Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov Play for Gold - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

Focus

Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov Play for Gold

Avatar

Published

on

Karen Khachanov celebrating victory earlier this week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

48 hours after ending Novak Djokovic’s bid for a Golden Slam, a feat only achieved by German Steffi Graf, Sascha Zverev looks to win another gold medal for Germany.  But a big-hitting Russian stands in his way, one who owns a winning record against Zverev on hard courts.

 

The last day of tennis in Tokyo will also host two gold medal matches in doubles.  In women’s doubles, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have won three Majors, and now go for a gold medal against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.  For Bencic, it’s an opportunity to win a second gold medal in as many days.  

In addition, a pair of teams representing the Russian Olympic Committee will face off for gold in mixed doubles.  Will Elena Vesnina be able to recover from a devastating loss in Saturday’s women’s doubles bronze medal match?  Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova held four match points, only to lose the last six points of the match and fail to reach the podium.

Sunday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time.

Sascha Zverev (4) [GER] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – Second on Centre Court

Overall they have split four previous encounters, but Khachanov leads 2-1 on this surface, which includes their two most recent meetings.  And neither of those have been close.  At the 2018 Paris Masters, it was 6-1, 6-2.  At the 2019 Rogers Cup, it was 6-3, 6-3.  The event in Paris was the biggest title run of the Russian’s career, and a week where he also defeated Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.  However, he hasn’t won a title, or even reached a final, ever since.  And prior to his run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, Khachanov was only 16-14 on the year.  But it is worth noting he’s 4-0 lifetime in ATP finals, with his other three victories coming at 250-level events.

Zverev is certainly the far more accomplished player.  He owns 15 career titles, which includes four Masters events, as well as the 2018 ATP Finals.  And he’s reached the semifinals or better at Majors three times, something Khachanov is yet to achieve.   Though I do wonder just how much scar tissue was created by his loss in the final of last year’s US Open, where he was up two sets before eventually losing in a fifth-set tiebreak.  Both he and Dominic Thiem played a considerably nervy match, and this will be Zverev’s first best-of-five final since that painful loss.

And that could be a significant factor on this day: the men’s singles gold medal final is the only match at the Olympics that is best-of-five.  Zverev possesses a much stronger record in best-of-five, and a far superior record in five-setters.  As per Tennis Abstract, Sascha is 16-9 in fifth sets, compared to Karen’s record of 6-7.  And Khachanov’s two most recent five-set wins were not pretty.  A few weeks ago in the fourth round of Wimbledon, against Sebastian Korda, 13 out of the 18 games in the fifth set were breaks of serve.  And last summer at the US Open, he was only able to come back from two sets down thanks to the cramping of Jannik Sinner. 

So who is the favorite to win gold?  Their head-to-head favors Khachanov, while recent form and best-of-five experience favors Zverev.  And the German has been serving excellently throughout this tournament, striking 40 aces and only three doubles, especially impressive for a player who has suffered from double fault issues in the recent past.  However, Zverev had a much easier road to this final than Khachanov.  Other than Djokovic, Sascha faced no one ranked inside the top 40, while Karen beat three top 30 players.  The Olympics are an event which often produces surprising tennis results.  And these are two men who are known to get tight in big matches.  But considering the way Zverev has been serving, and the confidence boost his upset of Djokovic should provide, I give Sascha the slight edge to become an Olympic champion.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev (4) [ROC] vs. Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev [ROC] – Vesnina not only lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, she and Kudermetova also served for the championship a few weeks ago at Wimbledon, before losing 9-7 in the third.  And Vesnina and Karatsev were defeated in the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros, the same event where Pavlyuchenkvoa lost in the women’s singles final.  Who will realize redemption on Sunday?

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic – The Czechs are of course the favorites, with three Major titles as a team.  The Swiss are a new team formed exclusively for this event.  But don’t count them out, especially with Bencic coming off a gold medal victory in singles on Saturday evening.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

Focus

Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Goes for her 31st Consecutive Victory

Avatar

Published

on

A shot from the grounds of the French Open (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

This century, as per the WTA, Iga Swiatek is tied for fifth-most 6-0 sets won in a season.  And it’s still only May.  The 2020 champion will look to continue her dominance on Saturday against Danka Kovinic, won who an ITF-level clay event earlier this month.

 

Other third round action on Saturday includes Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Paula Badosa.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Andrey Rublev (7) vs. Cristian Garin – 11:00am on Court 14

Rublev won a clay event in Belgrade last month, yet went just 2-2 between Madrid and Rome.  Thus far, he’s dropped a set in each of his first two matches.  So Andrey is not currently in his top form.  And his history at this event is rather up-and-down: he reached the quarterfinals in 2020, but lost in the first round in his other two previous appearances.  Garin excels on this surface: all five of his career ATP titles have come on clay, and he advanced to the fourth round here a year ago.  After surprisingly struggling on clay this February in South America, where he went 0-3, the Chilean was a semifinalist in Houston and a quarterfinalist in Madrid.  Andrey is 2-0 against Cristian, which includes a win on clay three years ago in Hamburg.  Garin should certainly test Rublev, and if he does, Andrey needs to avoid allowing his temper to get the best of him as it recently has.  But the seventh seed has the necessary fire power to dictate play and prevail.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Danika Kovinic – 12:00pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Kovinic is a 27-year-old from Montenegro who, after never getting beyond the second round of a Major for eight years, is now into the third round at the second consecutive Slam  At January’s Australian Open, she upset US Open champ Emma Raducanu.  And she’s 12-4 this year on clay at all levels.  But defeating another Slam champ on Saturday will be a daunting task.  Swiatek has not lost since February 16th, and she’s 16-2 lifetime at this event, with her only losses coming against top 10 opposition (Halep, Sakkari).  Iga is a huge favorite to make the second week of this event for the fourth straight year, something she’s never failed to do.


Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Miomir Kecmanovic (28) – Second on Court Suzanne Lenglen

Coming off a near two-month layoff for hernia surgery, and an 0-1 record on clay this season, not much was expected of Medvedev heading into this fortnight.  But he’s played at a high level this week, and is yet to drop a set.  However, Kecmanovic will be a big step up in competition.  The 22-year-old is in the top 20 of the year-to-date rankings, thanks to 25 match wins.  Miomir has achieved six quarterfinals this season, and he’s coached by a man who knows plenty about playing on clay: two-time French Open semifinalist David Nalbandian.  Medvedev and Kecmanovic have never played before, and an upset of the No.2 seed would not be shocking considering Miomir’s recent form, as well as Daniil’s lack of play and lack of love for this surface.


Paula Badosa (3) vs. Veronika Kudermetova (29) – Third on Court Suzanne Lenglen

This is their third meeting this season, and Badosa crushed Kudermetova in their first two.  In Indian Wells, Paula won 6-3, 6-2.  In Madrid, it was 6-3, 6-0.  However, Veronika claimed their three earlier encounters, two of which occurred last year, and one of which was on clay.  Kudermetova reached a clay final last month in Istanbul, but then promptly lost three straight matches heading into this event, including the Madrid loss to Badosa.  Paula was an excellent 17-3 on clay last year, though she’s yet to play at her top level this season on this surface.  But based on their recent history, Badosa is a considerable favorite to even their overall head-to-head.


Holger Rune vs. Hugo Gaston – Not Before 8:45pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

These are two of the ATP’s most exciting young stars, who will deservedly receive the spotlight of the night session on Saturday night in Paris.  21-year-old Gaston made his Major breakthrough at this event two years ago, as the Frenchman electrified the Parisian audience with his surprising run to the fourth round.  Hugo defeated two-time finalist Dominic Thiem in five sets, and then almost upset another Major champion Stan Wawrinka, eventually losing in five, but not before hitting an astounding 58 drop shots.  19-year-old Rune made a name for himself at last year’s US open by taking a set off Novak Djokovic.  And within the last two months, Rune has claimed two clay titles, one at Challenger level and one at tour level.  Holger is yet to drop a set this week, while Hugo again enthused his home country with a victory over Alex de Minaur in a fifth-set tiebreak.  The French crowd played a huge role in that outcome, and they’ll look to do the same on Saturday evening.  But in their first career meeting, the more in-form player should be favored, and that definitively is Rune.  Prior to this tournament, Gaston was only 4-9 on the year.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Aryna Sabalenka (7) vs. Camila Giorgi (28) – These are two of the WTA’s hardest ball strikers.  They have split two previous meetings, with their clay court matchup going to Sabalenka.

Jessica Pegula (11) vs. Tamara Zidansek (24) – Pegula has required 19 match points across her first two matches to advance.  Zidansek was a surprise semifinalist here a year ago, but had a losing record on the year coming into this event.  Two years in Auckland, Pegula defeated Zidansek 6-2, 6-3.

Hubert Hurkacz (12) vs. David Goffin – Hurkacz has advanced via two three-setters, while Goffin has advanced via two four-setters.  Just a few weeks ago in Rome, Goffin overcame Hurkacz in two sets decided by tiebreaks.

Marin Cilic (20) vs. Gilles Simon (WC) – Simon is one of the best stories of this first week.  Gilles was 1-4 at tour level this season, but in his last Roland Garros, the Frenchman has thrilled the Parisian crowd with surprising victories over Pablo Carreno Busta and Steve Johnson.  And he’s 6-1 lifetime against Cilic, with Marin’s only win coming in a five-setter at the 2014 US Open.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Mikael Ymer – Tsitsipas has really struggled through two rounds, already spending nearly eight hours on court.  Ymer is yet to go beyond the third round of a Slam, and is 0-3 against the Greek.

Elena Rybakina (16) vs. Madison Keys (22) – Rybakina was a quarterfinalist here a year ago, though Keys has reached the quarters or better twice.  This is their first meeting.

Casper Ruud (8) vs. Lorenzo Sonego (32) – Despite owning seven ATP titles on clay, Ruud is 0-3 in the third round of Roland Garros.  Sonego reached the fourth round two years ago, and is yet to drop a set this week.  Ruud is 3-0 against Sonego, and has won six of their seven sets.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

Continue Reading

Focus

David Goffin upsets Frances Tiafoe and Marin Cilic rolls on

David Goffin will play Hubert Hurkacz on Saturday for a place in the last 16.

Avatar

Published

on

David Goffin (@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Belgium’s David Goffin displayed his specialist clay-court skills as he fought back to beat Frances Tiafoe in four sets.

 

After losing the opening set 6-3, the Marrakesh Open champion won a crucial second set tie-break 7-6 (7-1).

Then never looked back to win the third and fourth sets 6-2, 6-4 to cement his place in the round of 32.

After the match he had this to say.

“It was a tough battle, especially when you lose the first set, and you have to turn it around.”

Physically it was not easy but it’s good that I managed to finish in four sets.

“I’m very happy to be in third round again. It means a lot, of course,” he said.

“I’m playing well at the moment. Physically, mentally, my tennis is there.

“It was my goal to come back and play my best tennis. So, I’m very happy.”

His next opponent will be far from easy as Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz prevailed 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 over former French Open semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Gilles Simon’s dream campaign before retiring in the autumn continues as he made light work of Steve Johnson.

The American going down in straight sets 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6).

Simon’s next opponent is none other than Marin Cilic.

The Croatian is slowly returning to form, but will be more than happy to have seen off the dangerous Hungarian Márton Fucsovics.

Storming back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas kept his title hopes alive as he stuttered past Czech Zdeněk Kolář.

A tight four sets and three tie-breaks needed to book his place in round three, coming through 6-3, 7-6 (10-8), 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (9-7).

He will play Sweden’s Mikael Ymer next.

Continue Reading

Focus

Amanda Anisimova Finds Enjoyment In Tennis After Stellar 2022 Season Continues

Amanda Anisimova will play Leylah Fernandez in the last 16 on Sunday.

Avatar

Published

on

Amanda Anisimova (@usta - Twitter)

Amanda Anisimova is enjoying her tennis again after her stellar 2022 season continues in Paris.

 

The American had to overcome a tough challenge against the tricky Karolina Muchova.

Last year’s semi-finalist was leading the Czech Republican 6-7(7) 6-2 3-0 before Muchova’s injury struggles continued and she retired.

As for Anisimova, her form season has continued as she has now won three or more matches in her last four tournaments and has risen up the rankings.

One of the reasons for this Anisimova states is her finding enjoyment in her tennis again, “I think this whole year I’ve just, I don’t know, it’s just different for me this year playing, I just really enjoy like the fight and being out there and just every single point,” Anisimova said in her press conference.

“Last year I don’t think tennis was my first priority. I think that I was just struggling too much off court and I couldn’t really enjoy the game. And, yeah, it was different, so, yeah, I’m just happy with how this year has been going and finding my game again and just be out there playing and having fun.

“I just reset and I, I don’t know, started playing a bit better, so that’s something that I worked on and, yeah, like last year was difficult for me, but I’ve turned things around. I’m enjoying playing tennis more now so, yeah, just my outlook is different.”

Anisimova’s tennis has been a lot more enjoyable to watch and it’s clear to see that the American is enjoying her environment and the way she plays tennis now.

On the flip side, the last couple of years have been a struggle for Anisimova with personal struggles to deal with as well as a lot of anxiety.

Recently Simona Halep suffered a panic attack in her second round match at Roland Garros leading to defeat.

Anisimova reflected on her experiences and admits tennis can be a stressful sport, “I don’t know with other players what they experience, but I feel like for me like when I’m rushing and I’m worrying more and overall I think that what I worked on is just to slow down when I’m aware that it’s happening and just try to take my time and just breathe,” Anisimova told the press.

“I think the awareness part is the biggest key to those situations. I wouldn’t say it’s like such a big thing, like because tennis matches, they’re always stressful, I think, the whole match. I think with experience over the years you learn more and as you play on the big stadiums it’s just comes with experience and, yeah, just learning all the lessons you can.”

Anisimova’s experiences have certainly helped her as she looks forward to the second week at Roland Garros.

Next for the American will be US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez who edged out Belinda Bencic in three sets.

Bencic was the highest seed left in the bottom half in the draw but Fernandez was too strong as she advanced to the last 16.

Fernandez leads the head-to-head heading into Sunday’s clash.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending