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.
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)
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:
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.
Carlos Alcaraz Satisfied With ‘Complete’ Roland Garros Performance
Carlos Alcaraz defeated Taro Daniel in four sets to set up a third round meeting at Roland Garros with Denis Shapovalov.
Carlos Alcaraz was satisfied with his ‘complete’ Roland Garros performance after a 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-2 win over Taro Daniel.
The world number one needed four sets to reach the third round as both players had to adapt to windy conditions.
After an aggressive second set from Daniel, Alcaraz stamped his authority on the match as he only dropped three games in the last two games.
Speaking after the match Alcaraz described his performance against Daniel as ‘complete’, “Yeah, I’m really happy with the level that I played today,” Alcaraz said in his press conference.
“I mean, overcome the problems that was in the match because the windy and, yeah, it has been a really complete match from my side, and I’m really happy with that.”
Alcaraz also admitted that he has been training in Vienna to prepare for the windy conditions like today, “Well, is tough, you know, but I could say that I’m a player who plays really well with the windy,” the Spaniard added.
“I practice in Vienna that has a lot of windy, a lot of days, you know, and I’m used to play with windy, let’s say. It’s tough, because you play two games with windy, plus windy, and two games against windy, and it’s really tough to adapt your game into that.
“You know, I tried to, you know, to play as best as I can, you know, with the windy. Today I think I played a good level with that.”
Alcaraz will look to continue to adapt to conditions in Paris as he searches for his second Grand Slam title.
Next for Alcaraz will be powerful Canadian Denis Shapovalov and the Spaniard admitted it will be a difficult match on Friday, “I have never played against him. But I practiced in Barcelona with him. But everybody knows his level,” the top seed explained.
“It’s going to be really difficult, really difficult match. I have to be ready on that, really focused on his shots. But as I said a lot of times, I always try not to, you know, think about the opponent. I always try to think about me, about myself, you know, about my game, and try to put it into the match.
“All I can say is tomorrow is a day off for me, and we are gonna think about the match tomorrow with my team and let’s see how it’s gonna be.”
The match will be the first meeting between the two players with a spot in the fourth round at stake.
Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Excited’ To Break More Records After Sealing 20th Roland Garros Win
Stefanos Tsitsipas is ‘excited’ to break more records after securing his 20th Roland Garros victory.
Stefanos Tsitsipas is ‘excited’ to break more records as he claimed a 20th victory at Roland Garros.
The Greek progressed to the third round of Roland Garros with a straight sets win over Roberto Carballes Baena.
Tsitsipas’ win was the 51st of his Grand Slam career as well as the 20th victory that he secured at Roland Garros.
Speaking after the win Tsitsipas spoke about the satisfaction he gets when he breaks records, “I am very much in when it comes to breaking records. I get excited when I see personal records being kind of set and broken,” Tsitsipas said in his press conference.
“Of course it’s a great satisfaction to be seeing those stats, because there is so much work behind it, and sometimes it’s difficult to grasp the fact that it all happened so quickly.
“I just wish to keep on going. I wish to be healthy and to be fighting for more titles and breaking personal records but also records that haven’t been set before in tennis, like that serve thing that happened in Madrid was quite cool, actually. I never thought about it. It just happened.”
Tsitsipas will look to gain more Grand Slam wins in the future as he aims for a maiden Grand Slam title over the next two weeks.
The world number five also spoke about how tennis is a psychological sport and how important it is to perform well under pressure, “Well, it’s psychological, I believe, a big important part of the game,” Tsitsipas said.
“As I said, in the tiebreaker, my mind shifted. It changed towards something — well, I wasn’t aiming too much for being conservative, and that led me, that for sure I owe to that, that I was able to win a tiebreaker because of that.
“The psychological state that you’re in when you play is “the” most important thing, and this starts from outside of the court. If you’re able to be in peace and balance before you step on the court, that’s already a big
advantage that you have.
“Of course technical, these are minor things that you can always improve on and are much more controllable in a way and have external force too. But I think if you’re a player that can perform big on pressure moments, that is the thing that is going to just give you a good career in tennis.
“There are a few guys that can play good under pressure, especially in big, tight moments, and you have to have the mental strength of a Navy SEAL to pull it through, in a way. You have to have the physique of a marathon runner, the lungs of a marathon runner.
“You have to have the power of a football player, so back to the hard-work part, there is just so many little components that you have to link up in order to make this unbelievable player where you allow yourself to be unstoppable.”
This is a fascinating insight from Tsitsipas on the psychological work it takes to become a successful tennis player.
Now Tsitsipas looks to use these elements to his advantage as he looks to finally make his Grand Slam breakthrough in Paris.
The fifth seed’s Roland Garros charge will now continue on Friday where he plays Nuno Borges or Diego Schwartzman.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Eases Past Carballes Baena To Reach Roland Garros Third Round
Stefanos Tsitsipas cruised into the third round at Roland Garros with victory over Roberto Carballes Baena.
Stefanos Tsitsipas cruised past Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 7-6(4) 6-2 to reach the third round at Roland Garros.
The Greek played a near-flawless match to reach the last 32 in Paris as he aims for his maiden Grand Slam title.
Tsitsipas is in Alcaraz’s quarter of the draw and is looking to send a statement of intent to the rest of the draw that he can contend for the title.
Next up for Tsitsipas on Friday is either Diego Schwartzman or Nuno Borges.
The world number five did struggle on serve initially to start the match but gained the early break in the third game with some powerful backhands.
As expected Carballes Baena retaliated with some consistent baseline play, forcing Tsitsipas into engaging in the longer rallies.
The Spaniard had a decent clay season entering Roland Garros and displayed those qualities in the fourth game by creating a break point.
However Tsitsipas survived the game with some clutch play to take a 3-1 lead and would remain efficient throughout the rest of the set, claiming it 6-3.
After a couple of tight service games, to start the second set Tsitsipas once again raised his level on return breaking twice with some powerful returning.
That didn’t mean much in terms of score advantage for Tsitsipas as Carballes Baena was just as efficient on return and took advantage of some tactical errors from the fifth seed.
The Spaniard broke straight back on both occasions as the second set was level at 4-4.
There was a high standard on serve as both players constructed points effectively and were really smart with their methods in order to remain efficient on serve.
In the end there was nothing to separate them as the second set went to a tiebreak with both players impressing in crucial moments.
The tiebreak remained close but Tsitsipas produced world-class shot-making when it mattered most as a forehand winner secured the tiebreak 7-4.
From then on, it was one-way traffic as an early double break lead effectively secured the third set in the match as Tsitsipas cruised into the third round.
After an early scare against Jiri Vesely, Tsitsipas will be pleased to have won today’s contest in more straight-forward fashion as he looks forward to a third round showdown with either Diego Schwartzman or Nuno Borges.
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