Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Italians Take Center Stage on Monday - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Italians Take Center Stage on Monday

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Foro Italico is the home of the Italian Open (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

For the second week in a row, a combined ATP Masters 1000/WTA 1000 event will be staged.  The men’s singles draw features nine of the world’s top 10, with Novak Djokovic returning to competition after skipping last week’s Madrid Open.  The women’s singles draw includes eight of the WTA top 10, with Serena Williams making her 2021 clay court debut.

 

A day after Italian No.1 Matteo Berrettini was the runner-up in Madrid, many of Rome’s most interesting matchups involve Italian men playing in their home country.  Italian No.2 Jannik Sinner made his first impression in the sport two years ago at this event, when as a wild card ranked 263rd in the world, he upset Steve Johnson in front of a raucous crowd.  Now Sinner is ranked inside the top 20, and on Monday faces France’s Ugo Humbert for the first time.  Italian No.3 Fabio Fognini won a Masters event two years ago in Monte-Carlo, and will play a four-time Masters finalist, Kei Nishikori.  Also, 19-year-old Italian Lorenzo Musetti made a thrilling run at this event when it was held last September, coming through qualifying the defeat both Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka.  He’ll take on a newly-anointed Masters champion, Hubert Hurkacz.

On the women’s side, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, and teenage phenom Coco Gauff will all play their first round matches.  And the women’s Italian No.1, Camila Giorgi, will do battle with recent Guadalajara champion, Sara Sorribes Tormo.

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

Fabio Fognini vs. Kei Nishikori – Second on Grand Stand Arena

Nishikori is 2-1 against Fognini, and 1-0 on clay.  They haven’t played in over four years, and Kei’s clay victory came at the 2016 Madrid Open.  In Rome, Fognini actually has a losing record in his career.  Like many players, he struggles under the pressure of competing on home turf.  Nishikori has performed well in Rome, reaching the quarterfinals or better four of the last six years.  Since the tour restart last summer, both men have extremely similar records: Fognini is 12-14, and Nishikori is 11-13.

But Kei’s form has been consistently improving since missing a full year of action.  His last three losses have all come at the hands of top players: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Rafael Nadal, and Sascha Zverev.  Fognini meanwhile has been as unpredictable as ever, even getting defaulted last month in Barcelona for verbal abuse while playing the 147th-ranked player in the world.  Based on recent form, and the country this match is being played in, Nishikori should be favored.

Hubert Hurkacz (15) vs. Lorenzo Musetti (WC) – Not before 7:00pm on Grand Stand Arena

It was only five weeks ago when 24-year-old Hurkacz won the biggest tournament of his career, defeating four top 20 players on his way to the Miami Open title.  Since leaving Miami and transitioning to clay, he’s just 1-2, and he’s a meager 4-5 on this surface since last season.  But it was eight months ago at this event where he earned an impressive win over one of 2020’s best performers, Andrey Rublev. 

That was the same week as Musetti’s breakout run in this city.  The very next week in Forli, Italy, Lorenzo won a Challenger title on clay.  After reaching two further Challenger finals to start 2021, he advanced to the semifinals of Acapulco, upsetting Diego Schwartzman, Frances Tiafoe, and Grigor Dimitrov.  Unlike his fellow countryman Fognini, Musetti seems to embrace playing in Italy.  Considering Hurkacz is suffering from a Miami hangover, and considering Musetti’s formidable one-handed backhand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Italian teenager pull off another upset in Rome.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Jannik Sinner vs. Ugo Humbert – Sinner was the runner-up of the Miami Open in March, and reached the semifinals of Barcelona a few weeks ago.  Humbert won two ATP titles in 2020, but is only 7-9 in 2021.

Petra Kvitova (11) vs. Magda Linette – Kvitova is a three-time champion in Madrid, yet is 7-7 lifetime in Rome.  Linette is just 1-4 this year, as she underwent knee surgery in January.  Both of their prior encounters went to Kvitova in straight sets, though they’ve never played on clay.

Iga Swiatek (15) vs. Alison Riske – Swiatek has won nine of her last 10 matches on clay, dating back to her French Open title last fall.  The only loss came last week at the hands of world No.1 Ash Barty.  This is a rematch from the same round in Madrid, a match where Iga easily prevailed 6-1, 6-1.

Yulia Putintseva vs. Coco Gauff – Putintseva reached the quarterfinals of this event last year, with wins over top 10 seeds Petra Martic and Elena Rybakina.  This is only Gauff’s tenth career tour-level match on clay, though she advanced to the quarterfinals in Charleston last month.  This is their first head-to-head meeting.

Sara Sorribes Tormo vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is just 4-4 on the year, and her only main draw win at this event came seven years ago.  But she did defeat Sorribes Tormo last November on a hard court in Linz.  The 24-year-old Spaniard is an impressive 15-6 in 2021.

Alexader Bublik vs. Marin Cilic – Bublik just surpassed Cilic in the rankings with his run to the Madrid quarterfinals, debuting inside the top 40.  They met at this same event last September, when Cilic won 6-4 in the third.

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Emma Raducanu Looking For Experience After Splitting With Coach

Emma Raducanu revealed her post-US Open plans as she prepares for life on the main WTA tour.

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Emma Raducanu (@CambridgeAwe - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu is looking for more experience in her team after splitting from her short-term coach Andrew Richardson.

 

The US Open champion revealed the news at the ‘homecoming party’ set up at the National Tennis Centre in London where the Duchess of Cambridge was present.

Speaking at the event Raducanu said that she needed more experience as she will now play on the main tour on a regular basis, “At this stage of my career I really need someone that has had that WTA Tour experience at that high level,” Raducanu was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“Especially right now as I’m so new to it, I think I really need someone just to guide me who has already been through that themselves. “Never did I even dream of winning the US Open and now I’m ranked 22 in the world, which is pretty crazy to me.”

Richardson was always a short-term arrangement with him now committed to improving his 10 year-old son.

As for Raducanu she is now 22 in the world and faces unfamiliar territory in playing a full-time schedule.

After winning the US Open as a qualifier, Raducanu has received unlimited amount of attention and expectation which is something she will need guidance with.

Now Raducanu will set out a schedule in the next few days with the Brit set to return as early as Indian Wells which starts on the 6th of October, “I got back on court a few days ago, and yesterday I did a full training day,” she explained.

“I was feeling pretty good about myself and my game, and I am very excited to compete again. All the opportunities I am getting have been very fun, but where I really want to be is on the tennis court, as I’m just thriving out there.

“I haven’t decided on my schedule yet – I will decide in the next few days where I am going to go to – but wherever I play next, I’m going to make sure I’m ready. I don’t want to jump into things too early.”

Should the 18 year-old make a strong end to the season then she could make the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.

Although she is 14th in the race, players such as Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka could miss the event and it’s something that is on the back of the mind of Raducanu, “The WTA Finals I would never even dream of before, because it was just so far out of reach and out of sight, but coming reasonably close to it now, I think it would be great if I qualified,” she admitted.

“But if not, it’s a complete bonus, because my priority is just putting in the best possible pre-season that I can, so I can start strong next year and next season.”

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Berrettini pulls off comeback win over Auger Aliassime at Laver Cup

Matteo Berrettini contributed to a 3-1 overall scoreline for Team Europe over Team World after day one of the Laver Cup.

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Matteo Berrettini (@LaverCup - Twitter)

The Italian fought back from a set down to beat the Canadian and give team Europe a commanding lead.

 

In the longest match in Laver Cup history so far Matteo Berrettini needed a match tiebreak to beat the world number 11 and good friend Felix Auger Aliassime 6-7, 7-5, 10-8 in a match that lasted two hours and 52 minutes.

The Italian hit 15 winners and served seven aces while the Montreal native hit 37 unforced errors in the loss.

“I was fighting and I felt the match was really hard and Felix (Auger-Aliassime) was playing well and he didn’t give me anything and he made no mistakes and he was serving really well and I felt a different energy because we are playing for a team, not just myself and they helped me a lot”.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Italian with the first two breakpoints of the match but the Canadian was able to save both and hold serve.

The next game was a rollercoaster and the Montreal native responded by earning four chances to break and after 13 minutes finally made the breakthrough to take a 4-2 lead.

At 5-3, the world number 11 found himself with two set points but failed to convert and the Italian fought back and got the break back and at 6-5 the Canadian had five more set points but again the Italian saved all five and the set was decided by a tiebreaker.

Auger Aliassime got the early break to take a 2-0 lead and that break was enough for him to finally serve out the first set and take a 1-0 set lead. The world number seven was keen to bounce back and had two early chances to break at 1-1 but the Canadian saved both and held serve once again.

The very next game it was the Montreal native turn to apply the pressure on the Berrettini serve but the Italian managed to save both breakpoints he faced and held serve.

At 5-5, the Canadian kept pushing earning two more break points but couldn’t get the breakthrough, and the very next game the Rome native pounced and managed to get the crucial break to win the second set and force a match tiebreak.

The breaker was extremely tight until 3-3 when the Canadian managed to get the break and jumped out to a 5-3 lead before losing two straight points and the breaker was even at five.

Once again the world number 11 got the break again and was up 7-5 but again lost two straight points and we were even at seven and then at 9-8 Berrettini with the rally of the match sealed the win with a great passing shot.

After the match in his post-match interview, the Italian was asked about being selected to play doubles in the night session.

“I am going to be honest when they told me I would be playing singles and doubles I didn’t expect to play a match that long so I spoke with the captain and we will see but I am still young”.

Day 1 results

Casper Ruud got the ball rolling for Team Europe as he beat the American Rielly Opelka in the first match of the day in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 to give his team the first point of the tournament.

In the first match of the night session Andrey Rublev gave Team Europe a convincing 3-0 lead as he came back to beat the Argentine Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 in the match tiebreaker.

Finally in the last match of the day Team World got their first point as the duo of John Isner and Denis Shapovalov came back from a set down to beat the doubles pairing of Matteo Berrettini and Alexander Zverev 4-6, 7-6, 10-1.

Day 2 preview:

Day 2 features some amazing matchups in both the day and night session with Stefanos Tsitsipas starting the day against the Aussie Nick Krygios before John Isner takes on Alexander Zverev.

In the night session Denis Shapovalov takes on the US Open champion from Russia Danil Medvedev with another doubles match wrapping things up as the team of Andrey Rublev and Tsitispas will take on John Isner and Nick Kyrgios.

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ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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