Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Djokovic, Barty, Nishikori Among Players Pulling Double Duty - UBITENNIS
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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Djokovic, Barty, Nishikori Among Players Pulling Double Duty

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Ash Barty practicing in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

Wednesday’s schedule provides one of the best days of tennis you’ll see all year.  And as far as doubles is concerned, the best you’ll likely see until the next Olympic Games.  The mixed doubles event begins on Wednesday, featuring many players still alive in other disciplines.  Mixed doubles and men’s singles will play their round of 16 matches on Wednesday, while women’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles will play their quarterfinals.  With all remaining players in all five draws competing, the 28th of July boasts 28 critical matchups throughout the day, just 48 hours before medals will begin to be rewarded.

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Daniil Medvedev (2) [ROC] vs. Fabio Fognini (15) [ITL] – 11:00am on Centre Court

Despite their lopsided Australian Open final earlier this year, Medvedev may be the player most likely to prevent Djokovic from winning the gold medal in men’s singles.  But they would not meet in the draw until the gold or bronze medal match.  And Medvedev first needs to deal with Fognini, who has plenty of experience upsetting top players.  As per Tennis Abstract, Fabio owns 15 top 10 victories in his career, with four of them notably over Rafael Nadal.  However, he’s now lost 12 of his last 13 matches against the top 10, dating back to over two years ago.  And unlike clay and grass, Medvedev is fully comfortable on a hard court.  Since November of last year, Daniil is a formidable 27-3 on this surface.  And he is yet to drop a set through two rounds.  All four of their prior meetings occurred on hard courts.  The Italian took their first encounter, four years ago in Cincinnati.  However, the Russian has claimed their last three, though two of them went to a deciding set.  Representing one’s country can often yield unexpected results, as we’ve already seen in this event.  But on a hard court, Medvedev is a solid favorite to reach the quarterfinals.

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Ash Barty and Storm Sanders – 1:00pm on Court 6

This is a women’s doubles quarterfinal featuring the last two women’s singles Major champions.  Krejcikova and Siniakova are also three-time Slam champs in doubles, most recently winning Roland Garros.  Barty has actually reached six Major finals in doubles, though she’s only prevailed in one: the 2018 US Open, with partner CoCo Vandeweghe.  In the semifinals of that event, Barty and Vandewedge dismissed Krejickova and Siniakova in straight sets.  That was one of three victories in 2018 for Ash and CoCo over the Czech team.  A year later, the team of Barty and Victoria Azarenka went 2-1 against them.  In singles, Ash and Barbora just met a few weeks ago in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, with the Australian prevailing in straight sets.  Before Tuesday, that was Krejcikova’s only singles loss since the second week of May.  Barty and Sanders are good friends, but they are not an established team, as they regularly play with other partners.  The experience edge is decidedly with Krejcikova and Siniakova, who are 27-6 this year alone, with three titles.  As motivated as Barty is to win a medal for Australia, especially after her loss in singles, the top seeds in women’s doubles remain the favorites.  Regardless, Barty still has another chance for a medal, as she’s also in the mixed doubles draw with John Peers.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Belinda Bencic (9) [SUI] vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (13) [ROC] – It was Bencic who took out Krejcikova in singles on Tuesday.  Now she faces this year’s other French Open finalist, who has only allowed opponents seven games through six sets thus far.  Bencic leads their head-to-head 4-2, but they’re 2-2 on hard courts, with Pavlyuchenkova prevailing most recently, a year ago in Dubai.

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (16) [ESP] – Djokovic is now 36-3 on the year, and 11-0 on hard courts.  The 22-year-old Spaniard reached the quarterfinals of Roland Garros last month, but when he played Djokovic a month earlier in Rome, earned only three games.  Djokovic will also play mixed doubles later in the day, with partner Nina Stojanovic.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (1) [CRO] vs. Ben McLachlan and Kei Nishikori [JPN] – Mektic and Pavic are now an absurd 50-5 this season, with eight titles.  McLachlan and Nishikori lost their only previous match this year as a team, though they didn’t drop a set in their first two rounds.  Kei will also play Ilya Ivashka of Belarus in singles earlier in the day.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) [GRE] vs. Ugo Humbert (14) [FRA] – Last year at the Paris Masters, their match was decided by three tiebreaks, with the final and decisive one going to the Frenchman.  Humbert has now won three titles over the past 18 months, though all on faster surfaces than this.  Also on Wednesday, Tsitsipas will team with Maria Sakkari against Gabriela Dabrowski and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Garbine Muguruza (7) [ESP] vs. Elena Rybakina (15) [KAZ] – This will be a slugfest between two of the WTA’s hardest hitters.  Last month on the grass of Berlin, Muguruza defeated Rybakina in straight sets.

Diego Schwartzman (8) [ARG] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – This could be one of the most competitive and compelling matches on the day.  Schwartzman has nabbed two of their three prior matches, all on hard courts. 

Paula Badosa [ESP] vs. Marketa Vondrousova [CZE] – Both players upset favorites to win this event: Badosa took out Iga Swiatek, while Vondrousova ousted Naomi Osaka.  Swiatek will get a rematch with Badosa in mixed doubles, as she teams with Lukasz Kubot against Badosa and Pablo Carreno Busta.

Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig [CRO] vs. Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury [GBR] – The Brits have played excellently, winning four straight sets over four accomplished doubles players.  Dodig is a five-time Major champion between men’s and mixed doubles.  He and Filip Polasek defeated Salisbury and Rajeev Ram to win February’s Australian Open.

Wednesday’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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