Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Second Major of the Year Begins on Sunday - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Second Major of the Year Begins on Sunday

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Naomi Osaka will play the first match of the tournament on Court Philippe-Chatrier (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

A year after this event was delayed by four months due to the pandemic, main draw play gets underway on Sunday after only a one-week delay this year.

 

On the men’s side, can anyone stop Rafael Nadal from winning an astonishing 14th French Open title?  Novak Djokovic is one of only two other men in the draw who has won this event, but he hasn’t defeated Nadal on clay in over five years.  The other is Roger Federer, who is just 1-2 since missing over a year of action due to knee surgeries.  Dominic Thiem has reached the final in two of the last three years, but he’s an extremely modest 4-3 on clay this season.  So if anyone is going to dethrone the King of Clay, the most likely candidates may come from the ATP Next Gen.  Stefanos Tsitsipas, Sascha Zverev, and Andrey Rublev are the three men who have defeated Nadal in 2021.

The women’s singles draw is much wider open, though there are definitely some favorites.  2019 champion and world No.1 Ash Barty chose not to travel to Paris to defend her title last fall, but she’s here this year, and arrives in great form.  Also in great form is defending champion Iga Swiatek, who is coming off the most one-sided championship victory in recent memory: a 6-0, 6-0 demolition of Karolina Pliskova two weeks ago in Rome.  However, no one has won more WTA matches since the last French Open than Aryna Sabalenka, who is the third seed in the absence of an injured Simona Halep.  The draw also features four other Roland Garros singles champions, including Serena Williams, who is still looking to achieve her 24th Major milestone.

Sunday’s schedule is highlighted by several fascinating women’s matchups.  A pair of two-time Major singles champions collide in the opening round, while Sabalenka faces a tough opening draw in a rejuvenated Ana Konjuh.  And four-time Major champ Naomi Osaka is on a 14-match winning streak at Slams, as she now focuses on converting her hard court success to the clay.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Patricia Maria Tig – First on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Osaka has won four of the last six hard court Majors, but she’s yet to even reach the second week at a Major played on clay or grass.  This is her first Grand Slam event outside of a hart court in two full years, as she did not play at last autumn’s Roland Garros.  There’s been much talk about her lack of success on this surface, and that was amplified by her 1-2 record on clay this season.  There’s also been much talk about her refusal to talk to the media at this event, and I wonder if that situation will serve as a distraction or as motivation for Naomi.  Regardless, she’s certainly a favorite against Tig, a 26-year-old Romanian who is 3-7 lifetime at Majors.  And Osaka claimed their only previous meeting six years ago in Hua Hin, back when Naomi was ranked outside the top 200.

Dominic Thiem (4) vs. Pablo Andujar – Second on Court Philippe-Chatrier

While Thiem has advanced to the quarterfinals or better the last five years in Paris, he arrives this year a bit undercooked.  Uncharacteristically, Dominic took a break from the tour for nearly two months this season.  He only played two clay court events, though he did reach the semifinals in Madrid despite his lack of match play.  His opponent on Sunday is a clay court specialist.  35-year-old Andujar has reached nine tour finals on this surface, and none on any other.  And Pablo is coming off a semifinal run in Geneva, where he defeated Roger Federer in three sets.  However, the Spaniard has not won a match at Roland Garros since 2015, and has never won a set against Thiem in three meetings on clay.  This should be a comfortable victory for the reigning US Open champion.

Victoria Azarenka (15) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova – Third on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Neither of these multi-time Slam champs has played much of late.  Multiple injuries have kept Azarenka off court for much of 2021, competing in only one match since March.  And Kuznetsova hasn’t played at all since March, though that month, she proved she’s still capable of beating top players.  In Dubai, she took out Elina Svitolina in three.  Azarenka leads their head-to-head 6-4, and has prevailed in their last five matches without dropping a set.  Kuznetsova hasn’t defeated Vika since way back in May of 2009.  However, Sveta’s last two wins in this rivalry both came on clay.  And Azarenka is just 4-5 in her last five appearances here.  So this is a dangerous draw for Vika, especially if she remains less than 100%.

Aryna Sabalenka (3) vs. Ana Konjuh (Q) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Speaking of dangerous draws, this is precisely that for Sabalenka.  Konjuh was a breakout star at the 2016 US Open, making the quarterfinals as an 18-year-old.  However, Ana’s career was soon disrupted by four surgeries.  The WTA has a great piece on her journey here.  Now that she’s healthy again, she’s quickly returned to good form.  As a wild card in Miami, Konjuh defeated both Madison Keys and Iga Swiatek.  And just recently in Belgrade, she came through qualifying and raced all the way to the final.  In qualifying for this event, she did not drop a set.  So while Sabalenka remains a favorite, this is a tough first-round, first-ever matchup.  And as impressive as Aryna has been on tour, she’s failed to advance farther than the round of 16 at any Major, so she’ll certainly feel pressure to change that narrative.

Veronika Kudermetova (29) vs. Amanda Anisimova – Fourth on Court 9

Anisimova was a surprise semifinalist in Paris two years ago, and earned two dominant victories here a year ago before getting walloped by Simona Halep.  The 19-year-old American is a modest 4-4 on clay this season, but her last three losses all came against top 30 players.  Kudermetova has been in great form this year, already accumulating 24 match wins.  And she recently debuted inside the top 30 after earning the WTA 500 title on the green clay of Charleston.  In a first-time matchup between two players with similarly-aggressive playing styles, I give the slight edge to the Russian No.1 based on her winning ways.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Jeremy Chardy – Other than Nadal, no man has been better on clay this season than Tsitsipas, who is 16-3 with two titles.  He’s 2-1 at tour level against Chardy, a 34-year-old Frenchman who lost in the first round of this event the last two years.

Sascha Zverev (6) vs. Oscar Otte (Q) – 27-year-old Otte is a fellow German ranked outside the top 150, and only owns one career win at a Major.  Zverev was the champion in Madrid earlier this month, and is a two-time French Open quarterfinalist.

Kei Nishikori vs. Alessandro Giannessi (Q) – While Kei is just 4-3 on clay this year, his losses were only against top players: Nadal and Zverev.  Sunday is Giannessi’s 31st birthday, as well as his Roland Garros main draw debut.

Sunday’s full schedule is here.

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Another Defeat For Iga Swiatek – Should Her Fans Start To Worry?

Iga Swiatek unexpectedly lost to Beatrice Haddad Maia in the quarter-finals of the National Bank Open in Toronto. This was the third defeat of the WTA world No.1 in a month and a half. Is there anything to worry about?

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Iga Swiatek - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Article written by Dominik Senkowski (@dsenkowski07)

 

It was an extremely close match played in difficult conditions. Swiatek lost to Beatrice Hadad Maia 4:6, 6:3, 5:7 in Toronto.

The Polish woman admitted that she could not deal with the strong wind, saying during her press conference “I think without the wind I would manage. But it was pretty crazy out there.”

Haddad Miai, who is the first Brazilian to reach the last eight of a WTA 1000 event, revealed that she also had problems with the weather.

”We have no influence on the weather, we have to deal with it somehow. I think mentally I managed to overcome it,” she said.

Three failures

This was the third defeat for Swiatek in a month and a half. She had been undefeated since February, winning six tournaments in a row, including a Roland Garros. After that, however, she did not reach the semi-finals even once. In Wimbledon she was eliminated in the third round by Alize Cornet and then in Warsaw in the quarter-finals by Caroline Garcia. Now she did not make it past Beatrice Hadad Maia in Toronto. Do fans of the Polish woman have anything to worry about?

Of course, Swiatek as the top seed should have played better against the Brazilian. However, it must be remembered that she is still only 21 years old and has the right to fluctuate in form. Even the best tennis players of recent years – Roger Federer, Serena Serena, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic – did not win all the games in their best time. Swiatek still has a phenomenal balance of 49 wins to 5 defeats this year. She is the undisputed leader of the WTA rankings and will probably end the year as number one in the world.

There is no doubt that the rivals are more motivated to clash with Iga. In addition, they increasingly believe that they are able to defeat her since Cornet, Garcia and Hadad Maia did it. But still, it all depends on Iga. If she improves her serve, she can be unstoppable again. Recently with Garcia and Hadad Maia, she had problems with the second serve. She must pay more attention to it.

Time for Iga

Time should play in favour of Swiatek. Before Toronto, she played exceptionally on clay courts in Warsaw in a tournament organized by her father Tomasz. Frequent changes of the surface from grass to clay and hard courts in 1.5 months are not easy at such a young age. In Poland Iga said that she had no experience with it, she was just learning. She continues to learn valuable lessons and still can be better. We should remember it.

It seems that in the coming days she will be training on hard courts. She could feel more confident and come stronger as in spring. In Warsaw Iga said that she treats the first tournament before the US Open swing less seriously. She was aware that she needed more playing time to get better results. Her increasing self-esteem makes her behave calmer, even after defeats. That is why she can return to the right path soon.

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Rafael Nadal Returns To Cincinnati With Shot At No.1 Ranking

This is what the king of clay has to do to reclaim the top position.

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ATP RAFAEL NADAL OF SPAIN - PHOTO: DIEGO SOUTO / MMO

It has been over a month since Rafael Nadal last played a match on the Tour but in the coming days, he will have a chance to return to the top of the ATP rankings.

 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion has been absent from action ever since pulling out of his semi-final match at Wimbledon due to an abdominal tear. He was set to play at this week’s National Bank Open in Montreal but withdrew after feeling a ‘slight bother’ in his abdominal region following training. Nadal decided not to play after consulting with his doctor.

Instead, the Spaniard will return next week at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. He confirmed his return in an Instagram post, where he wrote: “Very happy to play again in Cincy. Flying there tomorrow (Thursday).”

Whilst the Spaniard will be finding his feet in the coming days, in Cincinnati he has a chance to dethrone Daniil Medvedev from the world No.1 position. Medvedev lost his opening match in Montreal to Nick Kyrgios. To do this he would need to win the Masters 1000 event for the second time in his career and hope that Medvedev doesn’t make the quarter-finals. Nadal won Cincinnati back in 2013 after defeating John Isner in the final.

So far in his career, Nadal has spent 209 weeks as world No.1 with his longest streak being 56 weeks in a row (2010-2011). In total, he has been at the top of the rankings for eight separate periods and last held the position in February 2020.

Nadal’s No.1 stints
-Aug 18 2008 – Jul 5th 2009 (46 weeks)
-Jun 7 2010 – Jul 3rd 2011 (56 weeks)
-Oct 7th 2013 – Jul 6th 2014 (39 weeks)
-Aug 21 2017 – Feb 18 2018 (26 weeks)
-Apr 2nd 2018 – May 13th 2018 (6 weeks)
-May 21st 2018 – Jun 17th 2018 (4 weeks)
-Jun 25th 2018 – Nov 4th 2018 (19 weeks)
-Nov 4th 2019 – Feb 2nd 2020 (13 weeks)

At present nine out of the world’s top 10 players will participate in the Western and Southern Open. The only exception is Novak Djokovic who is currently banned from entering America because he isn’t vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Jack Draper Considered Skipping Montreal Masters Before Getting Biggest Win Of Career

The rising star completes a trio of British players who have booked their places in the third round of the Masters 1000 event.

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Image via https://twitter.com/OBNmontreal/

British qualifier Jack Draper says his decision to play in Montreal this week has paid off after he scored his first-ever win over a top 10 player on Wednesday.

 

The 20-year-old stunned world No.5 and third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 7-6(4), in what is only his fourth appearance in the main draw of a Masters 1000 event. Draper, who is currently ranked 82nd in the world, won 74% of his first service points and blasted 21 winners past his Greek rival. Recovering from a 1-3 deficit in the second set en route to a straight sets victory.

Leading up to this week, Draper and his team considered not playing in Montreal following his 6-4, 6-2, loss to Andrey Rublev in Washington. However, their decision to do so was the right one. After coming through two rounds of qualifying, he beat France’s Hugo Gaston in the first round before knocking out Tsitsipas.

“This is why I put in all the hard work, for nights like this on stages like this,” Draper said in an on-court interview. “Last week [after] Washington, me and my coach probably were thinking we weren’t even going to come here. We were going to maybe train a week, get a bit of confidence. But it paid off coming.”
“I didn’t really have much of a game plan. I just thought I needed to play good tennis to beat Stefanos. He’s at the top of the game for a reason. [He’s] someone I’ve looked up to the last few years. It’s just good to be out here and try to express myself on this stage.” He added.

Draper’s win comes during what has been a solid season for the Brit who has won four Challenger titles. A former top 10 junior player, he won his first main draw Grand Slam match in June at Wimbledon and reached the semi-finals of the Eastbourne International.

Awaiting the youngster in the third round will be French veteran Gael Monfils who is playing in his first tournament since May. Monfils defeated Maxime Cressy 7-6(10), 7-6(8).

Draper is one of three British players to have reached the last 16 in Montreal. Ninth seed Cameron Norrie will next play home favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime and Dan Evans faces Taylor Fritz.

According to the Pepperstone live ATP rankings, Draper will break into the world’s top 70 for the first time next week.

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