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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Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round

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Felix Auger-Aliassime practicing this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis.  And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide.  In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals.  In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.


Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto

Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair.  After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.  And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her.  Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets.  Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight.  And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer.  Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches.  By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four.  While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely.  And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.


Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries.  The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam.  Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights.  Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games.  Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event.  But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches.  Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches.  Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three.  But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ.  Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches.  De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week. 

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match.  Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter.  Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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‘Super Confident’ Nick Kyrgios Admits Admiration for Medvedev Ahead Of Clash

Nick Kyrgios has had positive things to say about Daniil Medvedev ahead of their second round meeting in Montreal.

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Nick Kyrgios (@atptour - Twitter)

Nick Kyrgios has spoken highly of world number one Daniil Medvedev ahead of their second round clash in Montreal.

 

Kyrgios is in some of the best form in his career having reached the final of Wimbledon last month.

That has been followed up by a doubles title in Atlanta and a singles and doubles triumph in Washington.

Now the Australian is into the second round in Montreal after defeating Sebastian Baez 6-4 6-4.

Now Kyrgios takes on the ultimate challenge as he takes on world number one Daniil Medvedev who heads into the match in form himself having beaten Cameron Norrie to win the Los Cabos title.

Speaking ahead of the match the Australian admitted he was confident but has nothing but admiration for Medvedev’s game style, “I know I’ve got Medvedev next which kind of sucks,” Kyrgios told the Tennis Channel.

“I feel like against pretty much any player right now, I’d feel extremely confident. Obviously I feel confident going up against him, but we all know what he can produce. It’s going to be a good match for sure. I’m a bit tired but I’m gonna try and give him a good run.

“I’d like to play 95 per cent of the draw in the next round but if it’s anything like today, I know there’s going to be a lot of balls coming back and it’s going to be tough. A part of me wants the challenge, but a part of me knows it’s not going to be easy at all. I’m not gonna shy away from it, I’m going to do everything I can to recover and rest.

“But he’s a hell of a player and it’s incredible to see how he plays. He returns so far back, hits some crazy shots that we’ve never seen before. He does it his own way, he’s unorthodox and really special in the game. I love watching him play because he just looks so crazy out there, it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.

“I love people who just play the way they want to play. He’s comfortable in his own skin so hopefully it will be two contrasting styles as well. Not going to get much different tennis from me, I’m going to serve massive and play big and try to dictate. If I do that well, usually it works.”

Kyrgios is hoping to have good results this week as well as next week in Cincinnati so he can be seeded for the last grand slam of the year at the US Open.

The duo have met on three occasions with Kyrgios leading the head-to-head 2-1 but it’s Medvedev who won their last meeting at the Australian Open in four sets.

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Bianca Andreescu survives thrilling match against Kasatkina in Toronto return

Bianca Andreescu reached the second round in her home tournament while Naomi Osaka and Emma Raducanu crashed out.

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(@Andreescu_Fans - Twitter)

The 2019 champion made her return three years after winning the title and reached the second round to the delight of the Canadian fans.

 

Bianca Andreescu is into the second round of the National Bank Open being hosted at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto, Ontario after beating the San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina in straight sets 7-6, 6-4.

Although the scoreline seemed pretty routine this match had everything with highs and lows for both players but the Toronto native managed to get through.

“She played really well, super consistent and I am so happy I had that mental toughness to get through in two sets and that was key for me.”

In the first set both players got off to a very nervous start as the first five games of the match were breaks of serve before Andreescu was able to secure the first hold of the match to take a 4-2 lead.

At 5-3 with the Russian serving the Canadian earned two set points but was denied by the number 11 seed and the next game broke the world number 53 to go back on serve at 5-5.

The Toronto native responded by breaking right back once again and served for the set for the second time but Kasatkina broke once more to force a tiebreaker.

The Russian found herself up 4-2 but lost the following two points and the Canadian fought back and managed to take the tiebreaker 7-5 and the first set 7-6 in one hour and 25 minutes.

Dealing with high blood pressure she was seen by the trainer and the doctor during the break between both sets and she was given medication to rectify the problem.

Once again holding serve seemed to be the issue as after the world number 53 held the opening service game of the second set she broke to take an early 2-0 lead.

Kasatkina responded by breaking right back and holding to even the set at 2-2 and broke once again using her powerful forehand on breakpoint to seal the break.

Again she failed to consolidate the break and the Canadian broke her right back and after consolidating the break broke again to take a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve out the match.

Andreescu wasn’t able to close it out as the number 11 seed broke right back but in the following game, the Canadian responded by winning the match on her opponent’s serve.

After the match in her post-match on-court interview, she was asked if she felt the exact same emotions she had back in 2019 and what she will remember from the match.

“I wished I enjoyed it a bit more and I was really looking forward to having that positive attitude that I always have.”

Andreescu will now face Alize Cornet on Wednesday after the Frenchwomen was able to beat another Frenchwomen Caroline Garica in a tough three-set match on Monday night.

A busy Tuesday in Toronto

It was a busy day in Toronto and here are some of the other results from day 2 at the National Bank Open.

Belinda Bencic the number 12 seed got by the Czech qualifier Tereza Martincova in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, and Naomi Osaka was forced to retire down 7-6, 3-0 against Kaia Kanepi due to a back injury.

Amanda Anisimova beat the Canadian wild card, Carol Zhao, in straight sets as well 6-3, 6-1, and Camila Giorgi, the defending champion, ousted the number nine seed Emma Raducanu also in straight sets 7-6, 6-2.

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