Monte-Carlo Masters Wednesday Preview: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic Play Their Opening Rounds - UBITENNIS
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Monte-Carlo Masters Wednesday Preview: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic Play Their Opening Rounds

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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, together at a plaque ceremony this past Sunday (montecarlomasters.com)

With Daniil Medvedev withdrawn from the tournament due to a positive COVID test, Djokovic and Nadal are now the top two seeds.  They have combined to win 13 of the last 15 Monte-Carlo Masters titles.  Djokovic will face recent Miami Open finalist Jannik Sinner, while Nadal takes on Federico Delbonis, whose two ATP Titles have both come on clay.

 

Wednesday’s schedule is filled with intriguing second round matchups, though with rain in the forecast on Wednesday, completing the Order of Play could prove challenging.

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.  Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jannik Sinner – Second on Court Rainier III

This will be the 19-year-old Italian’s first match against the 18-time Major champion.  And this will be Djokovic’s first match since winning his ninth Australian Open, as he chose to skip the Miami Open due to COVID restrictions.  Sinner took advantage of the absence of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer in Miami to reach his first Masters 1000 final.  That was only his third appearance at this level, and his first outside of Italy.  He’s now at a career-high ranking of 22nd in the world.

Djokovic is a two-time Monte-Carlo champion, but hasn’t won this event since 2015.  Shockingly, he’s just 6-4 since that time.  So Novak could be prone to an upset at an event where he’s struggled in recent years, and in his first match in nearly two months.  And Sinner knows how to beat top players on this surface: he defeated both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Sascha Zverev last season.  But with the French Open on the horizon, I suspect Djokovic will be particularly motivated to get off to a good start this clay season.  After claiming the record for most weeks at No.1 from Roger Federer, he is now focusing all his efforts on preparing for the Majors.  And it would only be normal for Sinner to suffer a bit of a letdown coming off the best week of his career in Miami.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Federico Delbonis – Nadal is 71-5 in his career at this event, with 11 titles.  And he’s 4-0 against Delbonis, having claimed all nine sets they’ve contested.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – The 25-year-old Italian was both a singles and doubles champion last week in Cagliari, propelling him inside the top 30 for the first time.  Zverev has only played four matches on clay since July of 2019.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Salvatore Caruso (Q) – Rublev went 10-2 during last year’s abbreviated clay court season.  All seven of Caruso’s Challenger and Futures titles have come on this surface.  In their only previous meeting, at last summer’s US Open, Rublev dropped only four games across three sets. Wednesday’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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