French Open Day 9 Preview: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

French Open Day 9 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

In a true rarity, today’s fourth round line-up includes two clashes between top 10 seeds within the same singles draw.

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Alexander Zverev (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Those top 10 battles are in the men’s draw, where all top 10 seeds advanced to this stage. Of course we lost one of those seeds yesterday, in the fantastic epic that was penned by Stan Wawrinka and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Meanwhile, the world No.1, who is also the winner of the last three Majors, can reach the quarterfinals without meeting a seed at all.

 

In the women’s draw, only three top 10 seeds remain. In fact, half of the women on today’s schedule will be making their round of 16 debut at a Major. It’s a huge opportunity for the new blood to make a deep run, but some women who have done so before are eager to return to the last weekend of a Slam.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Fabio Fognini (9)

Both men are vying for their second Major quarterfinal, a feat they first accomplished at this tournament. They met on clay earlier this year, with Fognini prevailing in straight sets on the way to the biggest title of his career in Monte Carlo. Zverev took both of their other matches back in 2017, one of which was on clay. The 22-year-old must be short on stamina at this point, considering the amount of tennis played over the past two weeks. First there was his title run in Geneva, and then the 13 sets it took him to advance to this round. He played five of those sets just two days ago against the other Monte Carlo finalist, Dusan Lajovic. However, it is worth noting Fognini played 12 sets of his own last week, winning each of his first three rounds in four. I would not be at all surprised by another extended battle here, but I think this day may belong to the Italian. Zverev is still yet to round into top form, and the clay favors the 32-year-old veteran.

Juan Martin Del Potro (8) vs. Karen Khachanov (10)

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This is the other matchup between two top 10 seeds, featuring two heavy hitters who will not hesitate to club the ball. All three of their previous meetings took place last year, with Del Potro winning all three. One of those took place at a Major, as Juan Martin needed four sets and nearly four hours to knock Karen out of last year’s Australian Open. But Del Potro is not quite the same player he was a year ago. He missed about six months of action due to a knee injury last fall, and aggravated that knee during his second round win over Yoshihito Nishioka. That being said, he had no problem dismissing Jordan Thompson on Saturday, dropping just eight games. Khachanov has now reached the fourth round here in each of the past three years, but is yet to go farther at any Major. Is the 23-year-old ready to breakthrough? This match has a similar feel to yesterday’s Wawrinka/Tsitsipas encounter, with a veteran who has been recovering from a serious knee injury defending his turf against the next generation. I think Khachanov has enough game, and enough confidence in himself, to push Del Potro just a bit farther than his knee will allow the big man to go. The Paris Indoors champion of last year may be poised for more success in this city.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Gael Monfils (14)

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This could be just as good as, if not better than, the day’s matches between top 10 seeds. The athleticism and shot-making abilities of both men could combine to create a classic. But that’s only if Monfils finds way to be competitive against Thiem, something he’s never done before. Gael is 0-4 against Dominic, and when they played last year on the clay of Buenos Aires, he won just three games. Monfils has had a much stronger season in 2019, and he played excellently in week 1, not dropping a set. On the other side of the net, Thiem dropped a set in each of his first three rounds. The 25-year-old’d inability to get cleanly through the first week is turning into a pattern at the Majors, and causes him trouble come the second week. That could happen here, especially with the French crowd playing a factor. While you can never be sure what you’ll get from him day-to-day, I expect an inspired effort from Gael here at home. Will it be enough to upset last year’s finalist? I would be tempted to say yes, if it weren’t for how lopsided their history has been.

Simona Halep (3) vs. Iga Swiatek

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Here we have a three-time finalist, and last year’s champion, against a new face on tour. The WTA has an informative piece regarding the 18-year-old here. She quickly rose through the rankings by racking up seven ITF titles, and will move into the top 65 with this fourth round run. Aside from a random 6-0 set she lost to Monica Puig on Saturday, she’s been destroying opponents here, with no other player winning more than three games in a set. That includes Qiang Wang, the sixteenth seed. Iga’s been the one dictating play in all her matches. Against Wang, she struck 33 winners and only 12 unforced errors. But the youngster from Poland is yet to face a player with the defensive skills of Simona Halep. The world No.3 hasn’t played her best tennis this year, but she could be rediscovering her form just in time for her title defense. On Saturday against Lesia Tsurenko, Halep lost just three games. While Swiatek surely has a bright future, that future may not immediately materialize. Halep will be a strong favorite in their first career meeting.

Ash Barty (8) vs. Sofia Kenin

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It was the spunky 20-year-old American who upset Serena Williams on Saturday. But taking out another top 10 seed after the biggest win of your life is a lot to ask. While Barty has never excelled on clay, her success from the past few seasons is now translating to this surface. After reaching her first Major quarterfinal in her home country earlier this year, the Australian is now a favorite to reach her second one consecutively. However, it’s not fair to count out Kenin, who has shown just how strong a competitor she is many times over the past year. If she can put her upset of Serena out of her mind, this could be a close one.

Other notable matches on Day 9:

  • Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jan-Lennard Struff. The 29-year-old from Germany is into his first Major fourth round after an upset of Borna Coric, in a match that went to 11-9 in the fifth.
  • Madison Keys (14) vs. Katerina Siniakova. Siniakova upset Naomi Osaka two days ago, and will be the underdog again here against Keys, who has reached the quarters or better at four of the last six Slams.
  • Amanda Anisimova vs. Aliona Bolsova (Q), in the first meeting between the 17-year-old American and the 21-year-old Spaniard, both playing for their first major quarterfinal.

Order of play

Court Philippe-Chatrier (10am BST)

Sofia Kenin vs Ashleigh Barty

Novak Djokovic vs Jan-Lennard Struff

Dominic Thiem vs Gael Monfils

Simona Halep vs Iga Swiatek

Court Suzanne-Lenglen (10am BST)

Katerina Siniakova vs Madison Keys

Kei Nishikori vs Benoit Paire – TO FINISH

Fabio Fognini vs Alexander Zverev

Karen Khachanov vs Juan Martin del Potro

Amanda Anisimova vs Aliona Bolsova

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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