Cincinnati Daily Preview: An Olympic Gold Medal Rematch in the First Round - UBITENNIS
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Cincinnati Daily Preview: An Olympic Gold Medal Rematch in the First Round

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After several on Monday, there may be more rain interruptions on Tuesday (twitter.com/CincyTennis)

A few weeks ago in Tokyo, Belinda Bencic defeated Marketa Vondrousova to win gold in women’s singles.  Neither has played a singles match since, yet they’ll meet again in the opening round here.  Also on Tuesday, 2017 champion Grigor Dimitrov takes on one of the ATP’s sturdiest competitors, Roberto Bautista Agut.  And Ash Barty, Sascha Zverev, Aryna Sabalenka, and many others will make their 2021 Cincinnati debuts.

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play is scheduled underway at 11:00am local time, though rain is possible throughout the day.

Roberto Bautista Agut (13) vs. Grigor Dimitrov (13) – 11:00om on Grandstand

At the time, Dimitrov’s 2017 title run was the biggest of his career, and helped propel him to win the 2017 ATP Finals.  However, it’s now been nearly four years since Grigor has won a title, and three-and-a-half years since he’s even appeared in a final.  A year ago, when this event was held in New York, Bautista Agut had Novak Djokovic all but beaten in the semifinals, before succumbing to the world No.1 in a third set tiebreak.  Neither man has excelled this season, though the Spaniard did reach two hard court finals early in the year.  They’ve played four times at tour-level, with all four matches contested on hard courts, and three of the four going to Dimitrov.  In a match that could easily go either way, their head-to-head, paired with Grigor’s past success at this tournament, makes the Bulgarian a slight favorite.

Belinda Bencic (10) vs. Marketa Vondrousova – Fifth on Stadium 3

Their gold medal match in Tokyo was a tight affair, with Bencic eventually prevailing 6-3 in the third.  They also played this past March in Miami, with Vondrousova prevailing 6-4 in the third.  Another entertaining, grueling encounter between these two intelligent, versatile players would seem likely.  Belinda is surprisingly only 2-4 lifetime in Ohio, though Marketa is 0-2.  Vondrousova will surely be looking to avenge her painful Olympic loss, and she’s an impressive 14-6 on hard courts in 2021, an almost identical record to Bencic’s 13-6.  There is not much separating these two except for experience, with is decidedly an advantage of the Swiss.  That, along with the confidence she brings from Tokyo, could be enough for Bencic to advance.

Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Ash Barty (1) vs. Heather Watson (Q) – Barty was a semifinalist two years ago in Ohio.  Coming through qualifying, Watson has played a trio of three-setters over the last three days. 

Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Lloyd Harris – Bizarrely, Zverev is 0-6 lifetime at this event.  Harris has 20 wins this seasons, and recently debuted inside the top 50.  Last October in Cologne, Zverev defeated Harris in three sets.

Aryna Sabalenka (3) vs. Paula Badosa – This could be one of the best battles of the day.  Badosa narrowly survived 11-9 in a third-set tiebreak on Monday over Petra Martic.

Matteo Berrettini (5) vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas – Berrettini is only 1-2 here in his career.  Ramos-Vinolas took out Taylor Fritz on Monday, and was the champion in Estoril earlier this season.

Coco Gauff vs. Su-Wei Hsieh (Q) – Gauff is on the verge of breaking into the top 20 for the first time.  Hsieh is only 7-9 on the year, but is known for frustrating and upsetting top players.

Cameron Norrie vs. John Isner – Norrie is having a stellar season, with 37 match wins, and four tour finals.  Isner was on a nine-match winning streak before losing to Daniil Medvedev last week in Canada.  They’ve split two previous meetings.

Camila Giorgi vs. Jessica Pegula – This is a rematch from just three days prior, when they met in the semifinals of Montreal.  Pegula was the only player last week to push Giorgi to a third set.  How will Giorgi perform just 48 hours after the biggest win of her life?

Ugo Humbert vs. Frances Tiafoe – Both players won grass court tournaments in June.  18 months ago in Delray beach, Humbert dominated Tiafoe 6-1, 6-2.

Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

ATP

Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Andreescu edges Kostyuk to reach semis in Hua Hin

Bianca Andreescu is into the semi-finals in Thailand.

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Bianca Andreescu (@BenLewisMPC - Twitter)

The Canadian is into the final four in Thailand after beating the Ukrainian in straight sets.

 

Bianca Andreescu booked her spot in the semifinal of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after beating the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 in one hour and 28 minutes.

The number one seed hit 19 winners and won 69% of her first serve points in a match where she had an amazing start but was dealt some adversity in the second set.

“I don’t think I started playing bad in the second set,” Andreescu said. “I think she just raised her game and she is always a tough opponent so I wasn’t expecting anything easy.”

The Toronto native who was making her first trip to Thailand came out to a flying start breaking three times in the first set en route to serving a bagel 6-0 set in a mere 25 minutes on court.

Riding the momentum into the second set, the Canadian broke again in the first game and at 3-1 went up a double break and found herself up 5-1 and a game away from the semis.

That’s when the number five seed started fighting back and at 5-2 broke Andreescu for the first time in the match and won the next two games to level the set at 5-5, using her powerful forehand to do it.

The set and the match were ultimately decided by a tiebreaker where the top seed got the early lead at 4-2 and served out the set and match at 6-3 in the breaker to secure the win.

After the match in her on-court interview, she was asked about her chances in the next match.

“I am hoping to win the tournament and I really believe in myself and if I get the support I need hopefully I can win the next two matches.”

Andreescu will face another Ukrainian in the semi-finals Lesia Tsurenko who had no issues getting past the German Tatjana Maria in straight sets 6-1 6-1 in one hour and 16 minutes.

In the other two quarterfinal matches, Lin Zhu of China beat the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 15 minutes to set up an all-Chinese semi-final with the number seven seed Xinju Wang.

Wang needed three sets to get past the Brit Heather Watson 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes.

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ATP

Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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