Mere hours after the US Open concluded, a combined ATP Masters 1,000/WTA Premier event begins in Rome.
The men who contested yesterday’s epic yet excruciating championship match will not be making the trip to Italy. Neither will Daniil Medvedev, Roberto Bautista Agut, or an injured Roger Federer Otherwise, the other 15 players in the ATP’s top 20 are present, including nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and four-time champion Novak Djokovic.
The women’s world No.1, Ash Barty, has declined to travel from Australia for this event as well as the French Open due to the pandemic. She’s joined on the sidelines this week by US Open champion Naomi Osaka, last year’s US Open champ Bianca Andreescu, and an injured Serena Williams. But the rest of the WTA top 10 is here, including defending champion Karolina Pliskova and two-time champion Elina Svitolina.
With Roland Garros just 13 days, which players will gain crucial momentum on the red clay over the next eight days in Rome?
Benoit Paire vs. Jannick Sinner (WC).
This will be Paire’s first match since his removal from the US Open due to a positive test for COVID-19. That occurred a week after he retired during his opening round of the Western & Southern Open, feeling ill. Sinner, a 19-year-old Italian, was a crowd favorite here a year ago. Then ranked 263rd in the world, he thrilled the fans on Court Centrale by coming back from a set down to upset Steve Johnson. Six months later, Sinner would achieve further glory on home soil, winning the ATP Next Gen event in Milan. Two weeks ago, he was up two sets on Karen Khachanov at the US Open, but failed to close out the match, with his body giving out. These two met earlier this year on a hard court in Auckland, where Paire prevailed in three. Predicting Paire’s performances is a risky business. Hopefully he’ll be fully healthy today, and perhaps he’ll be motivated coming off the controversy surrounding him in New York. But Sinner will certainly be inspired to play well at his country’s biggest event. Paired with his strong ground game, that may be enough for Jannick to earn the victory. The winner will face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the next round.
Elise Mertens (11) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh
This match will be an indication of how players who excelled in New York will perform in Italy after such a short turnaround. Mertens has been one of the busiest players since the WTA restart last month. The Belgian has won 12 matches during that time, with four wins at each event played (Prague, Western & Southern Open, US Open). By contrast, this is Hsieh’s first match since February. And Su-Wei has yet to win a main draw match this season, with her most recent victory coming last September in Wuhan. While clay is her weakest surface, Hsieh’s unique style of slicing and dicing can throw anyone off their game. Mertens leads their head-to-head 2-1, including a 6-0, 6-2 thrashing in their only match on clay. And with plenty of variety of her own, Elise is the favorite to advance in what should be an entertaining clash.
Other Notable Matches on Day 1:
Cristian Garin (14) vs. Borna Coric. Garin won two clay court titles in February, while Coric is coming off his first Major quarterfinal last week.
Kei Nishikori vs. Alberto Ramos-Vinolas. Kei lost his first match in over a year last week in Kitzbuhel. Nishikori is 4-1 against Ramos-Vinolas.
Elena Rybakina (10) vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova. This is already their third meeting in this abbreviated season, and Alexandrova is 2-0 thus far. And Ekaterina is coming off a comeback win over Kim Clijsters at the US Open.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (16) vs. Filip Krajinovic. Both men played some good tennis the last few weeks in New York. Krajinovic claimed their only previous tour meeting.
Full order of play is here.
Madison Keys latest player to test positive for Coronavirus
Madison Keys ruled out of the Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19.
The American tested positive for the first time and will miss the first grand slam of the year.
Madison Keys has officially tested positive for the coronavirus. She announced the news on social media and says she will, unfortunately, miss the Australian Open.
“Hi everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I, unfortunately, tested positive for Covid-19 before I was suppose to fly to Australia. I’m very disappointed to not be able to play in the coming weeks after training hard in the off-season and knowing Tennis Australia and the tours did so much to make these events happen.
“I am self isolating at home and will continue to follow all the necessary health precautions. I look forward to be back on tour next month.
“Thank you for all your support.
“Stay Healthy and safe.
Keys is the latest player to have tested positive after Andy Murray revealed he had a positive test while Tennys Sandgren had tested positive but was given the green light to travel.
Two players in men’s qualifying in Doha tested positive and were immediatly removed from the draw. Apparently if you test positive for the first time you are not allowed to travel but if you already tested positive and show no symptoms there is a chance you will continue to test positive before the effects go away.
Players are traveling this week to Australia and will be mandated to follow the 14 day quarantine with the exception of training five hours a day. The Australian Open begins on February 8th.
While most players will be quarantining in Melbourne both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have confirmed they will do their quarantine in Adelaide.
ANALYSIS: Daniil Medvedev’s Run At The ATP Finals – Win Against Nadal Was The Turning point
Using two types of graphs, UbiTennis takes a closer look at the five matches won by Daniil Medvedev at the 2020 ATP Finals.
Let’s analyse the five matches won at the ATP Finals by Daniil Medvedev, using the graphical representations provided by Federico Bertelli. We have renamed the graphs as “The ride”, recalling the famous Wagnerian composition. The first series of graphs is made up of decision trees and illustrates the trend of Medvedev’s and his opponents behind their respective serves, from the first round robin match to the final won against Dominic Thiem.
These are the details of his debut match against Zverev. The graph is easy to read: on the right (in blue) the times he held his serve are represented, while the time he broke his opponent are on the left (in red). The thicker the segment that connects two scores, the more frequently that ‘path’ of play has been covered.
Medvedev’s solidity holding serve is undeniable, because he performed best in deuce receiver and deuce server situations. It can also be observed how the Russian got broken just once in his first three matches, against Zverev at 30-40, while against Nadal he was particularly in trouble with his own serve, as the Spaniard was the only one who broke him several times, taking advantage of some favourable scoring situations such as 0-40, 15-40 and deuce receiver.
However, against Thiem, although Medvedev found himself tangled in a decider, the trend reverts back to that of the round matches: the only chance that Thiem had to snatch the serve was on the deuce receiver. He had no other chance from 40-40.
The graphical analysis, corroborated by the thickness of the oblique blue lines, also shows the growing solidity of the Russian from match to match, winning the opening two points in his service games. This is a sign of a growing confidence in his game as the Russian advanced towards the final stages of the tournament, e.g. the semi-final and the final.
As for the situations in which Medvedev was particularly proficient on his opponent’s serve, the deuce receiver stands out, a circumstance that was present in all five matches, followed by the 30-40 – he broke on this situation against Zverev and Schwartzman.
The second series of graphs on Medvedev’s Valkyrian ride consists of radar graphs illustrating the classic statistics shown at the end of each match, which are equivalent to the following percentages – starting from the top and going clockwise: percentage of first serves in play, percentage of points won with his first and second serve, break points saved and converted, points won on the return against first and second serve, total points won, total points won on the return and on serve. What you see above is the diagram of Medvedev’s debut match: it is easy to see that he did better than Zverev in all statistics except for the percentage of first serves in play.
From the analysis of the first three matches of the group stage, even though the yellow area is predominant in almost all the statistical percentages, it’s clear that Medvedev was more effective in saving break points than his opponents (more than 80 percent against Zverev and 100 percent against Djokovic and Schwartzman), as well as in converting them. Against Schwartzman, he was actually bettered in the percentage of points won with the second service and in points won on the return against the opponent’s second serve.
However, in the next two matches the percentage profiles of break balls saved and converted change because Nadal’s and Thiem’s numbers are higher than the Medvedev’s. So, ultimately, it means that Medvedev conceded fewer break points and managed to convert those that his opponents offered him during the match.
That shows a great solidity.
If the general statistical profile of the Medvedev’s match against Thiem is similar to that of the matches won against Djokovic and Zverev, and in some ways to the one against Schwartzman as well, the statistics outline against Nadal is totally abnormal and should be considered as an outlier. The percentage of points won returning Nadal’s second serve and on his own second serve were the crucial ones. We will analyse this aspect in another article that will deal with Medvedev’s positioning on the return.
In conclusion, from the analysis of the statistical profiles, it appears that the semi-final bout against Nadal was the toughest obstacle that Medvedev had to overcome in his ride to success in a tournament in which he turned out more than anyone to be able (perhaps naturally) to give the match the desired direction, even when the numbers were not completely by his side.
Article by Andrea Canella; translated by Alice Nagni; edited by Tommaso Villa
Unstoppable Aryna Sabalenka Storms To Abu Dhabi Title
Another clinical performance has secured the Belarusian her third consecutive title and a new career-high ranking position.
Aryna Sabalenka’s winning run shows no signs of stopping anytime soon after she powered her way to the Abu Dhabi title on Wednesday.
The fourth seed needed just over an hour to defeat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2, in what was a largely one-sided encounter in the Middle East. Sabalenka utilized her power to her advantage as she fired five aces and 18 winners past her opponent who was playing in her first WTA final at the age of 23. Overall she won almost twice as many points (63-37) than Kudermetova.
With both players holding their ground early on, Sabalenka started to dominate midway through the opening set with the help of a four-game winning streak. Leading 3-2 on serve, she broke her Russian rival twice in a row to clinch the 6-2 lead. Throughout the opener the world No.10 dropped just five points behind her serve.
It was a familiar pattern in the second frame with Sabalenka continuing to dismantle Kudermetova’s fragile serve. Overall, she broke six consecutive times in the final with four of those occurring in the second set alone. Easing to a game away from victory, she did experience a blunder after losing one of her breaks. However, there would be no chance of a Kudermetova comeback as Sabalenka closed out the match in the following game with her rival hitting a forehand error on match point.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” the new champion reflected on her performance. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”
The win extends Sabalenka’s unbeaten run on the Tour to 15 wins. She has now won three titles in a row after ending 2020 triumphing in both Ostrava and Linz. As a result of her latest triumph, Sabalenka will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world on Monday.
There is also a silver lining for underdog Kudermetova who defeated Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Her run to the final will move her up the rankings to a career high of 36th. She has already scored five wins over top 10 opponents so far in her career.
“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”
Sabalenka’s surge on the Tour has sparked high expectations for her going into the Australian Open where she is hoping to break new ground in a Grand Slam.
“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”
Despite her success on the WTA Tour, she has only reached the fourth round of a major once at the 2018 US Open.
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