Grand Slam Champions Andy Murray, Angelique Kerber To Play Virtual Madrid Open - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam Champions Andy Murray, Angelique Kerber To Play Virtual Madrid Open

32 tennis players will battle it out to see who is the best in the world of online gaming in a special event aimed at raising money for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In the coming weeks some of the world’s best tennis players will be swapping their rackets for game controllers and it will all be for a good cause.

 

The organisers of the Madrid Open have announced the launch of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro. A online gaming tournament that will feature professional players from both the ATP and WTA Tours battling it out in the world of online gaming. The initiative has come to fruition after the Madrid Open was cancelled this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At present all competitive tennis tournaments have been suspended until July 13th.

“The birth of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro highlights the tournament’s technological, youthful and innovative side, which has been one of its hallmarks since it began in 2009 and it is fitting for the current circumstances.” Tournament director Felciano Lopez said in a statement.

A total of 32 players are set to be featured in the first of its kind event. 16 in the women’s draw and 16 in the men’s. Three-time grand slam champion and former world No.1 Andy Murray has been confirmed as one of the first top names to play in the tournament. Murray last won the Madrid Open back in 2015 when he defeated Rafael Nadal in the final. The only other male confirmed to play so far is France’s Lucas Pouille.

Fellow ex world No.1 Angleique Kerber is looking forward to the challenge of battling her rivals without having to leave her house. The German has won 12 WTA titles so far in her career.

“The Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro is a new challenge for us the players, and something that I have never been done before”, explained Kerber. “It’s exciting and a good opportunity to compete from home in a new format. I’m looking forward to participating!”.

Representing the home nation will be Carla Suarez Navarro, who is contemplating whether or not to delay her retirement until 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The 31-year-old has been ranked as high as sixth in the world.

“Forming part of the Mutua Madrid Open Virtual Pro is an honour”, said Carla Suárez. “The tournament has always been innovative and this is another example of that. We’re going through some exceptional circumstances and any way of collaborating will always be welcome. This is a difficult time for everyone, so we should be united as far as we can.”

The four-day tournament aims to raise money for players struggling financially due to the suspension. A total of 150,000 euros will be up for grabs in each draw with the winners deciding how much money they will donate. An additional 50,000 euros “will all go towards reducing the social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.“

Questioned about the virtual tournament on Wednesday, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi gave a cautious welcome to the initiative. Although he said it will not make up for the real thing.

“I think it’s a good initiative, but it can’t make up for the real thing. It works better for other sports such as the F1 or the Moto GP,” he commented.
“I’m definitely not against something of the sort during these sad times, but it’s not a definitive solution, even though those who organise this sort of things should be thanked for the income they generate.”

The online tournament will take place between April 27-30.

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Andrey Rublev eases through to the second round at the Australian Open

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Four-time Grand Slam quarter finalist Andrey Rublev eased through to the second round with a 6-3 6-2 6-2 win over Gianluca Mager with 31 winners to 13 unforced errors after 1 hours and 24 minutes at the Australian Open on Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne. 

 

Rublev, who reached the quarter final at the Australian Open in 2021, broke seven times and never trailed in any of the three sets. He hit 13 aces and won 81% of his first serve points. Mager hit 10 aces but he made 37 unforced errors. 

Rublev earned his first break in the third game of the opening set. Mager broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Rublev earned two consecutive breaks in the seventh and ninth games to close the first set 6-3. Rublev went up a double break in the sixth and eighth games to take a 4-2 lead in the second set. 

Mager earned two break points in the first game of the third set, but Rublev saved them with two big serves. Rublev broke in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead. Mager earned a break-back point in the next game, but Rublev saved it at deuce before closing out the third set with a double break in the eighth game. 

Rublev was forced to miss the ATP Cup as he was tested positive to Covid-19. The Russian player will face either Ricardas Berankis or Roberto Carballes Baena. 

“Of course I would have preferred to play the ATP Cup, to feel already these emotions, the nerves during the match, to feel this winning feeling. Of course it’s not easy when you are not playing for a couple of weeks and go straight into one of the best tournaments. You feel a bit double pressure because you don’t know how it’s going to be, but this is life. You cannot control it”, said Rublev. 

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Jannik Sinner cruises through to the Australian Open second round with straight-set over Joao Sousa

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Italian star Jannik Sinner edged Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-4 7-5 6-1 to advance to the second round at the Australian Open on Kia Arena in Melbourne Park. 

 

Sinner earned his first break in the sixth game of the opening set with a backhand down the line winner. Sousa pulled back on serve in the ninth game, as Sinner was serving for the first set at 5-3.  The five-time ATP Tour titlist earned his second break in the tenth game to close out the first set 6-4. 

Sinner went up an early break to take a 2-0 lead, but Sousa broke straight back in the third game after four consecutive unforced errors from Sinner. The Italian 20-year star sealed the second set with his second break in the 12th game. 

The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion broke twice in a row in the fourth and sixth games to cruise through to a 6-1 win the third set. 

Sinner was not entirely happy with his match despite the straight-set win. 

Sinner hit 31 winners to 31 unforced errors. 

“Of course it was not easy for a first round, especially against a player who has played three matches before. Today was also a little bit windy. I tried to get used to the conditions and everything. I think it was a good first round”, said Sinner. 

Sinner ha improved his seasonal record to 4-0 after his three ATP Cup wins. He will face Steve Johnson in the second round. Sinner leads 2-0 in his previous two head-to-head matches in Rome 2019 and Washington 2021. In their first head-to-head match in Rome Sinner rallied from 2-5 down in the third set and saved a match point to beat Johnson 1-6 6-1 7-5. 

Sinner is aiming to reach the Australian Open third round for the first time in three attempts. 

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Garbine Muguruza Reaches New Milestone As Swiatek Finds Her Groove At Australian Open

The two title contenders were in impressive form during their opening matches.

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Garbine Muguruza - image via https://twitter.com/usopen

Third seed Garbine Muguruza extended her perfect run of first round wins at the Australian Open to 10 with a straightforward victory over France’s Clara Burel.

 

The former world No.1, who is yet to lose an opening match played at Melbourne Park in her career, required just under 90 minutes to see off Burel 6-3, 6-4. Muguruza broke her rival three consecutive times during the first set to win the opener in just over half an hour. Then in the second she eased to a 5-3 lead but failed to convert three match points. Muguruza was then broken in the following game before breaking back again to seal victory.

“It felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” Muguruza told reporters afterwards. “Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign.’
“I’m very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”

On what is the ninth anniversary of her Melbourne Park debut. Muguruza is hoping to go one step further than she did back in 2020 and win the title. She has now won 27 matches at the Australian Open which makes it her second most successful Grand Slam in terms of wins. Her best is the French Open where she has recorded 29 victories.

Muguruza will next take on another French player in the shape of Alize Cornet. During her on-court interview on Tuesday she was asked about her net play which the Spaniard said is a reflection of her on-court personality.

It’s just a journey of adapting to your character,” she said. “I’m an aggressive player on the court and I like to dominate. I train like that. I’m not like that outside but inside the court I’m aggressive.”

Swiatek and her new coach

Another winner on day two was former French Open champion Iga Swiatek who swept aside Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-3, 6-0. At the start of the match she was trailing 1-3 before fighting back by winning 11 games in a row. The Pole is playing in her 12th Grand Slam main draw and is hoping to go beyond the fourth round in Australia for the first time in her career.

“You could see that first few games were pretty tricky for me. With the sun, I know I got broken in my second service game,” said Swiatek.
“I’m pretty happy that I was patient, I found the rhythm throughout the match. That’s pretty positive.”

Swiatek is in Melbourne with her new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski who is known for his previous work with Agnieszka Radwanska. She admits the new collaboration is very much a work in progress but believes she is heading in the right direction with her new mentor.

“He didn’t change a lot at the beginning because he was good to continue the process that I’ve had. Too many changes would be really confusing,” she said of Wiktorowski.
“We’re focusing on different stuff. We’re working on my strengths, which is great, because it’s going to give me confidence. I’m going to be able to be more, like, proactive on court. We were working on some attack formations and offensive game.’
“But we also didn’t have time to work on everything that we wanted to because there is a lot to improve in terms of my volleys and maybe slice.”

Swiatek will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the second round.

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