Cincinnati Open Friday Preview: The Race To No.1 Continue For The Women's Elite - UBITENNIS
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Cincinnati Open Friday Preview: The Race To No.1 Continue For The Women’s Elite

Both singles draws feel pretty wide open, which is more newsworthy on the men’s side.

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With Roger Federer’s loss yesterday, Novak Djokovic is now the heavy favorite to win this title.  He’s the only man remaining to have claimed a Masters 1,000 title, and he has 33 of them. But the other seven remaining men can find hope in this: there have been five first-time Masters 1,000 champions since the start of 2018.

 

On the women’s side, the top three players in the world have all reached the quarterfinals.  And all three still have a chance to leave Cincinnati as the world No.1. They’re joined by some new blood looking to fully establish themsevles, and a few former Major champions enjoying a great run in the twilight of their careers.

With the women’s draw being the more compelling, here’s a closer look at two of today’s WTA quarterfinals.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Sofia Kenin

Osaka overcame both a tough opponent and a tough court assignment yesterday, defeating the always-tricky Su-Wei Hsieh on the hawkeye-less Court 10.  How the women’s world No.1 received such a degrading court assignment is a subject worth further exploration at another time. These two met at last year’s French Open, with Osaka prevailing in straight sets, though both are now much different players over a year later.  Kenin is vying for her second semifinal in as many weeks, as eventual champion Bianca Andreescu was the only one to upend the 20-year-old American last week in Toronto. And Kenin has no issues with taking out top players: she now has four top 10 wins in the past three months.  She’s been the better of these two players of late. With her penetrating groundstrokes and all-court guile, I suspect Sofia will be the victor today.

Madison Keys (16) vs. Venus Williams

Both women are coming off impressive three-set wins yesterday.  Venus came back from a set down during the hottest part of the day to take out Donna Vekic.  And Keys outlasted Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in a thrilling third set last night, Madison’s best win this season.  Normally Keys would be the fresher player today since she’s 14 years Venus’ junior, but Madison’ win looked to be more physically and emotionally draining.  And she’ll have less time to recover than Venus. Williams and Keys have split their four previous meetings, with three of them going the distance. Madison can definitely be the more up-and-down player of the two, but also possesses bigger highs than Venus at this point of her career.  Keys is the better mover, and has more fire power. The thing that impressed me most yesterday about Madison was her fight. Too many times we’ve seen her become error-prone in a tight situation. On these fast hard courts in Cincinnati, I think Keys will fight her way to victory.

Other notable matches on Friday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Maria Sakkari.  Barty owns a 2-1 record against the 24-year-old from Greece, who has victories this week over two top 10 players: Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka.

Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (WC).  Kuznetsova cruised against Sloane Stephens yesterday, 6-1, 6-2.  Karolina and Svetlana have played four times, each winning twice, and with each match decided by a third set.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Lucas Pouille, who took out Karen Khachanov yesterday.  Djokovic simply demolished Pouille in the Australian Open semifinals earlier this year, dropping just four games in a match that lasted only 83 minutes.

In the first tour-level meeting between these two young Russians, Daniil Medvedev (9) vs. Andrey Rublev (Q).  Rublev upset Federer yesterday, but Medvedev has been crushing most of his opposition of late.

Roberto Bautista Agut (11) vs. Richard Gasquet (PR).  As per the ATP, Bautista Agut will make his top 10 debut on Monday after 275 consecutive weeks in the top 30.  Well done, Roberto. The Spaniard is 4-1 against the Frenchman.

In a match between two of the ATP’s most diminutive yet speedy players, David Goffin (16) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka (Q).  Nishioka defeated Goffin just two weeks ago in a third set tiebreak.

In a battle for supremacy in the Murray family, Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski vs. Feliciano Lopez and Andy Murray (PR).

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Novak Djokovic Faces Jaziri Test As Familiar Face Waits For Tsitsipas In Dubai

Novak Djokovic will play his first tournament since capturing his eighth Australian Open title in Dubai this week.

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Novak Djokovic (@usopen - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic will face Malek Jaziri in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships this week. 

 

The Serb enters the tournament in Dubai having edged his way to the Australian Open title last month at Melbourne Park.

Full of confidence and energy, Djokovic will play Malek Jaziri in the opening round in Dubai with the Tunisian being a former quarter-finalist here.

Speaking at the draw ceremony, Jaziri feels at home playing in the middle-east, “I feel like I’m playing at home here,” the Tunisian told the Khaleej Times.

“That run a couple years back and I’ve also made the quarters a couple of times, it’s perfect to be back competing here.”

Should Djokovic get through Jaziri in the opening round then Philipp Kohlschreiber or Mohammed Safwat will await in the second round. A last eight showdown with Karen Khachanov could also be on the cards for the Serb.

Not only is Djokovic in singles action this week but he is also teaming up with Marin Cilic in doubles as they face top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.

As for the second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, he could face a rematch with Hubert Hurkacz from last year’s event where the Greek won.

Before that match happens in the second round, Stefanos Tsitsipas will have to get past Pablo Carreno Busta while Hurkacz faces the unpredictable Alexander Bublik.

In other headline first round matches, Dan Evans will face 4th seed Fabio Fognini while Marin Cilic will face eighth seed Benoit Paire.

Here is the full draw with play getting under way on Monday:

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Milos Raonic Fights Off Johnson Challenge To Reach Delray Beach Semi-Finals

Milos Raonic fought off a tough test from Steve Johnson to reach the last four in Delray Beach.

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Milos Raonic (@DelrayBeachOpen - Twitter)

Milos Raonic fought off a tough Steve Johnson challenge to reach the Delray Beach Open semi-finals. 

 

The Canadian didn’t play his best tennis in his 7-6(6) 6-3 victory over the American but used his fighting qualities to reach the last four in Florida.

A break of serve each in the opening set saw a tiebreak separate the two men before the former Wimbledon finalist edged to a one set lead.

Then the Canadian took control breaking twice in the second set to seal his spot in the semi-finals of an ATP event for the first time since Stuttgart last year.

After the win, Raonic admitted he didn’t play his best tennis, “You just have to sort of scrap and find a way,” the Canadian told the ATP website.

“I was moving well, I put a lot of returns in. I was doing the things I could control as well as possible. Didn’t serve particularly well, but it was just important to keep fighting. Got a few lucky breaks and made the most of them.”

If Raonic wants to reach the final in Florida then he will have to serve will in his next match against big serving, Reilly Opelka.

The American blasted 16 aces past Soonwoo Kwon in his emphatic 6-3 6-4 victory over the South Korean to reach the last four.

In the tightest quarter-final of the day yesterday, Yoshihito Nishioka edged past promising American talent Brandon Nakishima 3-6 7-6(5) 6-4 in 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Two crucial breaks at the start of the deciding set proved crucial for the Japanese star as he set up a semi-final with Ugo Humbert, who only dropped three games against Frances Tiafoe.

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Alexander Bublik reaches his third career semifinal with win over Denis Shapovalov in Marseille

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Alexander Bublik reached the third ATP Tour semifinal of his career after beating Canadian Canadian Next Gen player Denis Shapovalov 7-5 4-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 18 minutes at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille.

 

Bublik fended off a total of four break points in the first set, including three chances from 0-40, got the break in the 12th game to close out the first set 7-5, when Shapovalov hit a forehand volley wide at 30-40 after 45 minutes.

Both players traded breaks at the start of the second set. Bublik did not convert three break points at 3-2, when he hit a forehand into the net on his first break point chance. Shapovalov broke serve in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead with a drop shot and wrapped up the second set with his third ace.

Bublik opened up a 2-0 lead with a break in the second game of the third set. Shapovalov broke straight back in the third game. Bublik got another break lead in the eighth lead at 15, when Shapovalov hit a forehand wide. Bublik sealed the win with a hold at love.

“He is a great player and serve. It was our first match, but I have known him for a very long time. I was happy to break in the first set, then in the second set he was better, and I had my chances in the third and I held on. So I am very happy”,said Bublik.

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