Madrid Open Daily Preview: World No.1 Ash Barty Plays Three-Time Champion Petra Kvitova in the Quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Daily Preview: World No.1 Ash Barty Plays Three-Time Champion Petra Kvitova in the Quarterfinals

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Ash Barty, earlier this fortnight in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

With all four women’s quarterfinals to be contested, and six of the top 10 men’s seeds in action, Wednesday offers a stellar Order of Play.  Ash Barty has won her last 14 matches on red clay, but no woman owns more Madrid Open titles than Petra Kvitova.  And in another WTA quarterfinal between seeded players, Aryna Sabalenka and Elise Mertens, who are friends and frequent double partners, will collide on the singles court. 

 

On the men’s side, the remaining second round matches will be completed.  Five-time champion Rafael Nadal will make his 2021 Madrid Open debut, against a fast-rising 17-year-old Spaniard who idolizes the King of Clay.  In addition, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Sascha Zverev, Diego Schwartzman, and Roberto Bautista Agut all face dangerous opposition.

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

Ash Barty (1) vs. Petra Kvitova (9) – Not Before 1:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

This will be the tenth meeting between Barty and Kvitova, though only their second on clay, and their first on this surface in nearly a decade.  Their rivalry has been friendly, while also quite even and streaky.  The first four matches went to Kvitova, while the next four went to Barty.  And most recently, Petra prevailed in three sets last February in Doha.  Their only meeting on this surface occurred at the 2012 French Open, when a 16-year-old, inexperienced Barty was ranked 332nd in the world.

Barty is now a superb 34-6 since the start of last year, while Kvitova is 32-7 lifetime in Madrid.  As successful Petra has been in the high altitude of this event, Barty’s recent form makes her the favorite.  Ash has claimed 15 of her last 17 deciding sets, and taken all nine of her matches this year against top 20 players.  In what could be a tight match against the world No.12, Barty should have the confidence required to advance.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (WC) – Not Before 3:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

What a day this will be for Carlos Alcaraz.  On the day of his 18th birthday, he’ll face his idol for the first time, at his country’s biggest tournament.  These two Spaniards practiced together earlier this year at the Australian Open, but stepping into the Magic Box against Rafael Nadal will be a very different experience for the teenager.

Over the past two years, Alcaraz has quickly risen up the rankings.  When the tour restarted last August, he was ranked outside the top 300.  But he’s since won three Challenger titles on clay, and is now approaching the top 100.  Carlos has already been anointed as Spain’s next great player, so this may be an intergenerational match we may look back on for years to come.

Nadal got off to a slow start this clay season, losing in the quarterfinals of Monte-Carlo to Andrey Rublev in a subpar performance.  But Rafa rebounded strongly the very next week in Barcelona, saving a match point to overcome Stefanos Tsitsipas in a magnificent final.  And while Madrid has easily been Nadal’s least successful stop during the European clay swing, he’s still 50-9 at this event, with five titles.  As fascinating as this matchup is, an Alcaraz victory feels far-fetched.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Aryna Sabalenka (5) vs. Elise Mertens (13) – Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 4-2, which includes wins in their last three matches.  However, Mertens prevailed in their only previous clay court encounter, three years ago in Lugano.  Both players own recent victories over Simona Halep, and it was Mertens who upset the two-time Madrid champion just yesterday.

Belinda Bencic (8) vs. Paula Badosa (WC) – They played on clay a few weeks ago in Charleston, with Badosa winning in three sets.  The 23-year-old from Spain also upset Ash Barty at that same event.

Karolina Muchova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Muchova defeated Naomi Osaka two rounds ago, and last night played until nearly midnight, in a grueling three-setter with Maria Sakkari.  Pavlyuchenkova has also earned consecutive victories over seeded players, in Karolina Pliskova and Jennifer Brady.  Anastasia claimed their only prior encounter, in 2019 on a hard court.

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Medvedev is a combined 0-8 in his career between Madrid, Rome, and Roland Garros.  The 21-year-old Spaniard just recently reached the quarterfinals in Monte-Carlo, and won the clay event last year in Chile.

Sascha Zverev (5) vs. Kei Nishikori – Zverev has been dealing with an elbow injury, and has lost three of his last five matches.  Nishikori earned a solid win yesterday over Karen Khachanov.  Sascha is 2-1 against Kei, though their only match on clay went to Nishikori.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Benoit Paire – Tsitsipas started the clay season on a nine-match winning streak, but is coming off his emotional loss to Rafael Nadal in Barcelona.  Just yesterday, Paire ended a seven-match losing streak.  When they played this past March in Acapulco, Stefanos dropped just four games.

Diego Schwartzman (7) vs. Aslan Karatsev – This is a rematch from February’s Australian Open, when Karatsev upset Schwartzman in straight sets, on the way to the semifinals in his first-career Major.  Diego won a clay title earlier this season in his home country of Argentina, while Karatsev has reached finals in both Dubai and Belgrade.

Roberto Bautista Agut (9) vs. John Isner – The Spanish veteran advanced to the semifinals of this event in 2014, but is only 5-5 here since that time.  Isner has only played eight matches this year, one of which was a loss to Bautista Agut in Miami, a match decided by a third-set tiebreak.

Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Cameron Norrie ‘Happy’ With Performance After Extending Winning Run Against Kyrgios

Cameron Norrie spoke about his confidence after reaching the last eight in Atlanta.

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Cameron Norrie (@the_LTA - Twitter)

Cameron Norrie is satisfied with his recent performances after reaching the Atlanta quarter-finals.

 

The in-form Brit extended his winning streak to five matches after defeating Nick Kyrgios in Atlanta.

Norrie eased to victory with a 6-1 6-4 win in a match which saw three breaks of serve from the Brit to make the last eight.

After winning his maiden title in Los Cabos, Norrie now is starting to feel confident in his game.

In his post-match interview the world number 29 insists that he is happy with his level as he continues his great season, “It’s very nice to be back here in Atlanta,” Norrie explained.

“It’s good to have Nick back… really enjoyed the match and really happy with my level. It’s cool to be playing at this level and [I am] happy and satisfied to be getting some wins. I’m enjoying my tennis.”

Next for Norrie will be Emil Ruusuvuori as he looks to continue his momentum and solidify his status as the man to beat in US hard court swing.

The other quarter-finals will see Los Cabos finalist Brandon Nakashima take on Jordan Thompson, Taylor Fritz will face fellow American Reilly Opelka.

While five-time champion John Isner will face Christopher O’Connell in the last eight with the American serving 49 aces in two matches so far.

Play will begin at 17:00 BST while Norrie’s match will likely take place at 20:00 BST.

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Alexander Zverev Ends Djokovic’s Golden Slam Dreams At Olympics

Alexander Zverev stunned Novak Djokovic in three sets to end the Serb’s dreams of winning the golden slam.

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Alexander Zverev (@Tennis - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev has ended Novak Djokovic’s dreams of winning the golden slam after a 1-6 6-3 6-1 victory in Tokyo.

 

Djokovic will now have to win gold in the mixed doubles if he wants to leave Tokyo with the ultimate prize. As for Zverev he will play Karen Khachanov for the gold medal in the singles.

“I feel sorry for Novak, but he’s won 20 grand slams, 550 masters series or whatever, you can’t have everything,” Zverev told the Olympic News service.
“He’s the greatest player of all time, he will win the most grand slams out of anybody on tour, but I’m also happy that I’m in the final.”

Djokovic got off to a better start and after the first three games of the match went on serve it was the Serb with the first breakpoint of the match as he got the first break of the match. Djokovic was relentless after that getting the double break after consolidating it and serving out the first set in dominating fashion.

The second set saw the world No.1 get the first break as he looked in command heading into a 3-2 lead. However Zverev provided the perfect response as he broke straight back and sealed four games in a row to force the match into a deciding set.

The Hamburg native carried the momentum into the third and had two breakpoints in the first game which resulted in a break to take an early 1-0 lead but faced some heavy pressure from the world number one the very next game.

The world number five saved three breakpoints before consolidating the break and went up a double break breaking the Serb again with a superb passing shot.

It was one-way traffic from there and the German managed to get one more break of serve to seal the match and the win and set up a gold medal match final with the Russian Karen Khachanov.

“It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you’re going to bring the medal back to your house, back home to Germany. It’s incredible beating the best player in the world undoubtedly right now and in this season,” said Zverev.
“It seemed it was impossible to beat him at this event, so I’m very happy right now. But yet there’s still one match to go.”

Zverev and Khachanov are tied 2-2 in their official head to head and both players will be bringing medals home on Saturday.

As for Djokovic he will play Pablo Carreno Busta in the bronze medal match in singles and still has a chance to win gold in the mixed doubles with Nina Stojanovic.

They face Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev later on Friday in the semi-finals.

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays in the Semifinals of both Men’s Singles and Mixed Doubles

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Unfortunately, Novak Djokovic hasn’t had any fans in attendance to share the love with this past week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

One of the only items missing from Novak Djokovic’s resume is an Olympic gold medal.  But over the course of the next three days, he has a chance to win two.  In the men’s singles semifinals, he faces Sascha Zverev, the remaining player with the best chance of preventing him from standing atop the podium in singles.  The other men’s semifinal sees Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta face a second consecutive Russian.  On Thursday, he eliminated Daniil Medvedev from medal contention.  On Friday, he takes on recent Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karen Khachanov.

 

Also on Friday, the men’s doubles medals will be decided, with two teams of Croats facing off for the gold.  And the mixed doubles semifinals will also be played, which include two teams representing the Russian Olympic Committee, as well as Djokovic and fellow world No.1 Ash Barty.

Friday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time.  There are possible thunderstorms forecast in the afternoon and evening, though the roof over Centre Court will guarantee uninterrupted play for those scheduled there.

Pablo Carreno Busta (6) [ESP] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – 3:00pm on Centre Court

Khachanov has achieved two Major quarterfinals, while Carreno Busta has reached two semis.  However, both players would certainly state this is the biggest match of their careers to date, as it will decide who plays for the gold medal on Sunday.  Pablo leads their head-to-head 3-2, though Khachanov leads 2-1 on hard courts, as two of the Spaniard’s victories came on clay.  Four of their five meetings have been straight-setters, meaning the first set may prove extremely crucial on Friday.  Carreno Busta has advanced considerably more comfortably, requiring only one third set, compared to Khachanov who has been pushed to a third set in three out of four matches.  Pablo has also been the much better player over the past year, and unlike Khachanov, his two best results at Slams have come on this surface.  He possesses a much more consistent game than Karen, who can easily rack up a large amount of unforced errors.  I like Carreno Busta’s chances of prevailing in this semifinal.

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Sascha Zverev (4) [GER] – Second on Centre Court

Djokovic is 6-2 against Zverev, and 5-1 on hard courts.  Sascha’s two victories have either come on clay or on an indoor hard court.  He defeated Novak in the championship match of the 2018 ATP Finals, the biggest title of his career.  Both men have dominated all competition through four rounds.  Neither has dropped a set, and only Zverev has been pushed to a tiebreak.  Novak has been even more savage, averaging just over two games lost per set.  Through four rounds, Sascha has struck 23 aces and absolutely no double faults, which is notable considering the second serve issues of his recent past.  If he continues to serve like that, he has a legitimate chance to upset Djokovic.  But Novak seems to be completely in the zone, exuding a calm confidence that is unmatched in the sport.  Twice before, he’s reached the semifinals of the Olympics in men’s singles, but is yet to advance to the gold medal match.  That should change on Friday.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (1) [CRO] vs. Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig [CRO] – Mektic and Pavic are the heavy gold medal favorites, with 52 wins and eight titles on the year.

Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus [NZL] vs. Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren [USA] – Daniell and Venus are the more accomplished doubles players, though they are not a regular pairing.  The Americans teamed at three events leading up to this tournament. 

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev (4) [ROC] vs. Ash Barty and John Peers [AUS] – The Australians are definitely the better doubles players, but few players are having better seasons than Pavlyuchenkova or Rublev.

Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev [ROC] vs. Nina Stojanovic and Novak Djokovic [SRB] – Vesnina and Karatsev were finalists at this year’s Roland Garros.  The Serbians prevailed convincingly on Thursday, dropping only three games.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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