French Open Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

French Open Day 7 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Saturday’s schedule may be the most appetizing yet of this fortnight, especially with two bonus matches to be completed from last night.

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Serena Williams (@RolandGarros - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

Both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Stan Wawrinka are up two sets, but their matches against Filip Krajinovic and Grigor Dimitrov were interrupted on Friday by darkness. And the rest of the third round singles matches are due to be decided on Day 7.  Major champions Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep, and Juan Martin Del Potro are just some of the top seeds who will play on Saturday.

Serena Williams (10) vs. Sofia Kenin

It’s easy for most players to be overwhelmed by the idea of playing the 23-time Major singles champion, especially when she is your countrywoman, and 17 years your senior. But I’m curious to see how Kenin reacts in this situation.  She’s proven herself to be a strong competitor on court: just look at her efforts in the Fed Cup final last year.

While she went down in defeat in both singles matches, she pushed two more experienced players for a total of over six hours on opposing soil. And she has some impressive wins this season over names like Victoria Azarenka, Madison Keys, and Caroline Garcia.  Of course Serena will be the favorite, but this is only her 12th match of the year, and could be prone to an upset if Kenin can stay aggressive and block out the weight of the occasion.

Simona Halep (3) vs. Lesia Tsurenko (27)

Coming off a back injury that ended her 2018 season early, and the loss of Darren Cahill from her coaching team, Halep has been underwhelming this year. While she has 25 match wins, she’s only reached two finals, and not won either. She was outplayed in the second set on Thursday by Magda Linette, but rebounded nicely to close out the match in three.

And this matchup plays heavily to Halep’s favour: she’s 7-0 against Tsurenko. And while the 30-year-old has made the fourth round or better at two of the last four Majors, she needed two days to finish her second round match, which went to 11-9 in the third. This should be a rather comfortable win for the defending champion.

Fabio Fognini (9) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (18)

This has four or five sets written all over it. Extended matches at Majors are not foreign to either man. Fognini is the more accomplished clay court player, with eight titles on the surface in his career, the biggest one coming six weeks ago in Monte Carlo.

Bautista Agut is a rare Spaniard who does not excel on clay, with only one title on the terra baute. Both men have one Major quarterfinal on their resume: Fabio here eight years ago, and Roberto just earlier this year in Australia. Fognini leads their head-to-head 6-3, and 3-1 on clay. Fabio has admitted to his body being less than 100% of late, and Roberto is yet to drop a set this week, so I give the slight edge to Bautista Agut for the slight upset.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Dusan Lajovic (30)

This is a rematch from last year’s French Open, when Zverev needed five sets to overcome the Serbian. That’s the only time these two have faced. Sascha has experienced a disappointing 2019 coming off his ATP Finals victory, but finally lifted his first trophy of the year last week in Geneva.

Lajovic was the man Fognini defeated in the Monte Carlo final.  Dusan took out Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, and David Goffin that week. He didn’t win another match coming into this tournament, with three opening round losses. But he easily won his first two rounds here, and obviously knows how to challenge Zverev’s game based on last year’s result. This could be a dangerous match for Sascha, who’s played a lot of tennis over the past 10 days.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Pablo Cuevas

Here we have two clay court experts, though Thiem’s the only one to have success at the Majors. Cuevas has never been farther than the third round at this level, a feat he’s achieved only here in Paris, in four of the last five years.  But Thiem only owns a 3-2 edge over the 33-year-old veteran, with one of Pablo’s victories coming at this tournament.

The last time Dominic lost early at Roland Garros was to Cuevas in the second round in 2015. However, it would be startling if that result repeated itself four years later, as Thiem is a different player now. Pablo may hang around for awhile in this match, but Dominic should advance to the round of 16.

Other notable matches on Day 7:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Salvatore Caruso (Q), an Italian who had never won a match at a Major before this week.

Naomi Osaka (1) vs. Katerina Siniakova, the doubles world No.1. , Osaka will be eager for a comfortable win after two extremely complicated rounds.

Juan Martin Del Potro (8) vs. Jordan Thompson of Australia. How will Del Potro feel after playing five sets on a bum knee two days ago?

Australian No.1 Ash Barty (8) Andrea Petkovic, who won her first two matches 7-5 and 8-6 in the third.

Karen Khachanov (10), champion of the Paris Indoors six months ago, vs. Martin Klizan, who needed two days and five sets to take out Lucas Pouille.

Grand Slam

Marcos Baghdatis And Iga Swiatek Among Initial Wimbledon Wildcards

Marcos Baghdatis and Iga Swiatek have received a wildcard for Wimbledon as the third grand slam of the year approaches.

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Marcos Baghdatis (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

Marcos Baghdatis and defending Juniors champion Iga Swiatek are among the initial wildcards for Wimbledon. 

 

The initial wildcards for Wimbledon have been announced this morning with former Wimbledon semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis among the Men’s wildcards.

Having not played since May and not appeared on the main tour since February, Baghdatis is a surprise choice for a wildcard spot given the options.

Players such as Nicolas Mahut, Feliciano Lopez and Dustin Brown were seen as candidates for a main draw wildcard but it seems that at the moment that spot has been given to the Cypriot.

Joining Baghdatis as main draw wildcards on the men’s side is the British trio of James Ward, Jay Clarke and NCAA champion Paul Jubb.

Meanwhile on the women’s side, last year’s Women’s junior champion Iga Swiatek has been given a wildcard after her incredible rise.

Since winning the Juniors title last year, Swiatek has reached her maiden WTA final, risen to number 65 in the world and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros.

Joining Swiatek, as the British wildcards are Harriet Dart, Heather Watson and Katie Swan as there are four more spots to be announced.

As more wildcards are yet to be announced, the likes of Feliciano Lopez, Dustin Brown and Katie Boulter could still receive a main draw wildcard.

Meanwhile in the doubles event Lleyton Hewitt has once again received a doubles wildcard despite ‘retiring.’ The 2002 singles champion will team up with compatriot Jordan Thompson.

Here are the wildcards below, with the singles draws taking place a week on Friday:

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ATP

Greg Rusedski Tips Tsitsipas To Become The Next Federer

The Greek sensation has been backed to rise to the top of the world rankings.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo by chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski has praised Next Gen star Stefano Tsitsipas by saying he has characteristics similar to that of Roger Federer.

 

The former world No.4 believes the greek has what it takes to conquer the men’s tour. So far this season Tsitsipas has played in four ATP finals, winning titles in Marseille and Estoril. In total, he has won 32 matches on the tour this year. The joint-highest alongside Rafael Nadal. At the age of 20, he is already the first man from his country to reach the semi-final of a grand slam and crack the top 10.

“He’s so much better as a player than he was a year ago and he’s getting better,” Rusedski told Amazon Prime.
“His transitioning game coming forward, playing doubles so much more this year. I think he will be a Wimbledon champion as well as a world number one. He’s that good.”

Continuing his tribute to the world No.6, the Brit believes he plays similar to some of the stars of the game. Tsitsipas is currently 10-15 against top 10 opposition in his career and has defeated every member of the Big Three at least once. The most recent being against Nadal at the Madrid Open.

“He reminds me of a young Roger Federer. A guy who’s got that full package.” Rusedski analyzed.
“He looks a little bit like Bjorn Borg the way he walks around the court but what I like, he’s a complete player and he has this mental fortitude where he believes he belongs.”

Tsitsipas is the top seed at this week’s Fever-Tree Championships in London. He will be hoping for a strong run ahead of the Wimbledon championships, which he reached the fourth round at last year. Looking ahead to the grand slam, he is optimistic about the prospect of ending the dominance of Nadal and Co. It has been 16 years since a player outside of the Big Four (counting Andy Murray) has won Wimbledon.

“I want to be honest. I would love to see something different this year,’ he said.
‘Hopefully, it can be me, but I think it’s good for the sport to have a bit of variety, something different. It’s boring to see all these guys winning all the time. Djokovic is the reigning champion.”

Tsitsipas will play Kye Edmund in his first match at Queen’s.

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ATP

Nick Kyrgios Confident of Inflicting ‘Damage’ At Wimbledon, But Not With Andy Murray

The Australian explains why he doesn’t want to play doubles with Murray at The All England Club.

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Nick Kyrgios (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

LONDON: The grass courts of London feels like a second home for Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.

 

It is a time of year he relishes. Five years ago at Wimbledon, he made his first breakthrough with a run to the quarter-finals. Stunning Rafael Nadal on route. Since then, his love affair with the surface has only got stronger. Even if he is yet to contest a final of a grass-court event on the ATP Tour.

“It’s quite similar to Australia. Ultimately it feels a little bit like home.” Kyrgios told reporters on Monday.
“This is probably my favorite time of the year. Obviously, the Aussie summer is pretty good, but just being in London when the weather is like this is pretty hard to beat. Just playing on grass every day, it’s a lot of fun.” He added.

The 24-year-old kick-started his grass campaign two weeks ago in Surbiton at a Challenger event. Playing in the doubles tournament with Thanassi Kokkinakis, the duo won a match before falling in the quarter-finals. Following on from that, in Stuttgart, he crashed out in the first round to Matteo Barattini, who went on to win the tournament.

The results may not be groundbreaking, but Kyrgios’ belief and confidence remains unhinged heading into the next grand slam of the season. Currently ranked 39th in the world, it is touch and go if he will be seeded at Wimbledon. Depending on how he performs this week at Queen’s.

“I definitely feel like I can do damage.” The former top-20 player commented about his Wimbledon prospects. “I have had a lot of good wins on grass. Obviously made a quarterfinal run when I was a little bit younger, but I think if the stars align, for sure I can do damage there.”

It will take a lot for Kyrgios and his rivals to break the dominance of the Big Four, who has won the Wimbledon trophy every year since 2003. However, he feels that should a shock happen in a grand slam. It is more likely to take place at the grass-court major.

“I’d probably say it is. I say if somebody is serving big and feeling themselves that week, I think for sure they could probably make more of a run.”

The return of Murray

Besides his own goals, Kyrgios is also relishing the return of one of his rivals and friends. Andy Murray is set to play in the doubles at the Fever-Tree Championships alongside Feliciano Lopez. It will the first test for the three-time grand slam champion after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery.

“He’s a warrior. I hit with him a couple times in London, obviously when I took a spell from the French.” Kyrgios said of the former world No.1.
“He’s still hitting the ball unbelievable. I think he’s well good enough to do damage in any doubles of any players, especially this week with Feliciano. I’d almost pay to watch that match. They’re going to be tough to beat.”

Looking further ahead, Murray is still pondering who he will team up with in the doubles at Wimbledon. It will be only the second time he has played doubles at the major and first since 2005. Among the candidates for a partner was Kyrgios, who has now ruled himself out.

“It’s just good to see him back, but I don’t think I want to carry him for Wimbledon dubs. I think he can find someone else to do that for him.” He explained.
“When I hit with him in Wimby a couple weeks ago, we spoke about it. But it’s best-of-five sets, which is tough. I don’t know if my body — if I happen to go deep at Wimbledon, it’s too tough to play doubles.”

Flying solo, Kyrgios is hoping for a boost this week at the Fever-Tree Championships. In his first round on Tuesday, he plays Adrian Mannarino. A player who won an ATP title in s-Hertogenbosch on Sunday.

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