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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Rafael Nadal Takes Positives From Barcelona Exit Against Alex De Minaur

Rafael Nadal exited the tournament in Barcelona in the second round to Alex De Minaur.

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Rafael Nadal believes that he can be competitive for Roland Garros despite his 7-5 6-1 defeat to Alex De Minaur in Barcelona.

The 12-time champion suffered a straight sets defeat to the in-form Australian in the second round.

There was a valiant comeback from Nadal in the opening set as he recovered from a break down to get back onto level terms.

However De Minaur was too strong for Nadal as the world number eleven won nine of the last ten games to set up a third round meeting with Daniel Altmaier or Arthur Fils.

After the match Nadal congratulated De Minaur on the victory and analysed his own performance, “I mean Alex is a great player but honestly no, in terms of tennis today he’s in better shape than me so he is playing at a really high level since the beginning of the season, I think he made a really important step forward in his level of tennis,” Nadal told reporters in Barcelona.

“So just happy for him and congratulate him for the level he played today. And I think I was able to show myself most important to show the world and show myself when I was really trying and showed a high percentage of intensity, my level was there to compete.

“And I didn’t practice a lot so that encourages me to keep going and tells me that if I spend the day on the tour and keep practicing with the players on this surface, I really hope and really believe that I can keep being competitive and my body will allow me to push the way that I know.”

The defeat to De Minaur was Nadal’s third match all season having struggled with injury with the Spaniard hinting this could be his last time playing in Barcelona.

Despite the loss Nadal admits he feels happier and more comfortable than he did a couple of weeks ago, “I feel much more comfortable and much more happier today than one week and a half ago,” Nadal explained.

“I managed to play two matches, playing against great players and I mean when I was able to play I was not very far without a doubt. And I feel myself that if I’m able to keep practicing days on the tour and if my body allows me to spend hours on court and have the practices the way that I need.”

Now the next goal for Nadal is to try to reclaim his Roland Garros title, a tournament he has won on 14 different occasions.

As for Roland Garros Nadal just hopes he can be competitive for the second Grand Slam of the season as he intensifies his preparations over the next few weeks, “I hope to be competitive, that’s the truth and I hope and believe that I can be competitive in a few weeks,” Nadal stated.

“That’s the way I need to perceive today and my final goal is to give myself a chance to be realistically competing at Roland Garros. In my tennis career I was able to compete at the highest level at every single tournament, trying to win tournaments and I was not able to do it today.

“But I hope to be ready in a few weeks.”

Before Roland Garros, Nadal will hope to play in Madrid which starts on the 25th of April.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas downs Sinner; now aims for Third Title in Monte Carlo

Stylish Greek completes comeback win and re-enters the top ten.

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After winning two in a row in 2021-2022, Stefanos Tsitsipas is now in reach of a third title at the prestigious Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, after beating World number two Jannik Sinner in three gruelling sets.

The 25-year-old had to battle hard and come from a break down in the third to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and now plays Casper Ruud in tomorrow’s final. The Greek has had an indifferent start to the year with a 11-6 win-loss record, but today was his first top three victory since the 2022 Cincinatti Masters – where he beat Daniil Medvedev – and ensures a return back into the top ten of the men’s rankings.

Tsitsipas recognised how hard he had to fight and revealed after the match just how satisfied he was of his performance:

“It was tennis at its highest level that I have been able to play. Jannik was an extremely difficult opponent and it can be seen throughout the year so far. He has been very consistent and I could see that throughout today with his game. He is one of the toughest opponents I have faced so far and to find ways when there weren’t that many, I am proud of that. He gave me a very difficult game and the way I overcame it is true excellence.”

Sinner double faulted at 30-40 to gift the break early with the score at one game all. From there, Tsistipas rallied with poise and confidence in a brilliant opening set lasting 44 minutes including a stunning backhand down-the-line winner to open the game when serving at 4-3. He took the first set 6-4 after a tiring 18-shot rally – where both players hit all angles of the court – before Sinner hit a forehand wide.

However, 22-year-old Sinner struck back immediately on his first breakpoint at the start of the second set when he won a close exchange at the net and then took a 3-0 lead.  He later survived a breakback point when 4-2 up and crucially held on for 5-2. He faced more pressure when serving for the set at 5-3 and was taken to deuce but levelled the match at one-set-all on his second set point to give the crowd exactly what they were asking f

Sinner was now in full flow hitting powerfully from the baseline and once again broke early at the start of the final set to take a 3-1 lead. But with the match now entering the third hour he began to tire physically and called for the trainer during the changeover with the score at 4-3.  When the match resumed, he lost the next three games and the Greek had completed a remarkable turnaround, handing his opponent just his second defeat of the season in two hours and forty minutes.

“It helps a lot knowing I have a win like this under my belt. Having a win like this and getting to the levels of tennis again brings a lot of satisfaction to me,” Tsitsipas said. “When there is a lot of work put in each day, these are the type of matches you are aiming for.”

Sinner’s only loss prior to today was against Carlos Alcaraz in Indian Wells semi-finals. He has been the stand out player this year after already winning titles in Rotterdam, the Miami Open, and his maiden Grand Slam in Australia. Despite having won 25 matches overall though, he now trails Tsitsipas 3-6 in their head-to-head rivalry.

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Casper Ruud Reveals Shock After Knocking Out Novak Djokovic In Monte-Carlo

Casper Ruud is into his second career Masters 1000 final after beating Novak Djokovic for the first time.

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Casper Ruud is into his second Masters 1000 final of his career after recording his best ever win by beating Novak Djokovic 6-4 1-6 6-4.

The Norwegian defeated the world number one for the first time in his career as he overcame a mini-comeback from Djokovic to seal his place in the Monte-Carlo final.

Having lost his five previous meetings to Djokovic, Ruud played some fearless tennis under pressure as the eighth seed broke to close out a career-best win.

Speaking after the win Ruud admitted he was in a state of shock and was pleased with the victory, “I am super happy,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“This is a day I will remember for a long time. Beating a World No. 1 is something I have never done and beating Novak is something I have never done. I am very, very happy. I am a little bit in a state of shock right now.”

After achieving the seemingly improbable, Ruud will now look to win his first ever ATP title that’s above a Masters 1000 event when he takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Monte-Carlo final.

That’s a prospect Ruud is looking forward to as he prepares for one final challenge, “There is always one more match in tennis,” the Norwegian explained.

“Tomorrow is going to be a special day, playing a final here in Monte-Carlo. It is a great result but I have been chasing a big title for a few years now and tomorrow I will have another shot at it. I am going to give it my all. Stef is playing well. He is a great player on clay and on other surfaces as well, but I guess clay is maybe where he has had the most success and especially this tournament.

“So it is going to be another tough task, but I am up for it.”

The final will take place at 14:00 BST.

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