Roland Garros Daily Preview: Nadal and Djokovic Face Two Standout Italian Teenagers - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Featured

Roland Garros Daily Preview: Nadal and Djokovic Face Two Standout Italian Teenagers

Avatar

Published

on

Lorenzo Musetti is one of the sport’s fastest-rising stars (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

13-time champion Rafael Nadal will play 19-year-old Jannik Sinner, while 2016 champion Novak Djokovic takes on 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti.  A third “Big Three” versus Italy matchup was also scheduled for Monday, but Roger Federer’s unfortunate decision to withdraw has given Matteo Berrettini a walkover into the quarterfinals.

 

The only remaining French Open champion in women’s singles is defending champ Iga Swiatek, who will face 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk for the first time.  Last year’s runner-up, Sofia Kenin, will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who defeated Kenin earlier this year.  And 17-year-old Coco Gauff looks to reach her first Major quarterfinal, but 2020 Australian Open quarterfinal Ons Jabeur will not be an easy out.

Monday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time on all courts except Chatrier, which starts at 12:00pm.

Coco Gauff (24) vs. Ons Jabeur (25) – 12:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

This will be their fourth meeting in less than a year.  Two months ago on the green clay of Charleston, Jabeur defeated Gauff 6-3, 6-3.  Last September in Rome, Coco prevailed in straight sets.  And last August in Lexington, Coco prevailed in three sets.  Gauff has advanced extremely comfortably through three rounds, and received a retirement from Jen Brady after taking the first set on Saturday.  Jabeur dropped the second set of her third round match against Magda Linette by a score of 6-0, though recovered nicely to win in three.  Coco is now on an eight-match win streak, coming off a title run in Parma right before this fortnight.  However, other than an injured Brady, that run hasn’t included any victories over a top 30 player.  And Gauff continues to have some service woes, striking 14 double faults and only five aces through three rounds.  Jabeur is a fierce adversary, with a vast assortment of weapons in her game.  And she’s had an excellent clay court season, with a record of 13-3.  But on this day, the power, speed, and confidence of Gauff may be enough to reach her maiden Slam quarterfinal.  After a year of disappointing results at Majors, this feels like Coco’s time.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – Second on Court Philippe-Chatrier

This should be fun.  Musetti has quickly proven himself to be not only an elegant ball striker, but also a rugged competitor.  After upsetting David Goffin in the first round, he backed up that win with a thrilling five-set victory over fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato, who was a semifinalist here in 2018.  That was Musetti’s first-ever five-set match.  And I do not get the impression Lorenzo is the type of player to be overwhelmed by the momentous occasion of playing the 18-time Major champion in the biggest match of his career to date.  I expect Musetti to thoroughly challenge Djokovic, especially with his stellar one-handed backhand.  But unfortunately for the Italian, Novak is currently in top form.  Dating back to his title run two weeks ago in Belgrade, he’s claimed seven straight matches, and hasn’t been pushed beyond of a score of 6-4 in this tournament.  Djokovic has never lost in the fourth round of Roland Garros (14-0), and it would be quite surprising if that changed on Monday.

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Maria Sakkari (17) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

It was the first week of this season when Sakkari took out Kenin in Abu Dhabi, promptly winning the final 10 games of the match after going down a set and a break.  Their other two encounters both occurred in 2018, and both went to Kenin in three.  It’s been a rough year for Kenin, but she’s displayed a lot of heart and determination in advancing this far, particularly in a solid win over Jessica Pegula two days ago.  Sakkari was also involved in quite the tussle on Saturday, overcoming Elise Mertens after three hard-fought sets.  The 25-year-old is now looking to reach her first Major quarterfinal.  Kenin impressively struck 48 winners against Pegula, though Sakkari notched 53 against Mertens.  I’m interested to see which player can better assert their offensive game and control rallies, but movement and defense might be the deciding factor, especially on this surface.  I give the slight edge to Sakkari based on recent form.

Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Jannik Sinner – Not before 4:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

This is a rematch from last autumn’s quarterfinals at this event.  On that day, Sinner served for the first set, but failed to close it out, and was soundly defeated in straights.  When they met again a few weeks ago in Rome, it was a bit tighter, but Rafa won 7-5, 6-4.  Nadal has now claimed 32 consecutive sets at the French Open, dating back to the 2019 final.  However, I think that streak will come to an end at the hands of Sinner.  Jannik improved his form with each match last week, and seems poised to provide the King of Clay with a true test.  Of course, we’re talking about Rafael Nadal and Roland Garros, so predicting a Sinner upset would be careless.  But a four or five set battle feels completely plausible.

Iga Swiatek (8) vs. Marta Kostyuk – Not before 9:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Speaking of reigning Roland Garros champions who have forgotten how to lose sets in Paris, Swiatek has won her last 20.  And yesterday in doubles, she played one of the most intoxicating matches of the year, as her and partner Bethanie Mattek-Sands saved an astounding seven match points to overcome Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens after over three hours.  That surely drained considerable physical and emotional energy out of Iga, though she’s fully fit and should be rather fresh, especially with this match scheduled in the night session.  However, her opponent today could be quite challenging.  Kostyuk is making her debut at this stage of a Major, yet got here without dropping a set.  She’s a former Australian Open junior champion, and is close friends with Paula Badosa, who is also enjoying her breakout Slam.  After defeating an injured Garbine Muguruza in the first round, Marta will play for her second-career top 20 win.  The Ukranian seems to be on the verge of further success, though that may have to wait for another tournament.  The way Swiatek has been playing, I would not bet against her.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Barbora Krejcikova vs. Sloane Stephens – Like Swiatek, Krejcikova is still alive in both singles and doubles.  The 25-year-old has now reached two consecutive fourth rounds at the French Open.  Stephens has already taken out two other top Czech players: Karolina Pliskova and Karolina Muchova.  This is their first career meeting.

Diego Schwartzman (10) vs. Jan-Lennard Struff – Schwartzman has been dominant thus far, not dropping a set.  He’s vying for his third Roland Garros quarterfinal in four years.  Struff has never been farther than this round at a Major, but he’s got plenty of momentum, winning six straight sets since upsetting Andrey Rublev in the first round.  They’ve split two previous matches, with the clay clash going to Schwartzman.

Nicole Melichar and Demi Schurrs (3) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Rybakina – Melichar and Schurrs are two-time champions this season.  Pavlyuchenkova and Rybakina will face each other in the singles quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Monday’s full schedule is here.

Featured

[VIDEO] Merry Christmas from Ubitennis!

Our CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta sends his greetings to all the readers of ubitennis.net

Avatar

Published

on

By

From everybody at ubitennis.net, we want to send to our readers our Christmas greetings: thank you for your ever-growing support! Here’s a message from the website’s CEO, Ubaldo Scanagatta:

 

Continue Reading

Editorial

Cameron Norrie’s Surprise Win at Indian Wells Could Land Him a Well-Deserved ATP Finals Berth

As Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev disappointed, the Brit (along with Basilashvili, Dimitrov and Fritz) were ready to seize the day

Avatar

Published

on

Cameron Norrie ad Indian Wells 2021 (Credits: @BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

We have grown accustomed across the last bunch of decades to the most important tournaments in tennis being controlled by an elite cast of competitors. That has been the case not only at the Grand Slam events but also at the Masters 1000 showcase championships. While there has been a large degree of predictability associated with these prestigious gatherings of great players, that has been comforting for followers of the sport who have embraced familiarity.

 

And yet, every once in a while there is no harm when a big tournament produces startling results and a semifinal lineup that no one could have foreseen. That is precisely what happened this past week in the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California. For the first time at a Masters 1000, not a single player ranked among the top 25 in the world made it to the penultimate round. The semifinalists were none other than Great Britain’s Cam Norrie (No. 26), Grigor Dimitrov (No. 28), Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili (No. 36), and Taylor Fritz of the United States (No. 38). Their seedings were somewhat better because some top players did not compete at Indian Wells. Norrie was seeded No. 21, Basilashvili No. 29, Dimitrov No. 23 and Fritz No. 31.

These rankings and seedings were almost unimaginable, but all of these players deserved to be in the forefront. The left-handed Norrie took apart Dimitrov 6-2, 6-4 in the opening semifinal with surgical precision and uncanny ball control, and then Basilashvili followed with an overpowering 7-6(5) 6-3 performance in eclipsing Fritz. Here were four distinctive players displaying their collective talent proudly on the hard courts in California. Outside of Roger Federer, Dimitrov may well be the most elegant player of the past twenty years with his well crafted running forehand plus his spectacular and versatile one-handed backhand. Norrie is cagey, resourceful, disciplined and versatile. His forehand carries a significant amount of topspin and can bound up high while his two-handed backhand is fundamentally flat. His serve is strategically located and reliably precise. He is a tennis player’s tennis player.

Fritz combines considerable power with remarkable feel. He serves potently and places it awfully well. He is a constantly improving craftsman with a wide arsenal of shots. And Basilashvili is the biggest hitter in tennis, pounding the ball relentlessly off both sides, unleashing forehand winners from anywhere on the court almost at will, never backing off from his goal of blasting opponents off the court.

So all four semifinalists were worthy of getting that far. Moreover, it was fitting that Norrie and Basilashvili would square off in the final. Norrie has celebrated a stellar 2021 campaign. This was his sixth final of the season and he had already amassed 46 match wins coming into the final. Norrie has made immense strides as a match player all year long, and he was poised to put himself in this position. He is a masterful percentage player cut from a similar cloth to Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. Norrie measures his shots impeccably, giving himself an incessantly healthy margin for error, refusing to miss by being reckless or narrow minded.

Basilashvili is made of different stock. He had lost in the first round in five of six Masters 1000 events this season because he misses so much with his risky shots. When he gets on a roll, Basilashvili is an exceedingly dangerous player who can make the most difficult shots look easy. But he can also beat himself and is often his own worst enemy with his obstinacy. Basilashvili lost his last nine matches of 2020. Norrie is at the opposite end of the spectrum with his consistency and methodology, understanding his limitations, always obeying the laws of percentage tennis.

The contrasting styles of the two finalists made it an intriguing confrontation. But, in the end, Norrie withstood a barrage of big hitting from Basilashvili, refused to get rattled by the explosive shotmaking of his adversary, and ultimately prevailed 3-6 6-4 6-1 to claim the most important title of his career. It was a fascinating final in many ways as Norrie opened up an early lead before Basilashvili found his range, but then the British competitor reasserted himself over the last set-and-a-half with cunning play down the stretch as the wind force increased and Basilashvili faltered flagrantly.

Nikoloz Basilashvili – Indian Wells 2021 (foto Twitter @BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Norrie moved ahead 3-1 in the opening set but then the Georgian held easily and broke back for 3-3 on a double fault from the British No. 1. Basilashvili promptly held for 4-3 at love. He had won three consecutive games, and clearly the complexion of the set was changing significantly. Norrie realized he was in jeopardy but was unable to halt Basilashvili’s momentum. The British competitor was broken again in the eighth game as Basilashvili released two outright winners. On break point an angled forehand crosscourt from the Russian coaxed an error from his left-handed adversary. Serving for the set at 5-3, Basilashvili was totally composed and confident. He held at love with an ace for 40-0 and then a dazzling forehand down the line winner.

Not only had Basilashvili taken the set on a run of five consecutive games, but he had also swept 20 of 25 points in that spectacular span. When Basilashvili broke for a 2-1 second set lead, he seemed entirely capable of driving his way to victory behind an avalanche of blazing winners. But Norrie refused to lose optimism. Basilashvili suddenly lost both his range and his rhythm off the ground, particularly on his signature forehand side. Four unforced errors off that flank cost him the fourth game and allowed Norrie back on serve.

But Basilashvili was persistent, working his way through a couple of arduous service games on his way to 4-4. Nevertheless,  Norrie was unswayed by his opponent’s fighting spirit. The British player held at love for 5-4 in that pivotal second set with a drop shot winner and then broke at love to seal the set with his finest tennis of the afternoon. On the first point of the tenth game, Norrie lobbed over Basilashvili into the corner and took the net away from his opponent. Although Basilashvili chased that ball down, turned and unleashed a potent backhand crosscourt pass that came over low, Norrie was ready, making a difficult forehand drop volley winner that had the California crowd gasping. On the next point, Norrie released a scintillating backhand passing shot winner down the line. Consecutive forehand mistakes from a shaken Basilashvili allowed Norrie to break at love to salvage the set 6-4 on a run of eight points in a row.

The left-hander was in command now, taking the first two games of the third set confidently. He then trailed 0-40 in the third game. But Norrie responded to this precarious moment commendably, collecting five points in a row to hold on for 3-0, demoralizing Basilashvili in the process. Basilashvili self destructed at this critical juncture of the match, giving all five points away with a cluster of errors. But Norrie was also outstanding on defense in that stretch.

The match was essentially over. Although Basilashvili fended off a break point in the fourth game of that third set, Norrie sedulously protected his lead thereafter, capturing 12 of 16 points and three consecutive games to close out the account with a flourish. From 4-4 in the second set, Norrie had won eight of the last nine games and his first Masters 1000 crown. Norrie started the year at No. 71 in the world but now stands deservedly at No. 16 following his astonishing triumph at Indian Wells. It was a job awfully well done, and he was a worthy winner in the end.

But I must add that the three top seeds at Indian Wells all failed to perform up to their expectations. Let’s start with Medvedev, the top seed in the absence of Djokovic. He confronted Dimitrov in the round of 16 and was leading 6-4, 4-1. Medvedev was up two service breaks in that second set. He seemed certain to prevail but performed abysmally thereafter. At 4-1, he opened the sixth game with a double fault and then double faulted again at 15-40. Dimitrov held easily in the seventh game and then Medvedev was broken in the eight game after missing five out of six first serves.

Now Dimitrov held at love and then Medvedev started the tenth game of the second set with another double fault. He lost his serve for the third time in a row and thus conceded the set 6-4 after dropping five consecutive games and 20 of 26 points. Medvedev missed 15 of 17 first serves at the end of that pendulum swinging set.

Dimitrov raced to 3-0 in the third, later advanced to 5-1, and eventually came through 4-6 6-4 6-3 as Medvedev imploded. To be sure, Dimitrov was magnificent in many ways, particularly with his running forehand. But Medvedev was his own worst enemy and his attitude was reminiscent of the man we witnessed in years gone by who was often mercurial. He was infuriated with himself and his situation, competing irregularly, smashing his racquet, advertising his vulnerability.

Grigor Dimitrov – Indian Wells 2021 (foto Twitter @BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Meanwhile, No.2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas wanted to reignite his game after losing early at the US Open, but the Greek stylist struggled inordinately in every match he played before Basilashvili ousted him 6-4 2-6 6-4 in the Indian Wells quarterfinals. Tsitsipas was trying to manufacture some emotions that simply were not there. He was out of sorts and off his game. At 3-3 in the final set, down break point, fighting hard but playing poorly, Tsitsipas double faulted and never really recovered. It may take him quite some time to recover his best form after a debilitating year.

And what of Sascha Zverev? Here was a man who had won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in August and then secured the Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati. He lost to Djokovic in the semifinals of the US Open but seemed to be ready to take the title at Indian Wells after reaching the quarterfinals. But Zverev wasted a 5-2 final set lead against Fritz.

Zverev had a match point in the eighth game on Fritz’s serve that the American saved stupendously. Zverev had sent a deep crosscourt forehand into the corner that seemed unanswerable but Fritz took it early on the half volley and flicked it down the line to rush Zverev into an error. In the following game, serving for the match at 5-3, Zverev double faulted at 30-15 but still advanced to 40-30 with a second match point at his disposal. Once more, he double faulted. In the end, after Zverev served another damaging double fault on the first point of the final set tie-break, Fritz succeeded 4-6 6-3 7-6(3).

Zverev had no reason to be embarrassed about losing to a first-rate Fritz, but nonetheless the German should have been dismayed by those crucial double faults. He said afterwards that he felt he was the clear tournament favorite after Tsitsipas had lost earlier that day, but why didn’t he play with more conviction when it counted against Fritz? Was Zverev getting ahead of himself by thinking about winning the tournament when he was still trying to succeed in his quarterfinal? I have a feeling that was the case. He is too seasoned a campaigner to allow that to happen at this stage of his career. I thought Zverev was more professional than that.

Undoubtedly the unexpected setbacks suffered by Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev opened a window for Norrie to see his way through to a career defining triumph, but that takes nothing away from his success. Cam Norrie is now at No.10 in the Race to Turin for the ATP Finals, and Rafael Nadal is out for the year. So the British lefty could well qualify for that élite season ending event which is reserved for only the top eight players in the world. After his uplifting victory at Indian Wells, only a fool would doubt that Norrie will very likely be in the field at Turin, which is no mean feat.

___________________________________________________________________________

Steve Flink has been reporting full time on tennis since 1974, when he went to work for World Tennis Magazine. He stayed at that publication until 1991. He wrote for Tennis Week Magazine from 1992-2007, and has been a columnist for tennis.com and tennischannel.com for the past 14 years. Flink has written four books on tennis including “Dennis Ralston’s Tennis Workbook” in 1987; “The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century” in 1999; “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” in 2012; and “Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited”. The Sampras book was released in September of 2020 and can be purchased on Amazon.com. Flink was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017.

Continue Reading

Featured

Indian Wells Daily Preview: 2019 Finalists Andreescu and Kerber Face Stiff Competition

Avatar

Published

on

Bianca Andreescu is the defending champion of this event (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

Monday hosts some stellar third round matchups in both the men’s and women’s singles draws.  10 of the days’ 16 singles matches feature seeded players colliding.  They include 2019 champion Bianca Andreescu, three-time Major champ Angelique Kerber, and newly-crowned US Open champ Daniil Medvedev.

 

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

Angelique Kerber (10) vs. Daria Kasatkina (20) – 11:00am on Stadium 2

It’s the 2018 runner-up against the 2019 runner-up.  Both players submitted subpar results thereafter, but have bounced back strongly in 2021.  Kasatkina started the year ranked outside the top 70, yet is now inside the top 30 after racking up 36 wins and reaching four finals.  Kerber rediscovered her mojo on the grass.  Since her title run in Bad Homburg, she’s 18-4.  These two players have split eight previous encounters, though Kasatkina leads 4-2 on hard courts.  Most recently they met two years ago in Tororto, where Daria prevailed 6-4 in the third.  Their clash of styles on these slow courts should provide some dynamic, compelling rallies.  But based on Kerber’s current level of confidence, I give her the slight edge.

Bianca Andreescu (16) vs. Anett Kontaveit (18) – Second on Stadium 2

Andreescu may be the defending champion and higher seed, but as of late, Kontaveit has been the better player.  She recently hired Dmitry Tursunov as her coach, and she’s been on fire.  Since late-August, Anett is 14-1, with two titles.  By contrast, Andreescu is only 6-8 since Roland Garros, with the US Open the only event where she has won back-to-back matches.  However, Kontaveit did withdraw from a WTA event in Chicago two weeks ago with a thigh injury, so she’s not been 100% after playing so much tennis in such a short span.  Bianca rarely goes down without a dogged fight, especially at big events on hard courts, but she may be the underdog on this day.  And she’s never beaten Kontaveit, who is 2-0 against Andreescu, including a straight-set victory earlier this year on the grass of Eastbourne.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Diego Schwartzman (11) vs. Dan Evans (18) – Schwartzman saved match points on Saturday against American Maxime Cressy, while Evans survived a grueling three-setter against Kei Nishikori.  Two months ago in Cincinnati, Diego defeated Dan in three.

Casper Ruud (8) vs. Lloyd Harris (26) – Ruud leads the ATP with five titles this season, winning his first hard court event just eight days ago in San Diego by defeating three top 30 players.  Harris is on the verge of breaking into the top 30 himself, coming off his Major quarterfinal debut in New York. 

Reilly Opelka (16) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (23) – This summer in Canada, Opelka took out Dimitrov in straight sets, though these slower courts will mitigate some of his Servebot prowess.

Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (2) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek – These teams played what was perhaps the most exciting doubles match of the year at Roland Garros, when Mattek-Sands and Swiatek saved seven match points to eventually prevail after three hours and 11 minutes.

Ons Jabeur (12) vs. Danielle Collins (22) – These are two of the WTA’s strongest performers in recent months.  Last October at the French Open, Collins upset Jabeur 6-4 in the third.

Denis Shapovalov (9) vs. Aslan Karatsev (19) – Since advancing to his first Slam semifinal at Wimbledon, Shapovalov is a meek 4-6.  Karatsev achieved the same feat back in February, but is now 8-11 since mid-May. 

Coco Gauff (15) vs. Paula Badosa (21) – This could be one of the best matches of the day, between two of the WTA’s fastest-rising performers.  Gauff is just a few wins away from putting herself into qualifying position for the WTA Finals.

Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Tiafoe leads their head-to-head 2-1, though Hurkacz claimed their latest clash, two years ago in Winston-Salem.

Roberto Bautista Agut (15) vs. Cameron Norrie (21) – Norrie has accumulated 42 wins on the year, reaching five finals.  Bautista Agut has underperformed this season, and hasn’t achieved a final since March.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Filip Krajinovic (27) – Medvedev is looking for his 50th win of 2021, while Krajinovic arrived at Indian Wells with a record of 17-17.  However, he did defeat Daniil at the last staging of this event two years ago.

Barbora Krejcikova (3) vs. Amanda Anisimova – Krejcikova is one of many players who have shared how exhausted they’ve felt after such a busy season, though it’s been an incredibly successful one for her.  Anisimova dropped only seven games in four sets played last week.

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending