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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Simona Halep Provides Injury Update On Knee Ahead Of US Open

The return of Simona Halep looks a long way away from happening as a knee injury continues to bother the Romanian.

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Simona Halep has provided an update on her knee injury as she faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open.

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion’s comeback has not gone according to plan so far as she returned from a doping ban in Miami earlier this year.

However playing time has been limited for the Romanian as her second tournament of the year ended in a first round retirement at a Challenger event in Paris.

As a result of her retirement Halep was forced to miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon as she looked to recover from a knee injury.

The injury is more serious than meets the eye though as Halep provided an update on her knee injury and revealed it’s an injury that has been occurring for the last few months, “I wanted to provide a little health update since I have been away from the court lately. It is not the best news, but I wanted to share all the same,” Halep revealed on Instagram.

“For a few months now, I have been struggling with a knee injury. It’s an injury I have never had before and it has been a tough one to manage, with the pain persisting. It has been a very difficult period (almost two years) mentally and emotionally for me and struggling physically on top of that definitely doesn’t help.

“I have decided to take the time needed to recover properly, rather than training and playing through pain. My instinct has always been to try to come back as soon as possible, but I am not a machine, I am a human being and I need time to recover from everything I have gone through.

“I’ll keep you posted and, as always, want to thank you for your permanent support. I hope to be back on court very soon.”

Halep now faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open which starts on the 26th of August.

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Alexander Zverev Commits To Olympics, Speaks About Miscommunication Between Olympics And ATP

Alexander Zverev is preparing for his Olympic title defence.

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Alexander Zverev has spoken out on the miscommunication between the Olympics and the ATP tour with tennis’ top stars set to miss some big events on the tour.

The German is getting ready to defend his Olympic title that he won in Tokyo as Zverev heads to Paris.

After narrowly missing out on Roland Garros glory, Zverev now has an opportunity at redemption as he aims for a second consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

However there is a dilemma for big players this year as the same week as the tennis event at the Olympics at the ATP 500 event in Washington.

This is an event that Zverev usually plays but will have to miss it due to playing in Paris.

Speaking out on the miscommunication, Zverev said it’s no secret that the ATP are not best friends on the Olympics but has committed to the historic event, “The ITF or the Olympics are not best friends with the ATP, that’s not a secret,” Zverev was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

Everybody continues their own tour. Yes, the Olympics is one of the, if not the, most important events we have in sports. So, the best players in the world are always going to play the Olympics over anything else, over points and over prize money.

All the top players went to Wimbledon a few years back, despite having no points on the line. It’s about prestige, it’s not about points or money. It’s about winning these kinds of titles and having medals for your country.

That’s what it’s about. I would never choose to play a 500 event over the Olympics. There are no thoughts on that, and I think Washington is going to be quite an interesting 500 event, I would say.

The ATP 500 event in Washington will be headlined by Grigor Dimitrov, Ben Shelton, Karen Khachanov and Frances Tiafoe as they are among those that have chosen ranking points over the Olympic experience.

As for Zverev he is continuing his Olympic preparations in Hamburg where he will face Pedro Martinez in the semi-finals.

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Rafael Nadal Reveals Delight At Setting Up Ajdukovic Semi-Final After Four Hour Victory

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the Bastad semi-finals after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

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(ubitennis/Francesca Micheli)

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the semi-finals in Bastad after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion prevailed in a marathon 6-7(2) 7-5 7-5 victory to reach his first semi-final since Wimbledon 2022.

The Spaniard converted ten of his 21 break point opportunities as he reached the semi-finals.

After the match Nadal revealed his delight at reaching the last four and prevailed Navone for his resilient display, “I lost for some moments my concentration, but I was able to hold physically until the end,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“That is so important for me. Let’s see how I am tomorrow, but today I am alive and in the semi-finals, so that’s very important. There were a lot of changing dynamics in every single set. For moments, he was in control. For moments, I was in control. But at the end, no one was in control! That’s true, and I had a good chance in the second with 3-0. Then I was very close to losing the match in the second set.

“In the third [I was ahead] again with 5-2, but he’s a great fighter and he played a great match. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal will now play Duje Ajdukovic in the semi-finals as he aims to continue his eight match winning streak in Bastad with this being his first appearance at the tournament since winning the title in 2005.

The other semi-final will be Nuno Borges against Thiago Agustin Tirante with both players reaching their maiden ATP tour semi-final.

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