By Matthew Marolf
The pristine grass on the main stadiums of SW19 await the players on one of the most special days of the tennis year.
And it will be the first time Wimbledon hosts two covered courts, as No.1 Court’s new retractable roof will be available in case rain arrives to interrupt play. Though it may be awhile before we see the new roof in action, as there is currently no rain in the forecast for the coming days.
For the first time in six months, all active players with three or more Major singles titles are all present. Serena, Roger, Rafa, Novak, Venus, Maria, Andy, Stan, and Angelique will all play during this fortnight, with Murray of course only entering the doubles draws as comes back from hip replacement surgery. With all these champions in their 30’s, this will likely be one of the final times we see them all together in one fortnight.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber
As tradition dictates, Day 1’s play on Centre Court will commence with the defending men’s singles champion. It was at this tournament a year ago where Djokovic won his first Major in over two years, edging Nadal in a tremendous semi-final before easily dispatching of an exhausted Kevin Anderson in the final.
Novak arrives this year having claimed three of the last four Slams, but is coming off a frustrating semi-final loss to Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros. And he finds a tough opponent in his opening round, in a veteran who defeated him earlier this year in Indian Wells. The 35-year-old German can also play on the grass: he was a quarterfinalist here in 2012. However, Djokovic owns a 10-2 record in their career head-to-head, and already avenged his Indian Wells loss to Kohlschreiber by taking him out in both Monte Carlo and Rome. While Philipp will get his full attention, Novak is still a heavy favourite to prevail.
Kevin Anderson (4) vs. Pierre-Hugues Herbert
Here we have the other men’s finalist from last year, and he too has a dangerous opening round draw. Anderson is seeded fourth here despite being ranked eighth in the world thanks to Wimbledon’s seeding formula which favours grass court results over the past few years. The 33-year-old South African has only played two matches since March due to an elbow injury, and faces one of the highest-ranked players he could draw in the first round.
Herbert, a multi-time Major doubles champion, has been focusing solely on singles in recent months, though he will be teaming with Andy Murray in the Wimbledon men’s doubles event. The 28-year-old Frenchman has a career losing record at Slams in singles, but is coming off a run to the semi-finals on the grass of Halle two weeks ago. Anderson won their only previous meeting on a hard court four years ago. Herbert has plenty of variety in his game, which is well-suited for the grass, and could prove to be a bracket buster against a former finalist who is lacking match play.
Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Yulia Putintseva
This is yet another first round draw that could not have pleased a top seed. Putintseva upset Osaka just two weeks ago in Birmingham, a loss which cost Naomi her No.1 ranking. Yulia also took their other previous meeting last year in Hobart. Since winning her second straight Major in January, and subsequently splitting with her coach, Sascha Bajin, Osaka has struggled with injuries and her form.
Naomi has advanced to the third round of Wimbledon in both the last two years, but is yet to advance farther. She is yet to establish herself as a threat on the grass. Putintseva has twice been a quarterfinalist at the French Open, but is just 3-5 lifetime at Wimbledon, so grass is also not her strong suit. Even though Osaka is yet to defeat Putintseva, I’m giving her the slight edge here. Naomi showed a lot of grit by getting through some rough matches in Paris when she was at much less than her best. I suspect she’ll find a way to fight through here as well.
Venus Williams vs. Coco Gauff (Q)
It’s not often you find a 39-year-old or a 15-year-old in a Grand Slam singles draw, much less find them playing against each other. But this Day 1 encounter features the five-time Wimbledon ladies champion against the 2018 French Open juniors’ champion. This will be Gauff’s senior-level Major debut, while it’s Venus’ astounding 83rd main draw appearance at a Slam.
Coco has been deemed a champion of the future, but how will the teenager react to playing an icon from her same country? It’s been a rough 18 months for Venus, who is just 6-6 at the last six Majors. But Venus almost always finds her best tennis of the year at this tournament, and has made the semis or better in two of the last three years. Venus must be considered the favourite, though it will be interesting to see how this generational clash plays out.
Su-Wei Hsieh (28) vs. Jelena Ostapenko
You will rarely see a harsher contrast in styles than in this matchup. It will be the unique, off-speed groundstrokes of Hsieh against the powerful, go-for-broke hitting of Ostapenko. A semi-finalist here a year ago, Jelena has just 15 wins since that time. The former junior Wimbledon champion fell just short of being seeded here, and could fall outside the top 80 with a loss today. However, she did get four solid grass-court wins leading up to this fortnight, over names like Sloane Stephens and Johanna Konta. Ostapenko will dictate play, and will need to avoid getting frustrated by the often-agitating style of Hsieh. Su-Wei upset top-seeded Simona Halep here last year, and also took out then-world No.1 Osaka in Miami earlier this year.
Hsieh won their only previous meeting, though that was on a hart court three years ago against a young and inexperienced Ostapenko. Despite Su-Wei being the seeded player, Jelena will likely feel more pressure here, considering all the points she’s defending. While I don’t foresee another deep run here this year, the grass should favour the game of Ostapenko. I expect her to hit her way through this one.
Other notable matches on Day 1:
Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Jiri Vesely (Q). The left-handed qualifier has been hobbled by injuries of late, but thrives at Wimbledon, where he is 10-5 lifetime.
Simona Halep (7) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The 25-year-old from Belarus upset Petra Kvitova in the first round a year ago.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (7) vs. Thomas Fabbiano. This is a rematch from last year’s Wimbledon third round, which Tsitsipas easily took in straight sets. Fabbiano is fresh off a run to the semifinals in Eastbourne last week.
Eastbourne champion Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Lin Zhu, a 25-year-old from China ranked outside the top 100.
Stan Wawrinka (22) starts his campaign for the only Major title missing from his collection vs. Ruben Bemelmans (Q), the 171st-ranked player in the world.
Coco Gauff reaches her maiden WTA final at the age of 15 in Linz
US 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff cruised past German former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4 after 91 minutes to reach her maiden WTA singles final at the Upper Austria Ladies Open in Linz.
Gauff lost in the final round of the qualifying tournament but she claimed her spot in the main draw as a lucky loser. After entering the main draw as a lucky loser Gauff scored three wins over Stefanie Voegele, Kateryna Kozlova, Kiki Bertens and Andrea Petkovic consolidating her spot in the top 100.
Gauff saved nine of the ten break points she faced and won 71 % of her second serve points.
Petkovic earned the first break of the match in Gauff’s opening game, but Gauff broke straight back in the second game with a passing shot down the line in the next game. After holding serve Gauff earned two break points. The US teenager broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead after a backhand error from Perkovic. Gauff earned three set points in the 10th game and converted her first chance after a netted return from Petkovic.
Gauff faced three break points at 2-1, but she held on her serve to draw level to 2-2. The US player converted her sixth break point chance to take a 3-2 lead after a double fault from Petkovic.
Gauff saved two break points with a volley and a drop-shot, when she served for the match at 5-4, and sealed the win on her second match point.
Gauff set up a final against 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who came back from one set down to beat last year’s Linz finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova 1-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-5. Ostapenko fended off one match points at 6-5 in the second set and two more match points at 5-4 in the third set of the 2-hour and 21-minute match.
Alexandrova broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to take the opening set 6-1. The Russian player fired an ace on her second set point to seal the first set after 30 minutes.
Alexandrova went up an early break to build up a 3-1 lead. Ostapenko broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Alexandrova fended off three break points to draw level to 4-4. Alexandrova broke serve at love to take a 5-4 lead earning the chance to serve for the match. Alexandrova hit an ace to earn her first match point, but she did not convert her chance, as she sent her backhand long. Ostapenko broke serve to draw level to 5-5 setting up a tie-break. Ostapenko earned her first set point at 5-5 in the tie-break, as Alexandrova missed a forehand wide. Ostapenko sealed the second set to force the match to the third set, as Ostapenko fired a service return wide.
Both players traded breaks in the first and second games of the decisive set. Alexandrova fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the 10th game to earn two match points, but she made unforced errors to miss both her chances. Ostapenko hit a forehand winner to draw level to 5-5. Alexandrova saved a match point at 6-5 with a return winner, but Ostapenko sealed the win on her second match point.
Alexander Zverev Boosts ATP Finals Chances After Reaching Shanghai Final
Alexander Zverev boosted his chances of reaching the ATP Finals after reaching the Shanghai final.
Alexander Zverev has boosted his chances of qualifying for the ATP Finals after defeating Matteo Berrettini 6-3 6-4 in the Shanghai semi-finals.
It was a routine performance from the German as he only lost seven points on his serve to reach the Shanghai Rolex Masters final.
After losing in the semi-finals last year to Novak Djokovic, Zverev wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2019 as he broke in each set to claim victory.
In his post-match interview with atptour.com, the 22 year-old admitted it was a great feeling to win today, “It feels great, obviously,” Zverev explained.
“I felt like I’ve played some decent tennis this week and being in a Masters 1000 final here in Shanghai is also something very special for me. I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can play some good tennis tomorrow.”
The win now means that Zverev has opened up a 330 point lead between him and his opponent today, who is in eighth place in the race.
This is crucial for the German if he wants to defend the ATP Finals crown that he won last year when he beat Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back.
Tomorrow, he will play in-form Daniil Medvedev in his sixth Masters 1000 final and although he leads their head-to-head 4-0, he is taking nothing for granted, “We’ve played some fantastic matches, all going my way until now,” Zverev said.
“I hope tomorrow that will not change. But he’s been playing some fantastic tennis, sixth final in a row, US Open finalist, won Cincinnati.
“He’s probably the best player in the world right now. I hope it’s just going to be a good match tomorrow.”
Both men are looking for their first Shanghai title as well as momentum heading into the season-finale in London next month.
Heather Watson sets up final against Rebecca Peterson in Tianjin
Unseeded players Rebecca Peterson and Heather Watson set up a final at the Tianjin Open WTA Tournament.
Rebecca Peterson came back from one set down to beat Ons Jabeur 0-6 6-4 7-5 after 2 hours and 9 minutes.
Jabeur won all the first five games, which went to deuce, and closed out the opening set with a bagel with a hold at 30 in the sixth game.
Peterson bounced back in the second set by breaking serve twice in the eighth and tenth game to clinch the second set 6-4.
Jabeur got an early break to open up a 3-1 lead. Peterson broke back in the sixth game and saved a break point in the ninth game. The Swedish player closed out the match with a break at 6-5.
“Today was a really tough match. She played well, I could not find my rhythm and I had to fight for every point, so I am happy that I got the win at the end. At the end of the season, everyone feels that their body is sore and they are tired. I am going to recover as well as I can and for sure I will be ready for tomorrow”,said Peterson.
World number 125 Heather Watson cruised past Veronika Kudemertova 6-1 6-4 after 1 hour and 14 minutes to reach her fourth WTA final and the first since Monterrey 2016. Watson dropped nine points in nine service games and saved all three break point chances she faced.
The British player broke serve twice in the second and sixth games to close out the first set 6-1 after 25 minutes. Kudemertova saved two break points in the third game of the second set before Watson got the break to take a 3-2 lead. Watson saved three break points in the sixth game to hold on her service game. Kudemertova fended off two match points on serve before Watson closed out the match with a hold at 30.
“Yesterday was a really tough match and I think all those hours on court helped me play well today, so it was a good thing. It’s my first time here in Tianjin, so it’s a great first experience for me. I am looking forward to playing the final and hopefully I can play as well as I managed today”,said Watson.
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