Madrid Open Daily Preview: Two-Time Champion Simona Halep Faces Elise Mertens in the Third Round - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

Madrid Open Daily Preview: Two-Time Champion Simona Halep Faces Elise Mertens in the Third Round

Avatar

Published

on

Simona Halep, while recently speaking to the media (twitter.com/WTA)

Simona Halep has reached the Madrid final in three of her last four appearances, but could be tested by another of the WTA’s most consistent performers, Elise Mertens.  Tuesday’s other three women’s third round matches should also be engrossing, as they feature many of the sport’s most impressive rising stars.  On the men’s side, both first round and second round matches will be played.  Notably, two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem will make his 2021 clay court debut.  But the day’s most intriguing ATP matchup sees two of the top Italians in the world square off for only the second time.

 

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

Simona Halep (3) vs. Elise Mertens (13) – Not Before 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

Halep leads their head-to-head 4-1, and 3-0 on clay.  She has never dropped a set to Mertens on this surface.  Mertens’ only victory came on a hard court two years ago in the final of Doha.  Their most recent meeting came last August on clay, with Halep taking out Mertens in the final of Prague.

That was one of three titles last year for Halep, and part of a stretch where she won 17 consecutive matches.  While she is 11-3 this season, Simona is yet to reach a final in 2021.  Her best result thus far occurred two weeks ago in Stuttgart, where she was soundly defeated in the semifinals by Aryna Sabalenka. 

No one won more matches last season than Mertens, who accumulated 34 wins.  However, that included no titles, and only two finals.  Elise did pick up a winner’s trophy earlier this year, in a WTA 500 event in Australia, which was her first title in two years.  But most concerning in this matchup with Halep is not only their history, but also her record against top players.  Since the start of 2020, Mertens is just 3-9 against top 20 opposition.  Elise doesn’t have the firepower of players like Sabalenka or Serena Williams, which Halep often struggles against.  This matchup favors Simona, who should advance to the quarterfinals of this event for the fifth straight time.

Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Fabio Fognini – Fourth on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium

Their only previous meeting took place four years ago in Rome, when Berrettini was a wild card and ranked 249th in the world.  Fognini prevailed easily that day, but Matteo is now a much different player.  His breakout year was 2019, when he won 48 matches, reached the US Open semifinals, and debuted inside the top 10.  He’s now the No.1 Italian in the world, and is coming off a title run two weeks ago in Belgrade.

Fognini now finds himself as the third-ranked Italian, as the younger generation of Berrettini and Jannik Sinner have surpassed him in the rankings.  The 33-year-old has struggled since the start of 2020, with a record of 16-19.  And the same week Berrettini was winning the event in Belgrade, Fognini got defaulted in Barcelona for verbally abusing a line judge, which was not exactly shocking given Fabio’s history of misbehavior.

However, Fognini remains a highly-accomplished and dangerous player, capable of defeating almost anyone when he’s on.  That’s especially true on this surface.  Eight of his nine career titles have come on clay, most notably the Masters event in Monte-Carlo two years ago.  Fabio should be motivated to upstage the new Italian No.1 on his best surface, while I’m curious to see how Matteo handles the pressure of facing his country’s best male player of the past decade.

Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Jessica Pegula – Sabalenka has now won 29 of her last 35 matches.  Pegula is 18-6 this season, and received a walkover in the last round from Victoria Azarenka.  They split their two encounters last year, though Sabalenka comfortably prevailed on clay at Roland Garros. 

Jennifer Brady (11) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Brady defeated two Majors champions in her first two rounds: Venus Williams and Jelena Ostapenko.  Pavlyuchenkova defeated two Major finalists: Madison Keys and Karolina Pliskova.  This is their first career meeting.

Maria Sakkari (16) vs. Karolina Muchova – These are the only two players to notch victories over Naomi Osaka in the past year.  And both have similar records this season: Sakkari is 15-7, while Muchova is 14-6.  This will be another first-time matchup.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Marcos Giron (Q) – Thiem has not played in over six weeks, as he took a break from the tour and rehabbed an injured knee.  Giron played for well over three hours just yesterday, and has spent more than eight-and-a-half hours on court through three matches over the last three days.

Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Tommy Paul – Rublev is still looking for his first 1000-level title, but reached the semifinals or better at the last two Masters events.  Paul has never advanced beyond the second round at a Masters.  Rublev is 2-0 against the 23-year-old American.

Karen Khachanov vs. Kei Nishikori – Nishikori was a finalist at this event in 2014, but is just 10-12 since returning to action last September.  Khachanov has also struggled of late, losing six of his last 10 matches.  They’ve split their four previous clashes.

Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

Focus

Ash Barty Reveals ‘Excitement’ After Mixed Doubles Medal In Tokyo

Ash Barty has revealed her excitement after her and John Peers won Australia’s first Olympic tennis medal for 17 years.

Avatar

Published

on

Ash Barty and John Peers (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Ash Barty revealed her excitement at winning Bronze in the mixed doubles in Tokyo with John Peers.

 

The world number one along with doubles specialist John Peers claimed Australia’s first tennis medal at the Olympics since 2004.

Despite benefiting from a bronze medal match withdrawal from Novak Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic, that hasn’t taken away the happiness of claiming an Olympic medal.

Speaking to the Channel 7 programmes Sunrise Barty proudly spoke about the achievement, “It’s been an amazing week for both John and I,” Barty was quoted as saying by Tennis Australia.

“We’ve played some great tennis, probably the best we’ve ever played together. To walk away with a medal and contribute to the team total here in Australia has been incredible.

“Johnny and I, we put ourselves in a position all week to play good tennis and I feel like we really deserve this one. We were so close to being in that gold medal play-off and I think for both of us, it’s been awesome. We’ve played great. I felt like we really deserved this one for Australia.

“No, I think for us it’s excitement. I just hope as athletes, as a whole Australian team that’s here – all 480 odd of us – we can bring a smile to people’s faces at home when they’re sitting on the couch enjoying watching us trying (to) go out there and do Australia proud.”

As for John Peers it was an achievement of a lifetime, inspired by the traditional Olympic spirit, “Any chance you get to represent your country and to do it alongside Ash, to be able to say we’re the first mixed doubles medallists at an Olympics for Australia is something really special,” the 33 year-old commented.

“There was so much uncertainty leading into the Games and to be able to see the way the Australian team’s come together and sort of really bonded has really shown the Australian spirit, the way that all the athletes get behind each other.

“To be able to show the Olympics is going on in uncertain times is just something really special and unique and hopefully it can be the turning point for the world, and Australia, to come out the other side.”

Both will be hoping that this week will be the start of something special for Australian tennis as they will look to capitalise on this success in three years time in Paris.

Next for John Peers will be Washington next week where he and Filip Polasek are the top seeds.

While Ash Barty will be starting her preparations for the US Open in Cincinnati which starts on the 16th of August.

Continue Reading

Focus

Czech Republican Trailblazers Inspire Krejcikova and Siniakova To Olympic Gold In Tokyo

Barbora Krejcikova and Katarina Siniakova reflect on Czech Republic’s Olympic past after Olympic gold.

Avatar

Published

on

Barbora Krejcikova and Katarina Siniakova (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova admit that former Czech Republican trailblazers inspired them to win doubles gold in Tokyo.

 

The top seeds claimed gold with a 7-5 6-1 win over Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.

After edging a tight opening set, the Czech Republican duo eased to victory to claim gold in Tokyo.

It was a historic gold as the pair went one better than trailblazers Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova who won silver in Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1992.

After the victory today Krejcikova paid tribute to those before them and said that they were inspired by those who came before them, “The motivation we got from the previous medallists is really big,” the Roland Garros champion told the ITF website.

“I think we got really inspired by them. I think we really need to thank them because without them we just wouldn’t have the motivation and the inspiration.

“It’s really big. We’re really happy and really grateful that we could be here. We did such a great job during these 10 days and we have this beautiful gold medal. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

While Katerina Siniakova also outlined how special it is to win the gold medal as the top seeds remain the team to beat in the Women’s doubles game, “It’s really special this one,” Siniakova admitted.

“I really enjoyed my whole time here. It was really tough and I’m so glad we kept fighting and in the end we have this one, this gold medal. It’s really amazing. I feel so honoured I got to represent my country.”

The Czech Republican will be favourites to win their fourth grand slam at the US Open in late August.

As for Bencic and Golubic, it has been a successful tournament especially for Bencic who won Olympic gold yesterday.

After the match Bencic admitted it’s not just about Olympic medals and that its about the memories created, “It’s not just about the medals or the titles, it’s about the memories you create that will last forever,” Bencic claimed.

“To share this with Viki is unbelievable. The whole week I never felt like I was in a normal tournament or playing alone. She was alongside me the entire way. I always tell her we won this gold medal together as well.

“When we will be 80 years old and have a coffee, we will talk about these moments and I cannot wait for that.”

Continue Reading

Focus

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

Avatar

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending