Internazionali d’Italia Day 1 Preview: The Men’s & Women’s Match of the Day - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali d’Italia Day 1 Preview: The Men’s & Women’s Match of the Day

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Rafael Nadal is the defending champion of this event (internazionalibnlditalia.com)

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.

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Julia Goerges Announces Retirement From Tennis

Julia Goerges announced her retirement from tennis after over two decades in the sport.

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Former top 10 player Julia Goerges has said her goodbyes to tennis after announcing her retirement from the sport.

 

In a shock announcement the 31 year-old from Regensburg, Germany announced her retirement from the sport that she had been playing since she was five years old.

Speaking on Instagram and her website, Goerges paid tribute to the sport she has been apart for over two decades, “I am writing to you, because I am ready to say “Goodbye”,” The German explained.

“When I started playing tennis at the age of 5, I would never have thought that we would go such a long way together.

“You have given me so many different types of emotions throughout our journey and I am very thankful for everything you have shown and taught me. I learnt how to deal with the toughest losses but also enjoy the most amazing wins of my career, to fight back many times when I was struggling with you and through it all we never lost sight of our dreams.

“I always knew how I would feel when it is time to say goodbye to you, and that moment has arrived. I am ready to close the tennis chapter of my life and open a new one, which I am really excited about. Thank you for everything you have given me. You will stay forever in my heart.”

The news comes as a shock to many people as earlier in the year Goerges had originally said that she would continue for another 2-3 years.

However in the current circumstances, Goerges probably felt that this was the perfect timing to announce her retirement from the sport.

It was a career that started by winning the biggest title of her career in Stuttgart before a serious injury derailed her progress.

However a late surge in her late-20s, saw her win a total of 12 WTA titles and reach the semi-finals of a grand slam for the first time at Wimbledon 2017.

Now it seems Goerges’ 2nd round exit against Laura Siegemund was the last match of her career as she sets her sights on being involved with tennis off the court especially with her new performance app ‘Recast Tennis.’

A career that she can be very proud of, Happy retirement Julia Goerges!

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Anett Kontaveit fends off two match points to win a hard–fought match against Ekaterina Alexandrova

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This year’s Palermo finalist Anett Kontaveit came back from a double break down  in the third set and faced two match points in the decisive third set to battle past Ekaterina Alexandrova 4-6 6-2 7-6 (8-6) in the first round at J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Alexandrova has won 33 of her past 39 indoor matches in the last two seasons since October 2018. The Russian player was leading 5-2 in the third set and 6-4 in the tie-break and served for the match three times. 

Alexandrova earned the first break point of the match in the third game with her backhand and converted it as Kontaveit sent her forehand into the net. Alexandrova came to within two points of taking a double break for 4-1, but Kontaveit hit two forehands to hold her service game. Kontaveit broke back at love in the sixth game and held serve to take a 4-3 lead. Alexandrova broke again in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and converted her second set point in the 10th game with a forehand wiiner. 

In the first game of the second set Alexandrova came close to converting her fourth break point with a crosscourt forehand, but a Hawkeye overrule that it had barely missed clipping the line. Kontaveit held her serve with two service winners. The 24-year-old Estonian player broke serve with a forehand winner to open up a 2-0 lead. Alexandova broke straight back in the third game. Kontaveit broke twice in the fourth and eighth games to seal the second set 6-2 with a lob. 

Alexandrova started the third set with an early break at deuce with a forehand winner down the line. The Russian player won nine consecutive points to get a double break for 4-1 with two consecutive forehand winners. At 5-2 Alexandrova wasted her first chance to serve out the win after a double fault and dropped her serve. Kontaveit pulled her second break back in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5 with a forehand. Alexandrova broke again with her forehand in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead. Kontaveit broke back with a backhand return winner forcing the second set to the tie-break. Kontaveit saved two match points after Alexandrova netted her forehand on the first chance and Kontaveit hit a backhand winner on the second. Kontaveit converted her first match point with a forehand volley to set up a second round match against either Magda Linette or a qualifier. 

“I was so close to being out, so I just tried to stay in the match. I never really gave up. I tried to be a little more aggressive, when I was down. I felt maybe I had taken a little bit off my shots”, said Kontaveit. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Becomes First Greek To Reach Roland Garros Quarter-Finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas made more history after beating Grigor Dimitrov at Roland Garros.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek male or female tennis player to reach the Quarter-Finals at Roland Garros with a 6-3 7-6(9) 6-2 win over Grigor Dimitrov.

 

Another historic milestone beckoned for Tsitsipas as he took down a spirited Dimitrov in straight sets.

It was Tsitsipas who made the quickest start as he grinded out the unforced errors from Dimitrov’s racket.

A 3-0 lead was the ideal start as his court coverage mixed with his power from the back of the court caused Dimitrov all sorts of problems.

The duo had never played before and the Bulgarian was finding it tough to battle past Tsitsipas’ defence in heavy conditions.

A lot of angles were created by both players as they looked to construct points well rather than power past their opponents.

Dimitrov was starting to figure out this solution but Tsitsipas remained firm and took the opening set 6-3, by the one break of serve.

A much more competitive second set developed as the variation between attack and defence was on show.

Dimitrov started to play smarter tennis by using the backhand slice to try and open up the court and make more consistent power off the forehand side.

This lead to more belief in Dimitrov that he could outsmart and outhit Tsitsipas in what was turning into a fascinating encounter.

A couple of half-chances came and went for Dimitrov as some clutch play from especially on the backhand saw him remain solid on serve.

A thrilling second set tiebreak would decide the second set as the Bulgarian looked to take his momentum in the tiebreak.

After losing the first three points, Dimitrov played some bold and stunning shots when up against it but was too cautious when it really mattered.

Failing to convert two set points, a forehand unforced error into the net sealed Dimitrov’s fate as he lost the second set tiebreak 10-9.

From then on it was all about Tsitsipas as he raised his level and Dimitrov’s belief, momentum and level significantly dropped.

Creating a break point on every return game, a break in the second and eighth game sealed victory in 2 and a half hours.

A stunning match from Tsitsipas, who overcame a brilliant second set from Dimitrov, to win in straight sets and become the first Greek man or Woman to reach the last eight in Paris.

Next for Tsitsipas will be a rematch from the Hamburg final as he takes on Andrey Rublev.

The Russian came back from a break down in sets two and three to beat Marton Fucsovics 6-7(4) 7-5 6-4 7-6(3) in a three hour and 58 minute battle.

When Tsitsipas and Rublev meet on Wednesday, Tsitsipas will hope to end the world number 12’s nine match winning streak.

Rublev’s last loss came against Hubert Hurkacz in Rome.

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