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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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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