Sunday’s play in the desert features plenty of enticing matchups around the grounds. Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, two players who collectively won a Major in each year between 2011 and 2014, will play for the first time in nearly three years. Three-time Slam champion Andy Murray faces one of the sport’s fastest-rising performers, Carlos Alcaraz. Another of the ATP’s most impressive newcomers, American Jenson Brooksby, takes on Sascha Zverev, who is only 5-4 lifetime at this event. And a breakout star from last month’s US Open, Leylah Fernandez, plays Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is having the best season of her 15-year career.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Sunday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Carlos Alcaraz (2) vs. Andy Murray (WC) – Second on Stadium 2
After playing only 23 tour-level events between July of 2017 and July of 2021, it’s been a busy two months for Andy Murray. This is his seventh event since mid-August, which also includes a Challenger tournament. While he’s only once won multiple matches consecutively during this stretch, perhaps the reps are starting to pay off. Andy played some of his best tennis since his latest return in a 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Adrian Mannarino on Friday. 18-year-old Alcaraz has not played since retiring in his Major quarterfinal debut a month ago due to a leg injury. With no matches in over a month, and questions regarding whether Carlos is 100% recovered, I like Murray’s chances of winning this first career meeting.
Petra Kvitova (7) vs. Victoria Azarenka (27) – Not Before 6:00pm on Stadium 2
Azarenka is a two-time champion at this tournament, but since her last title in 2016, she’s only 3-2 here. And 2021 has not been kind to Vika, as she’s withdrawn from five different events due to multiple injuries. Kvitova is only 14-9 lifetime in the southern California desert, which is not surprising, as her struggles in warmer conditions are well-documented. Petra leads their head-to-head 5-3, which includes five of their last six encounters. Azarenka’s first two victories came in 2008 and 2009. However, her only semi-recent win occurred on a North American hard court, at the 2015 WTA 1000 event in Canada. So this location and surface would usually favor Vika, but her injury woes call that into question. It was only last week in Chicago when she withdrew before facing Garbine Muguruza in the round of 16. And with this match scheduled in the evening session, Kvitova will be pleased to find cooler temperatures than the heat of the afternoon, which makes her a slight favorite to advance.
Other Notable Matches on Sunday:
Iga Swiatek (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova (25) – At last year’s US Open, Swiatek comfortably defeated Kudermetova 6-3, 6-3.
Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Jenson Brooksby – This will be Zverev’s first tour match since losing in five sets to Novak Djokovic in the US Open semifinals. 20-year-old Brooksby had a stellar summer, reaching the final in Newport, the semis in Washington, and the fourth round in New York.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (2) vs. Pedro Martinez – This is a rematch from Roland Garros in June, when Tsitsipas prevailed over the 24-year-old Spaniard in straight sets.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (9) vs. Leylah Fernandez (23) – Pavlyuchenkova easily dispatched of Madison Keys in the last round, while Fernandez did the same to Alize Cornet.
Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.
Anett Kontaveit Set To Battle For WTA Finals Spot After Lifting Moscow Crown
It is the third time Kontaveit has won a tournament within the past six months but will she be able to qualify for the season-ending championships?
Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit has continued her recent surge in form on the Tour by fighting back from a set down to win her fourth career title at the Kremlin Cup on Sunday.
The world No.20 was on the verge of losing to home favourite Ekaterina Alexandrova before battling to a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, victory. At one stage in the match Kontaveit was trailing by a set and 0-4. Then in the decider she was broken at 4-4 before going on to win three games in a row to clinch the title. Overall, she won 69% of her first service points and broke her opponent five times.
“Of course, I am very happy, the match was extremely difficult, I feel relief and joy,” she said afterwards. “I got lucky at match-point, but during the match there were moments when she (Alexandrova) got lucky too. It always takes a little luck to win. She took the lead, controlled the match, it was very difficult for me, I tried to fight for all the points and this helped me to win.”
Kontaveit, who defeated former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza and Markéta Vondroušová earlier in the tournament, has now won 14 out of the last 15 matches she has played on the Tour. Her only loss was to Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals at Indian Wells. She has played in five finals this year which is the second-highest on the WTA Tour after world No.1 Ash Barty who has played in six.
The 25-year-old is now on the verge of qualifying for the WTA Finals for the first time in her career. However, the prospect of her playing in the season-ending event depends on the results of next week’s tournaments. Kontaveit is playing in Romania and she needs to win the tournament and for rival Jabeur to lose before the semi-finals to qualify.
Meanwhile, runner-up Alexandrova exits Moscow frustrated with her missed opportunities in the match. It was the first time she has played in a final this season and only the third time in her career. Prior to Kontaveit, she scored back-to-back wins over Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to win, I’m very sorry. But I will work on it and I hope next time I will be able to get a better result,” Alexandrova said during the trophy ceremony.
“I want to congratulate Anett, she played great, it was hard for me to do something.” She added.
Kontaveit, who has won three WTA titles since August, is the first Estonian player to win the Moscow trophy. Compatriot Kaia Kanepi reached the final of the tournament back in 2011.
Bad news for the Transylvania Open as no fans are allowed
There will be no fans for next week’s event that includes Simona Halep and Emma Raducanu.
Mere days before the event was going to start the government announced a new measure that won’t allow for spectators.
The Transylvania Open a brand new WTA 250 event being held at the BT Arena in Cluj-Napoca got some bad news when the government announced due to a spike in covid cases the event will be held without fans.
The tournament was able to get some big names for its tournament with the likes of Simona Halep, Paula Badosa, and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu who were hoping to feed off the crowd energy.
Now they will have to play in an empty stadium which is something that happened a lot last year and another hurdle the players will have to go through, it’s disappointing because things were getting better but the fourth wave of Coronavirus keeps ravaging the world.
This will be the first tournament back for Raducanu after being upset in Indian Wells and was supposed to be a homecoming since she is of Romanian descent.
The tournament went on Twitter to announce the news that they will be hosting the event behind closed doors.
Halep was hoping to be able to also play in front of her home fans but will now look to win another title in her native country without any spectators or fan support.
As mentioned in the tweet the effect won’t happen till Monday so the fans will still be able to attend the qualifying matches that will happen on Saturday and Sunday.
‘I Know How To Get There’ – Karen Khachanov Targets Return To Top 10
The world No.31 has showed signs of his talent this season with a run to the Olympic final but a lack of consistency and changes to the ATP ranking system has hindered him too.
It wasn’t that long ago when Karen Khachanov was the highest-ranked Russian man on the ATP Tour and billed as the next big thing from his country.
A breakout 2018 season saw Khachanov claim three Tour titles with the biggest of those being at the Paris Masters which remains his most prestigious trophy to date. He also reached his first major quarter-final at the French Open during the same season and scored five wins over top 10 players. Those triumphs helped elevate him in the ranking to a high of eight.
However, since that breakthrough Khachanov has found himself on a a rollercoaster journey. He is yet to win another title since Paris but came agonisingly close at the Tokyo Olympic Games where he finished runner-up to Alexander Zverev. In his nine previous Grand Slam tournaments his best run was at Wimbledon this season where he reached the last eight before losing to Denis Shapovalov.
Now ranked 31st in the world, the 25-year-old is aiming to claim back up the ladder after the ATP changed their ranking logic to the method used prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The rankings turned out to be a big pun, it was frozen for a year and a half, only now normal counting has begun. I am not fixated on this,” Khachanov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. “My main goal is to get back to the Top10. I know how to get there. And the intermediate goals are to be healthy and motivated.”
Khachanov has been ranked outside the world’s top 20 since February and hasn’t been in the top 10 since October 2019. He is currently coached on the Tour by Jose Clavet who has previously worked with a series of top Spanish players such as Feliciano Lopez, Alex Corretja, Tommy Robredo and Carlos Moya.
“He travels with me everywhere, for which I am grateful to him. I trust him as a specialist, as a coach and as a friend,” Khachanov said of Clavet.
Khachanov has returned to his home country this week where he is playing in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup. A tournament he won three years ago by defeating Adrian Mannarino in the final. Seeded third in the draw this time round, he began his campaign on Wednesday with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, win over James Duckworth. In the next round, he faces another Australian in the shape of John Millman which he believes will be a far from easy task.
“He is a fighter, a complete player, he does everything well, forehand and backhand with good intensity. He does everything at a good level, but the main quality is that he fights till the end, so it will be hard for me,” he said of his next opponent.
Moscow is the seventh tournament this year where Khachanov has reached the quarter-final stage.
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