Canada Daily Preview: A Wimbledon Semifinal Rematch Headlines on Saturday - UBITENNIS
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Canada Daily Preview: A Wimbledon Semifinal Rematch Headlines on Saturday

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Karolina Pliskova on Friday in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

The top seeds are still alive in both men’s and women’s singles, though each has a literal tall task ahead of them.  Aryna Sabalenka achieved her first Major semifinal last month at Wimbledon, and won the first set of that semi, before Karolina Pliskova took over, closing out the match 6-4 in the third.  On Saturday, Sabalenka has a chance to avenge that loss.

Daniil Medvedev was a finalist at the last Canadian Masters in 2019, and has been the winningest hard court player of the last 12 months.  But standing in his way is the nearly-seven-feet-tall American John Isner, who is on a nine match win streak on North American hard courts.

The other two singles semifinals feature 2018 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas and three players looking to reach their first 1000-level final.

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 12:30pm local time with men’s doubles in Toronto, and 1:00pm in Montreal with the first WTA singles semifinal.

Aryna Sabalenka (1) vs. Karolina Pliskova (4) – 1:00pm on Centre Court in Montreal

Pliskova’s victory at The Championships is actually her only win over Sabalenka.  The Belarusian claimed their other two previous meetings, which occurred in 2018.  Their only prior hard court encounter came three summers ago in Cincinnati, which Aryna won 7-5 in the third.  Notably, all three of their matches have been tight three-setters.  Pliskova is one of the only players on tour that can match Sabalenka’s power, and she normally possesses a superior serve.  But in their Wimbledon semifinal, Aryna actually out-aced the WTA Ace Queen 18-14.  She also struck six more winners in that match.  The issue was exactly half of Sabalenka’s aces and winners came in the first set, and she was not able to sustain that level in sets two or three.  However, Sabalenka has reached top form the last two rounds, including a comfortable straight-set win on Friday over two-time Major champion Victoria Azarenka.  This should be another close matchup between these two, especially considering they’re both 4-0 in their last four WTA 1000 semifinals.  But I give the slight edge to Sabalenka, who should be able to dictate play a bit more than Pliskova during longer rallies.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. John Isner – Not Before 8:00pm on Stadium Court in Toronto

The only time these two players met, it was all Medvedev.  At last year’s ATP Cup, the Russian needed only one hour to put away Isner 6-3, 6-1.  But I do not think it will be one-way traffic again on Saturday.  The 36-year-old American has only dropped one set this week, and that includes wins over three seeded players.  He spent much less physical and emotional energy on court Friday than Medvedev.  John easily dispatched of Gael Monfils, while Daniil scarcely survived Hubert Hurkacz in a third-set tiebreak.  When shaking hands at the net, Medvedev even admitted to Hurkacz that Hubi was the better player on the day.  Daniil prefers to stand way back in the court when returning serve, and I’m sure he’ll take another step or two back to defend against Isner’s booming serves.  Monfils did the same on Friday, and John was frequently able to take advantage of all the open court.  While Medvedev is a better returner than Gael, standing so far back is a dangerous strategy against Isner.  The American is competing with a ton of confidence right now, and should be the much fresher player.  He has played a lot less tennis this year than Medvedev, and it feels like he’s due for a big result.  Upsetting the top seed in a Masters 1000 semifinal would be just that.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Reilly Opelka – Tsitsipas was a finalist the last time this event was held in Toronto three years ago.  Opelka is into his second Masters 1000 semifinal, having also achieved this feat earlier this season in Rome.  When they met at last summer’s Western & Southern Open, Opelka retired during the first set due to a right knee injury, in their only career meeting.

Jessica Pegula vs. Camila Giorgi – Pegula is having the best season of her career, with a 28-14 record, though this is only her second semifinal of 2021.  Giorgi was 17-34 at WTA 1000 events prior to this week, but played some of the best tennis of her career in her last two matches, upsetting both Petra Kvitova and Coco Gauff.  Their only tour-level matchup came two years ago in the final of Washington, with Pegula prevailing 6-2, 6-2.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

ATP

Rafael Nadal To Play Laver Cup In Berlin

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Rafael Nadal has eased speculation that he might be retiring from the sport soon after signing on to play in the Laver Cup later this year. 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is the latest player to join the line-up for this year’s team competition which features Europe taking on the rest of the world over three days. It will be Nadal’s fourth appearance in the competition and his first since 2022. He competed in the inaugural edition of the event back in 2017 alongside co-founder Roger Federer. 

“I am very happy to be playing Laver Cup in Berlin for Team Europe,” Nadal said in a press release. “I have some really special memories from my Laver Cup experiences, including all the emotions from London two years ago playing alongside Roger for the last time.”

Nadal’s decision to play comes amid questions about his future in the sport. The former world No.1 has previously indicated that this year could be his last on the Tour but he has stated that no decision has been made. In recent months he has been sidelined from action due to injury setbacks and has only been able to play in two tournaments so far this year. 

“At this stage in my career I really want to go out there and make the most of every opportunity I am given,” he explains.
“Teaming up is always an incredible experience and I have always enjoyed it, the competition is different and exciting. I’m looking forward to going to Berlin and helping Team Europe win back the Laver Cup.”

Other European players confirmed to be playing are Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. Meanwhile, Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul have agreed to play for Team World. This year’s event will be held in Belin at the Uber Arena between September 20-22. 

The Laver Cup was inspired by golf’s Ryder Cup. It was co-founded by Federer’s Team8 management company (which he formed with agent Tony Godsick), businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann and Tennis Australia. In 2019 it became an official ATP sanction event and now has a place on the official calendar. 

Nadal is set to return to competitive action at the Madrid Masters which he has won on five previous occasions. He has been drawn to play teenage wild card Darwin Blanch in the first round. If he wins, Nadal will then play Alex de Minaur who knocked him out of the Barcelona Open last week. 

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Novak Djokovic Withdraws From Masters 1000 Event In Madrid

Novak Djokovic will miss the Masters 1000 event in Madrid and will look to build up his Roland Garros preparations in Rome.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the Masters 1000 event in Madrid as he aims for quality over quantity in his bid for Roland Garros glory.

The world number one has had a rough start to the season by his standards as he is yet to win a title this season after a semi-final defeat to Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open.

Djokovic was hoping a change of surface would bring a change of fortunes but the Serb was defeated in three sets in the semi-finals of Monte-Carlo.

Now it seems that result has made Djokovic rethink his schedule as the current Roland Garros champion has withdrawn from Madrid.

No official reason has been given although the news seems to be not that surprising given Djokovic’s history in the Spanish capital.

The Serb hasn’t played since 2022, where he was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals, and has now won the title there for five years.

It looks like Djokovic will be putting his faith into more favourable conditions in Rome, which is the most similar to Roland Garros in terms of conditions.

Djokovic is a six-time champion in the Italian capital and will aim for a seventh title when he plays there on the 8th of May.

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Thanasi Kokkinakis Questions ‘Insane’ Drug Testing

Thanasi Kokkinakis has been tested three times within the last six days.

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Thanasi Kokkinakis has questioned persistent drug testing after he revealed he was tested three times in six days.

The Australian is in good form at the moment having won the Sarasota Challenger in Florida.

Kokkinakis claimed glory with a three set win over Zizou Bergs in the final as he continues to climb the rankings.

However that glory has been overshadowed by the fact that Kokkinakis has revealed he was drug tested three times within a six day period.

The world number 94 described it as ‘insane’ and it comes after Alexandre Muller complained of persistent drug testing after his recent defeats.

Doping has been a huge topic of conversations with Simona Halep losing two years of her career after testing positive after the US Open before the Court Of Arbitration For Sport shortened her case.

Kokkinakis will be hoping that this is the last time he has to deal with persistent drug testing as he continues his clay court season.

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