimed revenge on Stefanos Tsitsipas with a 6-3 6-4 win to reach his 50th Masters 1000 final in Rome. 

 

The world number two got his revenge from his defeat to the Greek star last week in Madrid by cruising to victory I the Rome semi-finals.

It’s his first final since the Australian Open and the 50th Masters 1000 final of his career as he looks for an eighth Rome title.

In the final Nadal will play either world number one Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman.

It was a fast start from the Spaniard who broke in the second game for a 2-0 lead as he looked to send a clear message after recent struggles.

The world number seven though started to show why he should never be underestimated with his power from the back of the court and his positivity.

However some stunning forehands saw Nadal hold in a nine minute game as he sealed a 3-0 lead as he changed things up in his tactics.

Unlike in Madrid, the seven-time Rome champion used his forehand more than his backhand to punish Tsitsipas and be aggressive in the key moments.

Despite some good serving from Tsitsipas, it was Nadal who held firm to take the first set 6-3 and take the early advantage in this semi-final.

The second set saw Tsitsipas angry at the umpire at a few line calls as Nadal took advantage of the Madrid finalist’s emotional rollercoaster.

Some strokes of brilliance once again saw Nadal in the ascendancy as he broke in the third game for a 2-1 lead as Tsitsipas grew frustrated.

Despite Nadal threatening to break again Tsitsipas remained firm on serve as he wanted to force Nadal to at least serve out the match.

But some more insane shot-making and some fatigue from the Greek saw the former world number one close out the match and once again reach the final in Rome.

It was a good few weeks for Tsitsipas, who looks good to have a deep run at Roland Garros in just over a week’s time.

As for Nadal, it is his first final since the Australian Open and the 50th Masters 1000 final of his career, which comes as perfect timing ahead of the defence of his Roland Garros title.

A match against world number one Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman now awaits the Spaniard in his bid for an eighth title in the Italian capital.

 

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Alexander Zverev’s Search For Confidence Continues In Geneva As Roland Garros Approaches

Alexander Zverev is looking for some confidence heading into Roland Garros as he headlines the draw in Geneva.

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Alexander Zverev (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev’s search for confidence continues in Geneva this week as he looks for some momentum heading into Roland Garros. 

 

The German has struggled for form this clay-court season having only won five matches in his six clay-court tournaments.

It has been a complete opposite from last year where he won Madrid, reached the final in Rome and made the last eight at the French Open.

This year has been different to last year though as he has had to deal with off-court distractions and has resulted in his lacklustre form.

Now the 22 year-old is looking to have some much-needed wildcard as he tops the field in Geneva this week on the last stop on the road to Roland Garros.

A first round bye means that Zverev has time to prepare for his first match against either Ernests Gulbis or Yoshihito Nishioka.

Should Zverev win that match, then a potential quarter-final against Andreas Seppi could await as he looks to hit top-form just in time for the second grand slam of the season.

Also in Geneva this week is second seed Stan Wawrinka, who begins against Feliciano Lopez or a qualifier and Munich champion Cristian Garin who begins against Taro Daniel or a qualifier.

There is also the possibility of Grigor Dimitrov being the main draw as he appears in the qualifying draw as he also looks for some confidence heading into Paris.

Canadians Headline Lyon 

In the other ATP tournament this week Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are amongst the headliners in Lyon.

Shapovalov will play either Ugo Humbert or Cameron Norrie, while Auger-Aliassime faces the winner of John Millman or Pablo Andujar.

The other two seeds with a bye are Nikoloz Basilashvili and Roberto Bautista Agut as they look to gain some momentum heading into Paris.

Other notable first rounds are Hubert Hurkacz against Pablo Cuevas while Monte-Carlo runner-up Dusan Lajovic takes on Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

Here are the draws for both tournaments with play beginning on Sunday:

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Italian Open Saturday Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Match of the Day

It’s semifinal day in Rome, and hopefully the rain in the forecast doesn’t disturb the order of play.

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Rafael Nadal (photo by Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Quarterfinal day actually carried over into semifinal day, as Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro battled well past 1:00am.  Djokovic saved two match points and prevailed in an over three-hour affair. He and Rafael Nadal are just one win away from their first meeting on clay this year, an occasion the tennis world has been anxiously awaiting.  But first, Nadal must face the man who defeated him last week, Stefanos Tsitsipas. In the women’s semifinals, two of the WTA’s most consistent performers face two surprise semifinalists.

 

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

This is a rematch from last Saturday’s semifinal in Madrid, where Tsitsipas took out the King of Clay in his nation’s capital.  Nadal will be eager to avenge that loss, and even more eager to gain more confidence just eight days before the French Open begins.  Perhaps Nadal is finally rounding into form. In the three matches he’s played this week, he’s only dropped six games in six sets. He won three of those sets 6-0.  However, Tsitsipas is a step up in competition from Rafa’s last three opponents, and should be well-rested after Roger Federer withdrew from their quarterfinal yesterday.  It’s hard to imagine the 20-year-old upsetting Nadal on clay for the second straight week. I expect a hungry Nadal to prevail in straight sets.

Kiki Bertens (6) vs. Johanna Konta

With a win today, Bertens would usurp Simona Halep as the new world No.2.  Johanna Konta, former world No.4, has already done enough this week to get her ranking back high enough to be seeded at Roland Garros.  The British No.1 has struggled mightily since making the Wimbledon semifinals two years ago. And she’s never fared well on clay. In fact, she had a losing record on this surface in each of the last three seasons.  But a run to the final in Rabat two weeks, where she lost to fellow Rome semifinalist Maria Sakkari, was the confidence boost she needed. Konta is now 9-2 on clay this year. However, Bertens is the WTA’s most winningest player on clay over the past few years, and is on an eight-match winning streak coming off her title run last week in Madrid.  Bertens was completely exhausted on Thursday, but somehow pulled out two three-set matches in one day. She was surely thrilled to have a day off yesterday thanks to the withdrawal of Naomi Osaka. Bertens and Konta have split their four previous matches, though they’ve never played on clay. Bertens will be the favorite on the terra baute of Rome, but don’t count out Konta considering her current form and Kiki’s self-described exhaustion.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday in Rome:

  • Novak Djokovic (1), who will be happy to be back in the night session considering his quarterfinal ended earlier this morning, vs. Diego Schwartzman, who defeated another tired player yesterday in Kei Nishikori.
  • Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. 23-year-old Maria Sakkari of Greece.  Their only previous meeting was last year at this tournament, when Sakkari upset Pliskova 7-5 in the third, and Pliskova repeatedly hit the chair umpire structure with her racket after a bad line call.

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