It’s quarterfinal day in Rome, and many Roland Garros favorites are gaining momentum just eight days prior to the next Major.
On the men’s side, a Nadal/Djokovic final is starting to feel inevitable. They’ve played in the championship match here five times before, and are a combined 44-3 against the other six men still alive in the draw. But in an unpredictable 2020, the script has rarely unfolded as anticipated. The top three remaining women’s seeds all have previous success at this event, though other strong contenders stand in their way. That includes a pair of two-time Major champions who are playing great tennis, though only one of those women will advance to the semifinals.
Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Elise Mertens (11)
These are two of the WTA’s best players yet to win a Major. Pliskova came extremely close to doing so four years ago at the US Open, where she defeated both Williams sisters before falling to Angelique Kerber in the final. Karolina is yet to return to a championship match, though she has accumulated 16 titles on the WTA tour, including this event last year. Mertens has not reached a Major final, and only owns five tour titles, but no one has more WTA wins this year. Elise is 26-9 in 2020, and has reached the quarterfinals or better of every tournament she’s played since the restart last month. Even though these are two of the WTA’s most winningest players over the last few years, they’ve surprisingly only met once. That was last year on the grass of Eastbourne, with Pliskova dropping just three games. Both women have comfortably advanced to this stage without losing a set, or even playing a tiebreak. Pliskova possesses more success in the latter stages of big tournaments like this, and can better control her destiny. She’s consistently one of the WTA’s ace leaders and biggest ball strikers. But Mertens is the player with more momentum right now, earning 15 match wins over the last five weeks. Her guile and variety may be enough to defuse the power of the defending champion.
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)
Rafa and Diego have provided some grueling, entertaining encounters in the past. At both the 2018 Australian and French Opens, they played four-setters that lasted nearly four hours. And while Nadal is 63-6 at this event, half of his losses have come in this round. He lost in the quarters three straight years from 2015-2017. The bad news for Diego? As enjoyable as their rallies can be, he’s 0-9 lifetime against the King of Clay. And those two four-setters from 2018 are the only times Schwartzman has taken a set off Nadal. Despite a six-month layoff before this event, Rafa has shown no rust, losing only six games over four sets. So while Diego can push Rafa more than most others, a Nadal loss would be quite the shocker.
Other Notable Matches on Day 6:
Garbine Muguruza (9) vs. Victoria Azarenka (SE). Muguruza already ousted Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff, and Johanna Konta this week. Azarenka is now 14-1 since the Western & Southern Open began. Vika leads their head-to-head 2-1, which includes a victory at this event a year ago. However, two of their three matches have ended in retirements.
Four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Dominik Koepfer (Q),a 26-year-old lefty who has won six matches over the last seven days.
Simona Halep (1) vs. Yulia Putintseva. Their only previous meeting was at this year’s Australian Open, with Halep prevailing 6-1, 6-4. Putintseva came back from a set and 5-2 down yesterday against Elena Rybakina.
In what should be a fun battle between two shotmakers, Denis Shapovalov (12) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (15). Grigor is 2-0 against Denis, though they’ve never played on clay.
Two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina (4) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (12), who was a surprise finalist at last year’s Roland Garros. This is the 21-year-old’s best result since that time, as a left wrist injury sidelined the lefty for six months.
Italy’s No.1 and last man standing Matteo Berrettini (4) vs. Casper Ruud. This is a rematch from two weeks ago at the US Open, when Berrettini advanced in straight sets. But when they played on the clay of Paris last year, Ruud won in straights.
Full order of play is here.
Jelena Ostapenko cruises into the second round with a straight-set win over Petra Martic in Ostrava
Former Roland Garros champion and world number 44 Jelena Ostapenko cruised past number 5 seed Petra Martic 6-3 6-1 after 57 minutes to reach the second round at J&T Banka Ostrava Open.
Martic won her previous two head-to-head matches against Ostapenko at Indian Wells in 2018 and in Birmingham in 2019.
Ostapenko has scored her milestone 20th career over a top-20 rival. The Latvian player hit 30 winners to 15 unforced errors.
Martic got an early break in the first game and consolidated it with a hold of serve to take a 2-0 lead. Ostapenko saved two break points and held serve for 1-2 before breaking serve with a forehand passing shot in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. The Latvian player reeled off five consecutive games to open up a 5-2 lead. Martic held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Ostapenko served out the set at love. Ostapenko hit 20 winners to 10 unforced errors.
Ostapenko got an early break with a forehand crosscourt winner. The 2017 French Open champion went up a double break and hit a series of forehand winners to race out to a 4-0 lead extending her winning streak to five consecutive games. Martic held serve in the fifth game to close the gap to 1-4. Ostapenko held serve easily to build up a 5-1 lead with a crosscourt backhand winner. In the next game Ostapenko earned two match points, as Martic hit the netcord with a dropshot and closed out the match with a forehand down the line.
“I think I played really well well today. I just got used to playing the first couple of games, but then I played really well and I did not give her any chances to play her game, and I made so many winners. I played very smart and also used dropshots and mixed it up a little bit, which helped me, but in the deciding moments I was still aggressive. I knew Martic was going to make a lot of balls in play and I would have to be very focused and very consistent to beat her”, said Ostapenko.
Maria Sakkari reaches her third quarter final of the season in Ostrava
Maria Sakkari got through to her third quarter final of the season after beating Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-3 at the J&T Banka Open in Ostrava with five breaks and 32 winners.
Sakkari has already reached two quarter finals in 2020 in St. Petersburg and at the Western and Southern Open in New York and scored the fourth win of her career against a top 5 player.
Sakkari went up a 3-0 lead with a double break. Svitolina pulled one of the two breaks back in the fourth game to claw his way back to 1-3. Sakkari converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the first set 6-3.
Svitolina earned her first break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. Sakkari battled to deuce four times and converted her third break points in a marathon fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Sakkari earned another brek to open up a 5-3 lead to close out the match after 1 hour and 16 minutes.
“Obviously winning against a player like Elina, the way I played I think that made me happy today. I think playing like me gives me a lot of confidence. Getting another top 5 win is very important for me. When I was starting my career, I had people telling me that I cannot play indoors. I think it was a big mistake listening to them. I have beaten very good indoor players in St. Petersburg and here in Ostrava. I have developed my game in a way that I can now be dangerous indoor sas well. My serve is big, and I am playing a little bit more aggressive. So I am super happy. I have proved these people wrong”, said Sakkari.
Grigor Dimitrov rallies from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar in Antwerp
Grigor Dimitrov came back from one set down to beat Pablo Andujar 4-6 6-3 6-4 at the European Open in Antwerp.
Andujar earned the break in the ninth game to win the first set 6-4. Dimitrov went up an early break in the second game to take the second set 6-3. The Bulgarian player raced out to a 4-1 lead with a double break in the decider. Andujar pulled one break back in the sixth game for 2-4. Dimitrov saved four match points in the eighth game to hold serve at deuce and converted his first match point in the 10th game to win the third set 6-4.
Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat this year’s US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta 5-7 6-3 6-4 after 2 hours and 33 minutes Humbert earned an early break in the second game of the opening set to build up a 5-2 lead. Carreno Busta fought back by winning five consecutive games with two breaks in the ninth and eleventh games to win the first set 7-5.
Humbert saved four break points in the fifth game before breaking serve in the eighth game to win the second set sending the match to the third set. Humbert fended off four break points at 2-3 in the third set and broke serve to love to take a 5-4 lead, when Carreno Busta made three consecutive groundstroke errors. Humbert has improved his win-loss record to 18-11 and won the ASB Classic title in Auckland last January. The Frenchman scored the biggest win of his career when he beat Danil Medvedev in the Hamburg quarter final.
Humbert will face either US Taylor Fritz or South African qualifier Lloyd Harris. Fritz dropped six of his first service points in his 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win over his compatriot Reilly Opelka.
Milos Raonic beat Aljaz Bedene 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in 86 minutes setting up a second round match against Cameron Norrie. Bedene fended off two match points, when he was serving at 5-6 15-40 to force the second set to the tie-break. Raonic rallied from 1-3 down to win the tie-break 7-4. The Canadian player reached the final at the Western and Southern Open in New York and lost to Borna Coric in the semifinal in St. Petersburg.
Daniel Evans saves a match point to beat Karen Khachanov in Antwerp
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