Canada Daily Preview: The Top Women’s Seed and Top Canadian Man Face Formidable Americans - UBITENNIS
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Canada Daily Preview: The Top Women’s Seed and Top Canadian Man Face Formidable Americans

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Aryna Sabalenka practicing over the weekend in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka broke through to her first Major semifinal last month at Wimbledon, and already has won four WTA 1000 events.  On Wednesday, she faces 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.  It was Stephens’ surprising run to the semifinals of this event four years ago which helped propel her to her first Major title.

 

Canadian No.1 Denis Shapovalov also broke through to his first Major semifinal last month at The Championships, and has reached the semifinals or better of five Masters 1000 events.  The first of those came four years ago at this tournament, highlighted by his electrifying, breakthrough win over Rafael Nadal in a third set tiebreak.  On Wednesday, he faces Frances Tiafoe, who upset Stefanos Tsistipas a few weeks ago at The All England Club.

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

Aryna Sabalenka (1) vs. Sloane Stephens – Second on Centre Court in Montreal

The hard courts in Canada would seem to be conducive to Sabalenka’s authoritative groundstrokes, but she’s only 2-2 lifetime at this event.  Against Stephens, she’s 1-0, but that was a Billie Jean King Cup match from four years ago.  Sloane’s aforementioned run at this tournament that same year came out of nowhere, as she was coming off an injury layoff which lasted almost a year.  That week, she defeated Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber, and Lucie Safarova.  Her defensive skills, and her ability to turn defense into offense, will be critical in overcoming the power of Sabalenka.  Sloane was unsuccessful in doing so last week against another big-hitter, the red-hot Danielle Collins, though no one has been able to subdue Collins the last few weeks.  Still, Aryna remains a slight favorite considering how well she has performed since October of last year.

Denis Shapovalov (5) vs. Frances Tiafoe (LL) – Not Before 7:00pm on Stadium Court in Toronto

Shapovalov has won four of their five encounters, including the last four.  Tiafoe’s only win came in 2018 at Delray Beach, which was also the only ATP title of Frances’ career.  Most recently, they met in June at Queens Club, a match Denis won in straight sets.  Tiafoe actually lost in qualifying over the weekend, but took advantage of a lucky loser spot and defeated Yoshihito Nishioka on Tuesday.  The 23-year-old American has shown signs of rediscovering his best level from a few years ago, yet has struggled to sustain it.  He has the firepower to contend with any player on any day, and Shapovalov may feel some nerves playing at home as his country’s top-ranked male.  But Denis has become a much more consistent, polished player over the last 12 months, and should be able to advance to the third round after some flashy shot-making on both sides of the net.

Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Johanna Konta – Svitolina is coming off a bronze medal run in Tokyo, while Konta had to withdraw from the Olympics due to testing positive for COVID-19.  Svitolina has never lost to Konta in five previous hard court meetings at all levels.

Andrey Rublev (4) vs. Fabio Fognini – The Italian is 5-3 against Rublev, though the Russian claimed both of their meetings this year.

Simona Halep (6) vs. Danielle Collins – This will be Halep’s first match in three months, after injuring her calf in Rome.  Collins is on an 11-match win streak after taking back-to-back titles in Palermo and San Jose on two different surfaces.

Hubert Hurkacz (7) vs. Kei Nishikori – Hurkacz was a semifinalist last month at Wimbledon, while Nishikori was a semifinalist last week in Washington.  Hubi is 2-0 against Kei, with both matches occurring on hard courts on 2019.

Felix Auger-Aliassime (9) vs. Dusan Lajovic – The 31-year-old Serbian took their only previous meeting, last January at the ATP Cup.  Felix is 3-2 in his career at his country’s biggest tournament.

Maria Sakkari (11) vs. Veronika Kudermetova –  Both players recently reached career-high rankings, and both narrowly missed out on medals in Tokyo.  Two years ago on clay in Istanbul, Kudermetova defeated Sakkari in straight sets. 

Ons Jabeur (13) vs. Daria Kasatkina – This should be a fun one, featuring two of the sport’s most eclectic players.  Kasatkina leads their rivalry 2-1, though Jabeur prevailed most recently, two months ago on grass in Birmingham.

Aslan Karatsev (15) vs. Karen Khachanov – Karatsev went on a tear following the pandemic tour shutdown, but has cooled off recently, winning only three of his last nine matches.  And he lost his only prior tour-level encounter against Khachanov, last October in St. Petersburg.

Wednesday’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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