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Wimbledon Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Thursday’s schedule is headlined by the much talked about second round matchup between Rafael Nadal and Kick Kyrgios.

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Nick Kyrgios (@Wimbledon - Twitter)

By Matthew Marolf

 

Serena Williams and Roger Federer will be heavy favorites today against opponents ranked outside the top 100, but Nadal gets to deal with the curious case of Nick Kyrgios.  Meanwhile the women’s No.1 as well as the defending champion has been banished to No.2 Court, in a baffling decision by the scheduling department.  But that shows just how loaded these halves of the singles draws are on what should be an extremely compelling Day 4 at The Championships.

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Nick Kyrgios

Five years ago here at Wimbledon, Kyrgios made a name for himself by dismissing Nadal on Centre Court in the round of 16. That was Nick’s first of two times advancing to a Major quarterfinal, but it’s been over four years since he’s repeated that feat. The 24-year-old Australian now finds himself ranked outside the top 40, with only 19 wins over the past 52 weeks. But the often-uninvested Kyrgios usually gets up for matches against “The Big Three,” and he upset Nadal earlier this year in Acapulco on his way to that title.

Rafa presented Nick with a less-than-thrilled handshake following that loss, as there’s definitely some bad blood between these two. On the No Challenges Remaining podcast in May, Kyrgios described Nadal as acting “salty” whenever Nick defeats him. Rafa, like many, respects Nick’s talent, though not all his on-court antics, or all-too-common lack of effort. This all makes for a highly anticipated return to Centre Court for this rivalry, which is tied at 3-3 heading into today.

It will be crucial for Kyrgios to get an early lead and get into Nadal’s head, especially in a best-of-five match that significantly favors the fitness and fighting spirit of Rafa. In the past, there’s been times when Nadal has been rattled by opponents who do not show him full respect, such as Robin Soderling. But I expect Nadal to take Kyrgios out rather easily today.  He’ll be eager to avenge his loss here from 2014, and Nick has not been playing well or focusing well of late.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Alison Van Uytvanck

Ash Barty (@TennisAustralia – Twitter)

The French Open and Birmingham champion is on a 13-match win streak, but runs into a tricky opponent in her second round. Van Uytvanck made the round of 16 here a year ago, with upsets over Garbine Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit. And she took out two-time Major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova on Tuesday. The 25-year-old from Belgium has flat groundstrokes well-suited for the grass, though no WTA player’s game may be better suited for grass than that of the world No.1. In their only previous meeting, Barty prevailed last summer at the Rogers Cup in straight sets. With all the confidence she’s currently playing with, I suspect we’ll see a similar result here.

Petra Kvitova (3) vs. Kiki Mladenovic

Petra Kvitova (@WilsonTennis – Twitter)

Kvitova looked to be in fine form on Tuesday despite the left arm injury that forced her to miss over a month of action. Petra has beaten Kiki seven of the eight times they’ve played, though Mladenovic has been a much more confident player since adding Sascha Bajin to her team. That being said, grass is historically Mladenovic’s worst surface, as she has a losing record at SW19. This should be rather smooth sailing for the two-time champion, but will be a good indication of just how serious a contender Kvitova should be considered.

Jan-Lennard Struff (33) vs. Taylor Fritz

This is a rare second round encounter between two players ranked 33rd or higher in the world. Struff got bumped up into a seeded position in the draw when Borna Coric withdrew from the tournament. And Fritz is now actually ranked slightly higher than Struff thanks to his title win last week in Eastbourne, a result that occurred after the seedings for this tournament were set.

The 29-year-old German is nearly a decade older than Fritz, but the veteran is coming off his best result at a Major, having made the fourth round of Roland Garros six weeks ago. Both men are currently at career-high rankings, and both easily won their first round matches in straight sets. In their first career meeting, I give the slight edge to Fritz, who is on a six-match grass court winning streak, and seems the more comfortable player on this surface.

Matteo Berrettini (17) vs. Marcos Baghdatis

The 34-year-old Cypriot has announced he will retire after this tournament. A semi-finalist here in 2006, Baghdatis has spent most of this season playing challenger events, as he’s ranked outside the top 100. Marcos got a solid, straight set win in the first round, though he now faces one of the fastest-rising stars on tour. The 23-year-old Italian started the year ranked outside the top 50, but recently debuted inside the top 20 after claiming two titles within two months. Berrettini triumphed on clay in Budapest as well as on grass in Stuttgart. Matteo is obviously comfortable on grass, as he also reached the semis in Halle. In his title run in Stuttgart, he didn’t face a break point the entire week.  Based on Berrettini’s current level, this will likely be the swan song for the ever-likable Baghdatis.

Other notable matches on Day 4:

Seven-time champion Serena Williams (11) vs. Kaja Juvan (Q), an 18-year-old from Slovenia.

Eight-time champion Roger Federer (2) vs. Jay Clarke (WC), a 20-year-old from Great Britain.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber (5) vs. Lauren Davis (LL), who has struggled mightily since her epic match with Simona Halep at the 2018 Australian Open.

Kei Nishikori (8) vs. Cameron Norrie, a 23-year-old and current British No.2.

Kiki Bertens (4) vs. Taylor Townshend, a 23-year-old lefty from the United States.

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Jannik Sinner: “Rafa Nadal is superior in his head and knows exactly what to do and when to do it”

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Jannik Sinner made a major breakthrough season in 2020 winning his maiden ATP title in Sofia becoming and reached his first Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros in his debut at this tournament at the age of 19. He has become the youngest player to win an ATP Tour title. 

 

“After the final in Sofia I felt emotional. I am human, but I feel the emotions inside me. I was very happy but I know that I have to work very hard. Before the victory ceremony I was a bit angry as I was still trying to understand why I had lost the second set. It was a strange season. I would have liked to play more matches and learn more about the life on the Tour and how to train with the biggest players on the circuit. I am now feeling more comfortable than last year”, said Sinner.

The Italian player is the first debutant beat Alexander Zverev en route to reaching the Roland Garros quarter final since Rafael Nadal achieved this feat in 2005 en route to his first French Open title. 

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Paris after playing at great level in the first two sets. En route to the quarter final in Paris Sinner beat David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and Alexander Zverev. 

“Rafael Nadal is superior in his head. He pulls very hard but above all he understands the decisive moments. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s really something else a tennis player. What I am missing to get there ? Well, the blows and the body, as well as the body. Let’s say a little bit of everything. The doctor said I still have to finish growing and developing. The truth is that I have to improve myself in every aspect, both physically and mentally. It takes time to get there”, said Sinner in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

Sinner was disappointed about Zverev’s comments after their match at Roland Garros. 

“I respect Zverev a lot because he has got more experience on the circuit, and he is great player. However, I do not respect his statements after his defeat to me at Roland Garros. He contradicted himself a lot. He said he had fever, but in the third and fourth sets, he ran more than me”, commented Sinner. 

Sinner became the youngest quarter finalist at a Grand Slam tournament since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006. The player coached by Riccardo Piatti earned the biggest win in his career when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his his maiden third round at Masters 1000 level in Rome.

Jannik has reached his career best ranking at world number 37. 

In the interview Sinner talked about his passions outside tennis.  

“I like to go karting and play football every now and then. I cheer on AC Milan because my first roommate was an AC Milan fan and he also and he also made me passionate as the days went by. In general I also follow the chairs on Netflix and I believe that in Australia. ”, said Sinner. 

Sinner talked about his relationship with Riccardo Piatti. 

“Riccardo is my coach, but also a good friend. We talked about tennis all the time. During the lockdown we watched a lot of past tennis matches together”. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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