Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Osaka, Murray, Barty Headline Sunday’s Play - UBITENNIS
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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Osaka, Murray, Barty Headline Sunday’s Play

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Naomi Osaka, earlier this week at Ariake Tennis Park (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

Japan’s Naomi Osaka is one of the biggest stars of these Games.  She is reportedly the world’s highest-paid female athlete, and even received the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron during Friday night’s opening ceremonies.  But Osaka has not played a match since withdrawing from Roland Garros nearly two months ago.  That was her reaction to the Grand Slam committee threatening to default her from the event after she stated she would not take part in press conferences, citing mental health concerns.  So much has been said and written about Naomi over the past few months, but now she’ll let her tennis speak for itself.

Also on Sunday, two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray faces Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, who soundly defeated Murray at last summer’s US Open.  Ash Barty will play her first singles match since winning Wimbledon two weeks ago, against the dangerous and highly-entertaining Sara Sorribes Tormo.  And the top two Japanese men in the world both take on top 25-ranked Russians.

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

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Saisai Zheng – Second on Centre Court

Osaka has now won 41 of her last 47 matches, dating back to September of 2019.  That also happens to be the last time she played in her home country, when she won the WTA event in Osaka, Japan.  Notably, half of those six recent losses came on clay.  On hard courts, Naomi is an astounding 39-3 during that same span.  But Saisai can also play on this surface, as she was the champion two summers ago in San Jose.   However, the 27-year-old from China is just 6-12 since March of 2020, and missed nearly a year of action due to the pandemic.  She also does not possess the powerful serve or groundstrokes of Osaka.  When these players met 18 months ago at the Australian Open, Naomi prevailed in straight sets.  The result on Sunday should not be much different.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Centre Court

Felix’s straight-set win last year in New York came just two days after a five-set, nearly five-hour victory for Murray over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.  Andy will be much fresher on Sunday, and should be feeling confident coming off an excellent win on Saturday in doubles alongside Joe Salisbury, as they took out French Open champions Mahut and Herbert.  Darren Cahill pointed out during NBC’s coverage on Saturday how Murray rarely loses to an opponent twice in a row, as he studies what went wrong in his loss, and learns how to exploit his opponents’ weaknesses.  Auger-Aliassime is coming off an excellent run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, an event where his close friend, Denis Shapovalov, defeated Murray.  But with Andy perhaps in his best physical health in years, and considering his previous success representing his country at the Olympics, I like Murray’s chances of figuring out a way to grit his way to victory. Plus, Andy may not be as bothered by the heat and humidity as other players, due to the training he does in Miami, Florida.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – Barty is now a stellar 35-6 on the year, though Sorribes Tormo has tormented many top players this season.  The 24-year-old Spaniard has played grueling matches against Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu, as well as a nearly four-hour encounter with Camila Giorgi.

Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Kei Nishikori – Nishikori was the bronze medalist in men’s singles at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  He’s 1-0 against Rublev, though no one has won more matches since the start of last year than the Russian.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber – Tsitsipas has lost three of his last four matches, with the first being his heartbreaking loss in the French Open final.  But he’s 2-0 against the veteran from Germany, with both victories coming on hard courts.

Aryna Sabalenka (3) vs. Magda Linette – Sabalenka is coming off her first deep run at a Major, losing in the Wimbledon semifinals to Karolina Pliskova 6-4 in the third.  Three years ago on a hart court in Tianjin, she defeated Linette 6-1, 6-3.

Karolina Pliskova (5) vs. Alize Cornet – How will Pliskova bounce back from her second loss in a Slam final?  She is 3-1 against Cornet, though the Frenchwoman is a tricky opponent, who earned three top 20 wins last month on grass.

Hubert Hurkacz (7) vs. Marton Fucsovics – At Wimbledon, both men achieved their best career results at a Major.  Three years ago in Cincinnati, Fucsovics outlasted Hurkacz in a third set tiebreak.

Garbine Muguruza (7) vs. Veronika Kudermetova – Muguruza leads their head-to-head 2-0, with both matches contested on hard courts within the past 18 months. 

Karen Khachanov (12) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka – Both players won epic five-setters at Wimbledon out on Court 18.  At the 2019 Australian Open, Khachanov claimed their only previous meeting in straight sets.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Simona Halep Provides Injury Update On Knee Ahead Of US Open

The return of Simona Halep looks a long way away from happening as a knee injury continues to bother the Romanian.

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Simona Halep has provided an update on her knee injury as she faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open.

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion’s comeback has not gone according to plan so far as she returned from a doping ban in Miami earlier this year.

However playing time has been limited for the Romanian as her second tournament of the year ended in a first round retirement at a Challenger event in Paris.

As a result of her retirement Halep was forced to miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon as she looked to recover from a knee injury.

The injury is more serious than meets the eye though as Halep provided an update on her knee injury and revealed it’s an injury that has been occurring for the last few months, “I wanted to provide a little health update since I have been away from the court lately. It is not the best news, but I wanted to share all the same,” Halep revealed on Instagram.

“For a few months now, I have been struggling with a knee injury. It’s an injury I have never had before and it has been a tough one to manage, with the pain persisting. It has been a very difficult period (almost two years) mentally and emotionally for me and struggling physically on top of that definitely doesn’t help.

“I have decided to take the time needed to recover properly, rather than training and playing through pain. My instinct has always been to try to come back as soon as possible, but I am not a machine, I am a human being and I need time to recover from everything I have gone through.

“I’ll keep you posted and, as always, want to thank you for your permanent support. I hope to be back on court very soon.”

Halep now faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open which starts on the 26th of August.

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Alexander Zverev Commits To Olympics, Speaks About Miscommunication Between Olympics And ATP

Alexander Zverev is preparing for his Olympic title defence.

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Alexander Zverev has spoken out on the miscommunication between the Olympics and the ATP tour with tennis’ top stars set to miss some big events on the tour.

The German is getting ready to defend his Olympic title that he won in Tokyo as Zverev heads to Paris.

After narrowly missing out on Roland Garros glory, Zverev now has an opportunity at redemption as he aims for a second consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

However there is a dilemma for big players this year as the same week as the tennis event at the Olympics at the ATP 500 event in Washington.

This is an event that Zverev usually plays but will have to miss it due to playing in Paris.

Speaking out on the miscommunication, Zverev said it’s no secret that the ATP are not best friends on the Olympics but has committed to the historic event, “The ITF or the Olympics are not best friends with the ATP, that’s not a secret,” Zverev was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

Everybody continues their own tour. Yes, the Olympics is one of the, if not the, most important events we have in sports. So, the best players in the world are always going to play the Olympics over anything else, over points and over prize money.

All the top players went to Wimbledon a few years back, despite having no points on the line. It’s about prestige, it’s not about points or money. It’s about winning these kinds of titles and having medals for your country.

That’s what it’s about. I would never choose to play a 500 event over the Olympics. There are no thoughts on that, and I think Washington is going to be quite an interesting 500 event, I would say.

The ATP 500 event in Washington will be headlined by Grigor Dimitrov, Ben Shelton, Karen Khachanov and Frances Tiafoe as they are among those that have chosen ranking points over the Olympic experience.

As for Zverev he is continuing his Olympic preparations in Hamburg where he will face Pedro Martinez in the semi-finals.

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Rafael Nadal Reveals Delight At Setting Up Ajdukovic Semi-Final After Four Hour Victory

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the Bastad semi-finals after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

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(ubitennis/Francesca Micheli)

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the semi-finals in Bastad after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion prevailed in a marathon 6-7(2) 7-5 7-5 victory to reach his first semi-final since Wimbledon 2022.

The Spaniard converted ten of his 21 break point opportunities as he reached the semi-finals.

After the match Nadal revealed his delight at reaching the last four and prevailed Navone for his resilient display, “I lost for some moments my concentration, but I was able to hold physically until the end,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“That is so important for me. Let’s see how I am tomorrow, but today I am alive and in the semi-finals, so that’s very important. There were a lot of changing dynamics in every single set. For moments, he was in control. For moments, I was in control. But at the end, no one was in control! That’s true, and I had a good chance in the second with 3-0. Then I was very close to losing the match in the second set.

“In the third [I was ahead] again with 5-2, but he’s a great fighter and he played a great match. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal will now play Duje Ajdukovic in the semi-finals as he aims to continue his eight match winning streak in Bastad with this being his first appearance at the tournament since winning the title in 2005.

The other semi-final will be Nuno Borges against Thiago Agustin Tirante with both players reaching their maiden ATP tour semi-final.

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