Cincinnati Daily Preview: The Australian No.1 Faces a Two-Time Australian Open Champion - UBITENNIS
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Cincinnati Daily Preview: The Australian No.1 Faces a Two-Time Australian Open Champion

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Ash Barty keeps her eyes on the ball during her straight set win on Wednesday (twitter.com/CincyTennis)

This will be another jam-packed day of great matches around the grounds.  The most-anticipated matchup sees a pair of two-time Major singles champions square off in the third round.  World No.1 Ash Barty won her second Slam just last month at The Championships, while Victoria Azarenka secured hers back in 2013.  Thursday’s schedule also presents two other WTA matches featuring a battle of Slam champs, as well as Naomi Osaka, and Petra Kvitova in action.

 

On the men’s side, we have a rematch from July’s Wimbledon quarterfinals, when eventual finalist Matteo Berrettini defeated his good friend, Felix Auger-Aliassime, in four sets.  In another rematch, from the 2019 US Open semifinals, 2019 Cincinnati champ Daniil Medvedev faces 2017 champ Grigor Dimitrov.  Nine of the top 10 seeds remain in the men’s singles draw, which also includes Stefanos Tsitsipas, Sascha Zverev, and Andrey Rublev.

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.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Victoria Azarenka (14)

They’ve played three times, with all three matches taking place on hard courts, and Barty leads 2-1.  Azarenka prevailed three years ago in Tokyo, then Barty won two years ago in Fed Cup as well as earlier this season in Miami.  Ash is now 36-7 on the year, with four titles, while Azarenka is 20-6, with no titles and no finals.  Vika was one of the players forced into hard lockdown back in Melbourne, and her season has just never recovered, with five withdrawals this year due to injury.  It was this time a year ago when she achieved great success, winning this event and going on to reach the US Open final.  But in the past three months, Barty has only lost one completed match.  Ash is also 14-2 this year in deciding sets.  Barty’s ability to find ways to win make her the favorite to prevail.  And the rest of the field better hope she does, as the only two times Vika has advanced beyond the third round of this tournament, she’s won it.

Matteo Berrettini (5) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (12)

Aside from their Wimbledon quarterfinal, they also met two years ago in the final of Stuttgart, with Berrettini winning in straight sets.  That week, the Italian notably never dropped serve, and would go on to achieve his first Major semifinal a few months later in New York.  But this may be a good time for Felix to earn his first victory over Matteo, as Berrettini has only played one match since Wimbledon due to a leg injury, which was still taped up during his opening round win.  Matteo did have a day of rest on Wednesday, while Felix participated in a grueling battle with Karen Khachanov.  At The Championships, the only set the Canadian won was the only set where he maintained higher percentages on both first serve and second serve points won.  Considering the firepower of both men, using their serve to gain control of the rallies will be crucial.  Coming off a confidence-boosting win in the last round, I like Felix’s chances of reaching the quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 event for just the second time.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Grigor Dimitrov – Medvedev is 2-1 against Dimitrov, and 2-0 on hard courts.  The Russian is now 35-4 since November on this surface.

Garbine Muguruza (8) vs. Barbora Krejcikova (9) – It’s the reigning Roland Garros champ against the 2016 champ.  Krejickova has now won 24 of her last 26 matches, but earlier this year in the final of Dubai, Muguruza beat her.

Angelique Kerber vs. Jelena Ostapenko – Kerber already earned impressive victories this week over Maria Sakkari and Elina Svitolina.  She’s split two previous encounters with Ostapenko, though they’ve never played on a hard court.

Petra Kvitova (11) vs. Ons Jabeur – Kvitova is 4-5 in her last nine matches, and was only 9-9 lifetime in Cincinnati prior to this week.  Jabeur has now accumulated 38 wins this seasons, but she’s 0-2 in her career against Petra.

Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Jil Teichmann – Osaka came back from a set and a break down on Wednesday to overcome Coco Gauff.  Teichmann is a 24-year-old from Switzerland who had lost nine of her last 12 matches coming into this event, though she retired from two of those due to injury.

Pablo Carreno Busta (7) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (9) – Carreno Busta has claimed 10 of his last 11 matches, while Hurkacz has won nine of his last 12. 

Casper Ruud (8) vs. Diego Schwartzman (10) – Both men survived long three-setters on Wednesday against American opposition.  Ruud is now 15-1 since Wimbledon, while Schwartzman has underperformed this season, only reaching the semifinals or better at one tournament.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (2) vs. Lorenzo Sonego – Tsistipas leads the tour with 47 wins in 2021, though Sonego’s tally of 33 wins is not too shabby.  Earlier this year in Miami, Stefanos defeated Lorenzo in straight sets.

Andrey Rublev (4) vs. Gael Monfils – Their only previous matchup came in January of 2018, when Monfils took out Rublev in the Doha final.

Belinda Bencic (10) vs. Karolina Muchova – The Olympic gold medalist in on an eight-match winning streak.  Muchova upset Bianca Andreescu on Wednesday.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Rankings Update: Novak Djokovic Consolidates His Supremacy

How has events at last week’s Italian Masters impacted on the standings?

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ATP NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

by Roberto Ferri, translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

The ATP Masters 1000 Rome, aka the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, haven’t significantly impacted the ATP Rankings.

 

Thanks to his first final in Rome, Stefanos Tsitsipas overtakes Rafael Nadal; Casper Ruud is back in 8th place while Matteo Berrettini loses two positions and now is No. 10. The most striking news is that Novak Djokovic, while conquering his sixth crown in Rome, appeared close to his best tennis and has once more opened up quite a gap between himself and his chasers. 

TOP 20

PositionPlayerCountryPts+/-
1DjokovicSerbia8660 
2MedvedevRussia7980 
3ZverevGermany7200 
4TsitsipasGreece61701
5NadalSpain5525-1
6AlcarazSpain4770 
7RublevRussia3945 
8RuudNorway39402
9Auger-AliassimeCanada3850 
10BerrettiniItalia3805-2
11NorrieGB3355 
12SinnerItaly31951
13HurkaczPoland3095-1
14FritzUSA2920 
15ShapovalovCanada26711
16SchwartzmanArgentina2505-1
17Carreno BustaSpain21351
18OpelkaUSA2090-1
19Bautista AgutSpain1903 
20DimitrovBulgaria1785 

NITTO ATP FINALS RACE TO TURIN

I came, I saw, I conquered.” Considering the geographic context, the Julius Ceasar quote seems most appropriate for commenting on Novak Djokovic’s triumph in Rome: thanks to the 1000 points earned in Rome, the world number 1 has whizzed up to 10th position in the ranking of the best players in 2022 with 1610 points.

Ahead of him (until when?) there are:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1NadalSpain3620
2TsitsipasGreece3490
3AlcarazSpain3460
4Auger AliassimeCanada2025
5ZverevGermany1980
6RublevRussia1920
7MedvedevRussia1900
8FritzUSA1765
9RuudNorway1615

NEXT GEN RACE TO MILAN

No changes have occurred in the ranking of the best under 21s:

PositionPlayerCountryPtsYOB
1AlcarazSpain34602003
2SinnerItaly12502001
3RuneDenmark5582003
4MusettiItalia4862002
5LeheckaCzech Rep.4832001
6DraperGB4492001
7TsengTaipei4202001
8NardiItaly2312003
9CobolliItaly2222002
10NakashimaUSA2002001

BEST RANKING

Eleven players in the top 100 reach their career best:

PlayerPositionCountry
Van de Zandshulp29Netherlands
Brooksby34USA
Rune40Denmark
Cerundolo44Argentina
Giron49USA
Bonzi53France
Altmaier54Germany
Lehecka77Czech Rep.
Tabito78Chile
Halys86France
Taberner88Spain

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Iga Swiatek on Saturday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Iga Swiatek has won her last 27 matches.  Ons Jabeur has won her last 11 matches.  They are easily the two best WTA players of the year thus far.  On Sunday, in their first meeting of the season, only one of them can continue their winning streak.

 

Novak Djokovic is a five-time champion in Rome, and a six-time runner-up.  This is his seventh final out the last eight years.  He faces Stefanos Tsitsipas, in a rematch of their dramatic championship match nearly a year ago at Roland Garros.

Also on Sunday, the men’s and women’s doubles finals will be played.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (9) – 1:00pm on Center Court

This should be an excellent championship match, featuring the WTA’s two hottest performers, and two of the sport’s most eclectic and likeable players.  Swiatek claimed their first meeting three years ago in Washington, but Jabeur took their last two (Wimbledon, Cincinnati).  Their Wimbledon encounter was easily their most prominent, where Ons came from a set down on Manic Monday, winning both of the last two sets 6-1.  The differences on that day were Jabeur’s superior play on break points, converting 7-of-7, compared to only 3-of-15 by Swiatek.  And Ons was +7 in winners to unforced errors, while Iga was -7. 

But nearly a year later, Swiatek has evolved into an even smarter, ultra-confident competitor.  She is 36-3 this season, with 27 straight victories.  And 22 of those 27 consecutive wins have been in straight sets.  Jabeur’s 11-match win streak is quite impressive as well, though she’s required two dramatic comebacks within the last 48 hours.  On Friday, she was down 6-1, 5-2 to Maria Sakkari, and two points from defeat.  On Saturday, she saved match point against Daria Kasatkina, eventually prevailing 7-5 in the third. 

As per the WTA, Jabeur is 21-0 this year when she wins the first set, making that set on Sunday all the more crucial.  But considering how draining Jabeur’s last two matches have been, Swiatek is the favorite to defend her title, and extend her win streak to 28-0 heading into Roland Garros.  That’s especially true on this surface, as these players are yet to meet on clay, which is Iga’s best surface.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) – Not Before 4:00pm on Center Court

Their last meeting was the aforementioned French Open final, where Tsitsipas could not close out the match out despite winning the first two sets.  That was Novak’s fifth consecutive victory over Stefanos, and third straight on clay.  They also played last year in the quarterfinals of this event, when Djokovic won 7-5 in the third.  And at Roland Garros two years ago, they also went the distance, with Novak winning in five.  The Greek’s only two victories over Djokovic have come on hard courts: four years ago in Canada, and three years ago in Shanghai. 

Tsitsipas leads the ATP this year with 31 match wins, and an impressive 14-2 record on clay.  By contrast, this is only the unvaccinated Novak’s fifth tournament of the season, and he hasn’t won a title.  Yet Djokovic has been the more in-form player this week, advancing to this final without dropping a set.  Tsitsipas has been pushed to a decider three times this week.

But has Djokovic fully rediscovered his top form?  Can he earn his first victory over a top five player since November?  This will be a huge test for Novak, and will reveal just how ready he is for his French Open title defense, which begins in just a week’s time.  He’s yet to be fully tested this week, and I fully expect Tsitsipas to do so.  Winning this title would be a huge boost for either player heading into Paris, as it will either be Novak’s first title in six months, or Stefanos’ second Masters 1000 title on clay this season.  Based on recent results, and Djokovic’s lack of play this season, I give the slight edge to the more match-tough Tsitsipas to win on Sunday.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Madrid Open champions Dabrowski and Olmos are playing for their second WTA 1000 title in as many weeks.  This is Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova’s first tournament as a team.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (3) vs. John Isner and Diego Schwartzman – Mektic and Pavic were easily the best men’s doubles team of 2021, with nine titles.  But they’re yet to win a tournament this season.  Isner has already won two Masters 1000 doubles title this season with two other partners (Sock, Hurkacz).


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Conquering the world: Carlos Alcaraz beats Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic to cement Barcelona-Madrid titles (Part Two)

Carlos Alcaraz will now look to translate his success from the ATP Tour to Roland Garros.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@MutuaMadridOpen)

In part one, I assessed how Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz continues to take the tennis world by storm after his victory in Barcelona.

 

Now I turn my attentions to his success in another famous Spanish city.

Madrid Masters victory

Alcaraz again began his Madrid Masters campaign in style, beating the dangerous Georgian Nicoloz Basilashvili in straight sets.

A stern test came in the form of Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who pushed the birthday boy that day to three sets.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdMSI6uKJZB/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Alcaraz moving through 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final clash with his idol Rafa Nadal.

Now, some context is needed that the 21-time Grand Slam was appearing in his first tournament back since recovering from a rib injury.

An opening round win against Serbian Miomir Kecmanović was backed up with a tight three-set triumph over Belgian David Goffin, with the veteran Spaniard saving four match points.

To his credit, Nadal pushed his young apprentice all the way, before going down 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, with the second set showing his obvious quality, despite being partially fit.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdOP5Jtg2Pn/

If this moment was a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis, then Alcaraz’s impressive win over Novak Djokovic could point to the man who may dominant the future of tennis.

The world number one was fortunate to play a match less, after the shock withdrawal of old rival Murray in the third-round.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CdRFDuFgIHv/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

But he was no match for the imperious Alcaraz who triumphed at front of the delighted home support, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).

The first player ever to beat Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back on a clay court in the history of tennis.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

And Alcaraz made it a highly commendable 5-0 in finals, destroying Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-1, with little challenge unlike the previous encounters with Norrie, Nadal and Djokovic.

James Spencer (Twitter: @jspencer28) – Alcaraz Verdict

In truth, I had a sneaky feeling that Alcaraz would triumph in Barcelona.

The way he is playing with such finesse and confidence, particularly against the Monte Carlo Masters champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas, was incredible to see.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Saving match points against Alex de Minaur, also showed his mettle.

He also has an unbelievable shot selection and fitness levels.

Beating Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back is no easy feat.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRGhGyq64J/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Often just one win knocks the stuffing out of you, mentally and physically, but not for this kid.

Alcaraz doesn’t get carried away. And this has been shown consistently this season.

Winning the Miami Masters could have led to a drop in motivation, yet he has looked even more motivated if anything.

He’s performed on hard-court and clay court surfaces with an assuring dominance.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRDN0Hq_zY/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

In fact, he is unbeaten on clay this season, losing three times in total all season.

Matteo Berrettini in five at the Australian Open.

Nadal in the semis of Indian Wells in a tight three sets, that ultimately injured the elder Spaniard, which could have ramifications on his entire fitness this season, and the destination of the French Open trophy.

And a close three-set defeat to up and coming youngster Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdTpZI6o1kX/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

The new world number six must surely be the new favourite to WIN the French Open later this month.

Skipping the Italian Open should help the 19-year-old heal any niggling injuries.

If he does win in Paris, he will be the youngest Grand Slam champion since you guessed it, Nadal.

Only time will tell.

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