Cincinnati Daily Preview: Professional Tennis Returns to America’s Heartland - UBITENNIS
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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Professional Tennis Returns to America’s Heartland

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A look at Center Court, right across the street from Kings Island amusement park (twitter.com/CincyTennis)

After 2020’s tournament was held in New York City in conjunction with the US Open due to the pandemic, this joint ATP Masters and WTA 1000 event returns to Ohio.  Also returning this week are many of 2021’s best players who were not present in Canada last week: Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, Roland Garros champ Barbora Krejcikova, Wimbledon champ Ash Barty, Olympic gold medalists Sascha Zverev and Belinda Bencic, Rome champion Iga Swiatek, and Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini.  The WTA singles draw is especially impressive, which includes 19 of the top 20 players in the world.

While Serena, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are all absent, two-time Cincy champ Andy Murray is here and plays on Monday, against 2019 semifinalist Richard Gasquet.  Monday’s schedule is loaded with fascinating matchups, featuring six Major singles champions, as well as some of the ATP’s and WTA’S hottest players of the summer.

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

Richard Gasquet (Q) vs. Andy Murray (WC) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Gasquet just missed the cut for the main draw, but won two qualifying matches over the weekend to earn his spot.  Murray was the beneficiary of a wild card, as he’s currently ranked outside the top 100.  This will be Andy’s first singles match since his third round loss at Wimbledon to Denis Shapovalov, as he pulled out of men’s singles at the Tokyo Olympics due to injury.  Gasquet is coming off a run to the final last month on clay in Umag, though he didn’t defeat any players ranked higher than No.127.  Their rivalry dates back exactly 15 years to August of 2006, with Murray leading 8-4.  Their most memorable encounter came in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2008, when Andy stormed back from two sets down to win in five.  Their most recent encounter was on these grounds two years ago, which Gasquet won in straight sets.  The outcome on Monday may be determined by Murray’s health.  If he’s close to 100% physically, he’s the favorite.  If not, a Gasquet in winning form may knock him out.

Maria Sakkari vs. Angelique Kerber – Not Before 8:30pm on Center Court

It’s rare to see an opening round matchup between two players ranked 22nd in the world or higher, but that’s exactly what we have here.  Kerber has not played a match since her Wimbledon semifinal loss to eventual champion Ash Barty.  Sakkari lost a tight three-setter to bronze medalist Elina Svitolina in Tokyo, and fell to Victoria Azarenka in a third set tiebreak last week in Montreal.  Kerber is 2-1 against the Greek, though Sakkari claimed their match earlier this year in an Australian Open leadup event.  The German is a two-time runner-up at this event, but outside of those runs, has a losing record here.  Sakkari has advanced to the quarterfinals of this tournament in both the last two years.  Maria has been the superior hard court player of late, and should be favored to advance after some gritty, compelling rallies.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Barbora Krejcikova (9) vs. Daria Kasatkina – Krejcikova has taken 22 of her last 24 singles matches, and won a gold medal in women’s doubles alongside Katerina Siniakova.  Kasatkina was the runner-up in San Jose, her fourth final of the year.  This is their first career meeting.

Petra Kvitova (11) vs. Madison Keys – Kvitova is a two-timesemifinalist here, though she’s only 9-9 lifetime.  Keys won this event two years ago when it was last held in Cincinnati, but she’s just 10-11 this season.  Madison leads their head-to-head 4-3, which includes their two most recent matches.

Diego Schwartzman (10) vs. Dan Evans – Despite being a two-time quarterfinalist in New York, Schwartzman is only 3-4at this tournament.  Evans got off to a great start this season, but is currently on a three-match losing streak.  This is another first-time matchup.

Karen Khachanov vs. Kevin Anderson (Q) – Khachanov won the silver medal a few weeks ago in Tokyo.  Anderson was the champion last month in Newport, his first title since January of 2019.  They’ve split two previous contests.

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Jack Draper Points To Mental Fatigue As Reason For Queen’s Club Exit

Jack Draper is aiming for a big Wimbledon result despite recent mental fatigue.

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Jack Draper has revealed mental fatigue has caught up to him after his Queen’s Club exit against Tommy Paul.

The Brit was a bit flat-footed as he lost 6-3 5-7 6-4 to the American in his quarter-final match.

It was a tiring performance in what has been an action-packed last week for Draper having won his first ATP title in Stuttgart which was followed by a career-best win against Carlos Alcaraz at Queen’s Club.

However, Draper revealed after the match that the recent success has had a price in the form of mental fatigue, “It was tough to play the tennis I wanted to play, but we have to deal with that. It’s part of the game. I felt like I was having to really get myself going. Maybe because the last couple of weeks are catching up with me a little bit,” Draper was quoted by The Independent as saying.

“Physically, I felt good, my body has been great. It just becomes mentally quite taxing having to go day after day. I finished Stuttgart on Sunday, I got here very, very late on Sunday. I was training and then went in again on Tuesday. Then the match yesterday, it felt like there was quite a lot of emotional energy invested in that.

“I’m definitely having to pick myself up, I felt quite flat at times, and I think that showed in my decision-making at times in the match. I played a few more sloppy shots than I wanted to. But if I want to be one of the best players in the world, then I have to keep backing up my performances and get used to going deep every week. That’s what I want to do and what was disappointing about this one.”

It was still a positive tournament for Draper who will now enter the world’s top 30 in the rankings next week.

Now Draper will head into Wimbledon as a seeded player and the last few weeks have been a stern reminder as to the work it takes to succeed at the highest level, “If you want to be a top, top player in the world, you have to back up results week by week, day by day. You know you are in a great place and are one of the best in the world when you are able to do that,” Draper explained.

“Every day we are facing amazing tennis players who can beat you. If you are not quite on your game, for instance today, you lose the match. That is the next stage for me now. I want to try to go deep in tournaments and back it up every week.

“My body is in a good place, these are just things I have to get used to at the highest level and learn. I’m still young so I’m trying to piece a lot of things together. It was my first title last week, I’ve done it at Challengers and Futures, but it’s very different on the main tour so I probably need a bit more time.”

Draper will look for his best ever Wimbledon result when he competes in the third Grand Slam of the season, which starts on the 1st of July.

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Karolina Muchova Ready For Tennis Return, Aiming For Olympic Debut

Karolina Muchova is looking forward to the Olympics as she prepares to make her return to tennis in Eastbourne.

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Karolina Muchova is ready for her long awaited return to tennis with Wimbledon and the Olympics being her main goals.

The Czech Republican has not played since reaching the semi-finals at the US Open last year with the result in New York capping off a brilliant 2023 for Muchova.

Before that run at the US Open, Muchova also reached the final at Roland Garros and Cincinnati.

However, since then Muchova has struggled with a wrist injury as she detailed in a recent interview with Czech Republican TV, “The operation fixed a loose tendon in the right wrist,” Muchova was quoted by the WTA website as saying.

“After the operation, I had my arm in a solid splint for six weeks, then two or three weeks in a wrist brace, and then I slowly started with rehabilitation and training. My wrist was very stiff. At the start, I wasn’t even able to hold a fork, so I was asking myself how it would be possible to play a forehand or hold a racquet.

“I didn’t have that much free time because the rehabilitation process takes up much more time than you think, compared to when I train and travel to tournaments.

“Apart from the first few weeks when my arm was in a splint, I didn’t have much spare time. I went abroad from the Czech Republic one weekend, and to my family in Moravia, but otherwise it was work, morning to evening.”

A long process for Muchova to overcome as she will hope the injuries behind her and she can focus on being a threat at the top of the women’s game again.

Next up for the Czech Republican is Eastbourne in her comeback tournament as she will face a qualifier in round one.

That will be followed by playing Wimbledon as well as her first Olympic games at Roland Garros.

In particular, the Olympics is something that excites her as she has always wanted to play on the biggest stage, “At the end of this week, I’ll fly to Eastbourne with the team, where we’ll finally try to play some matches in preparation ahead of Wimbledon,” Muchova explained.

“After Wimbledon I’ll return back to the clay, maybe play a tournament, or straight to the Olympics. I’m really excited for the Olympics. I’ve never been to one, and it’s around the corner in Paris, so I can’t be more excited.

“Representing my country is definitely a huge honor. I’ve signed up to play doubles with Maky [Voundrousova], and I hope it goes well for us.”

Wimbledon starts on the first of July while the Olympics will take place on the 27th of July.

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Andy Murray Faces Race Against Time For Wimbledon After Back Procedure

Andy Murray faces a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon.

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Andy Murray faces a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon as he undergoes a back procedure on Saturday.

The procedure comes after seeing a specialist on Thursday after suffering an injury against Jordan Thompson at Queen’s Club.

It was in the warm-up, Murray suffered the injury before the five-time champion eventually retired after five games.

A bitter blow for Murray, who has given strong hints that this may be his last Wimbledon and may also retire after the summer.

There is also the Olympics for Murray as it would be a fitting end to his career given he has won two gold medals in his career.

However, this year’s Olympics is at Roland Garros and that may mean that Murray would be less eager to play in Paris.

As for Wimbledon, Murray has won the event on two different occasions and his potential appearance at SW19 will be the 16th time he takes to court at Wimbledon.

The third Grand Slam of the season takes place on the 1st of July.

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