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Canada Daily Preview: The Canadian No.1 Continues Her Title Defense

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Bianca Andreescu on Tuesday night in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

Two years ago, Bianca Andreescu came out of nowhere to have a spectacular season.  After winning Indian Wells as a wild card, she won this North American hard court event as well, the biggest tournament her country has to offer.  And just a few weeks later, she won her first Major in New York.  Due to injuries and the pandemic, she didn’t play at all last year, and is just 13-7 in 2021.  In the third round, she faces one of this season’s best players, Ons Jabeur.

 

Also on Thursday, two significant runners-up from recent big events collide to start the day in Toronto.

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

Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Karen Khachanov – 11:00am on Stadium Court in Toronto

It’s been a tough few months for Tsitsipas, who is just 4-3 since losing in the French Open final.  And he also suffered a deeply personal loss that day, finding out his grandmother had passed away.  But he persevered on Tuesday night, and avenged another recent, painful defeat.  After losing to Ugo Humbert two weeks ago at the Tokyo Olympics, and failing to convert five match points against Ugo in Tuesday’s epic second set tiebreak, he overcame the Frenchman 6-1 in the third.  Khachanov reached the gold medal match in Tokyo, but was soundly beaten by Zverev on that day.  But he’s bounced back nicely this week, already taking out two of the ATP’s strongest 2021 performers in Cameron Norrie and Aslan Karatsev.  However, this rivalry has been one-sided to date.  Tsitsipas leads 3-0, with all three victories coming on hard courts.  The first two were straight set affairs, while Khachanov pushed Tsitsipas all the way to 7-5 in the third earlier this season in Rotterdam.  Coming off what could have been a pivotal victory in the last round, and with fond memories from three years ago in Toronto, I like the Greek’s chances of remaining undefeated against Khachanov.

Bianca Andreescu (2) vs. Ons Jabeur (13) – Not Before 7:00pm on Centre Court in Montreal

As little tennis as Andreescu has played over the last 21 months, she showed back in March how dangerous she remains on hard courts.  Bianca endured four consecutive three-setters in Miami, many of which approached three hours in length, before having to retire in the second set of the final against Ash Barty.  But few players have been more impressive over the last 12 months than Jabeur, who has a compiled a record of 47-19 since the pandemic restart.  She was especially impressive on grass this year, going 10-2.  However, Ons just played a grueling second round match against Daria Kasatkina on Wednesday night, that went well into Thursday morning.  Andreescu also played a long second round match, but that was a full day earlier.  A fresh Bianca on this surface will be a considerable favorite in their first career meeting.  Hopefully both are feeling relatively close to 100%, because if they are, it could make for a dynamic affair between two of the sport’s grittiest, most entertaining players.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Aryna Sabalenka (1) vs. Rebecca Marino (WC) – The top seed narrowly survived on Wednesday against Sloane Stephens, coming back from 4-1 down in the third set.  Marino is a Canadian ranked 220th in the world who retired from the sport nine years ago due to depression.  This is her first main draw appearance in Montreal since 2011, and she already upset Madison Keys and Paula Badosa this week.

Diego Schwartzman (8) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (10) – This should be a good one, featuring lots of grueling, compelling rallies.  They’ve surprisingly only played twice, with the last occasion coming at this event two years ago, a match Bautista Agut won in straight sets.

Victoria Azarenka (8) vs. Maria Sakkari (11) – Azarenka is a three-time semifinalist in Canada, though in the past 10 years, she’s only advanced beyond the second round once.  Prior to this week, Sakkari was 0-2 lifetime at this tournament.  Last October in Ostrava, Azarenka easily defeated Sakkari, dropping just four games.

Andrey Rublev (4) vs. John Isner – Rublev is 0-2 against Isner, though the first time they played six years ago, he was a 17-year-old ranked outside the top 300.  When they met earlier this year in Madrid, the American prevailed in a third set tiebreak.

Karolina Pliskova (4) vs. Amanda Anisimova (Q) – Speaking of third set tiebreaks, Pliskova needed one to defeat Donna Vekic on Wednesday.  Anisimova came through qualifying and has won four matches thus far, though she’s yet to face a player ranked inside the top 60.  Pliskova has claimed both their previous meetings in straights, both of which were on hard courts.

Gael Monfils vs. Frances Tiafoe (LL) – On Wednesday night, Monfils earned just his fourth win since February of 2020.  Earlier in the evening, Tiafoe upset Canada’s own Denis Shapovalov.  Frances took their only prior encounter, two years ago in Cincinnati.

Coco Gauff (15) vs. Johanna Konta – Both players battled COVID-19 last month.  The British No.1 took out recent bronze medalist Elina Svitolina on Wednesday.  But she’s 0-1 against Gauff, who won 6-3, 6-3 at last fall’s French Open.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. James Duckworth (Q) – The 29-year-old Australian upset Washington champ Jannik Sinner in the second round.  Medvedev was the runner-up of this event in 2019.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Fan Told To Leave Match At Western And Southern Open Over Size Of Her Ukrainian Flag Speaks Out

Organisers at the tournament have also issued a statement concerning what happened and why the individual was asked to leave the court.

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Image via https://twitter.com/CincyTennis/

A woman says security at the Western and Southern Open threatened to call the police if she did not leave a qualifying match after complaints were made by a Russian player about her Ukrainian flag. 

 

Lola, who is originally from Uzbekistan but now lives in America, was seen at the tournament over the weekend using a Ukrainian flag to cover herself whilst watching a match between Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya. It is understood that one of those players, who are both Russian, made a complaint to the umpire. Prompting the official to speak directly to Lola which then resulted in a member of security getting involved.  

During an interview with Local 12 News, Lola has given her account of the incident that occurred. Saying the match was stopped twice due to a dispute over the issue. 

“’You’re not being nice. You need to put the flag away,’” Lola said she was told by the umpire. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.”

Russia is currently involved in a war with Ukraine after launching a military attack on the country on February 24th. A move which has prompted widespread condemnation from both the western world and the sporting world. At this year’s Wimbledon Russian players were banned from participating, as well as players from Belarus which is a country accused of supporting Russia. On both the ATP and WTA Tour’s players from both those countries are only allowed to compete as neutral athletes. 

In wake of the incident, the Western and Southern Open issued a statement saying that the size of Lola’s flag breached the tournament’s policy. Lola said she was informed about the rule 15 minutes after being asked to leave the court and was allowed back into the venue once she put her flag in the car. 

“Per the Western and Southern Open’s bag policy, as stated on the tournament’s website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 [inches] (46 x 46cm) are prohibited,” a spokesperson for the tournament said in an email to Reuters.
“Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and, after doing so, was allowed to remain at the tournament.”

The tournament declined to comment on the conduct of the umpire and said it is for the WTA to do so. 

Meanwhile, local charity Cincy4Ukraine say they have contacted a lawyer to see if Lola’s first amendment rights were violated. If there is a suggestion that this has been the case, a court hearing could take place should Lola want to take legal action. 

As for the Russian players involved, Kalinskaya beat Potapova 7-5, 6-1, to reach the main draw and will play Martina Trevisan. Potapova has also made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and will play Simona Halep. 

Kalinskaya, Potapova and The WTA have not publicly commented on the incident so far. 

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Emma Raducanu Unfazed By Rankings Drop Ahead Of US Open Title Defence

Emma Raducanu talked about pressure as she takes on Serena Williams in Cincinnati.

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Emma Raducanu (@marioboc17 - Twitter)

Ahead of her US Open title defence in a couple of weeks, Emma Raducanu remains unfazed about her potential drop down the rankings.

 

Emma Raducanu is set to defend her US Open title in a couple of weeks after winning her maiden grand slam title as a qualifier last year.

The Brit will have 2,000 points to defend and an early exit risks a huge rankings drop in what has been a big experience for the 19 year-old this year.

Raducanu enters the last grand slam of the year without form or momentum on her side having only won back-to-back matches at three events this year.

Speaking in Cincinnati, Raducanu told the press that she is prepared to start from the bottom again if she has to, “If I lose 2,000 points so be it, I’ll start again from the bottom,” Raducanu told reporters.

“I know I can do something that no one else has done. I qualified and won the US Open, so I can start from the beginning, I can start from zero and I’m not afraid of that.

“I just think that everything that’s happening right now has probably just meant to be in my journey and I need to go through those development stages at some point because I did miss them. I went from playing 25ks to winning the US Open.”

Raducanu’s rise has been incredibly quick and the Brit will be anticipating that anything can happen over the next few months in terms of her development.

Defending the grand slam is huge pressure and it will be interesting to see if returning to the US Open will inspire her to raise her level.

Before Raducanu goes to the US Open, she competes in Cincinnati and faces 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams in her opening round.

Williams is currently on her farewell tour and Raducanu admits it’s going to be an unforgettable experience to play her, “I think it’s gonna be an exciting match. I’m looking forward to it,” Raducanu said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to play probably the best the best tennis player of all time. It’s probably going to be my last opportunity to ever play her. I think that, for our careers to have crossed over, I think I’m really fortunate that I get to play her.

“Whatever happens, I think it’s gonna be a really good experience for me and something that I will remember for the rest of her life.”

The match will now likely take place on Tuesday after originally been scheduled for Monday evening.

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