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.

ATP

Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut claim their first ATP Finals title in London

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The French team formed by Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut claimed their first men’s doubles title with a 6-3 6-4 win over Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus in 70 minutes at the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London ending the 2019 ATP season on a high note with back-to-back titles in Paris Bercy and London. They remained unbeaten during the whole week at the ATP Finals in London winning all five matches in straight sets.

 

Herbert and Mahut fended off all four break points they faced scoring their ninth consecutive match win. The French doubles specialists have become the first team to win the doubles ATP Finals title without dropping a set since Jean Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in 2015.

Herbert and Mahut fended off break points in the third game of the match before earning the only break of the opening set in the next game. The Frenchmen saved a break point in the sixth game before breaking serve in the seventh game.

They have become the French team to win the ATP Finals doubles title since Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro, who triumphed in Shanghai in 2005.

Herbert and Mahut have won 15 doubles titles as a team during their career. This year they became the eighth men’s doubles team to complete the career Grand Slam at last January’s Australian Open and also won the Rolex Paris Masters in front of their home fans.

Last year they came within one point of winning the ATP Finals title against Mike Bryan and Jack Sock after holding a match point.

“Thank you Nicolas for sharing the court, for having so much enjoyable moments and giving me so much joy, when I am with you on the court. You played an unbelievable final, so thank you for that”, said Pierre Hugues Herbert.

 

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ATP

Jannik Sinner wins his third ATP Challenger in Ortisei

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Jannik Sinner won the ATP Challenger in Ortisei adding another title to his impressive collection of trophies he lifted during a memorable 2019 season.

 

The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion beat world number 173 Sebastian Ofner from Austria 6-2 6-4 in 1 hour and 6 minutes in the final of the Sparkasse Challenger Val Gardena Sudtirol at the Tennis Center in Ortisei.

Sinner won his third ATP Challenger title in 2019 after his previous wins in Bergamo and Lexington. He also reached the final in Ostrava. During the tournament the 18-year-old player from San Candido beat Lucas Miedler in the first round, Roberto Marcora in the second round, Federico gaio in the quarter final and Antoine Hoang in the semifinal without dropping a set.

Sinner will improve his ranking to his career-high at world number 78 in the ATP Ranking becoming the sixth best ranked Italian player after Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Sonego, Marco Cecchinato and Andreas Seppi.

Sinner broke serve in the fifth game of the opening set to take a 3-2 lead. Ofner missed two game points in the seventh game. The Austrian player faced another break point after his third double fault. In the next game Sinner saved the first break point he faced. Sinner closed out the first set 6-2 after two backhand errors from Ofner in the eighth game.

Sinner went up a break to open up a 2-0 lead, but Ofner broke back in the fourth game and held on his serve to take a 3-2 lead. Ofner saved three break points in the seventh game to take a 4-3. Sinner converted his fourth break point in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and served out the win with two consecutive aces.

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ATP

Tomas Berdych: It Is Up To Others To Decide My Legacy

The former top-10 player spoke with reporters for the first time since officially retiring from the sport

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Tomer Berdych (far left) among group of recently retired player's attending special presentation at The 2019 ATP Finals

LONDON: Tomas Berdych has said his future plans is ‘to not have a plan’ after officially retiring from tennis on Saturday at the age of 34.

 

The former Wimbledon runner-up joined a series of other former players to celebrate their careers in a special on-court presentation at the ATP Finals. Also present was Radek Stepanek and David Ferrer. News of Berdych’s decision to walk away from the sport surfaced earlier this week after a Czech newspaper spoke with his father Martin.

Speculation has mounted in recent months about Berdych’s future in the sport after struggles with injury issues concerning his back and hip. He hasn’t played on the tour since the US Open. Overall, he has only managed to play 22 matches this season. Winning 13 of them.

“I was able to train, practice, prepare, and then you get to the tournament, and then I play three games, the problem came back.” Berdych explained during a press conference about his decision.
“You put all the negative stuff on the one side, and then the positive is to go on court, fight, win the match, and there was no chance to achieve that. There is really no point to continue.”

Playing in the shadows on the Big Four contingent, the Czech still managed to establish himself as a household name. Albeit on a smaller scale. As of this week, he is ranked as the 11th highest-earning player on the ATP Tour in history with more than $29 million in prize money. His achievements include winning 13 ATP titles and spending 794 consecutive weeks in the top 100. At his peak, he was fourth in the world rankings and finished seven seasons inside the top 10.

Like any other player, it hasn’t always been a smooth journey for Berdych. One example was during the 2012 Australian Open where he was booed off the court after defeating Nicolas Almagro during what was a bad-tempered encounter. However, fortunately, most of his career has been free from controversy.

“Do I have any regrets? No, I think even the bad things or the negative experience that I went through or I experienced or I have done, I think they were there for the reason. I think without them, I wouldn’t be as good as I was.” Berdych stated.
“I think even the bad ones were there for a reason.”

Now he has stepped away from the sport for good, what does the future have in store? According to the Czech, he is in no intention of rushing into anything else soon. Although he admits that it may not be tennis-related.

“The plan is actually not to have any plans. The last 15, 20 years was so hectic and so demanding that I just need to just to breathe out easily after all those years.”

As the chapter closes on the career of one of the Czech Republic’s most successful male players in the Open Era, he leaves the sport with high respect from both his fans and fellow rivals. As for his legacy, he says that it is not for him to decide.

“I think I’m not the correct one to judge that. I was trying to do the best I possibly can, and I think this is something that you created with your achievement and with your behavior.” He concludes.

Berdych’s career in numbers

2 – number of Davis Cup titles won
4 – highest ATP ranking achieved
13– number of ATP titles
53 – number of wins over top 10 players
342 – number of losses on the ATP Tour
640 – number of wins on the ATP Tour
2002 – the year he turned pro
2019 – the year he retired
29,491,328 – career prize money (in US dollars)

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