Indian Wells Daily Preview: Two-Time Major Champs Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka Collide - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Two-Time Major Champs Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka Collide

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Victoria Azarenka on Friday in Indian Wells (twitter.com/BNPPARIBASOPEN)

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  And 2021 has not been kind to Vika, as she’s withdrawn from five different events due to multiple injuries.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.

ATP

Rafael Nadal To Play Laver Cup In Berlin

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Rafael Nadal has eased speculation that he might be retiring from the sport soon after signing on to play in the Laver Cup later this year. 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is the latest player to join the line-up for this year’s team competition which features Europe taking on the rest of the world over three days. It will be Nadal’s fourth appearance in the competition and his first since 2022. He competed in the inaugural edition of the event back in 2017 alongside co-founder Roger Federer. 

“I am very happy to be playing Laver Cup in Berlin for Team Europe,” Nadal said in a press release. “I have some really special memories from my Laver Cup experiences, including all the emotions from London two years ago playing alongside Roger for the last time.”

Nadal’s decision to play comes amid questions about his future in the sport. The former world No.1 has previously indicated that this year could be his last on the Tour but he has stated that no decision has been made. In recent months he has been sidelined from action due to injury setbacks and has only been able to play in two tournaments so far this year. 

“At this stage in my career I really want to go out there and make the most of every opportunity I am given,” he explains.
“Teaming up is always an incredible experience and I have always enjoyed it, the competition is different and exciting. I’m looking forward to going to Berlin and helping Team Europe win back the Laver Cup.”

Other European players confirmed to be playing are Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. Meanwhile, Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul have agreed to play for Team World. This year’s event will be held in Belin at the Uber Arena between September 20-22. 

The Laver Cup was inspired by golf’s Ryder Cup. It was co-founded by Federer’s Team8 management company (which he formed with agent Tony Godsick), businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann and Tennis Australia. In 2019 it became an official ATP sanction event and now has a place on the official calendar. 

Nadal is set to return to competitive action at the Madrid Masters which he has won on five previous occasions. He has been drawn to play teenage wild card Darwin Blanch in the first round. If he wins, Nadal will then play Alex de Minaur who knocked him out of the Barcelona Open last week. 

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Novak Djokovic Withdraws From Masters 1000 Event In Madrid

Novak Djokovic will miss the Masters 1000 event in Madrid and will look to build up his Roland Garros preparations in Rome.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the Masters 1000 event in Madrid as he aims for quality over quantity in his bid for Roland Garros glory.

The world number one has had a rough start to the season by his standards as he is yet to win a title this season after a semi-final defeat to Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open.

Djokovic was hoping a change of surface would bring a change of fortunes but the Serb was defeated in three sets in the semi-finals of Monte-Carlo.

Now it seems that result has made Djokovic rethink his schedule as the current Roland Garros champion has withdrawn from Madrid.

No official reason has been given although the news seems to be not that surprising given Djokovic’s history in the Spanish capital.

The Serb hasn’t played since 2022, where he was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals, and has now won the title there for five years.

It looks like Djokovic will be putting his faith into more favourable conditions in Rome, which is the most similar to Roland Garros in terms of conditions.

Djokovic is a six-time champion in the Italian capital and will aim for a seventh title when he plays there on the 8th of May.

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Thanasi Kokkinakis Questions ‘Insane’ Drug Testing

Thanasi Kokkinakis has been tested three times within the last six days.

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Thanasi Kokkinakis has questioned persistent drug testing after he revealed he was tested three times in six days.

The Australian is in good form at the moment having won the Sarasota Challenger in Florida.

Kokkinakis claimed glory with a three set win over Zizou Bergs in the final as he continues to climb the rankings.

However that glory has been overshadowed by the fact that Kokkinakis has revealed he was drug tested three times within a six day period.

The world number 94 described it as ‘insane’ and it comes after Alexandre Muller complained of persistent drug testing after his recent defeats.

Doping has been a huge topic of conversations with Simona Halep losing two years of her career after testing positive after the US Open before the Court Of Arbitration For Sport shortened her case.

Kokkinakis will be hoping that this is the last time he has to deal with persistent drug testing as he continues his clay court season.

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