Melbourne Summer Series Daily Preview: Championship Sunday - UBITENNIS
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Melbourne Summer Series Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Muguruza has won 10 of her last 11 matches at Melbourne Park (twitter.com/WTA)

In the day’s most marquee matchup, the world No.1 from Australia faces a two-time Major champion who has simply demolished all opposition this week.

 

Three other singles titles and three doubles titles will also be decided on Sunday, with all three doubles finals featuring the top seeds, and two of them with the top seeds facing the second seeds.  The WTA announced their delayed event, the Grampians Trophy, will only complete the semifinals and not crown a champion, as they will not ask today’s winners to play twice just hours before Monday’s start of the Australian Open.  But the ATP Cup will crown it’s second championship team on Sunday, as Russia takes on Italy.

The ATP Cup semifinal matches will be played on Rod Laver Arena starting at 10:00am local time.  The WTA 500 and ATP 250 singles matches will begin at 11:00am on Margaret Court Arena and Court 3, and doubles at 1:00pm on 1573 Arena.


The ATP Cup, a Round Robin Team Event between 12 Nations

Andrey Rublev (RUS) vs. Fabio Fognini (ITA) – 10:00am on RLA

Rublev was awesome in 2020, with a record of 41-10 and an astounding five titles in a shortened season.  But he is 1-5 lifetime against Fognini, and 0-3 on hard courts.  Notably, they haven’t played since the fall of 2019.  The 23-year-old Russian is 3-0 this week, while is unpredictable Italian is 2-1. 

Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) – Second on RLA

The reigning ATP Finals champion is on 13-match win streak, though he is coming off a long, grueling affair yesterday against Sascha Zverev.  The 24-year-old Italian is yet to drop a set this week, and that’s against three players ranked inside the top 13.  They’ve only played once previously, with Medvedev prevailing 6-4 in the third at Indian Wells in 2018.  Both men are much better players three years later.

If Russia and Italy split the singles matches, we may see a few of these singles players compete in a doubles match that would decide the championship.


The Yarra Valley Classic, a WTA 500 Event

Ash Barty (1) vs. Garbine Muguruza (6) – 11:00am on MCA

Muguruza’s scorelines this week read as follows: 6-2, 6-0, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0.  That’s a total of 10 games lost over eight sets.  And it includes a victory over Sofia Kenin, who defeated Garbine last year in the Australian Open final.  Ash has dropped two sets this week in her first tournament in almost 12 months, and received a walkover in the semifinals from Serena Williams.  Barty is 2-1 against Muguruza, and 1-1 on hard courts.  All three of their encounters have required three sets.


The Gippsland Trophy, a WTA 500 Event

Elise Mertens (7) vs. Kaia Kanepi – Not Before 12:00pm on MCA

Mertens has become one of the WTA’s most consistent performers.  Last year she accumulated 34 match wins, and reached eight quarterfinals.  However, she hasn’t won a title since February of 2019.  Kanepi won three ITF titles in the fall, and is on a 13-match win streak at all levels.  As per the WTA, this is Kanepi’s first tour-level final in eight years.  They’ve split two previous clashes, both on clay.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) vs. Hao-Ching Chan and Latisha Chan (2) – 1:00pm on 1573

The Czech No.1 seeds were two-time Major champions in 2018, while the sisters from Taiwan won four titles in 2019. 


The Murray River Open, an ATP 250 Event

Felix Auger-Aliassime (3) vs. Dan Evans (8) – Not Before 2:00pm on RLA

One of these men will win their first career ATP title on Sunday.  Evans is 0-2 in his previous finals, while Auger-Aliassime is a dismal 0-6, and 0-12 in sets.  Dan is 8-0 in sets this week, with Felix dropping only one.  Not only has neither man won a final before, but they’ve also never played each other.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (1) vs. Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin (5) – Third on 1573

Mektic and Pavic are a newly-formed partnership this season, and are undefeated as a team.  They already won a title this year in Antalya.  Chardy and Martin won the Rome Masters event last September.


The Great Ocean Road Open, an ATP 250 Event

Jannik Sinner (2) vs. Stefano Travaglia – Not Before 2:00pm on Court 3

As per Luca Brancher on Twitter, this is the first ATP final between two Italians since 1988, when Massimiliano Narducci won his lone ATP title against Claudio Panatta in Florence, Italy.  This will be the first ATP final for Travaglia, a 29-year-old who will debut inside the top 60 on Monday.  19-year-old Sinner is of course one of the sport’s fastest-rising stars, and is on a nine-match win streak, having raised the winner’s trophy in Sofia to end 2020.  This is their first career meeting.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares (2) – Second on 1573

Cabal and Farah won two Majors in 2019, while Murray and Soares won two Majors in 2016.  This is Murray and Soares’ first event back together as a team.


The Grampians Trophy, a WTA 500 Event

Maria Sakkari (5) vs. Anett Kontaveit (6) – 11:00am on Court 3

Sakkari comfortably defeated Angelique Kerber on Saturday, as Kontaveit received a walkover from Victoria Azarenka.  Sakkari leads their head-to-head 3-2, and 2-1 on hard courts.

Jennifer Brady (7) vs. Ann Li – Not Before 12:30pm on Court 3

Brady, a semifinalist last year at the US Open, has not dropped a set through three matches this week.  Li is a 20-year-old who only owned three tour-level wins prior to this week. These two Americans have never previously played.


Sunday’s ATP Cup schedule is here, and the rest of the schedule here.

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Iga Swiatek double bagels Karolina Pliskova to win Rome

Iga Swiatek dominated Karolina Pliskova for 46 minutes to win the Rome title.

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Iga Swiatek (@InteBNLdItalia - Twitter)

Iga Swiatek is the 2021 BNL D’Italia Open champion after beating Karolina Pliskova, the number ninth seed, in 46 minutes. The Pole thrashed her opponent 6-0, 6-0 with the help of 17 winners as she lost only 13 points the entire match.

 

“I’m really happy, I’m kinda overwhelmed because at the beginning of this tournament I wouldn’t even dream of winning and it was super tough, we have to fight and obviously Karolina (Pliskova) had a great run here,” said Swiatek.

The number 15 seed got off to the best possible start having no issues in her opening service game and in the following game it was visible her Czech opponent was having issues with her serve.

Pliskova would serve a double fault to give the first breakpoint of the match and the Pole took to take an early 2-0 lead and from there it was one way traffic.

The number nine once again would double fault to gift another breakpoint at 3-0 and the 19 year old pounced with her powerful forehand to go up a double break and would break one more time to seal the first set in 19 minutes.

Fans at the Foro Italico were expecting a response in the second set from Pliskova but it was utter dominance from the Pole and again the number nine seed again struggled with her serve double faulting on breakpoint at 1-0 to once again give the early break.

There was a mini fight back from the Czech at 2-0 when she managed to earn two breakpoints to try and get back in the match but the number 15 seed would save both and hold serve.

The next game she continued to attack and play her aggressive game style earning two more breakpoints and breaking one more time to take a 4-0 lead and you could sense this match was going to be over very quickly.

Swiatek would seal the win with another one of her trademark forehand winners to take the match and the title which will boost her on Monday to number nine in the world and her first appearance in the top 10.

After the match Pliskova admitted today was not her day, “You have days like this in where things are not going your way,” Pliskova said in her trophy ceremony speech.

“That was the day today I still tried but it was not working for me. I will just quickly forget about today. I had some great matches here. Final is always a great week, great tournament.”

Both players will now head to Roland Garros with Swiatek looking to successfully defend her title.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Championship Sunday in Rome

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Novak Djokovic expended a lot of energy and emotion on Saturday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

On Sunday, it will be the 57th installment of the most prolific men’s rivalry of the Open Era, as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal play for the men’s championship.  Djokovic is going for his record-extending 37th Masters 1000 title, and his sixth in Rome, while Nadal is looking to tie Djokovic with 36 Masters titles by winning Rome for the 10th time.  After playing for nearly five hours on Saturday, what will Djokovic have left in the championship match?

 

In women’s singles, Karolina Pliskova has reached her third consecutive final in Rome.  She’ll face the reigning Roland Garros champion, Iga Swiatek, who is making her WTA 1000 final debut.  In men’s doubles, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are one match away from an astounding sixth title of the season.  And in the women’s doubles, the final is yet to be set, as one semifinal is still to be played.

Karolina Pliskova (9) vs. Iga Swiatek (15) – Not before 2:30pm on Center Court

Each of these players have saved match points to reach this championship match: Pliskova against Ostapenko, and Swiatek against Barbora Krejcikova.  Outside of the match against Krejcikova, Swiatek has not dropped a set this week.  But unlike Pliskova, Swiatek had to play both her quarterfinal and semifinal on Saturday, spending almost twice as long on court.

Iga has now claimed 14 of her last 15 matches on clay, with her only loss coming at the hands of world No.1 Ash Barty.  Meanwhile, Karolina hasn’t reached a final or semifinal at any event held outside of Rome since January of last year.  As much as Pliskova has excelled the last three years in Italy, Swiatek’s recent form makes her the favorite in their first career meeting.  Iga’s more versatile game, and more positive attitude, give her a distinct advantage.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2) – Not before 5:00pm on Center Court

Djokovic leads their overall head-to-head 29-27, but Nadal leads 18-7 on clay, and 5-3 in Rome.  This is their first match since last year’s Roland Garros final, which went decisively to Nadal in straight sets.  On clay, Rafa has now taken their last four encounters, with Novak’s last victory on this surface coming in the final of this event five years ago.

After saving match points and surviving an epic clash with Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, Nadal has won his last four sets by scores of 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.  That includes a straight-set victory over Sascha Zverev, who defeated him just a week prior in Madrid.  Following a few subpar performances this clay court season, Rafa appears to have found his top level, just in time for Roland Garros.  This is a familiar pattern for Nadal, and a big problem for Djokovic, who will certainly be playing on tired legs.  Neither of these men have been a Masters champion this year, but that will change on Sunday, and it will likely be Nadal.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (5) – Mektic and Pavic are a sensational 36-4 in their first season as a team.  Ram and Salisbury won last year’s Australian Open, but lost to Mektic and Pavic earlier this year in Miami.

Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (4) vs. Sharon Fichman and Giuliana Olmos – the winners of this semifinal will face Kristina Mladenovic and Marketa Vondrousova in the championship match later in the day.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Nadal cruises past Opelka to reach 12th final in Rome

Rafael Nadal is into yet another final in Rome after beating Reilly Opelka.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The Spaniard eased his way past his 7ft American opponent to reach another final in the Italian capital.

 

Rafael Nadal is into his 12th final in Rome after beating the American Reilly Opelka in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 in 92 minutes in his 500th match on clay and only needed to hit 13 winners in the victory.

“It’s not an easy and beautiful match to play against a player like Reilly (Opelka) who only gives you a few options on your return and he can also play quite aggressive from the baseline, he has good shots and it was important for me to save those breakpoints at the beginning of the match”.

It was actually the American with the first chance to break in the match at 2-1 when he earned four chances to break but the Spaniard pulled out his big serve and saved all four before holding serve.

The very next game the Manacor, Mallorca native went on the offensive and earned his first breakpoint of the match and managed to convert on it to take the early 3-2 lead.

After consolidating the break the American saved three breakpoints with the Spaniard pushing for the second break but managed to hold serve and the number two seed would serve out the first set.

The second set followed a similar pattern to the first with both players holding their opening service games with ease and this time it was the world number three with the first chance to break.

Nadal would break at the third time of asking to once again take an early 2-1 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve out the match and set up a clash with either Novak Djokovic or Lorenzo Sonego.

In his post match interview Nadal spoke about the prospect of playing another final on Sunday in Rome.

“The work is done, I think I did a lot of things well, I had a good spirit the entire week, there are a lot of positive things I did on court this week and it’s important for my confidence to be back in such an important final, I will have a tough opponent either Djokovic or Sonego but I need to be ready, I need to play my best tennis and that is what I am looking for”.

Djokovic currently leads the head to head with Nadal 29-27 while Sonego has yet to face the Spaniard.

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