The top two seeds will play for the women’s title, while Novak Djokovic vies for his fifth championship against whatever is left of the phenomenal Diego Schwartzman.
The 28-year-old Argentine has reached his first Masters 1,000 final. Less than 48 hours ago, he earned his first career win over Rafael Nadal. And late last night, Diego played a spectacular, three-plus-hour semifinal against Denis Shapovalov. Coming back to defeat the world No.1, who’s only loss this year was his own doing, seems unfathomable. However, Novak brought his New York crankiness with him to Rome this week, becoming extremely frustrated on court.
This is the third Rome final in four years for Simona Halep, though she’s yet to obtain the winner’s trophy. But the top seed is on a 13-match winning streak, and won her last two events played. Her opponent is on a nine-match winning streak in Rome, and looking to successfully defend her title.
Simona Halep (1) vs. Karolina Pliskova (2) – 2:30pm local time
Halep leads their head-to-head 7-4, though Pliskova has claimed the last two. They’ve split their two matches contested on clay. That includes their most prominent encounter, in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, which Halep won in three sets. Simona was pushed to the limit yesterday by Garbine Muguruza, with her semifinal lasting an hour longer than Karolina’s straight set win over Marketa Vondrousova. But Halep should still feel fresh for today’s championship match. She did not play in New York, and all her other matches this week were straight-setters. Simona also should take a lot of confidence from out-dueling Muguruza yesterday afternoon. Much like Garbine, Pliskova has looked better this week with every passing round, and will look to utilize her power to overcome the two-time Major champion. By contrast, Halep will use her speed and returning ability. And based on Halep’s current form, her third Rome final may be the charm.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8) – not before 5:00pm local time
This is the 10th championship in Rome for Djokovic, with a 4-5 record previously. He’s actually lost his last three finals here, to Rafael Nadal, Sascha Zverev, and Andy Murray. Schwartzman will be the first seeded player Novak faces this week, though his opponents have caused him much anguish thus far. Diego’s efforts have been remarkable, playing an astoundingly high level. While Schwartzman is 0-4 against Djokovic, he’s pushed Novak in their two previous battles on clay. They went to a final set three years ago at Roland Garros as well as last year in the semifinals of this event. But expecting Diego to do so again today following his last two matches seems unrealistic. Djokovic is the favorite to win his fifth title, and gain momentum just six days ahead of the French Open.
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.
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