Rogers Cup Friday Preview: The Men’s & Women’s Match of the Day - UBITENNIS
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Rogers Cup Friday Preview: The Men’s & Women’s Match of the Day

Serena Williams gets her rematch from last year’s controversial US Open final against Naomi Osaka.

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Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams - US Open 2018 (photo Art Seitz 2018)

While Serena detailed in a recent article for Harper’s Bazaar that there is no ill will between the two superstars, I’m sure the 23-time Major singles champion would love to avenge that painful loss of a year ago.  And I’m sure Osaka would like to prove she can beat Serena without all the distractions their US Open final provided. There’s also much more on the line in this high-profile matchup, as Osaka is playing to regain the No.1 ranking.  She’s already surpassed Ash Barty in the live WTA rankings, but a loss today would allow Karolina Pliskova to surpass Osaka if Pliskova reaches the final. There will be a lot to watch for throughout quarterfinal day in Toronto.

 

In Montreal, the top eight seeds held in three of today’s four singles quarterfinals, making for some blockbuster matches.  Top seed Rafael Nadal is the favorite to defend his title, though as Chris Fowler of ESPN pointed out, Rafa has never successfully defended a hard court title in his career.  And recent Masters 1,000 champions Dominic Thiem, Sascha Zverev, Karen Khachanov, and Fabio Fognini are all still alive in the draw.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Serena Williams (8)

Osaka is 2-0 against Serena.  She first bested Serena last year in Miami, in just Serena’s second tournament after her complicated child birth.  And then of course there’s last year’s US Open championship match, where unfortunately Serena Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos stole most of the headlines away from Naomi’s first Major title.  But let there be no mistake: Osaka thoroughly out played and out competed Serena on that day, despite all the shenanigans. But can she make it 3-0 against her idol? Osaka experienced some troubling losses following her second straight Major win to start the year, but says she’s finally having fun again on the court for the first time since Australia.  And Serena says she’s feeling as fit and healthy as she has in a few years. Despite winning both her previous matches this week in straight sets, Serena has fallen behind early in every set she’s played. She can ill afford to do that against Osaka, who plays great with a lead and is much less likely to drop her serve right back to Serena. But in a match with this much backstory, and so many emotions involved for both players, composure will be a key element here.  I expect Serena will be determined to remain focused and maintain her composure today, and fight her way to her first win over Osaka. I just think this win will mean so much more to Serena than Osaka, as she’ll view a victory as a bit of redemption.

Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Karen Khachanov (6)

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These men won the last two ATP tournaments of 2018, both of which were the biggest titles of their respective careers.  Yet both have suffered from subpar 2019 seasons. Khachanov arrived in Montreal with an 18-17 record on the year. As Chris Fowler of ESPN highlighted, that includes 10 first round losses.  Zverev has been admittedly distracted by legal issues with his former agent, and his coaching situation is also unsettled with Ivan Lendl recently departing from his coaching team. It’s no wonder Sascha was so emotional following yesterday’s win over Nikolaz Basilashvili.  It was a rare scene for a third seed to collapse to the court after a third round win at a Masters 1,000 event. But it was a big victory for Sascha considering his struggles this year, and also considering he let match points go begging in a loss to Basilashvili just two weeks earlier in Hamburg.  Like Zverev, Khachanov also needed nearly three hours yesterday to clinch victory, against hometown favorite Felix Auger Aliassime. Needless to say neither man will be well-rested coming into this match. Zverev has the 2-1 edge in their head-to-head, though Khachanov took their most recent meeting at last year’s Paris Indoors.  As Brad Gilbert of ESPN pointed out yesterday, Khachanov’s severe forehand grip makes it tough to absorb pace from his opponents, which is why his coaching team is encouraging him to adjust that grip. However, as was fully evident towards the end of his match yesterday, Sascha has too frequentyly been hitting his groundstrokes without conviction.  He benefitted from some critical Basilashvili errors in the third set tiebreak. I doubt Khachanov will be as kind today. Karen appears to be the player with more confidence at this time, and Zverev obviously exuded much more emotions after yesterday’s win. I like Khachanov to come through and reach his second consecutive Rogers Cup semifinal.

Other notable matches on Friday:

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Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Fabio Fognini (7).  Rafa is 11-4 against Fabio.  Since Fognini’s shocking comeback win at the 2015 US Open, Nadal had defeated him six straight times before Fabio took their most recent meeting in Monte Carlo earlier this year.

Karolina Pliskova (3) vs. Bianca Andreescu.  Does the Canadian teenager have another big upset in her?  As per the WTA, she’s 3-0 against top five opposition this year, and has won her last nine three-set matches.

Dominic Thiem (2) vs. Daniil Medvedev (8).  Thiem has won both their previous matches, both played within the past 12 months.

Elina Svitolina (6) vs. Sofia Kenin.  Svitolina prevailed 6-4 in the third earlier this year at Indian Wells in their only previous meeting.

Roberto Bautista Agut (10) vs. Gael Monfils (16).  Monfils owns a 3-1 record over the Spaniard, but Bautista Agut defeated the Frenchman here two years ago in a third set tiebreak.

Wimbledon champion Simona Halep (4) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q), a 21-year-old from Prague who is yet to drop a set in either qualifying or main draw matches in this tournament.  That includes victories over Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko.

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Kei Nishikori Confirms Safety Amid Hurricane Ian, Sets Out End of Year Plans

Kei Nishikori is set to return to tennis in November.

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Kei Nishikori (@WSOpen - Twitter)

Former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori has confirmed that he and his family are safe as Hurricane Ian continues to cause destruction in America.

 

Nishikori lives and is based in Florida, where Hurricane Ian is doing most of its destruction at the moment.

So far at least two million people are without power with a handful of people losing their life due to the hurricane.

Some of Nishikori’s fans were concerned about his safety but the former top ten player confirmed that he and his family are safe, “Hi everyone, just a quick note to say my family and I are safe,” Nishikori confirmed on social media.

“Thank you for all the messages. It was a scary day and hope things will be back to normal as soon as possible. My thoughts are with all the people facing the results of the storm. I hope everyone stays safe.”

It’s pleasing to hear Nishikori is safe as the storm continues to cause destruction on many people’s livelihoods in the US.

Speaking of Nishikori, the Japanese star has been fairly muted on the court with him not playing a single event this season.

Injuries have been the story of Nishikori’s career and it looks as if that trend has continued in 2022.

However Nishikori could be expected to make his return to the tour in November on the Challenger tour.

That’s because Nishikori has been confirmed to compete in the Calgary and Drummondville challenger events.

The two events take place between the 6th and the 20th of November with Nishikori looking to gain some match time ahead of next year’s Australian Open.

Tournament directors Alain Calle and Danny Da Costa had this to say on Nishikori’s participation, “We’re thrilled to have Kei at our tournaments,” they jointly said in a press release.

“He’s been one of the most prolific players on the Tour since the start of his career, and even though he’s coming back from a major injury, he remains a very talented player. We’re looking forward to seeing him play again in Canada, and there’s no doubt our fans will be, too.”

The events will be Nishikori’s first since Indian Wells in 2021 where he lost to Dan Evans in the second round.

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Novak Djokovic Praises ‘Passionate’ Tel-Aviv Crowd Ahead Of Quarter-Finals

Novak Djokovic is into the quarter-finals in Tel-Aviv and will play Vasek Pospisil on Friday.

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Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic spoke about the crowd in Tel-Aviv ahead of his last eight showdown with Vasek Pospisil.

 

The Wimbledon champion progressed to the quarter-finals in Tel-Aviv with a dominant display over Pablo Andujar.

Djokovic dropped only three games as he returned to imperious form as he looks to boost his ranking over the coming weeks.

Speaking after the match Djokovic spoke about the ‘passionate’ crowd in Tel-Aviv and how it boosted his performance, “Fantastic atmosphere here tonight, thank you very much,” Djokovic said in his on-court atmosphere.

“I like the court, it’s very intimate and it’s very loud. The crowd here is very passionate about the sport, about tennis and I’m really, really happy to be here and to perform here in front of you, so thank you for your support.”

Djokovic’s last appearance in Tel-Aviv came as a teenager in 2006 when he played a Davis Cup tie.

Now 16 years later, Djokovic is relishing the occasion playing in Israel again as he looks to make up significant ground on the world’s top ranked players.

Djokovic will now play good friend Vasek Pospisil in the last eight with the Serb leading the head-to-head 5-0.

Here are the other quarter-finals that will take place on Friday in Tel-Aviv:

Arthur Rinderknech v Roman Safiullin

Constant Lestienne v Maxime Cressy

Liam Broady v Marin Cilic

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Iga Swiatek Annoyed By Scheduling Dilemma Ahead Of Season Finale

Iga Swiatek has admitted it’s unlikely that she will play the Billie Jean King Cup Finals after a scheduling dilemma.

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(@thenet_m - Twitter)

World number one Iga Swiatek admits she is annoyed by facing a scheduling dilemma ahead of the end of the season.

 

Swiatek has dominated the 2022 season having won two Grand Slam titles and five other titles this season.

This means she has qualified for the WTA Finals which will take place on the 31st of October in Texas.

However Swiatek is now becoming the victim of her own success as she now faces a dilemma over whether to represent Poland at the Billie Jean King Finals.

The BJK Cup Finals, take place the week after in Glasgow where Poland will face the Czech Republic and the USA in their Group.

Speaking to Polish media Swiatek admitted she is unsure whether she will compete in Scotland and criticised the WTA for their lack of organization over the events, “I am dissatisfied, although I know that arranging everything is complicated,” Swiatek was quoted by Give Me Sport Women as saying.

Certainly, the fact that the WTA and ITF federations in a sense did not cooperate to facilitate our task is irritating to me. I will definitely take steps to let them know about my dissatisfaction.

“I don’t understand the scheduling. I’m not gonna lie that I’m happy about the fact that if I go deep in [the] Finals, I will have to not only play tired but also jetlagged the next day. So I can’t confirm whether I’ll represent Poland or not. I’m sorry.”

Swiatek’s father, Tomasz, backed up his daughter’s criticism and wishes for more communication between the WTA and players in the future, “It’s an extremely unfortunate deal,” he said.

“And yet we have a very difficult group for that in the BJK Cup. The dates of both events are missed. There is a clash between the ITF (organisers of the BJK Cup) and the WTA (organisers of the WTA Finals). Instead of taking care of the development of women’s tennis, they cannot communicate.”

So far both Swiatek and Ons Jabeur have qualified for the WTA Finals with Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula expected to join them.

Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka, Daria Kasatkina and Simona hold the other four spots with just weeks left of the season.

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