Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova Play for Gold - UBITENNIS
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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova Play for Gold

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Belinda Bencic was understandably quite emotional after her semifinal win on Thursday (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

The women’s singles gold medal match headlines Saturday’s schedule, featuring two surprising finalists.  Prior to this event, both Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova had almost as many losses on the year as wins, and no titles between them.  But on Saturday, they will compete for the biggest win of their careers.

Day 8 at the Ariake Tennis Park also includes four bronze medal matches.  For the fourth day in a row, Novak Djokvoic will play twice.  In men’s singles, he faces Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.  In mixed doubles, the men’s singles No.1 will be across the court from the women’s singles No.1, Ash Barty.  And the bronze medalists will also be decided in women’s singles and doubles.  Bronze medal matches at the Olympic Games often provide some of the most emotional moments of the year, as the losers leave Tokyo with no hardware whatsoever.

Saturday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time, and it is forecast to be another toasty day in Tokyo.

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (6) [ESP] – 3:00pm on Centre Court

This is the third time out of the last four Olympics that Djokovic finds himself in the men’s singles bronze medal match.  13 years ago in Beijing, Novak defeated James Blake to win the bronze.  Nine years ago in London, he lost to Juan Martin Del Potro, and walked away empty-handed.  On Saturday in Tokyo, he faces a player he is 4-1 against, with his only loss coming in the form of his shocking default at last summer’s US Open.  That was the day Djokovic struck a ball in anger after losing the 11th game of the first set, which hit a lines judge in the throat.  If not for that error in judgment, Novak might already own 21 Major titles.  He avenged that embarrassing loss to Carreno Busta a month later in Paris, defeating the Spaniard in the fall version of Roland Garros.  Outside of the 2020 US Open, their only hard court encounter was a year earlier in Cincinnati, which Djokovic won in straight sets. 

Novak was remarkably despondent after suffering two losses on Friday, especially after failing to close out Sascha Zverev despite being up a set and a break.  He played some lackluster tennis in the second half of that semifinal, and he will not enjoy playing at 3:00pm on Saturday, the hottest part of the day.  But he is still a favorite to win his second bronze medal in men’s singles, as there’s nothing on court Carreno Busta does especially better than Djokovic.  Novak should be able to control his destiny on this day.

Belinda Bencic (9) [SUI] vs. Marketa Vondrousova [CZE] – Third on Centre Court

This should be a highly-compelling battle, between two players who utilize the variety in their games extremely well.  Their only previous meeting took place earlier this year on a hard court in Miami, with Vondrousova prevailing 6-4 in the third.  The 22-year-old Czech was a shocking finalist two years ago at the French Open.  She was sidelined by injury for about six months shortly thereafter, and didn’t fully rediscover that form until this past week.  She only possesses one career WTA title, which came over four years ago at a WTA 250 event in Switzerland, Bencic’s home country. 

24-year-old Belinda has endured plenty of injury setbacks in her career, but is the more accomplished player with four career titles, all of them at either the 500 or 1000 level.  Her backhand may be the best shot on the court, but Vondrousova’s lefty serve, paired with frequent drop shots, have proven to be a dangerous combination throughout this event.  In her last eight sets played, no opponent has won more than four games.  And those opponents include two top four seeds: Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina.  Bencic has survived much tighter battles to this stage, claiming a trio of consecutive three-setters. 

Between her victories over Osaka and Svitolina, Vondrousova averaged 77% of first serve points won.  If she can maintain that against Bencic, she’ll be hard to overcome.  But with a gold medal in the balance, Belinda’s experience edge in big matches should prove crucial.  And she has previous success representing her country, as she won back-to-back Hopman Cups alongside Roger Federer.  Belinda Bencic is the favorite to stand atop the medal podium on Saturday night in Tokyo.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Elina Svitolina (4) [UKR] vs. Elena Rybakina (15) [KAZ] – They have split their two previous matches, though neither were on a hard court.  While this is not exactly a tournament final, it’s worth noting Svitolina is 15-3 lifetime in career finals, which is a lot different than Rybakina’s record of 2-5, with her most recent loss in a final coming at the hands of Svitolina.

Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina [ROC] vs. Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani [BRA] – Kudermetova and Vesnina were narrowly defeated in the Wimbledon final 9-7 in the third, and lost another close match in Thursday’s semifinals, decided by a 10-point tiebreak.  Pigossi and Stefani do not usually team together, but they saved four match points in their second round matchup.

Ash Barty and John Peers [AUS] vs. Nina Stojanovic and Novak Djokovic [SRB] – It is an extremely rare occasion for both the men’s and women’s No.1’s, as well as the reigning Wimbledon champions, to share a court.  Barty and Peers are the far more experienced doubles players, though Djokovic will surely play some inspired tennis as he tries to win another medal for Serbia.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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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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Rafael Nadal Set For Opening Round Test Against Cobolli In Barcelona

Rafael Nadal will look to make his ATP tour return in Barcelona this week.

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Rafael Nadal is set for his return to tennis in Barcelona as he has been drawn against Flavio Cobolli in the opening round.

Nadal has been struggling with injury after being injured again in Brisbane this year.

The tournament in Brisbane was his first tournament back for a year as he suffered a hip injury at the Australian Open last year.

Now Nadal aims to return to competitive action in Barcelona as he has been drawn against Flavio Cobolli in the opening round.

Speaking earlier in the week Nadal was hopeful of a return to the tour in Barcelona, “Excited to be here for a few days before the start of the tournament,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“I’m here to see how it goes… can’t wait to try and play. I’ll let you know. Important to say that I don’t want to confirm I’ll be playing, but I hope so. We’ll see.”

Should Nadal play and win his opening round match then the Spaniard will play fourth seed Alex De Minaur in the second round.

The former world number one has won the title on 12 different occasions but hasn’t won the title since 2021.

Elsewhere in the draw defending champion Carlos Alcaraz will begin against Luca Van Assche or Zhizhen Zhang with the Spaniard projected to meet Borna Coric in the third round.

Alcaraz suffered an injury in Monte-Carlo and will be beginning his clay court campaign in Barcelona.

Also in action in Barcelona are Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud.

Main draw action will begin on Monday.

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