Cincinnati Open Thursday Preview: The Round of 16 - UBITENNIS
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Cincinnati Open Thursday Preview: The Round of 16

All round of 16 singles matches will take place on a loaded day of tennis.

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Naomi Osaka (photo via Twitter, @PorscheTennis)

The women’s singles draw is particularly loaded, with seven of the top 10 seeds advancing this far. That leaves us with some stellar third round WTA matchups. And it includes all three women currently contending for the world No.1.

 

You cannot say the same about the men’s singles draw. The bottom half has just been decimated, with the withdrawals of Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem, and yesterday’s upsets of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kei Nishikori, and Sascha Zverev. That opens up a huge opportunity for a surprise finalist in this Masters 1,000 event. But in the men’s top half, four of the top five seeds on this half remain, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Normally this daily preview contains one men’s match and one women’s match, but with so many great women’s matches today, let’s dig deeper into two WTA matchups.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh

Osaka has been talking openly about having fun on court for the first time since the Australian Open. However, after watching her play the past few weeks, I’m not fully convinced that’s the case. I’m sure having fun is her goal, but she may be overcompensating. Naomi has been giving Kevin Anderson a run for his money in the fist-pumping department, and can often be seen talking to and laughing at herself on court. It’s nice to see her trying to stay positive, though it appears she may be masking a bit of fragility. And Osaka cannot afford to be feeling fragile against this opponent. Hsieh can be one of the most frustrating players on tour with her unique style. While Osaka owns a 3-1 record against her, Hsieh was the victor in their only previous North American hard court meeting, which was earlier this year in Miami. Naomi is currently in a three-way race for the No.1 ranking, and a loss today would open the door for Ash Barty or Karolina Pliskova to surpass her heading into the US Open. Osaka didn’t play her best yesterday, but hung on to win in three sets. If she doesn’t up her level today, she very well may go down in defeat.

Elina Svitolina (7) vs. Sofia Kenin

This will be their third meeting. They split the previous two, both of which occurred on a North American hard court earlier this year. Svitolina was victorious in Indian Wells, while Kenin’s win came just last week in Toronto. The 20-year-old American has been building a stellar resume this season, with 33 match wins and two titles. 22 of those match wins are on hard courts, and half of those have taken place in North America. Kenin is on the verge of breaking into the top 20, and is currently 14th in the year-to-date rankings. Meanwhile Svitolina is coming off a considerable breakthrough last month at Wimbledon, where she finally won a Major quarterfinal in her fifth try. But the American appears to be the more in-form player, and will benefit from the energy of a night session crowd in her home country. She has a more aggressive playing style than Svitolina, which the courts in Cincinnati should reward.

Other notable matches on Thursday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Anett Kontaveit. This is a rematch from the semifinals in Miami earlier this year, where Barty prevailed 6-3, 6-3.

Simona Halep (4) vs. Madison Keys (16). Halep owns a 5-1 record against Keys, with Madison’s only victory coming in their first match nearly six years ago.

In a battle between former Major champions, Sloane Stephens (8) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Donna Vekic vs. Venus Williams. Venus claimed their only other encounter, at Wimbledon in 2016.

Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Rebecca Peterson (Q). The 24-year-old from Sweden already has victories this summer over Sloane Stephens, Barbora Strycova, and Johanna Konta.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (Q). A US Open semifinalist two years ago, Carreno Busta is now ranked outside the top 50, and is 0-2 against Djokovic.

Roger Federer (3) vs. Andrey Rublev (Q). Similar to Carreno Busta, Rublev was a US Open quarterfinalist two years ago, but is now ranked 70th in the world.

In men’s doubles, Feliciano Lopez and Andy Murray (PR) vs. Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock (WC). Harrison and Sock are both now ranked outside the top 150 in singles as they’ve struggled with form and injuries.

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.

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There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.

 

Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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Serena Williams leads a high-quality line-up in Lexington

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Twenty-three time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams will be the top seed at the inaugural edition of the Lexington Open from 10th August 2020 on the same week as the Prague Open. The Lexington Open will be the first US tournament of the US hard court season, which will continue with the Western and Southern Open and the US Open, which will be held in the same venue at Flushing Meadows in New York. 

 

Serena was very close to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, but lost four times in a Major final after giving birth to her daughter Olympia. 

The US legend will play her first match since she hepled the US team beat Latvia in the Fed Cup last March in Everett. There Serena beat Jelena Ostapenko but she was defeated by Anastasija Sevastova. 

Williams will lead a star-studded line-up, which features this year’s Australian Open finalist and former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza, Aryna Sabalenka, Sloane Stephens, Johanna Konta, Amanda Anisimova and Yulia Putintseva, Ons Jabeur, Victoria Azarenka, Heather Watson and US rising star Cori Gauff. 

Sabalenka won two consecutive editions of the Wuhan tournament in 2018 and 2019, in Shenzhen in 2019, the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai in 2019 and the Doha final in 2020. 

Stephens won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2017 and reached the final at 2018 Roland Garros. She finished runner-up to Elina Svitolina at the 2018 WTA Finals in Singapore. The US player lost to Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez in Monterrey in her last WTA Tour match before the pandemic. 

Amanda Anisimova won her maiden WTA title in Bogotà in 2019 in her first professional tour tournament on clay. Last year the young US player beat Simona Halep en route to becoming the youngest semifinalist at the French Open since 2006. This year Amanda lost to Serena Williams in the semifinal in Auckland last January. 

Johanna Konta reached the French Open semifinal and the Rome Final in 2019. The British player enjoyed her best year in 2017, when she won the Miami title and reached the Wimbledon semifinal rising to her best ranking at world number 4. 

The Top seed Open will be the first WTA tournament to be played in the United States since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States. The Kentucky tournament will feature a 32-player singles draw and a 16-player doubles field. 

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