Wimbledon Day 11 Preview: The Gentlemen’s Semi-Finals - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Day 11 Preview: The Gentlemen’s Semi-Finals

It will be the 40th chapter in the sport’s most celebrated rivalry.

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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (@SI_Tennis - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

For the first time in 11 years, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will play on the lawns of The All England Club. Federer is 11-1 at this stage of The Championships, while Nadal is 5-1, with his only loss coming last year at the hands of Novak Djokovic.

The world No.1 and defending champion will compete in the other semi-final, against a 31-year-old veteran making his Major semi-final debut. While that sounds like a mismatch, Roberto Bautista Agut is 2-0 against Djokovic this year. It should be a most compelling gentlemen’s semi-finals day at Wimbledon.

Roger Federer (2) vs. Rafael Nadal (3)

This will be their fourth appointment on Centre Court at Wimbledon. They previously met three consecutive years in finals. In 2006, Federer prevailed in four sets. In 2007, Nadal pushed Roger to five sets, but Federer persevered to win his fifth straight title. And in 2008, they played what many refer to as the greatest match of all-time, in which the King of Clay dethroned the King of Grass 9-7 in the fifth. Overall Nadal leads this rivalry 24-15, with a 10-3 edge at Slams. Their head-to-head had been rather one-sided for some time, before Federer turned it around in their momentous five-set final at the 2017 Australian Open. That was one of five victories in a row for Roger over Rafa.  Their most recent meeting was in this same round of the most recent Major, when Nadal easily dispatched of Federer in straight sets on a terribly windy day in Paris.

Of course the grass will boost Federer’s chances, as will the lack of wind. The forecast calls for relatively cool temperatures, and no chance of rain later in the afternoon when this match is scheduled to begin. That means Rafa’s ball won’t bounce quite as high as it would in the heat, just as Roger’s ball won’t have quite as much speed. It also means the roof will not come into play, which would be a big advantage for Federer, who is the better indoor player.  Both men have been in excellent form during this fortnight, and are yet to be truly challenged.

In a rivalry that’s contained several significant turning points, this feels like it could be another. Taking three sets from Nadal on any surface is a tall task, as he remains the sport’s most tenacious competitor. And Rafa has shown no signs of the knee troubles that have plagued him throughout his career. The longer the match goes, the odds of a Nadal victory increase. As fit as Federer is, he’s just a few weeks shy of 38-years-old. And the slightly slower court speeds at SW19 this year will play to Rafa’s favour. It’s a tough match to call, but I’ll go with Nadal to reach his first Wimbledon final since 2011.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (23)

In the first week of 2019, Bautista Agut upset Djokovic in a stellar match, coming back from a set down to win 6-4 in the third. Two months later in Miami, Roberto repeated that feat, prevailing again despite dropping the first set to the world No.1. But in the biggest match of his career, can the Spaniard again topple the 15-time Major champion on the world’s most prestigious tennis court, and in the best-of-five format?

As impressive as Bautista Agut has been at this tournament, that seems highly unlikely. Djokovic has become more dominant with each passing round. He dismantled David Goffin on Wednesday, who frankly didn’t play all that poorly, yet only managed to take six games. Novak has become a master as taking his level up a notch at the Majors.  When Djokovic is at his best, there’s not much Roberto can do to subdue him. I would be shocked if we did not see Novak in his sixth Wimbledon final come Sunday.

Other notable matches on Day 11:

In the ladies’ doubles semi-finals, the top four seeds will face off on No.1 Court.

First, defending champions Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova (2) vs. Nuremberg champs Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu (4).

Then, French Open champions Timea Babos and Kiki Mladenovic (1), who have not lost a match as a team since March, vs. Su-Wei Hsieh and Barboa Strycova (3), who are on an eight-match winning streak dating back to their Birmingham title the week before Wimbledon

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Goes for his 19th Major Title Against Stefanos Tsitsipas

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An airborne Novak Djokovic on Friday in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

In 2006 at this event, Novak Djokovic reached his first Slam quarterfinal.  15 years and 18 Major titles later, the 34-year-old has become one of the greatest players of all-time.  On Friday, in a fantastic semifinal, he became the only man to ever defeat Rafael Nadal twice at the French Open.  A win today would pull him within one Major title of not only Nadal, but also Roger Federer.  And it would make him the first man to win each Grand Slam tournament twice since Rod Laver in 1969.

 

In 2016 at this event, Stefanos Tsitsipas made his Slam debut.  Five years and four Major semis later, the 22-year-old has reached his first Slam final.  On Friday, he survived a dramatic five-set semifinal against Sascha Zverev.  A win today would make him the youngest man to win a Major since Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009.  And it would make him the first man to win in his first Grand Slam final appearance since Marin Cilic in 2014.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles championship will be decided, with the two most recent French Open women’s singles champions on opposite sides of the net.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Not before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Djokovic leads their head-to-head 5-2, and 3-0 on clay.  After winning two of their first three encounters, Tsitsipas has now lost the last four.  Last October in the semifinals of this tournament, Djokvoic was up two-sets-to-love when Tsitsipas came storming back to even the match, yet Novak closed out the fifth set decisively.  They also met just a few weeks ago in Rome, where Djokovic won an extremely-tight three-setter, which took over three hours to decide, and was played over the course of two days.

The last time Djokovic defeated Nadal at Roland Garros, in 2015’s quarterfinals, he was upset in the championship match by Stan Wawrinka.  Will Tsitsipas play the role of Wawrinka on Sunday?  Both men played grueling matches on Friday, but Novak’s ended about five hours later, was over 30 minutes longer, and undoubtedly was more physically and emotionally draining.  And Tsitsipas should fine some confidence in knowing his last two matches against Djokovic on clay have been anything but blowouts.

Novak is 18-10 in Major finals, with four of his losses coming in Paris.  He will fully understand what a huge opportunity this is to win the French Open for a second time, after eliminating Rafa on Friday.  I expect Djokovic to be much more prepared for this moment than he was six years ago against Wawrinka, and than Tsitsipas will be in his first Slam final.  Novak Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his 19th Major title.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (2) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek (14) – Saturday was the biggest day of Krejcikova’s career, winning her first Major in singles.  Less than 24 hours later, she looks to be a double champion.  Her and Siniakova were two-time Slam winners in 2018.  Swiatek was of course the champion here in singles last October, while Mattek-Sands has won all five women’s doubles finals she’s ever played at Majors, and all with her former partner, Lucie Safarova.

Sunday’s full schedule is here.

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Barbora Krejcikova Wins Her First Major At Roland Garros

Czech Barbora Krejcikova defeats Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets. For her it’s the first Major title and a Top 20 debut

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Barbora Krejcikova - Roland Garros 2021 (photo Twitter @RolandGarros)

At the beginning of the second week the idea that the same player would win both the women’s singles and the women’s doubles title started being floated in tennis circles, but everyone thought that the player to accomplish this remarkable feat would be Polish 20-year-old Iga Swiatek. Not many considered former doubles world no. 1 Barbora Krejcikova to be in the conversation, at least for the singles title. After all, she had never been past the Round of 16 in a Slam, reached only once at Roland Garros in 2020.

 

But as the 25-year-old Czech, n. 33 of the WTA Ranking, raised towards the Parisian sky the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen handed to her by legend Martina Navratilova while still in the double’s final with her long-time partner Katerina Siniakova, the world realized there is a new name in women’s tennis to deal with.

In a nerves-filled final between two debutantes at this level of a Major, Barbora Krajcikova from Ivancice, Czech Republic, defeated Russian 29-year-old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in 1 hour, 58 minutes and brought home her first Grand Slam title, the first for a player from her country since July 2014, when Petra Kvitova won the Wimbledon title defeating Eugenie Bouchard in the final.

The match was full of ups and downs. The first two sets risked being almost symmetrical, as in set one, Krajcikova shook off some initial jitters and an inaugural break before winning six games in a row to win the first set by 6-3 in just 30 minutes. Her backhand was working just like a treat, keeping Pavlyuchenkova at bay and, above all, behind the baseline. However, in the second set things seemed completely reversed, as Pavlyuchenkova seemed to be able to take control of the rallies and unleash her powerful shot to climb to a 5-1 lead, but failed to complete the reversed 6-1 by not converting a set-point in the seventh game, before wrapping up the set just a game later.

Pavlyuchenkova had to request a medical time-out at 2-5 in the second set to get some treatment for her left thigh which ended up heavily strapped until the end of the match.

The decisive moment of the match came on the sixth game of the final set, when Krejcikova went on a 12-points-to-3 streak, taking her to a 5-3 lead and allowing the Czech player to serve out the match despite missing the first match point with a double fault.

This accomplishment not only earns Krejcikova the 1.4 million Euro cheque for the first prize, but also means she will reach her career best ranking next Monday at no. 15, making it into the Top 20 for the first time.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Barbora Krejcikova Play for the Women’s Championship

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Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova during Thursday’s semifinals (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

10 years ago at this event, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova reached her first Major quarterfinal.  As a teenager, she was up a set and 4-1 against defending champion Francesca Schiavone, but failed to close out the match, losing 7-5 in the third.  The Russian would reach 10 more Slam quarters in both singles and doubles, yet lose every one of them.  At the age of 29, she’s reevaluated her career, and rededicated herself to training and achieving bigger accomplishments.  This week, on her 12th try, she finally broke through to the semifinals at a Major, and promptly won her semi in straight sets to reach her first Slam final.

 

Five years ago at this event, Barbora Krejcikova reached her first Major semifinal.  That was in women’s doubles, alongside her long-time partner, Katerina Siniakova.  They would go on to win this tournament in 2018, the same year they won Wimbledon.  That was a year after her coach and inspiration, Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, sadly passed away from cancer.  On Sunday, Krejcikova and Siniakova will play for their third Major title as a team.  But this past year, Barbora has made huge strides in singles.  Last autumn, she arrived in Paris ranked outside the top 100 in singles, yet reached the second week of a Major for the first time.  Eight months later, the 25-year-old saved a match point in an epic semifinal against Maria Sakkari to reach her first Slam final.

Also on Saturday, the men’s doubles championship will be decided, with Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut playing for their fifth Major title.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (31) vs. Barbora Krejcikova – 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

This will be new territory in multiple ways: not only their first singles championship match at a Major, but also their first career meeting.  They have met twice in recent years in doubles, with Krejcikova and her partner Siniakova prevailing both times in straight sets.  It took Anastasia a record-breaking 52 Slams to reach her first final, while this is only Barbora’s fifth time in the main draw of singles at a Major.  As Christopher Clarey highlighted on Twitter, this will mark the sixth consecutive year the women’s singles champion will be a first-time Slam champ.

Pavlyuchenkova has long been a dangerous draw, as she’s built a reputation for taking out top players.  Her victory last week over Aryna Sabalenka was the 37th top 10 win in her career.  As per WTA Insider, that’s the most top 10 wins ever by a player who themselves has never been ranked that high.  But it’s Krejcikova who has put together the stronger season, with a record of 24-8.  Barbora reached the final in Dubai, and is currently on an 11-match win streak, coming off a title run just two weeks ago in Strasbourg.  Between singles and doubles, she’s won 16 matches over the last 20 days.

In each of her six victories to this stage, Pavlyuchenkova has avoided having a lower second-serve-points-won percentage than her opponent.  Krejcikova did so against five of her six opponents, with the exception being Elina Svitolina, who converted only two of seven break points, and failed to protect her own serve.  The percentage of second-serve-points-won should be the key statistic to track during this match. 

That would seem to favor Pavlyuchenkova, who is the stronger and more consistent baseline player.  But this match will likely come down to who better manages the emotions of this momentous occasion.  In her 15th year of Grand Slam competition, will Anastasia be motivated or overwhelmed by the knowledge of how rare an opportunity this can be?  Based on the composed way she has handled herself through six rounds, it feels as if Pavlyuchenkova is ready to capture the moment, and win her first Major title.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (6) vs. Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev – The French team were champions here three years ago, and have narrowly escaped defeat four times this fortnight, most recently saving three match points in the semifinals against Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.  Bublik and Golubev have defeated two seeded teams in just the fourth tournament of their partnership.

Saturday’s full schedule is here.

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