Canada Daily Preview: The Canadian No.1 Continues Her Title Defense - UBITENNIS
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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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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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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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Stefanos Tsitsipas Saves Two Match Points To Extend Winning Streak In Barcelona

Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a scare to reach the Barcelona semi-finals.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas saved two match points to defeat Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6 6-3 7-6(8) in Barcelona.

The former finalist saved two match points against the inspired Argentinian as Tsitsipas reached the semi-finals.

It means Tsitsipas is 9-0 in the clay court season and has the chance to set up a potential rematch with Casper Ruud in the final.

The duo met in last week’s Monte-Carlo final where Tsitsipas claimed his third title in Monaco.

Speaking after the match Tsitsipas admitted it was difficult to sustain his level, “I was coming close [to losing] at certain moments in the match. It seemed like a mountain,” Tsitsipas stated to the ATP website.

“I reminded myself that I have a headband that I wear here that has a mountain and that I need to climb it, so it kept me going. It was difficult. It was extremely difficult to sustain the same level throughout the entire match and I think he played incredible.

“I think he left everything out there. He is a good clay-court player. He has a title on the ATP Tour for a reason and today it was a level he was able to bring out on the court that made it quite obvious.

“I got a little bit tense on my serve, I won’t lie. I think I started decelerating a lot, but once I got a hold of that I was conscious of that, it went back to where it belonged and helped me a lot in the tie-breaker because if I didn’t figure it out, I don’t know. It was very mental in general. I really had to go to uncomfortable places mentally and go over the limit at some point.”

Tsitsipas is currently seven in the world in the live rankings as the Greek is looking to claim his first title in Barcelona.

Next up for the Greek will be either Dusan Lajovic or Arthur Fils while Tomas Martin Etcheverry takes on Casper Ruud in the other semi-final.

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