Madrid Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Third Round and Women’s Semifinals to be Played on Thursday - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Daily Preview: The Men’s Third Round and Women’s Semifinals to be Played on Thursday

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Rafael Nadal practicing in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka are one round away from meeting in their second consecutive final, after Barty defeated Sabalenka in the championship match of Stuttgart.  On Thursday, both face unseeded yet considerable opposition.  And all 16 remaining men will play their third round matches, featuring seven of the ATP’s top 10.

 

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

Ash Barty (1) vs. Paula Badosa (WC) – Not Before 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

What a tournament it’s been for the 23-year-old wild card, who is the first Spanish woman to ever reach the semifinals of her country’s biggest tournament.  But this result is not a fluke: she’s now 14-6 this season, and 3-0 against top 20 players.  That includes a victory over her opponent today, who she defeated in straight sets last month on the green clay of Charleston.

In that match against Barty, Badosa saved 12 of 14 break points faced.  After the match, Badosa credited her aggressive game plan of attacking early in rallies as her key to success.  However, replicating that feat in front of a home crowd, and against an in-form world No.1, will be a tall task.  Barty is now 24-3 this season, and has claimed 16 of her last 18 deciding sets.  Ash possesses a high tennis IQ, and I expect her and her team to learn from the loss in Charleston, and figure out a way to overcome the impressive Spaniard.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Casper Ruud – Not Before 4:00pm on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium

Tsitsipas is now 10-1 on clay this season, with his only loss coming at the hands of Rafael Nadal, in a championship match where he held a match point.  Meanwhile, Ruud has compiled an impressive 25-9 record on this surface since the start of last year.  And the 22-year-old is 4-1 this season on clay against top 20 opponents, with his only loss coming at the hands of Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo. 

This will be their first tour-level meeting, though they did play in 2016 at an ITF event on clay, which went to Tsitsipas in a third-set tiebreak.  Ruud is fully capable of making this another tight contest, but Stefanos has been the second best clay court player so far this season, which makes him the favorite to advance.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Sabalenka has been on a tear, winning 30 of her last 36 matches.  And she’s yet to drop a set at this event.  Pavlyuchenkova has defeated four top 25 players this fortnight to reach her first WTA 1000 semifinal in over a decade.  Their only previous meeting was two years ago in Canada, with Pavlyuchenkova prevailing 7-5 in the third.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Alexei Popyrin – Nadal has 392 career match wins at the Masters 1000 level.  21-year-old Popyrin only has six, though the Australian earned an impressive win on Wednesday over Jannik Sinner.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Cristian Garin (16) – Medvedev just earned his first win on clay since April of 2019.  By contrast, Garin has earned five clay court titles since April of 2019.  Two years ago at the Rogers Cup, Medvedev defeated Garin in straight sets.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Alex de Minaur – Thiem has reached the semifinals or better of this event in his last three appearances.  De Minaur often trains in Spain, but had never won a match on clay at the Masters level before this week.  Thiem leads their head-to-head 3-0.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Dan Evans – Zverev was the champion of this event three years ago, and comfortably dispatched of Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.  Prior to Monte-Carlo last month, Evans had lost 10 consecutive matches on clay, but has now won six of his last eight.  In their only prior encounter, Evans was victorious in four sets at the 2016 US Open.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. John Isner – Since the beginning of 2020, Rublev is 66-16.  Isner is just 16-3 during that same span, though he saved a match point to prevail over Roberto Bautista Agut on Wednesday.  The American defeated Rublev at the 2015 Miami Open, when Rublev was only 17-years-old.

Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Federico Delbonis – Berrettini won the clay event in Belgrade two weeks ago.  Delbonis’ two career titles have both come on this surface.

Aslan Karatsev vs. Alexander Bublik – Karatsev is now 19-5 in 2021, and on Wednesday came back from a set and a break down against Diego Schwartzman.  Bublik is 18-11 this season, and upset Denis Shapovalov in the last round.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov Play for Gold

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Karen Khachanov celebrating victory earlier this week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

48 hours after ending Novak Djokovic’s bid for a Golden Slam, a feat only achieved by German Steffi Graf, Sascha Zverev looks to win another gold medal for Germany.  But a big-hitting Russian stands in his way, one who owns a winning record against Zverev on hard courts.

 

The last day of tennis in Tokyo will also host two gold medal matches in doubles.  In women’s doubles, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have won three Majors, and now go for a gold medal against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.  For Bencic, it’s an opportunity to win a second gold medal in as many days.  

In addition, a pair of teams representing the Russian Olympic Committee will face off for gold in mixed doubles.  Will Elena Vesnina be able to recover from a devastating loss in Saturday’s women’s doubles bronze medal match?  Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova held four match points, only to lose the last six points of the match and fail to reach the podium.

Sunday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time.

Sascha Zverev (4) [GER] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – Second on Centre Court

Overall they have split four previous encounters, but Khachanov leads 2-1 on this surface, which includes their two most recent meetings.  And neither of those have been close.  At the 2018 Paris Masters, it was 6-1, 6-2.  At the 2019 Rogers Cup, it was 6-3, 6-3.  The event in Paris was the biggest title run of the Russian’s career, and a week where he also defeated Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.  However, he hasn’t won a title, or even reached a final, ever since.  And prior to his run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, Khachanov was only 16-14 on the year.  But it is worth noting he’s 4-0 lifetime in ATP finals, with his other three victories coming at 250-level events.

Zverev is certainly the far more accomplished player.  He owns 15 career titles, which includes four Masters events, as well as the 2018 ATP Finals.  And he’s reached the semifinals or better at Majors three times, something Khachanov is yet to achieve.   Though I do wonder just how much scar tissue was created by his loss in the final of last year’s US Open, where he was up two sets before eventually losing in a fifth-set tiebreak.  Both he and Dominic Thiem played a considerably nervy match, and this will be Zverev’s first best-of-five final since that painful loss.

And that could be a significant factor on this day: the men’s singles gold medal final is the only match at the Olympics that is best-of-five.  Zverev possesses a much stronger record in best-of-five, and a far superior record in five-setters.  As per Tennis Abstract, Sascha is 16-9 in fifth sets, compared to Karen’s record of 6-7.  And Khachanov’s two most recent five-set wins were not pretty.  A few weeks ago in the fourth round of Wimbledon, against Sebastian Korda, 13 out of the 18 games in the fifth set were breaks of serve.  And last summer at the US Open, he was only able to come back from two sets down thanks to the cramping of Jannik Sinner. 

So who is the favorite to win gold?  Their head-to-head favors Khachanov, while recent form and best-of-five experience favors Zverev.  And the German has been serving excellently throughout this tournament, striking 40 aces and only three doubles, especially impressive for a player who has suffered from double fault issues in the recent past.  However, Zverev had a much easier road to this final than Khachanov.  Other than Djokovic, Sascha faced no one ranked inside the top 40, while Karen beat three top 30 players.  The Olympics are an event which often produces surprising tennis results.  And these are two men who are known to get tight in big matches.  But considering the way Zverev has been serving, and the confidence boost his upset of Djokovic should provide, I give Sascha the slight edge to become an Olympic champion.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev (4) [ROC] vs. Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev [ROC] – Vesnina not only lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, she and Kudermetova also served for the championship a few weeks ago at Wimbledon, before losing 9-7 in the third.  And Vesnina and Karatsev were defeated in the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros, the same event where Pavlyuchenkvoa lost in the women’s singles final.  Who will realize redemption on Sunday?

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic – The Czechs are of course the favorites, with three Major titles as a team.  The Swiss are a new team formed exclusively for this event.  But don’t count them out, especially with Bencic coming off a gold medal victory in singles on Saturday evening.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Belinda Bencic battles past Marketa Vondrousova to win gold in Tokyo

Belinda Bencic won the gold medal beating Marketa Vondrousova in three sets.

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Belinda Bencic (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

The Swiss world number 12 won her first-ever gold medal beating the Czech in a tough three-set match.

 

Belinda Bencic is your Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medalist after beating world number 42 and Czech Marketa Vondrousova in three tight sets 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in the tournament’s longest match at two hours and 30 minutes hitting 29 winners in the victory.

It was indeed the Swiss who got off to the faster start and after holding serve in the opening service game went right to work looking for the first break of the match setting up the first breakpoint with a stunning backhand winner.

She earned the first break of the match but the lead didn’t last long as the Sokolov, Czech Republic native broke the world number 12 to love to go back on serve.

At 2-2, it was the Czech setting up two more chances to take the lead this time with her powerful forehand and at the second time of asking she took her first lead of the match but just like earlier in the set relinquished it the very next game.

Vondrousova’s next opportunity to try and get a break and hold a lead was at 3-3 but the Flawil, Switzerland native saved both and stayed on serve until 6-5 when Bencic had a set point took it to win the first set.

The Czech wasn’t going to back down and this time she would break in the first game of the second set and managed to turn it into a double break and served out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

Again, the world number 42 earned a break of serve in the first game of the third set, but the following game took the Swiss three chances, but she broke back on serve at 1-1 with another forehand passing shot winner.

At 2-1, the world number 12 earned three chances to break and took her first lead of the set when Vondrousova served an untimely double fault but responded by breaking her back the very next game to go back on serve.

Bencic took a medical timeout at 4-3 to have the trainer tape up her big toe and the treatment seemed to do wonders for her as she broke the Czech to love the very next game.

With the Swiss serving for the win and the gold medal, she faced some heavy pressure facing two breakpoints but saved both and on her second match point she served out the match and the win.

Earlier Elina Svitolina won the bronze medal beating Elena Rybakina in three sets.

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Novak Djokovic Faces No Regrets Over Olympic Participation After Missing Out On Medal

Novak Djokovic has no regrets about being in Tokyo despite walking away with no Olympic medal for the third consecutive games.

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Novak Djokovic (@BleacherReport - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has revealed he doesn’t regret competing in Tokyo despite missing out on an Olympic medal.

 

The world number one lost his bronze medal match to Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 in 2 hours and 48 minutes.

A frustrating last 24 hours was capped off with a hard-fought defeat that saw him withdraw from his mixed doubles semi-final due to a left shoulder injury.

As a result Ash Barty and John Peers claimed the bronze medal which sees Djokovic without an Olympic medal for a third consecutive Olympics.

However after the loss to Carreno Busta Djokovic said he has no regrets about competing in Tokyo, “I don’t regret coming to Olympics at all,” Djokovic said to Sasa Ozmo.

“I believe that there are no coincidences in life, everything happens for a reason. I had some heartbreaking losses at Olympics and big tournaments, and I know that those losses have usually made me stronger.

“I do have a regret for not winning a medal for my country, both in singles and mixed. I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today. Level of tennis dropped, also due to exhaustion mentally and physically.

“I know that I will bounce, I will try to keep going for Olympics in Paris, to try to win a medal for my country. I am sorry I disappointed a lit of fans in Serbia, but that’s sport, I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much.”

After failing to win a medal in Tokyo, Djokovic now has gone three consecutive Olympic games without a medal.

Despite this latest setback Djokovic is still on course to achieve the grand slam ahead of the US Open.

But in his post-match interview the Serb admitted that before he can think about that he has to take care of a few injuries, “I hope that the physical consequences won’t create a problem for me for the US Open,” Djokovic admitted.

“That is something I am not sure about right now, but there are no regrets, you have to give your all for your country. I have withdrawn (from mixed) because of injuries, not only one. I hope that won’t stop me for playing the US Open.”

Djokovic’s next scheduled tournament is in Cincinnati on the 16th of August although it’s possible that the world number one won’t play until the US Open on the 30th of August.

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