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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Rafael Nadal Boosts Olympic Preparations With Norrie Victory, Advances To Maiden 2024 Quarter-Final

Rafael Nadal reached his first ATP quarter-final in Bastad.

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Rafael Nadal boosted his preparations for the Olympics with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Cameron Norrie in Bastad.

The win means that Nadal is into his first ATP quarter-final of the season with an impressive straight sets win.

It didn’t all go Nadal’s way as the Spaniard was tested in the opening set with Norrie producing some consistent and attacking play.

The British number two managed to create some tough moments for Nadal but ultimately Norrie lacked that killer instinct to make it count.

That was the difference between him and Nadal as the Spaniard used the forehand to move Norrie out of position, therefore finishing the points off with ease.

A break in the seventh game put Nadal in control but the former champion in Bastad had to work hard to close out the opening set with Norrie pushing for the break.

However, Nadal did secure the opening set 6-4 with some incredible hitting.

As expected though Nadal’s level dropped in the second set as he still hasn’t managed to find his consistent level.

A sensational passing shot at the net saw Norrie break before consolidating to take a 4-1 lead.

It was an incredible turnaround for the Brit but a lack of composure and concentration allowed Nadal a chance to get back in the match.

Get back in the match Nadal did as he managed to sustain a high level of play throughout the next period of the match, securing five games in a row to claim the win.

After the match Nadal spoke about how crucial it was for him to improve his rhythm, “I think I played in some moments good tennis, in some moments I need to play a little bit more aggressive, but that is part of the journey today,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“Great feelings. I’ve been a while without playing on the Tour, since Roland Garros.  To have the chance to compete well against a great player like Cameron is a great feeling.

“I haven’t been competing very often, so matches and victories like today help. To be in rhythm the whole match and hold the pressure on the opponent the whole match, that’s something that I need to improve, because I didn’t play enough.”

Nadal will now aim for a tenth win of the season when he plays fourth seed Mariano Navone on Friday.

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Billie Jean King Cup Relocates From Sevilla To Malaga, Takes Place Alongside Davis Cup Final Eight Tournament

The Billie Jean King Cup has been relocated from Sevilla to Malaga.

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The Billie Jean King Cup Finals will now take place in Malaga and will be alongside the Davis Cup final eight tournament.

The ITF announced the news today that the Billie Jean King Cup Finals will be relocated from Sevilla to Malaga.

It will take place on the 13th-20th November and will be alongside the Davis Cup final eight tournament which will start on the 19th of November and will conclude on the 24th of November.

Speaking about the change tournament director Conchita Martinez spoke about the passion Malaga will bring to the event and has revealed that they have contacted existing ticket holders about the change, “I know that Malaga, just a two-hour drive from Sevilla, will deliver the exceptional atmosphere and passion that fans of the Billie Jean King Cup have come to know and love,” Martinez stated.

“We have informed all existing ticket holders of the changes and will be reissuing tickets for the new location, with the option of refunds for those who require them. We are set for a blockbuster fortnight of tennis this November and I can’t wait to welcome the tennis world to Malaga this November.”

The news will be disappointment to some ticket holders about the late change as the ITF continue to be unorganised when it comes to logistical events around the team competitions.

However, Malaga will aim to bring a unique atmosphere as the event will aim to boost the attendances of both team competitions.

The event will see four first round matches, four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final.

Here is the draw below with Canada looking to defend their title from last year.

Canada v BYE

Germany v Great Britain

Australia v BYE

Slovakia v USA

Spain v Poland

Czech Republic v BYE

Japan v Romania

Italy v BYE

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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Plays Carlos Alcaraz for the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship

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Carlos Alcaraz after winning his semifinal on Friday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

Day 14 at The Championships hosts the championship matches in gentlemen’s singles and mixed doubles.

One year ago, Novak Djokovic was on a 34 match Wimbledon win streak, playing for his fifth consecutive title, and had not lost a match on Centre Court in a full decade.  But in a spectacular five-hour five-setter, Carlos Alcaraz upset the all-time great to win his first Wimbledon title.  On Sunday, we get the rematch, as Djokovic looks to avenge that painful loss, and Alcaraz looks to defend a Major title, and win back-to-back Majors, for the first time.


Carlos Alcaraz (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (2) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

They followed up last year’s championship match here with another fantastic final just a month later in Cincinnati, where Djokovic saved championship point to eventually win in a third-set tiebreak, and after nearly four hours of play.  Novak would go on three weeks later to win the US Open, while Carlitos was not the same player for some time.  Alcaraz would not reach another final at any event for over six months, until this past March in Indian Wells. 

Despite a few surprising losses, and an injury that disrupted his season, Alcaraz is now a strong 32-6 on the year, and a superb 17-1 at Majors.  Carlitos has been able to quickly rebound from upsets at smaller events, like his loss to Jack Draper a few weeks ago at Queen’s Club, and up his level for the big events.  He’s dropped five sets through six matches, most of which have contained some sloppy play at times, yet Carlitos has played his best when it mattered most to reach his fourth Major final.  And he’s 3-0 thus far in Major finals.

2024 has been a surprisingly subpar season in the illustrious career of Djokovic.  Not only has he not won a title to date, he hadn’t advanced to a final until now.  Playing a more limited schedule, he’s just 23-6 this season.  And it was just a month ago that he was forced to withdraw from the Roland Garros quarterfinals after suffering a knee injury, which required surgery and put his Wimbledon status in doubt.  Yet Novak has recovered almost miraculously, dropping only two sets to this stage, though he did receive a quarterfinal walkover of his own from an injured Alex de Minaur.

Overall Djokovic is 3-2 against Alcaraz, and they’ve split two meetings at Majors, both of which took place a year ago.  In the 2023 Roland Garros semifinals, Carlitos started cramping after just two sets of play, and provided little resistance in sets three and four.  That made his five-set victory in this final a month later all the more surprising.

Novak has not appeared to be significantly hampered by his surgically-repaired knee, though there’s no way it can be 100%.  So if another five-setter takes place on Sunday, that has to favor Carlitos, especially since he is an amazing 12-1 when pushed to five sets in his young career.

But the Djokovic CV at this tournament, and at this stage of Majors, is beyond formidable.  Since the start of The Championships in 2014, he is 59-3 at SW19.  And during the same span at all Majors, he is 42-8 in semifinals and finals.  Novak just very rarely loses matches like this, especially on Centre Court.

On a that surface usually favors the aggressor, Djokovic has been able to change that narrative with his stifling defense and court coverage.  However, Alcaraz is one of the only players Djokovic has ever faced who can match him defensively, and at times dictate play against him with his risk-taking style.  We saw here a year ago just how frustrated Novak became by Carlitos’ game, damaging the net post by breaking his racket against it after getting broken in the fifth set.

Yet as many have mentioned these last two weeks, Djokovic “has that look about him,” meaning the steely determination and confidence that he was lacking during the first six months of this year appear to be back.  He is extremely motivated to reassert himself atop the game, in a season where the new generation of Alcaraz and Sinner won the first two Majors. 

If Carlitos gets off to another slow start on Sunday (he’s lost the first set in three of his six matches thus far), or suffer lapses in his level again, Novak will take advantage of that better than any of the defending champion’s previous opponents.  And while he’ll surely do so at some point in his career, until Alcaraz defends a Major title, or wins back-to-back Majors, it’s hard to favor him to do so.  I’m backing Djokovic to win his eighth Wimbledon title, and his historical 25th Major singles title, the most of all-time.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Santiago Gonzalez and Giuliana Olmos vs. Jan Zielinski Su-wei Hsieh (7) – The Mexican team of Gonzalez and Olmos are playing for their first Major title, as Olmos is 0-1 in Major finals, while 41-year-old Gonzalez is 0-4.  Zielinski and Su-wei won this year’s Australian Open as a team, the first Major title of Zielinski’s career, while Su-wei has now won eight between women’s doubles and mixed, and is 8-1 in Major finals.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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