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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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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