French Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

French Open Day 8 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Today begins the second week of the fortnight, with 16 men and 16 women remaining in the singles draws.

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Garbine Muguruza (photo by :Gianni Ciaccia)

On the men’s side, the three most prolific male champions of the Open Era all remain. Roger, Rafa, and Novak will all be heavy favorites in their fourth round matches, but the other five men’s contests are blockbusters. On the women’s side, we’re in the midst of a youth movement. As per WTA Insider, this is the first Grand Slam event in a decade where three teenagers advanced to the round of 16. And despite the exits yesterday of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, Major champions Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens, and Simona Halep are still here.

 

Sloane Stephens (7) vs. Garbine Muguruza (19)

It’s the 2016 champion facing the 2018 finalist. These two streaky players have only met twice before, splitting two matches played on hard courts. Stephens was certainly the player with more momentum at the start of this tournament, as Muguruza arrived in Paris with a 2-2 clay record on the year. But Muguruza has looked sharper with every round in the past week, and she has reached the quarters or better here in four of the last five years. Both women should be feeling a lot of pressure today, as the winner will be a strong favorite to go all the way to the final in an open half of the draw. This surface would assumedly favor Sloane, who moves better and has stronger defense than Garbine. I like Stephens’s chances to advance here, and favor her to return to the finals for the second straight year.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (6) vs. Stan Wawrinka (24)

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This will be their first meeting, and should be a good one. Both men needed two days to finish their third round matches due to darkness, though they should be pretty fresh after playing for only about an hour yesterday. The 20-year-old has easily been the better player over the past year, with nearly twice as many wins as the 2015 champion. Wawrinka though played extremely well in week 1, and seems primed to legitimately challenge Tsitsipas. The winner here will likely face Roger Federer on Tuesday, and either man will have a good chance against the 20-time Major champion.

Donna Vekic (23) vs. Johanna Konta (26)

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This is a rematch from a classic these two played at Wimbledon in 2017, where Konta prevailed 10-8 in the third. That was just a few weeks after Vekic had defeated Konta 7-5 in the third in the final of Nottingham. Overall they’re 3-3 lifetime, and have never played on clay. Johanna had never won a match at this tournament prior to this year, but she gained a lot of confidence on this surface in the month prior, with 10 clay court wins. The 22-year-old Vekic has seemed ready for a breakthrough for some time now, but it’s yet to materialize. This is only her second appearance in the fourth round of a Major. While Vekic impressed by easily dispatching of Belinda Bencic on Friday, Konta is the more proven big match player, and is the favorite here.

Kei Nishikori (7) vs. Benoit Paire

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As Ravi Ubha outlined on Twitter, Nishikori said of Paire, “For me he has the best backhand on the tour.” That’s a startling statement, but shows the respect Kei has for Benoit’s game. Nishikori leads their head-to-head 6-2, with Paire’s two wins coming in 2015 on hard courts. They also played in the second round of this event last year, when Kei survived a five-setter. Nishikori also prevailed in their other clay court meeting. The 29-year-old barely got to this point, as he was down two breaks in the fifth to Laslo Djere two days ago. Paire also survived an extended five-setter this past week, but got a break in his last round when Pablo Carreno Busta retired after the third set. With this being the last match of the day on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, the French crowd will be boisterously behind Paire as he vies to reach his first Major quarterfinal. But Kei remains a tough out even when he’s tired, and I suspect he’ll find a way through this one.

Anastasija Sevastova (12) vs. Marketa Vondrousova

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Speaking of extended matches, Sevastova endured a thrilling one on Friday. The 29-year-old from Latvia saved five match points before prevailing 11-9 in the third over Elise Mertens. She’s now advanced to the fourth round or better at each of the last three Majors. Her 19-year-old opponent has now equaled her best result at a Slam from last year’s US Open, and continues to make a definitive impression on tour. Vondrousova already owns two wins this year over Simona Halep, and was a finalist at the clay event in Istanbul back in April. With her run here, she’s projected to debut in the top 30 next Monday. The left-hander possesses a lot of variety in her game, though not quite the variety of the unique Sevastova. In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to better-rested Vondrousova to reach her first Major quarterfinal.

Other notable matches on Day 8:

  • Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Juan Ignacio Londero, a 25-year-old from Argentina who was winless at Slams prior to this event.
  • Roger Federer (3) vs. Leonardo Mayer, a more accomplished Argentine who owns two clay court titles. But as reported by Enrique Quique Cano, Mayer is dealing with a left leg tear.
  • Petra Martic (31) vs. Kaia Kanepi. Kanepi is a six-time Major quarterfinalist, while Martic is 0-4 in the round of 16 at Grand Slam events.

Order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier (10am BST)

Kaia Kanepi (EST) vs [31] Petra Martic (CRO)

Leonardo Mayer (ARG) vs [3] Roger Federer (SWI)

Juan Ignacio Londero (ARG) vs [2] Rafael Nadal (SPA)

Sloane Stephens (USA) [7] vs [19] Garbine Muguruza (ESP)

Court Suzanne-Lenglen (10am BST)

Markets Vondrousova (CZE) vs [12] Anastasia Sevastova (LAT)

Donna Vekic (CRO) [23] vs [26] Johanna Konta (GBR)

Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) [6] vs [24] Stan Wawrinka (SWI)

Kei Nishikori (JPN) [7] vs Benoit Paire (FRA)

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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