Madrid Open Daily Preview: Two Multi-Time Major Champions Meet in the Second Round - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Daily Preview: Two Multi-Time Major Champions Meet in the Second Round

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The only player to own more Madrid Open singles titles than Petra Kvitova is Rafael Nadal (twitter.com/WTA_insider)

Petra Kvitova is a three-time champion of this event.  On Saturday, she faces a three-time Slam champion, Angeliquer Kerber.  Ash Barty is already a three-time champion this season, and only has three losses on the year.  The reigning Roland Garros champion, Iga Swiatek, is vying for her third career WTA title.  And Kiki Bertens, the defending champion from 2019, is looking to earn only her third win of the year, coming off Achilles surgery last October.

 

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches of the day, and note the other intriguing matchups on the schedule.  Saturday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Iga Swiatek (14) vs. Laura Siegemund (Q) – Second on Manolo Santana Stadium

It’s the first meeting between the 2020 French Open champ, and a quarterfinalist from the same event.  That was easily Siegemund’s best result at a Major, but far from her first good result on clay.  The 32-year-old German reached back-to-back Stuttgart finals in 2016 and 2017, winning the title in the latter year as a wild card.  Her other WTA tour title also came on this surface, a year earlier in Bastad.  Across those two runs in Stuttgart, she defeated six top 10 players.  And Laura is even more accomplished on the doubles court, where she has accumulated six career titles, including last year’s US Open.

Siegemund came through qualifying, so she’s already won three matches this week.  But this will be a big step up in competition, as she’s yet to face a player ranked higher than 92nd in the world.  Swiatek is on an eight-match winning streak on this surface, which includes 16 straight sets.  In those matches, she’s averaged less than two games dropped per set, so Iga has been dominating all comers.  While Siegemund may provide more resistance than some of Swiatek’s recent clay competition, the 19-year-old from Poland is a considerable favorite to reach the third round in her Madrid Open debut.

Petra Kvitova (9) vs. Angelique Kerber – Third on Manolo Santana Stadium

The rivalry between these two lefties over the past decade has been quite even.  Kvitova leads 7-6, but trails 2-3 on clay.  They’ve only played outdoors once on this surface, which was nearly 10 years ago.  Their other four clay matches all took place indoors in Stuttgart. 

At this venue, Kvitova must be considered a pretty significant favorite.  She has a career record of 30-7 in Madrid, which includes three titles.  By contrast, Kerber is just 9-6 here, only once progressing beyond the third round.  Angelique’s results on clay outside of her home country, and just outside in general, have been rather lackluster.  And she’s lost in the first round of Roland Garros four out of the last five years.  On what is forecast to be a particularly cool day in Madrid, conditions Kvitova prefers, Petra should advance.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Tamara Zidansek (Q) – The world No.1 has claimed 14 of her last 15 matches on clay, dating back to her 2019 French Open title run.  This is her first meeting with Zidansek, a 23-year-old who reached the final of Bogota just a few weeks ago.

Kiki Bertens (7) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Their only previous encounter occurred last February on a hard court in St. Petersburg, with Bertens easily prevailing 6-1, 6-2.  But a year later, Kudermetova is a much tougher opponent.  Her recent title in Charleston propelled her inside the top 30.

Johanna Konta (15) vs. Anastasija Sevastova (Q) – They have split four previous meetings.  Their only clay court clash went to Sevastova, though that was over four years ago, and Konta’s results on this surface have vastly improved since that time.

Ons Jabeur vs. Sloane Stephens – They’ve split their two meetings, though they’ve never played on clay.  Jabeur has easily been the better player of late, picking up eight wins in the back-to-back events staged in Charleston.  Since the start of 2020, Stephens is just 9-17, though four of those victories have come over the past month.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Another Stellar Order of Play on Thursday

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Thankfully, these seats will not be so empty come Thursday (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

All round of 16 matches will be played on Thursday, with 47 Major singles titles represented.  There is some rain forecast early in the day, but skies should clear by mid-afternoon, allowing all action to be completed.  And with fans on the grounds for the first time this week, there will be a whole different energy at Foro Italico.

 

Men’s round of 16 action features two matchups where top 10 seeds collide.  Overall, seven of the top 10 men in the world are still alive in this draw.  That includes Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have combined to win this event 14 out of the last 16 years.

On the women’s side, four French Open champions remain.  One of them is Garbine Muguruza, who will take on two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina.  The other three (Ash Barty, Iga Swiatek, and Jelena Ostapenko) all face unseeded yet challenging competition on Thursday.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 10:00am local time.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Matteo Berrettini (9) – Not Before 12:00pm on Grand Stand Arena

This matchup was scheduled to take place in February at the Australian Open, but Berrettini was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to an abdominal injury.  The 25-year-old Italian would miss nearly two months of action, though he’s now 10-2 since returning.  Matteo was the champion in Belgrade and the runner-up in Madrid, so he’s played a lot of tennis over the last few weeks.

Tsitsipas has been busy as well, with an 11-2 record during the European clay swing.  Like Matteo, he earned one title and reached the final of another event (Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, respectively).  They did play at the Australian Open two years ago, when Stefanos claimed a tight four-setter.  They also met in qualifying for the 2017 US Open, with Tsitsipas winning in a third-set tiebreak.  Stefanos’ form this past month on clay has been stellar.  And between this week and the last, he’s played significantly less tennis than Matteo.  Despite Berrettini’s hometown crowd rooting him on, Tsitsipas should advance.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Garbine Mugruza (12) – Not Before 6:00pm on Center Court

Svitolina won back-to-back titles here in 2017 and 2018.  Yet outside of those runs, she’s just 4-5 lifetime in Rome.  On Wednesday, Elina recovered from a tough opening set to defeat Amanda Anisimova in three.  Muguruza has reached three semifinals in Rome, though is yet to advance farther.  She too was forced to come from behind on Wednesday.  Garbine was down two breaks in the third set, when American Bernarda Pera tightened up, allowing Muguruza to take that set 7-5.

This will be the tenth meeting in their rivalry, which Svitolina leads 6-3 at tour level.  However, they’ve split their two clay court matches.  In 2021, Muguruza has been the better player.  She has accumulated a 23-6 record, with one title and two runner-up trophies.  Svitolina is 18-8 on the season, though she’s yet to reach a final.  And against the top 20, she’s just 2-4, with her only two wins coming against Petra Kvitova.  Muguruza did have to withdraw from Madrid last week due to a thigh injury.  But if she’s feeling close to 100%, Garbine is the favorite based on her recent form.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (Q) – Djokovic has never lost before the quarterfinals in Rome, but could be challenged by the 21-year-old Spaniard, who is 10-5 on clay this season.  This is their first career meeting.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Barty advanced comfortably on Wednesday despite some strapping on her leg.  24-year-old Kudermetova is an impressive 24-10 in 2021, and was a champion last month on the green clay of Charleston.  This is also their first meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Denis Shapovalov (13) – Denis’ exciting win over Rafa at 2017’s Rogers Cup was his breakout moment, but he’s 0-2 against Nadal since that time.  Shapovalov was a semifinalist in Rome last September, while Nadal has failed to reach the quarterfinals here only once in 16 appearances.

Angelique Kerber vs. Jelena Ostapenko – Their only head-to-head matchup was a significant one.  In the 2018 Wimbledon semifinals, Kerber prevailed 6-3, 6-3 on her way to the title.  Neither player has won three consecutive matches this year, a feat one of them will achieve on Thursday.

Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (10) – They have split six previous encounters, though Rublev has claimed both their matches on clay, including last month in Monte-Carlo.

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Coco Gauff – Sabalena is on a seven-match win streak, and is 11-1 on clay this season.  Gauff has already survived two three-setters this week.  They met twice last year, with each claiming one victory, and each match going the distance. 

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Kei Nishikori – Sascha and Kei just played last week in Madrid, with Zverev winning 6-3, 6-2.  That victory started Zverev’s current six-match win streak.  Like fellow Madrid champion Sabalenka, he’s only dropped one set during that time.

Iga Swiatek (15) vs. Barbora Krejcikova – The reigning French Open champ has won 11 of her last 12 matches on clay.  Swiatek defeated Krejickova in straight sets earlier this year in Miami.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – Thiem came back from a set down on Wednesday against Marton Fucsovics, while Sonego took out Gael Monfils in the last round.  When they met on clay in 2019, Thiem prevailed in straights.

Karolina Pliskova (9) vs. Vera Zvonareva (Q) – On Wednesday, Zvonareva upset another big-hitting Czech, Petra Kvitova.  Pliskova was the champion here two years ago, and the runner-up last season.  Three years ago in Moscow, Zvonareva dominated Pliskova, allowing her only three games.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Watchdog Files Complaint To Government Over Prize Money Discrepancies At Italian Open

The tournament has been accused of ‘an unacceptable pay gap’ by one of the countries leading independent agencies.

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A leading consumer watchdog in Italy has hit out at their biggest tennis tournament over what they say is unfair differences in pay between male and female players.

 

Codacons has issued a press release confirming they have filed an official complaint to the Department for Equal Opportunities (Presidency of the Council of Ministers). The political Authority directly in charge of gender equality and equal opportunities policies in Italy which are made up by a series of politicians from various parties. The move has been triggered by a report in national newspaper La Repubblica which notes that the prize money pool in the men’s draw is significantly more than the women’s.

The Internazionali d’Italia would be the only tennis tournament among the Masters 1000 of 2021 with an inequality in pay based exclusively on the sex of the players,’ Carlo Rienzi, president of Codacons, said in a statement.
“Based on what La Repubblica reported today to the winner of the prestigious event would be entitled to a higher remuneration of 37% compared to the winner of the women’s draw.’
“Analyzing the prizes up for grabs for the other rounds (eighths, quarters, semifinals and final) it turns out that the remuneration reserved for the players is significantly lower than those paid to male athletes.”

This year’s Italian Open is categorised as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a WTA 1000 for the women. In each round play the prize money available is significantly higher for male than female players. For example the differences in the first round are €12,000 against €8670. This year’s men’s champion will take home more than €65,000 more than their female counterpart.

“An unacceptable gender pay gap in 2021, which causes blatant discrimination to the detriment of women, and which today leads Codacons to denounce the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to the Equal Opportunities Commission for discrimination gender,” Rienzi concluded.

Whilst the Italian Open is a mixed tournament, both of the Tour’s have their own governing body with their own guidelines regarding prize money. Explaining why this difference has occurred. It is for this reason why there is also a difference in points on offer to players.

There has been no comment from the Italian Open, WTA or the ATP in regard to Codacons’ complaint.

2021 Italian Open: Men Vs Women

Prize Money

MenWomen
Winner245,085178,630
Runner-up145,000132,258
SF82,30070,161
QF54,10033,486
R328,20016,935
R218,00010,726
R112,0008670

Points

MenWomen
Winner1000900
Runner-up600585
SF360350
QF180190
R390105
R24560
R1101

Note: info via atptour.com and wtatennis.com

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Serena Williams’ 1000th Match Ends In Defeat To Podoroska

Serena Williams was defeated in Rome as she reaches a landmark milestone of 1000 WTA matches.

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Serena Williams (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Serena Williams’ 1000th WTA tour match has ended in a 7-6(6) 7-5 defeat to Nadia Podoroska in Rome.

 

The American made her return to tour for the first time in 84 days as she looked to build momentum heading into Roland Garros.

If the first few games were to set the tempo of the match then it would prove to be a long contest with Serena struggling to get any free points on her serve.

It was the Argentinian who got the first break of the match in the third game as she tested Serena’s stamina early on in the contest.

In typical Serena fashion, the 23-time grand slam champion produced some stunning ground-strokes especially from central positions to break to love straight away.

On serve, Serena looked fairly comfortable as she ended the match with eight aces although she only made a first serve percentage of 48%.

That was her key downfall as it was Podoroska who looked the more comfortable on return as she used some devastating angles to force unforced errors from the Serena racket.

A break for a 5-4 lead ensured that the last year’s Roland Garros semi-finalist would serve for the opening set.

However Serena used her power and good point construction to once again break back which was met with a roar from the world number eight.

Eventually the first set would head towards a tiebreaker with Podoroska dominating the majority of it.

She had three set points which came and went as Serena used her fighting qualities to roar back into the match.

But once again some unforced errors would cost the four-time champion as Podoroska took the next two point to claim the opening set in 66 minutes.

In the second set, Serena was the early aggressor as she dictated points better setting the pace of the match.

Again though Podoroska extended the rallies and made the American move all round the court exposing as much space as possible.

The Argentinian was rewarded for her court coverage when she broke in the sixth game as Serena began to tire.

As in the first set, Podoroska couldn’t serve out the second set as her cautious play lead to Serena levelling it up at 5-5.

However Serena’s serve was just not working when she needed it too and Podoroska secured the final blow to seal a fantastic victory for her.

For Serena its onto Roland Garros as she will look to improve her fitness in the next couple of weeks.

As for Podoroska she will play Petra Martic after the Croatian beat Kristina Mladenovic today 7-5 6-3.

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