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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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Brits Andy Murray and Cam Norrie Meet in the Second Round

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A look at Center Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center (twitter.com/cincytennis)

On Monday, Andy Murray overcame another three-time Major singles champion, Stan Wawrinka, in a three-hour thriller.  In the second round, he meets the new British No.1 Cam Norrie, who reached his first Slam semifinal last month at Wimbledon.

 

WTA action is headlined by three matches between Slam singles champs, which includes world No.1 Iga Swiatek.  Also on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Andy Murray vs. Cameron Norrie – 11:00am on Center Court

Murray will be happy he had a day of rest after his emotionally and physically taxing match against Wawrinka.  He has compiled a solid record of 23-14 this season, with 2022 being his most active year since 2017, when his hip issues began.  But Norrie has taken his place as the top British male, and has really come into his own over the past 18 months.  Cam is now 38-18 this season, and has reached 10 finals since the start of last year.  Their only prior meeting occurred three years ago in Beijing, with Murray prevailing in a long, tight three-setter that lasted nearly three hours.  But three years later, Norrie is a much-improved competitor.  While playing your fellow countryman is often tricky, especially when they’ve been knighted, Cam should be favored to even their head-to-head.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Sloane Stephens (WC) – Not Before 3:00pm on Grand Stand

Swiatek is vying for her 50th win of the season on Wednesday, with 37 of those victories coming consecutively between February and July.  But since those 37 wins in a row, Iga is only 3-3, and suffered a frustrating loss last week in Toronto to Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-5 in the third after three hours of play.  Stephens continues to be a streaky player, as the 2017 US Open champion has gone on multiple winning and losing streaks of four matches or more throughout the year.  On Monday night, she crushed Alize Cornet 6-1, 6-0.  Sloane often plays her best tennis in American hard courts, and advanced to the third round or better of this tournament in seven straight appearances between 2012 and 2019.  These two Major champs have never played before.  Stephens could be primed for another win streak, and it would be understandable if Swiatek experienced a dip in her level after all the tennis she’s played this year.  Yet after dominating the tour for most of the year, Iga should still be favored.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – It’s a two-time Australian Open champ against the reigning US Open champ.  Azarenka defeated Kaia Kanepi in three sets on Tuesday, while Raducanu easily prevailed over Serena Williams 6-4, 6-0.

Elena Rybakina vs. Garbine Muguruza (8) – It’s another two-time Major champ against the reigning Wimbledon champ.  Rybakina is 2-2 since her surprising run at The All-England Club, while Muguruza is a subpar 9-13 on the year.  They split two meetings last year, with Elena victorious in the more notable encounter, in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics.

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Fritz started the summer by winning the title in Eastbourne, while Kyrgios was the champion in Washington.  This will be their first career meeting.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Borna Coric (PR) – Despite his injury issues, Nadal is a staggering 35-3 in 2022, and 20-1 on hard courts.  Coric missed a full year of action due to shoulder surgery, and is just 12-12 at all levels since returning.  Borna has won two of their four previous meetings, including six years ago at this event.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Frances Tiafoe Translates Performance Into Results In Cincinnati Opener

Frances Tiafoe is hoping performances translate into results as he reaches the second round in Cincinnati.

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Frances Tiafoe (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

After producing gutsy performances in close defeats, Frances Tiafoe finally translated that into victory with a 7-6(3) 4-6 7-6(5) win over Matteo Berrettini in Cincinnati.

 

The American is one of the most unique players on the tour with his potential clear to see but isn’t always known for deep tournament results.

Tiafoe’s big serve, dangerous groundstrokes and charismatic personality makes him one of the most enjoyable players to watch on tour but that doesn’t get you wins on the tour which the American has found out the hard way.

In recent years though Tiafoe has slowly been improving results and earning some big wins but has often lacked consistency in wins despite performing to his best level.

However that might be about to change as Tiafoe earned a gutsy and huge win over Matteo Berrettini in his Cincinnati opener as he came through a last set tiebreak against the Italian.

The victory may be a surprise to some but for the American it’s been coming as his recent performances have shown, “People don’t understand, obviously results haven’t really shown how well I’ve been playing. I’ve been playing some great tennis, honestly,” Tiafoe told the ATP website.

“I really just needed this. I know it’s a first-round match…. But everyone knew why I needed this against a quality player, so it was big. I know I’ve beaten a lot of these guys, but it hasn’t happened of late. So it’s one of those things where you’ve got to get over the hump. But I’m happy I get another chance to play again.”

Tiafoe will be hoping consistency can be part of his game as the end of the season approaches and there would be nothing better for the American than to make a deep run at his home grand slam at the US Open.

Next for Tiafoe will be fellow American Sebastian Korda, who he has a 3-0 head-to-head record against before potentially facing John Isner or Hubert Hurkacz in the third round.

Tiafoe’s 2022 Season So Far:

Adelaide 1: R2 (l. Kokkinakis)

Adelaide 2: R1 (l. Paul)

Australian Open: R2 (l. Fritz)

Indian Wells: R3 (l. Rublev)

Miami: R4 (l. Francisco Cerundolo)

Houston: Quarter-Finals (l. Isner)

Barcelona: R3 (l. Auger-Aliassime)

Estoril: Final (l. Baez)

Madrid: R1 (l. Garin)

Rome: R1 (l. Krajinovic)

Roland Garros: R2 (l. Goffin)

Queen’s Club: R1 (l. Wawrinka)

Eastbourne: R1 (l. Bublik)

Wimbledon: R4 (l. Goffin)

Atlanta: Semi-Finals (l. Brooksby)

Washington: Quarter-Finals (l. Kyrgios)

Montreal: R2 (l. Fritz)

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Fan Told To Leave Match At Western And Southern Open Over Size Of Her Ukrainian Flag Speaks Out

Organisers at the tournament have also issued a statement concerning what happened and why the individual was asked to leave the court.

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Image via https://twitter.com/CincyTennis/

A woman says security at the Western and Southern Open threatened to call the police if she did not leave a qualifying match after complaints were made by a Russian player about her Ukrainian flag. 

 

Lola, who is originally from Uzbekistan but now lives in America, was seen at the tournament over the weekend using a Ukrainian flag to cover herself whilst watching a match between Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya. It is understood that one of those players, who are both Russian, made a complaint to the umpire. Prompting the official to speak directly to Lola which then resulted in a member of security getting involved.  

During an interview with Local 12 News, Lola has given her account of the incident that occurred. Saying the match was stopped twice due to a dispute over the issue. 

“’You’re not being nice. You need to put the flag away,’” Lola said she was told by the umpire. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.”

Russia is currently involved in a war with Ukraine after launching a military attack on the country on February 24th. A move which has prompted widespread condemnation from both the western world and the sporting world. At this year’s Wimbledon Russian players were banned from participating, as well as players from Belarus which is a country accused of supporting Russia. On both the ATP and WTA Tour’s players from both those countries are only allowed to compete as neutral athletes. 

In wake of the incident, the Western and Southern Open issued a statement saying that the size of Lola’s flag breached the tournament’s policy. Lola said she was informed about the rule 15 minutes after being asked to leave the court and was allowed back into the venue once she put her flag in the car. 

“Per the Western and Southern Open’s bag policy, as stated on the tournament’s website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 [inches] (46 x 46cm) are prohibited,” a spokesperson for the tournament said in an email to Reuters.
“Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and, after doing so, was allowed to remain at the tournament.”

The tournament declined to comment on the conduct of the umpire and said it is for the WTA to do so. 

Meanwhile, local charity Cincy4Ukraine say they have contacted a lawyer to see if Lola’s first amendment rights were violated. If there is a suggestion that this has been the case, a court hearing could take place should Lola want to take legal action. 

As for the Russian players involved, Kalinskaya beat Potapova 7-5, 6-1, to reach the main draw and will play Martina Trevisan. Potapova has also made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and will play Simona Halep. 

Kalinskaya, Potapova and The WTA have not publicly commented on the incident so far. 

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