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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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Paula Badosa earlier this week at Indian Wells (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Sunday’s men’s and women’s singles championship matches feature a two-time champion and three first-time finalists at this level.  Victoria Azarenka won this event in 2012 and 2016, two of 10 WTA 1000 titles to her credit.  Paula Badosa, Cam Norrie, and Nikolaz Basilashvili are all vying for the biggest title of their careers, during what has become their best seasons to date.

 

Paula Badosa (21) vs. Victoria Azarenka (27)  – 1:00pm on Stadium 1

For Azarenka, this result is a bit of a surprise, despite all she’s achieved in the sport.  Her record of 28-8 is more than solid, but she’s dealt with multiple injuries throughout 2021, forcing her to withdraw during five different events.  This is her first final since nearly a full year ago in Ostrava. 

For Badosa, this result has been expected for some time.  She’s been most impressive this season, accumulating 40 match wins, and a record of 10-3 against the top 20.  Paula herself will debut inside the top 20 on Monday, and would be just a few points shy of the top 10 with a win on Sunday.

Azarenka will attempt to win her first final since April of 2016.  While she was the champion of last year’s Western & Southern Open, she received a walkover in the championship match from Naomi Osaka.  Vika is 0-3 in her last three finals, all on hard courts.  This is only the second WTA final for Badosa, who claimed the title in Belgrade this past May on clay.  Based on the way the Spaniard has been clubbing her groundstrokes, and her comfort level on these slow-playing courts, I’m going with Badosa to win the second title of her young career.

Cameron Norrie (21) vs. Nikoloz Basilashvili (29)  – Not Before 4:00pm on Stadium 1

Norrie has been one of the most surprising and remarkable stories of 2021.  Prior to this season, he had never been ranked inside the top 40.  But like Badosa, he will debut in the top 20 on Monday, thanks to a record of 46-20 on the year. 

Basilashvili has made news for other reasons, as he was arrested last year on domestic abuse allegations from his former wife.  On the tennis court, he’s been quite streaky this season.  Between January and March, he went on a five-match losing streak before winning the title in Doha, which includes victories over Roger Federer and Roberto Bautista Agut.  He was also the champion in Munich, and came through qualifying to reach the semis in Halle.

Basilashvili’s last loss before his successful run in Doha was at the hands of Norrie, who prevailed 6-0, 6-3 in Rotterdam.  Cam has dominated his last two matches this week in similar fashion, defeating Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov while dropping only eight games across four sets.  The Brit has now won his last six semifinals, but his record in finals in striking different.  He’s only 1-4 this year in championship matches, and lost to Casper Ruud two weeks in San Diego 6-0, 6-2.  Meanwhile, Nikoloz has taken his last five finals, dating back to July of 2018.  With the biggest title of their careers on the line, Basilashvili is the favorite to utilize his powerful groundstrokes to secure victory.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Indian Wells Daily Preview: The Men’s Semifinals

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Grigor Dimitrov after his quarterfinal win on Thursday (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Saturday’s men’s singles semifinals are quite surprising, featuring four players ranked outside the world’s top 25.  Cam Norrie and Grigor Dimitrov will square off in the first semi, in a rematch from earlier this season in Miami.  The second semifinal is also a rematch from March of this year, as Nikoloz Basilashvili and Taylor Fritz actually played in back-to-back weeks seven months ago, during the two weeks when this tournament normally takes place.

 

Also on Saturday, the men’s and women’s doubles championship matches will be contested.  The women’s final will start the day at 11:00am local time, while the men’s final will close out play after the singles semifinals are completed.

Cameron Norrie (21) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (23)  – Not Before 1:30pm on Stadium 1

What a breakout season this has become for Cam Norrie.  The Brit is now 45-20 this year, and has been victorious in his last five semifinals.  Since his run to the final of San Diego two weeks ago, Cam has defeated four top 20 players: Shapovalov, Rublev, Bautista Agut, and Schwartzman.  Dimitrov also gained crucial momentum in San Diego, advancing to the semis and narrowly going down in defeat to eventual champion Casper Ruud.  Prior to that, 2021 had been a poor season for Grigor, as he was only 15-14.  Dimitrov’s last two wins this week were his most impressive in a long time.  He first came back from a set and two breaks down against top-seeded Medvedev, then survived a third-set tiebreak against Hubert Hurkacz.  When Norrie and Dimitrov met at the Miami Masters event in March, Cam prevailed 7-5, 7-5.  In the last round, Norrie simply walloped Diego Schwartzman 6-0, 6-2.  Based on his current level of play, I like Cam to win his sixth straight semifinal.

Nikoloz Basilashvili (29) vs. Taylor Fritz (31) – Third on Stadium 1

What a comeback Fritz staged on Friday.  Down 5-2 in the third and two match points against a red-hot Sascha Zverev, he fought back to eventually prevail in a tiebreak for what was the best and most exciting win of his career.  Taylor has now taken out three consecutive top 15 players: Zverev, Sinner, and Berrettini.  Basilashvili had compiled an up-and-down year, but when he’s on, he’s been tough to defeat.  He’s already claimed two titles this year, in Doha and Munich.  It was in Doha where Basilashvili overcame Fritz in the semifinals.  A week later, Fritz avenged that loss in Dubai, in a match decided by a third-set tiebreak.  Their only other meeting occurred four years ago in Chengdu, when Taylor won as a qualifier ranked 94th in the world.  Coming off the emotional high of his huge, thrilling victory on Friday, I expect it will be difficult for the American to recover and be at his best on Saturday.  That leaves Nikoloz with an enormous opportunity to reach the biggest final of his career, and he possesses strong groundstrokes which enable him to dictate the outcome.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina – Hsieh and Mertens are looking for their second title as a team, after prevailing at Wimbledon in July.  Kudermetova and Rybakina just began teaming in August, when they reached the semifinals in Canada.

John Peers and Filip Polasek (7) vs. Aslan Karatsev and Andrey Rublev – Peers and Polasek were finalists two weeks ago in San Diego.  The Russians have won their last eight matches as a team, dating back to their title run in Qatar this past March.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Daniil Medvedev Withdraws From Moscow

Daniil Medvedev has withdrawn from Moscow as he looks to recover for the last two tournaments of the season.

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Daniil Medvedev (@BNPPARIBASOPEN - Twitter)

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev has withdrawn from his home tournament in Moscow as he looks to get fully fit for the rest of the season.

 

The world number two suffered a disappointing exit in the fourth round of Indian Wells when he lost to Grigor Dimitrov from a set and 4-1 up.

After that disappointment Medvedev has decided to take some time off and therefore withdraw from the Kremlin Cup next week in Moscow.

Citing not being at 100% the Russian will now look to be fit for the rest of the season which ends at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, “Hello everyone! I am really sad to announce that this year I won’t be participating in Kremlin cup,” Medvedev announced on his social media platforms.

“It’s always special to have a chance to play in front of Russian fans. I signed in to give myself best chances to play, but with calendar this year being extremely tough I felt that my body is not ready 100% anymore.

“This decision was very tough for me but it has to be done in order to be able to finish 2021 season strong! Thank you and see all soon!”

Medvedev will next play the last Masters 1000 event in Paris-Bercy before finishing his season in Turin as he looks to finish his historic season with a flourish.

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