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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Serena Williams Confident In Bid For Grand Slam History Claims Patrick Mouratoglou

Patrick Mouratoglou says that Serena Williams is confident of another grand slam victory despite recent setbacks.

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Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou (@BBCSport - Twitter)

Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that the American is confident in her bid for more grand slam history. 

 

Despite the American not winning a set in her last four grand slam finals, Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou has claimed that she is still confident in winning another grand slam again.

Serena’s last grand slam win was at the Australian Open in 2017 before taking a break from the sport to become a mother.

Although it has been a struggle, Mouratoglou believes time is on the 37 year old’s side, “I think time is working for her,” the Frenchman told Sky Sports.

“I think she was much better at the US Open than she was at Wimbledon and Wimbledon better than Roland Garros. 

“She is getting back in shape and the more in shape she will be the more dangerous she will be. I think she has started to play really good tennis.”

Losses to Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu have exposed Serena’s lack of confidence and how nervous she is in the grand slam finals.

However Mouratoglou believes that Serena’s historic moment will come sooner rather than later, “It is one match for history and the pressure is quite high,” he said.

“I am not in her mind but I can figure she is playing one match for history. This is the highest pressure anyone can have in life and on the other side of the court she plays girls who have zero pressure because it is their first final.

“They are going to play many [Grand Slams], they are young, they are excited, enthusiastic so they play without pressure and that makes a big difference. But at some point she will figure out how to deal with that.”

Serena’s next tournament is scheduled to be the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in late October, should she qualify although there is a good possibility that we won’t be seeing on a tennis court until next year.

Will 2020 be the year that Serena finally figures out how to deal with the pressure of creating more history for herself? Only time will tell.

 

 

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat Italian Next Gen star Jannick Sinner in St. Petersburg

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Mikhail Kukushkin beat 18-year-old Italian Next Gen rising star Jannick Sinner 6-3 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 40 minutes. Kukushkin fended off nine of the eleven break points he faced.

 

Sinner, who turned 18 last month and received a wild-card to take part at the next November’s ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, did not convert three break points in the first game, but Kukushkin saved them to hold his first game.

Kukushkin, who won his only title in St.Petersburg in 2010, was the first to break serve in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Sinner earned three break points but Kukushkin fended them off. Sinner saved a break point in the eighth game but Kukushkin served out the opening set on his first set point.

Kukushkin went up a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead, Sinner converted his second break-back point to draw level to 2-2. Kukushkin got a break lead for the second time but Sinner rallied from the break down for the second time to draw level to 4-4. Sinner earned set point at 5-4 to force a decider, but Kukushkin saved it to draw level to 5-5. Kukushkin got a mini-break in the tie-break to win the tie-break 7-4.

Adrian Mannarino, who won his first ATP Tour title in s’Hertogenbosch, beat Stefano Travaglia 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 19 minutes. Travaglia held his first two service games at love and broke serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Mannarino converted his first break-back point for 3-4. Both players held their serve to draw level to 5-5. Travaglia saved a break point, but he made two double faults to drop his serve in the 11th game for 5-6. Mannarino served out the first set on his first point.

Travaglia saved a break point at the start of the second set, but Mannarino converted his second chance.

Travaglia earned two break-back points in the second game but did Mannarino saved them to open up a 2-0 lead. Mannarino went up a 3-0 lead. The Frenchman saved a break point in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead and sealed the win on his first match point.

 

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Despite New WTA Guidelines, Could Kim Clijsters’ Return Be Marred By Aberration?

Kim Clijsters will not have any restriction in the number of wildcards she receives. But she also deserves more in her upcoming third stint on the Tour

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Kim Clijsters, 2010 US Open, US Open
Photo Credit: WTA Tennis/Getty

By the time, Kim Clijsters makes her return to professional tennis in 2020, around eight years will have passed since her second retirement from the WTA Tour. In this near-about octet of years, there have been several changes on the Tour, especially for those women attempting a return post maternity. But where does the 36-year-old stand amid these alterations?

 

The Belgian was one of the earlier trendsetters – of this decade – to resume her professional activity after becoming a mother for the first time. In 2009, when she returned during the American hard-court summer, the subject never gained as much traction as it did when Williams returned to the game, in 2018 after her pregnancy hiatus in 2017.

Clijsters’ win at the US Open that year – the first for an unseeded player – stifled the mushrooming of any possible avenues of such ranking tweaks back then. Over the next couple of years, as Clijsters ascended in the rankings boosted by her performances, including re-attaining her career-high of no. 1, the topic became moot.

Now, after all these years, in spite of the WTA bringing in modifications to its rules – by way of provision of special ranking to women re-joining the Tour after motherhood, among other factors – Clijsters’ continues to remain an outlying scenario. The obvious reason for this is the lapsing of time of the four-time Major champion’s returning to pro tennis. According to the new rules, a player who is out of the Tour on account of pregnancy must make a comeback within three years after her child’s birth, at most.

Her previous successes and titles ensure Clijsters will never lack for wildcards from tournaments, as per the WTA regulations. However, the question stemming here is should an exception be made for the former world no. 1 vis-à-vis the special ranking while overlooking the passing of years?

When announcing her imminent return to the Pro Tour on the WTA Insider podcast, Clijsters mentioned about challenging herself. “I don’t feel like I want to prove something. I think for me it’s the challenge…,” she said.

“The love for the sport is obviously still there. But the question still is, am I capable of bringing it to a level where I would like it to be at and where I want it to be at before I want to play at a high level of one of the best women’s sports in the world. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything, but I want to challenge myself and I want to be strong again. This is my marathon. This is where I’m saying, ‘OK, let’s try this’.”

Clijsters’ path to trying this while taking it on as a challenge need not come at a cost of her being immediately pushed off the deep end in terms of encountering a higher-seeded opponent. The present state of the WTA would make it for an interesting match-up – whenever it happens – but it would also be akin to defeating the purpose underlining her return, regardless of how confident the 2011 Australian Open champion is with her timing.

The norms, too, could be nudged into further relooking easing them towards a player’s preference in ascertaining her post-childbirth return instead of clubbing them, at large. After all, as significant as Williams’ laurels were to usher in changes, Clijsters’ stunner yet again proves the variety that exists in women’s decision-making.

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