Wimbledon Daily Preview: The Championships Commence for the First Time in Two Years - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Daily Preview: The Championships Commence for the First Time in Two Years

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Centre Court, Wimbledon (twitter.com/Wimbledon)

With the cancellation of last year’s Wimbledon, 2019’s defending gentlemen’s singles champion Novak Djokovic has waited two years for the privilege of opening play on the pristine grass of Centre Court.  Djokovic is playing for a lot of history this fortnight: he is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, and is vying for his 20th Major overall, which would tie him with both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  Unfortunately, the defending ladies’ champion, Simona Halep, will miss her second straight Major due to a calf injury.  She is joined on the sidelines by Nadal, Naomi Osaka, and Dominic Thiem.

 

The top half of the men’s singles draw plays on Monday, featuring Djokovic, fellow Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, and two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.  Monday hosts the bottom half of the women’s draw, which includes eight Major singles champions.  Two of those Slam winners will meet in the opening round: two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.

Each day of the fortnight, this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule.   Monday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time on all outer courts, 1:00pm on No.1 Court, and 1:30pm on Centre Court

Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Monica Niculescu (Q) – 1:00pm on No.1 Court

Sabalenka has earned the second seeding based on her results outside the Majors, but the 23-year-old is yet to advance beyond the round of 16 at a Slam.  She’s just 1-3 lifetime at SW19, and went 2-2 this month in grass court lead-up events.  Niculsecu is a 33-year-old from Romania who reached the fourth round of The Championship in 2015, and has been ranked as high as No.28 in the world.  Monica is now barely inside the top 200, and started this season on an eight-match losing streak at all levels.  However, Niculescu won an ITF event on grass two years ago, and has won six grass court matches at all levels over the last two weeks.  Her unconventional style, which includes plenty of slice forehands, will serve as a fascinating contrast to the power game of Sabalenka.  Their only previous encounter occurred three years ago in Shenzhen, and went to Aryna in straight sets.  Sabalenka remains a slight favorite to prevail again today, though on this surface, Niculescu is a tricky first round draw.

Petra Kvitova (10) vs. Sloane Stephens – Second on Centre Court

This is a tough draw for both these players.  It’s hard to believe it was now 10 years ago when Kvitova won her first of two Wimbledon titles, while Stephens’ sole Major triumph came four years ago in New York.  Both women have overcome more than their fair share of struggles in recent years.  Kvitova’s comeback from an in-home invasion is one of tennis’ most inspiring stories, and just a few weeks ago at Roland Garros, she was forced to withdraw after injuring her ankle while walking down stairs on site.  Meanwhile, Stephens lost multiple members of her family this past year to COVID-19.  Sloane lost seven of her first eight matches in 2020, but gained some momentum this season with 11 wins on clay.  And she leads the head-to-head against Kvitova 2-1.  However, all three of those matches were contested on hard courts.  On the lawns of The All-England Club, the two-time champion’s lefty serve and forehand should enable her to even their head-to-head at 2-2.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Second on No.1 Court

This will be Tsistipas’ first match since his emotional loss to Djokovic in the French Open final, where he couldn’t close out the match despite winning the first two sets.  After the match, he revealed his grandmother had passed away just minutes before his first Major final.  It would be understandable if Stefanos is not 100% emotionally or physically just two weeks later, though he’s displayed his ability to bounce back quickly from devastating losses several times in his young career.  Tiafoe is a dangerous first round opponent.  The 24-year-old American won a Challenger title on grass earlier this month in Nottingham.  But he’s 0-2 against Tsitsipas, having yet to claim a set.  And notwithstanding the recent heartbreak Stefanos has endured, he is in the midst of a stellar season, with a record of 39-9.  He’ll likely secure his 40th win on Monday.

Nikoloz Basilashvilli (24) vs. Andy Murray (WC) – Third on Centre Court

Since a hobbled Andy Murray lost in the 2017 Wimbledon quarterfinals to Sam Querrey, he’s only played 40 matches.  That was the last time Murray played a singles match at The Championships.  Multiple hip surgeries, as well as a groin injury and a positive COVID-19 test, have largely kept him off the court.  After defeating Benoit Paire in the opening round of Queen’s Club this month, Andy became quite emotional, as he described how thankful he is just to be competing again.  Monday will be his first time facing 29-year-old Basilashvilli, who can be an extremely streaky player.  Nikoloz has already earned two titles this season, yet has a losing record in 2021 outside of those two weeks.  He can bludgeon the ball, which leads to high winner and unforced error tallies.  Centre Court feels like home to Murray, and while he’s far from fully match tough, especially in the best-of-five format, he’ll be fully inspired to grit his way to victory.

Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Su-Wei Hsieh – Third on No.1 Court

This should be a highly entertaining affair between two of the sport’s most fun players to watch.  We have seen Swiatek excel on clay the last two seasons, but is the 20-year-old ready to succeed on grass?  She’s one of many younger players whose progress on grass has been impeded by the cancellation of all grass events last year.  Swiatek is only 0-1 at Wimbledon, and just 1-3 lifetime on this surface.  After winning the first set last week over Daria Kasatkina, she dropped 12 of the last 13 games to lose in three.  Hsieh is an unorthodox opponent who has made a name for herself by taking out top players at Majors.  In 2018, she upset Garbine Muguruza in Melbourne, and just six months later, defeated top-seeded Simona Halep on this very court.  At this year’s Australian Open, she achieved her first Major quarterfinal in singles.  But after that feat, she didn’t play for nearly three months, and has lost her last four matches.  Last October at Roland Garros, Iga beat Su-Wei in straight sets.  This surface could make today’s meeting much more complicated, but the eventual outcome should be the same considering Hsieh has not won a main-draw match since February.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Jack Draper (WC) – The five-time champ will be a heavy favorite against the 19-year-old British wild card, though it’s always worth watching the first match of the fortnight on Centre Court.

Alex de Minaur (15) vs. Sebastian Korda – De Minaur won the fifth title of his career just two days ago in Eastbourne.  20-year-old Korda is a strong American prospect who reached the quarterfinals of Halle with wins over Roberto Bautista Agut and Kei Nishikori.  This is the first of what will likely be many matches between these two rising stars.

Garbine Muguruza (11) vs. Fiona Ferro – The 2017 champion had a great start to this season before injuries set her back.  Ferro is a 24-year-old Frenchwoman who reached the second week of Roland Garros last fall.  Three years ago at the French, Muguruza defeated Ferro 6-4, 6-3.

Karolina Pliskova (8) vs. Tamara Zidansek – Pliskova is in a bit of a slump, with a 15-12 record in 2021, and an 0-2 record on grass.  Zidanzek was a surprising semifinalist a few weeks ago in Paris, who is just 2-2 lifetime on this surface.

Denis Shapovalov (10) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber – Shapovalov is 1-3 thus far at Wimbledon, while the 37-year-old German was a quarterfinalist here nine years ago.  This is their first career meeting.

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Xinyu Wang (Q) – The 2020 Australian Open champ has reached Major finals on both hard and clay courts.  She’s 2-2 at Wimbledon, though notably claimed a grass court title at the 2019 Mallorca Open.  Her opponent is a 19-year-old from China who has never won a match at a Slam.

Mihaela Buzarnescu vs. Venus Williams – Since the tour restart last summer, Venus is only 3-12, and is currently on a six-match losing streak.  A few weeks ago in Paris, Buzarnescu pushed her sister Serena to three sets.  And two years ago in Melbourne, Venus also overcame Buzarnescu in three sets.

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Emma Raducanu Looking For Experience After Splitting With Coach

Emma Raducanu revealed her post-US Open plans as she prepares for life on the main WTA tour.

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Emma Raducanu (@CambridgeAwe - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu is looking for more experience in her team after splitting from her short-term coach Andrew Richardson.

 

The US Open champion revealed the news at the ‘homecoming party’ set up at the National Tennis Centre in London where the Duchess of Cambridge was present.

Speaking at the event Raducanu said that she needed more experience as she will now play on the main tour on a regular basis, “At this stage of my career I really need someone that has had that WTA Tour experience at that high level,” Raducanu was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“Especially right now as I’m so new to it, I think I really need someone just to guide me who has already been through that themselves. “Never did I even dream of winning the US Open and now I’m ranked 22 in the world, which is pretty crazy to me.”

Richardson was always a short-term arrangement with him now committed to improving his 10 year-old son.

As for Raducanu she is now 22 in the world and faces unfamiliar territory in playing a full-time schedule.

After winning the US Open as a qualifier, Raducanu has received unlimited amount of attention and expectation which is something she will need guidance with.

Now Raducanu will set out a schedule in the next few days with the Brit set to return as early as Indian Wells which starts on the 6th of October, “I got back on court a few days ago, and yesterday I did a full training day,” she explained.

“I was feeling pretty good about myself and my game, and I am very excited to compete again. All the opportunities I am getting have been very fun, but where I really want to be is on the tennis court, as I’m just thriving out there.

“I haven’t decided on my schedule yet – I will decide in the next few days where I am going to go to – but wherever I play next, I’m going to make sure I’m ready. I don’t want to jump into things too early.”

Should the 18 year-old make a strong end to the season then she could make the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.

Although she is 14th in the race, players such as Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka could miss the event and it’s something that is on the back of the mind of Raducanu, “The WTA Finals I would never even dream of before, because it was just so far out of reach and out of sight, but coming reasonably close to it now, I think it would be great if I qualified,” she admitted.

“But if not, it’s a complete bonus, because my priority is just putting in the best possible pre-season that I can, so I can start strong next year and next season.”

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Berrettini pulls off comeback win over Auger Aliassime at Laver Cup

Matteo Berrettini contributed to a 3-1 overall scoreline for Team Europe over Team World after day one of the Laver Cup.

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Matteo Berrettini (@LaverCup - Twitter)

The Italian fought back from a set down to beat the Canadian and give team Europe a commanding lead.

 

In the longest match in Laver Cup history so far Matteo Berrettini needed a match tiebreak to beat the world number 11 and good friend Felix Auger Aliassime 6-7, 7-5, 10-8 in a match that lasted two hours and 52 minutes.

The Italian hit 15 winners and served seven aces while the Montreal native hit 37 unforced errors in the loss.

“I was fighting and I felt the match was really hard and Felix (Auger-Aliassime) was playing well and he didn’t give me anything and he made no mistakes and he was serving really well and I felt a different energy because we are playing for a team, not just myself and they helped me a lot”.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Italian with the first two breakpoints of the match but the Canadian was able to save both and hold serve.

The next game was a rollercoaster and the Montreal native responded by earning four chances to break and after 13 minutes finally made the breakthrough to take a 4-2 lead.

At 5-3, the world number 11 found himself with two set points but failed to convert and the Italian fought back and got the break back and at 6-5 the Canadian had five more set points but again the Italian saved all five and the set was decided by a tiebreaker.

Auger Aliassime got the early break to take a 2-0 lead and that break was enough for him to finally serve out the first set and take a 1-0 set lead. The world number seven was keen to bounce back and had two early chances to break at 1-1 but the Canadian saved both and held serve once again.

The very next game it was the Montreal native turn to apply the pressure on the Berrettini serve but the Italian managed to save both breakpoints he faced and held serve.

At 5-5, the Canadian kept pushing earning two more break points but couldn’t get the breakthrough, and the very next game the Rome native pounced and managed to get the crucial break to win the second set and force a match tiebreak.

The breaker was extremely tight until 3-3 when the Canadian managed to get the break and jumped out to a 5-3 lead before losing two straight points and the breaker was even at five.

Once again the world number 11 got the break again and was up 7-5 but again lost two straight points and we were even at seven and then at 9-8 Berrettini with the rally of the match sealed the win with a great passing shot.

After the match in his post-match interview, the Italian was asked about being selected to play doubles in the night session.

“I am going to be honest when they told me I would be playing singles and doubles I didn’t expect to play a match that long so I spoke with the captain and we will see but I am still young”.

Day 1 results

Casper Ruud got the ball rolling for Team Europe as he beat the American Rielly Opelka in the first match of the day in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 to give his team the first point of the tournament.

In the first match of the night session Andrey Rublev gave Team Europe a convincing 3-0 lead as he came back to beat the Argentine Diego Schwartzman 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 in the match tiebreaker.

Finally in the last match of the day Team World got their first point as the duo of John Isner and Denis Shapovalov came back from a set down to beat the doubles pairing of Matteo Berrettini and Alexander Zverev 4-6, 7-6, 10-1.

Day 2 preview:

Day 2 features some amazing matchups in both the day and night session with Stefanos Tsitsipas starting the day against the Aussie Nick Krygios before John Isner takes on Alexander Zverev.

In the night session Denis Shapovalov takes on the US Open champion from Russia Danil Medvedev with another doubles match wrapping things up as the team of Andrey Rublev and Tsitispas will take on John Isner and Nick Kyrgios.

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ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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