Today marks the birth of a brand new off-season event taking place in the Middle East.
The Diriyah Tennis Cup is the first ever international tennis competition to be hosted in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. A total of eight players on the men’s tour will feature in the multi-million dollar tournament, which has a prize money pool of $3M. It is part of the country’s drive to establish themselves as a sporting powerhouse in the world. Just last week Saudi Arabia hosted Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight fight against Andy Ruiz.
“The Diriyah Tennis Cup can inspire new players and new fans in Saudi — male, female, old or young. Our goal is to have our people engaged in tennis, inspired by tennis, taking part in tennis and connected as a nation by the sport.” Said Prince Abdul Aziz.
Whilst there is hype surrounding tennis’ latest event, just over a year ago Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was heavily criticised for planning to play an exhibition match there before cancelling it. At the time the country was implicated in the killing of a prominent journalist in one of its own embassies. Prompting widespread condemnation. Saudi Arabia have also been criticised for their poor human rights record.
Here is everything you need to know about the tournament.
Where it is being played?
Diriyah is where the tennis stars will grace their presence. It is a town located to the north west of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The newly built Diriyah Arena, which is where the tournament takes place, has a footprint of 10,000 square meters. It took only two months to build and holds a capacity of up to 15,000. It is the same venue where Joshua’s ‘clash of the dunes’ boxing match took place last weekend.
Who is taking part?
For a brand new tournament, organisers have done exceptionally well to attract top names to the venue. The only former grand slam champion to take part is Stan Wawrinka. However, he isn’t the highest ranked player in the field. That honour belongs to world No.5 Daniil Medvedev, who enjoyed a meteoric rise during the second half of this year. Other top 20 players include David Goffin, Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils. The full list of entrants are the following :-
- Daniil Medvedev RUS (WR 5)
- Gael Monfils FRA (WR 10)
- David Goffin BEL (WR 11)
- Fabio Fognini ITA (WR 12)
- Stan Wawrinka SWI (WR 16)
- John Isner USA (WR 19)
- Lucas Pouille FRA (WR 22)
- Jan-Lennard Struff GER (WR 35)
What is the prize money and format?
The ability to attract a world-class field was substantially enhanced by the generous prize money that is available for those taking part. The winner exits with a payment of $1 million. To put that into perspective, Nick Kyrgios earned $384,120 for winning the Citi Open in Washington. An ATP 500 event. Even the quarter-finalist starts on $125,000.
Final Consultation round: $100,000
The structure of the tournament is similar to that of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which started back in 2009. Held over three days, the knockout tournament will begin from the quarter-finals onwards. Consolation rounds (players who lost their previous matches) will also be taking place.
The order of play
Fognini’s clash with Isner will be the first ever match to be played at the event on Thursday. All four quarter-final matches will be played on the first day, followed by the semi-finals and final. On day two and three the consolation matches will be played.
Day 1 schedule
CENTER COURT start 04:00 pm local time
F. Fognini (ITA) vs J. Isner (USA)
G. Monfils (FRA) vs S. Wawrinka (SUI)
Not Before 8:00 pm
D. Medvedev (RUS) vs J. Struff (GER)
D. Goffin (BEL) vs L. Pouille (FRA
Why is a separate exhibition match taking place?
In a bid to showcase national talent, an exhibition match will take place on the last day of the competition. It will feature little-known player Ammar Al-Haqbani. The son of American-based diplomat Faleh Haqbani and a regular member of his country’s Davis Cup team.
“The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will have a significant impact on tennis in Saudi, especially for local tennis lovers and young talents who want to be professionals.” Al-Haqbani told arabnews.com.
“Watching closely as these big names compete at the Diriyah Arena will be a huge inspiration for them to work more and build their professional path in order to compete on the global stage in the future.”
His opponent will be former top 100 player Michael Mmoh, who was born in Saudi Arabia. His father was a part-time coach for the country’s Davis Cup team and his mother worked as a nurse. He moved to America at the age of 13.
“Having some of the best players in the world coming to the Kingdom can really inspire new fans to pick up a racquet and get on a court for the first time and play this great game.” Said Mmoh.
The exhibition match will be the first to be played on Saturday.
Canada Daily Preview: A Huge Day of Action Headlined by Serena/Bencic and Medvedev/Kyrgios
On Tuesday, Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport in a poignant essay. With only a month left before one of the greatest players of all-time retires, Serena will play only her third match in the past 14 months on Wednesday, as she faces fellow Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.
In Montreal, the two ATP singles champions from last week will collide, as Los Cabos champ and world No.1 Daniil Medvedev takes on Washington champ and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios.
Those are just two of a plethora of high-profile second round matches on Wednesday. Overall seven of the WTA top 10 and six of the ATP top 10 will be in action in a jam-packed day of tennis.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both Toronto and Montreal.
Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Not Before 1:00pm on Court Central in Montreal
Medvedev did not drop a set during his title run last week in Mexico, and is the defending champion of this event. But Kyrgios is having the best summer of his career. He’s now claimed 12 of his last 13 matches, which of course includes his first Major singles final at Wimbledon. And Nick is 2-1 against Daniil, though they’ve split two hard court meetings. Three years ago in the final of Washington, Kyrgios prevailed thanks to two tiebreaks. But at this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev was victorious in four. Last year at this tournament, Daniil defeated a few other big servers such as Hubi Hurkacz, John Isner, and Reilly Opelka. On Wednesday, his defensive skills may again prove to diffuse Nick’s serving prowess. And as seen in the Wimbledon final, Kyrgios can get easily frustrated by opponents who can play elite-level defense.
Belinda Bencic (12) vs. Serena Williams – Not Before 7:00pm on Centre Court on Toronto
These next few weeks will be the last in perhaps the most remarkable career in tennis history. Serena has said she does not want a lot of fanfare surrounding her last tournaments, but fans will surely be clamoring to see the all-time great one last time. In just her third match this year, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in women’s singles faces the most recent gold medalist. Bencic is now 28-13 this season, and two of her best results this season have come in the US. She was a semifinalist in Miami, and the champion in Charleston. Serena is 2-1 against Belinda, though Bencic’s only victory occurred in this same city seven years ago, when the Swiss star won this title as an 18-year-old. Williams played some good tennis during her straight-set victory on Monday, and both players will assumedly be quite nervous knowing this is one of Serena’s final matches. But considering Williams has not defeated a top 20 player since the 2021 Australian Open, Bencic should be favored on this day. Regardless, this opportunity to watch Serena compete will be cherished by her millions of fans.
Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Swiatek is now 48-5 on the year, and has won her last three hard court tournaments dating back to February (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami). Tomljanovic reached her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal last month. Their only previous meeting also occurred in Toronto, when three years ago the Australian retired after only five games.
Elena Rybakina vs. Coco Gauff (10) – The new Wimbledon champion played for a full three hours on Tuesday, eventually defeating Marie Bouzkova 6-1 in the third. On the same day, Gauff dropped only four games to fellow American Madison Brengle.
Tommy Paul vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Alcaraz is now 42-7 in 2022, and is coming off back-to-back finals at clay events in Europe. Paul has accumulated 25 wins of his own this season, 16 of which have come on hard courts.
Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – Fernandez gritted her way to a three-set victory on Monday night in her first match since injuring her foot at Roland Garros. Haddad Maia has 34 wins on the year, and won back-to-back grass court tournaments in June. Earlier this season in the semifinals of Monterrey, Leylah prevailed over Beatriz in straight sets.
Qinwen Zheng vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur went 1-1 last week in her first two matches since her losing effort in the Wimbledon final. Qinwen also lost to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, after two tight sets in the third round of that event.
Bianca Andreescu vs. Alize Cornet – Andreescu overcame injury to defeat San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday evening, requiring multiple medical timeouts in the first set alone. Earlier in the day, Cornet took out Caroline Garcia in three sets. Alize is 2-0 against Bianca.
Yoshihito Nishioka (SE) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Nishioka was a surprise finalist last week in Washington, where he earned impressive victories over five top 40 players, including Andrey Rublev. Auger-Aliassime has now lost four of his last six matches. Yoshi leads their tour-level head-to-head 2-1, which includes a dramatic three-set win three years ago at Indian Wells in a third-set tiebreak.
Jack Draper (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Tsitsipas has not played since his embarrassing behavior in a third-round defeat at the hands of Kyrgios at Wimbledon. 20-year-old Draper has earned 35 match wins at all levels this season.
Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.
6, 5, 4…is the rise of Carlos Alcaraz going to continue this week?
Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters 1000 may allow the Spaniard’s ranking to reach new zeniths
By Kingsley Elliot Kaye
Numbers are fascinating, even worshipped by some, unquestionable and reassuring. We may forget the fallibility of subjective evaluation and rejoice with the sense of power that comes with belief that any reality, from outer space to the inner world, can be measured, and expressed with numbers.
And numbers have been fuelling tennis headlines over the last weeks as Carlos Alcaraz has been heading on, his rise in the rankings unblemished by the losses to Musetti and Sinner in the finals in Hamburg and Umag and ticking on like an ultimate countdown.
In the next two weeks Alcaraz will have limitless opportunities to reap points in the two Masters 1000 leading up to the US Open since he will only be dropping the points he earned last year in Cincinnati where, after qualifying, he reached the round of 32 before losing to Lorenzo Sonego.
There is more at stake for those he is chasing: Medvedev, winner in Canada and semi-finalist in Cincinnati is surely capable of bettering such results, but it will not be a walkover. Zverev is fully committed to rehab and unable to defend his Cincinnati 2021 crown. Nadal, who missed all the second part of the last season and could be a serious challenger in terms of point harvesting, has just had to pull out from Montreal owing to his still-healing abdominal injury.
Nitpickers may suggest that the most recent hurdles cleared by Alcaraz have not coincided with immaculate victories and that what had seemed for a long time to be a perfect set-up engine, meticulously fine-tuned, has been starting to misfire.
No doubt that his 2022 campaign had been a crescendo up to his triumph in the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, where he brushed aside Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev. The match with Djokovic was of supreme quality and will stand out as one of the gems of the year.
Till then, his loss to Korda in Monte Carlo was the only lapse and could be considered an incident, as it may occur to any guy setting foot on clay for the first time in months, adorned with a new status as a tennis prodigy after his win in Miami and awaited by a roaring buzz of expectations.
In Paris, a first yellow alert did appear when he was on the brink of defeat in round 2 with Ramos-Vinolas in a match stained by 74 unforced errors. Then followed shining performances against Korda and Khachanov before falling in the quarter-finals to Zverev who overpowered him throughout most of their match. But Zverev was formidable that day and Alcaraz strove to the very end to find an escape way and was close to coming back, missing a set point in the fourth set tiebreak that would have tugged him into a decider.
His star seemed to be shining at Wimbledon after his impressive dominance over Otte, but two days later was obscured by Sinner. On this occasion, for the first time in his newly established career, his game appeared blunted.
Was his body starting to remind him he’s a teen, capable of formidable performances, but still to develop that endurance and resilience which are needed to maintain peak cruising over longer stretches?
Then followed defeats in Hamburg and Umag finals on clay. A final itself cannot be considered a disappointing result, but his halo of invincibility was dimmed.
Particular concern was his second defeat in a month to Sinner, where he appeared at loss for solutions over the last one hour and a half, his boisterous self-confidence slowly deflating and his body language revealing frustration. In his press conference, Alcaraz admitted such a sense of helplessness and said to be determined to figure out a way to win against the Italian.
The point is that Alcaraz made such a great impression in the first part of this season that it has become hard to believe he can lose a match.
At his best, he can deliver any shot at any moment, with a variety rarely seen before. In an inspired instant, he can switch from herculean ball-striking to caressing a dropshot, which will land, bounceless, a few inches after the net. What about his eagerness to volley, often following his wondrously effective kick serve? Not to mention his serve which alternates power and spin, his endurance in winning long rallies, scuttling far and beyond to fling in a winner from out of the blue. Opponents cannot but be befuddled.
And then, is clay really the surface that best suits his game? In an interview with Marca, he said he’s comfortable on all surfaces but feels that his dynamic game most suits hard courts. If we couple this statement with his enthusiasm for being in Montreal and playing the Canadian Open for the first time, after throwing in some hard work for a successful transition from clay to hard, we can be positive that the fire has been kindled, and the countdown for reaching the highest ranking orbits is running once again.
Canada Daily Preview: Andreescu, Osaka, Raducanu Face Formidable Opposition
Tuesday’s schedule in Toronto features several Major singles champions taking on recent tournament finalists. 2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu faces San Jose champ Daria Kasatkina. Four-time Slam champ Naomi Osaka plays Washington runner-up Kaia Kanepi. US Open champ Emma Raducanu faces defending champion Camila Giorgi. And another US Open champ, Sloane Stephens, plays Indian Wells runner-up Maria Sakkari.
In Montreal, many matches have been carried over from Monday due to rain, including Andy Murray against Taylor Fritz, which was previewed here. Also on Tuesday, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini takes on Pablo Carreno Busta.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both cities.
Camila Giorgi vs. Emma Raducanu (9) – Second on Centre Court in Toronto
Giorgi was a surprising champion of this event a year ago, as she was ranked outside the top 70 at the time. And she has failed to follow-up on that title run. Camila promptly lost her next four matches, and in 2022, she’s just 13-13. Of course Raducanu also won the biggest title of her career last summer, and has similarly struggled ever since, with a record of 11-13 on the year. In their first career meeting, the pressure will be on Giorgi, as she’s never before defended a title of this caliber. That makes Raducanu the favorite to advance in her Canadian debut.
Daria Kasatkina (11) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Not Before 7pm on Centre Court in Toronto
What a season Kasatkina is having. She is now 32-14, and is No.3 in the year-to-date rankings. Last week in San Jose, she defeated two top six players en route to the title (Badosa, Sabalenka). And at the same time, she’s influencing social change, as the Russian recently came out as gay, and spoke out against that subject remaining “taboo” in her home country. In her own home country, Andreescu achieved great success three years ago, winning this title just weeks before becoming a US Open champion. But the last few years have thoroughly tested Andreescu, as she’s battled injuries, COVID, and mental health issues. Just a week ago in San Jose, she retired mid-match due to back pain. In her first match in Toronto since her title run, it’s hard to imagine she’ll be fully healthy. A confident, happy, and in-form Kasatkina is a strong favorite to continue her winning streak despite their history. Bianca leads their head-to-head 2-0, which includes a three-set victory three years ago at this same event.
Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:
Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Matteo Berrettini (11) – This will be Berrettini’s debut at this event, while Carreno Busta is only 2-2 lifetime here. Their only previous meeting occurred at this year’s Australian Open, which Matteo claimed in straight sets.
Kaia Kanepi vs. Naomi Osaka – Kanepi lost the final of Washington on Sunday to Liudmila Samsonova 6-3 in the third. This will only be Osaka’s third match since May, and she’s coming off a straight-set loss last week in San Jose to Coco Gauff. When they played five years ago at the US Open, Kanepi prevailed 7-5 in the third.
Maria Sakkari (3) vs. Sloane Stephens – Stephens was up a set and 5-2 over Sofia Kenin on Monday before eventually prevailing 7-5 in the third on her sixth match point in a highly-dramatic affair. Sakkari was decisively defeated last week in San Jose by Shelby Rogers. This is their first career encounter.
Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.
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