Monte-Carlo Masters Thursday Preview: Seeded Players Begin to Square Off in the Third Round - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Thursday Preview: Seeded Players Begin to Square Off in the Third Round

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Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday in Monte-Carlo (montecarlotennismasters.com)

15 of the 16 second round singles matches were straight-set affairs, though that will likely change on Thursday.  10 of the world’s top 20 players are in the round of 16, with many of them now facing each other. 

 

Grigor Dimitrov is 1-13 lifetime against Rafael Nadal, but will try to earn his second career victory on his home court.  Also on Thursday, the world No.1 takes on the British No.1.  And three of the sport’s best young talents take on three of the sport’s toughest outs.  In doubles, the top three seeds will all be in action.

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

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (14) – Third on Court Rainier III

On Wednesday, in his first match in nearly two months, Nadal exhibited no signs of the back injury that caused him to miss several events this season.  Rafa routed Federico Delbonis, dropping just three games.  As mentioned earlier, he has completely dominated his rivalry with Dimitrov.  Nadal leads 13-1, with his only loss coming five years ago on a hard court in Beijing.  On clay, Rafa leads 5-0, and 10-1 in sets.  This is the third consecutive time they have met in Monte-Carlo, and Nadal comfortably won both of those recent matches by the same score: 6-4, 6-1.

A healthy Rafa would seemingly be a significant problem for Grigor.  But Dimitrov has looked sharp thus far this week, winning in straight sets against both Jan-Lennard Struff and Jeremy Chardy.  He should certainly feel at home on the courts in Monte-Carlo, where he lives and trains in the offseason.  And while clay has easily been his worst surface throughout his career, he’s gone 8-2 since last September.  However, all of those wins have come against players ranked outside the top 40.  And of course, no one has ever dominated a surface like Nadal has dominated on this one.  The King of Clay is a strong favorite to reach his 16th consecutive quarterfinal of the Monte-Carlo Masters, an event where he has never lost before the quarters.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. vs. Dan Evans – This will be their first career meeting.  Djokovic easily dispatched of Miami Open finalist Jannik Sinner yesterday.  Evans was a miserable 4-13 lifetime on clay prior to this week.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (9) – The Spaniard leads their head-to-head 3-2, but Rublev won their only match on clay.  The Russian is 16-5 on this surface since the start of 2019, while Bautista Agut is only 14-9.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. David Goffin (11) – They have split four previous encounters.  Zverev claimed both clay court matches, though both went the distance. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Their only tour-level clash took place last fall on clay in Hamburg, with Tsitsipas prevailing 6-4 in the third.  Garin and Guido Pella defeated Stefanos and his brother Petros on Wednesday in doubles.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz – Cabal and Farah won two Majors in 2019, and were champions in Dubai last month.  This is Felix and Hubi’s fourth event this year as a team, though they’ve gone only 2-3.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics

The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas never met his grandfather but the two of them do have something in common – they are both Olympians.

 

The world No.4 has already created history in Tokyo by winning his first round match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday to become the first male player from his country to win a singles match since 1924. Greece has won two medals at the Games but both of them were during its inaugural edition back in 1896.

Tsitsipas’ debut in Tokyo enables him to continue his family legacy of playing in the sporting extravaganza. His grandfather was Sergei Salnikov who played football for the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In 1956 Salnikov was part of the team who won Olympic gold in Melbourne. After retiring from the sport, he went on to manage the FC Spartak Moscow and the Afghanistan national team before passing away in 1984 aged 58.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. But my mom told me stories of his career and how he got it…. He kind of inspires me in a way,” said Tsitsipas. “I know what kind of athlete he was, with all the achievements and all the trophies. I’m proud of him.
“It’s something good, a legacy that is being carried on in the family. I’m happy to be the next in the family to be competing at the Olympics.”

It isn’t just a medal in the singles Tsitsipas has his eyes on, he will also be bidding for success in the mixed doubles alongside Maria Sakkari. The two previously paired up at the 2019 Hopman Cup where they finished second in their group.

“We have already played once (together), and we had great success,” Sakkari told reporters on Monday. “We know each other really well, and we are much better players two-and-a-half years later, and we are both really pumped to play together. Of course, I cannot predict that we will get a medal. We will try our best and I think we give ourselves the best chance we can.”

Tsitsipas will return to action tomorrow in the men’s singles where he will play Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

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Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag

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Spanish Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in his first ATP tour-level final with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open in Umag. 

 

Alcaraz has become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008. 

Alcaraz broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead and held his next service games to close out the first set 6-2. 

Ramos Vinolas came back from a break down three times in the second set, when Alcaraz served for the match. Alcaraz battled through the second-set tie-break to clinch the win after two hours. 

Alcaraz set up a final against Richard Gasquet, who battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmeier 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. 

Gasquet has become the second oldest finalist in tournament history. The 35-year-old saved seven of hi sten break points, but he converted just just 3 of his 17 break points.  

Gasquet rallied from a break down twice to draw level to 4-4 before winning the tie-break 7-2. Altmeier converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. Altmeier saved three break points in the second game, before Gasquet converted his second break point in the sixth game to win the second set 6-3. 

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Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 to open his bid for a gold medal at the Olympics.

 

The world number one’s bid to achieve the golden slam is on after thrashing the Bolivian in humid conditions.

A perfect start for the Serbian who is looking to achieve the one thing he is yet to achieve and that’s win a gold medal.

Next for Djokovic will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

In 32C temperatures, Djokovic was looking to start his campaign off against Bolivian veteran Hugo Dellien.

The slow paced courts would suit Dellien as he engaged in some long rallies with the world number one early on.

Despite creating three break points in the fourth game, Djokovic would fail to break early on.

However Djokovic increased his level mixing up the pace and depth of his shots to create angles for simple winners.

On his fifth break point Djokovic would break for a 4-2 lead and the top seed would break for a second time as Dellien had no answers for the Serb’s defensive skills. First set to Djokovic in 33 minutes.

A similar pattern evolved in the second set only this time Djokovic did get a break in the fourth game, breaking to love.

Accurate serving and construction of points gave Djokovic an easy first round match as another break secured the match and sealed his spot into the second round.

A fine performance in tough conditions gave Djokovic’s bid for history the best possible start.

Next for Djokovic will be Jan-Lennard Struff who beat Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-4.

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