On Saturday in Turin, five-time champion Novak Djokovic will face 2018 champion Sascha Zverev in a blockbuster semifinal. This will be their fifth meeting in 2021, all of which have been dramatic affairs. The other singles semifinal sees defending champion Daniil Medvedev face Casper Ruud.
The doubles semifinals will also be played on Saturday, and look to be tremendous. The top four seeds have all advanced, who have collectively claimed three of the four Major doubles titles this year.
Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing matchup, while highlighting the other matches on the schedule. Saturday’s play gets underway at 11:30am local time.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (3) – Not Before 9:00pm
Djokovic leads their head-to-head 7-3, and 6-2 on hard courts. He’s also claimed three of their four matches this year. At the ATP Cup, Novak prevailed 7-5 in the third after a back-and-forth, high-quality encounter. Two weeks later in the Australian Open quarterfinals, Djokovic came back from a set down to escape in a fourth-set tiebreak. At the Tokyo Olympics, it was Zverev who stormed back from a set down, winning 10 of the last 11 games to deny Novak’s bid for a Golden Slam. A month later in the US Open semifinals, Djokovic avenged his Tokyo heartbreak in a grueling five-setter, which some attribute to why Novak appeared lethargic in the final two days later. They’ve also met three times at this tournament. Novak won both their round robin matchups, while Sascha was victorious in the 2018 final.
The 20-time Major champion went 3-0 this past week, comfortably winning his group without dropping a set. He’s currently on an eight-match win streak, dating back to his title run two weeks ago in Paris. Zverev went 2-1 in his round robin group, losing a third-set tiebreak to Medvedev by a score of 8-6. The German’s hard court run since Tokyo has been stellar, winning 30 of his last 34 matches. And his serving on this fast surface in Turin has been tremendous, striking 39 aces and only three double faults through three matches. But up against the greatest return of all-time, Zverev remains a slight underdog in what should be another competitive and compelling match between two of the world’s top three male singles players.
Other Notable Matches on Saturday:
Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Casper Ruud (8) – Medvedev leads their head-to-head 2-0, having claimed all four sets contested. The Russian is the defending champion, and on an eight-match win streak at this event. Ruud is now 3-8 this season against the top 10, though as Nick Lester highlighted on Twitter, he’s taken his last 11 deciding sets.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (1) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2) – Ram and Salisbury were the only undefeated team in round robin play. These duos met five times in 2021, with Mektic and Pavic winning four of those five encounters.
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (3) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) – Granollers and Zeballos are 2-0 against Herbert and Mahut this season.
Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.
Doubles Player Dream French Open Debut Ended By Instagram Message
Portugal’s Francisco Cabral said he found out he will not be playing in Paris through social media.
Playing in the main draw of a Grand Slam is the pinnacle of many players’ careers but one player missed out on that opportunity due to an unfortunate situation.
Portugal’s Francisco Cabral was set to play in the men’s doubles tournament for the first time at this week’s French Open. The world No.72 is currently at a career-high after winning his maiden Tour title in Estoril last month with compatriot Nuno Borges. In Paris, he entered into the draw alongside Denmark’s Holger Rune.
However, shortly before he was set to make his Grand Slam debut Rune pulled out at the last minute. Leaving Cabral unable to look for another partner in such a short time. Rune’s withdrawal from the doubles was based on medical advice after he hurt his ankle during his second round clash against Henri Laaksonen. The Dane tripped over the court cover at the back of the court but fortunately wasn’t seriously injured and managed to continue playing.
“Right now I feel a huge sadness because it’s a dream to play in a Grand Slam tournament. I’ve been here since Saturday training, waiting, watching games, experiencing a new world because it was my first Grand Slam and it’s another dimension and I was really, really looking forward to being able to play,” Cabral told Raquetc. “And having waited until 15 minutes before game time to know that I wasn’t going to play after all, it cost me a lot, but I did everything I could.”
Caral went on to criticize the behavior of Rune who informed him that he would not be playing in the doubles event via a message sent on Instagram. It is unclear why the two never spoke face-to-face.
“He only told me that he had sprained his foot, that he was at the doctor’s, and that he had told him not to play the doubles. I’m sad about his attitude because he didn’t even say this to my face, he just sent me a message on Instagram. I don’t think it went well, but as I said, I couldn’t have done anything differently, so I’ll just wait for the next opportunity.” He said.
25-year-old Cabral is targeting Wimbledon as the event where he will play his first main draw match.
Meanwhile, Rune will continue his singles campaign at Roland Garros on Saturday when he plays Hugo Gaston in the third round. The former world No.1 junior has shot up the rankings this season to a high of 40th.
Cabral and Rune has been replaced in the draw by Sander Arends and Szymon Walków.
French Open Crowd Crossed The Line, Says Frustrated Alex de Minaur
The Australian explains why he wasn’t entirely happy with the atmosphere in the French capital.
Alex de Minaur didn’t hide his irritation with fans at Roland Garros following his shock exit from the tournament on Tuesday.
The 19th seed fell to home player Hugo Gaston in a five-set epic that lasted more than four hours. De Minaur had a 3-0 lead in the decisive set but ended up losing 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(10-4) to the world No.74. He has now lost in the first round of the French Open in four out of six appearances.
During the match De Minaur had to contend with a boisterous crowd who were cheering on Gaston. He faced some booing and jeering from those in the stands which the world No.20 was not happy about.
“I think there is a difference between a great atmosphere and supporting your fellow countrymen, which is completely fine and it’s great. I’m sure for him was an amazing atmosphere, he enjoyed every second of it.” De Minaur said afterwards.
“But there is a line that, when I’m getting told things by people in the crowd, making eye contact with me after I hit a double fault, I think there is a certain line that needs to be kind of looked at.”
“Good on him (Gaston) for playing a great match in front of his home crowd and being able to feed off that, and you know, having a moment that I’m sure he won’t forget.”
De Minaur refused to go into what exactly was being said to him from certain members of the crowd but insisted that he was not being intimidated by what was occurring on the court. Towards the end of the match a series of unforced errors, including double faults, costed him dearly.
“I’m pretty sure I dealt with it pretty well, all things considering,” he said. “I was in the moment. I was in the heat of the moment battling out there. It felt like kind of an away Davis Cup match, and I thrive on that. It was a lot sometimes and sometimes you do your best to focus on playing a tennis match. There are outside factors that you do your best to control.“
Heading into Paris, De Minaur had shown encouraging results on the clay with semi-final runs to tournaments in Barcelona and Lyon. He also reached the third round in Rome and took a set off Andrey Rublev when they clashed in Monte Carlo.
Given those recent results on the Tour, it is clear that the latest defeat is one that will sit with him for a while.
“Ideally, I will sleep tonight and I will forget all about it, but I have a feeling that won’t be the case,” de Minaur admits.
“It’s disappointing, as everything is, it is what it is. It’s a sport that we are playing. You have your good days, your bad days. You win absolute battles; you lose absolute battles.”
As for Garon, he will face Argentine qualifier Pedro Cachin in the second round. This year’s draw is a golden opportunity for the Frenchman with him guaranteed to not play a seeded player until at least the last 16 if he makes it that far.
Novak Djokovic Opens Up About Wimbledon Points Removal
The world No.1 states that he will always support the views of his peers.
By Kingsley Elliot Kaye
In his press conference following his win over Yoshihito Nishioka at the French Open, Novak Djokovic expressed his views about the ATP decision to remove points from Wimbledon.
Negatively affected by such a decision – he will drop 2000 points – the world No.1 praised the ATP’s stance and called for players’ unity.
“I think collectively I’m glad that players got together with ATP, the governing body of the men’s tennis, and showed to the Grand Slam that when there is a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbledon side, then we have to show that there are going to be some consequences. So I support the players, unification always. I have always done that. I will always do that.” He said.
Djokovic criticized the lack of communication between the parties involved, in particular with regard to a document of recommendation by the English Government which contained diverse options. Had it been discussed by the All England Club with ATP and players, a compromise may have been reached.
“I think it was a wrong decision. I don’t support that at all. But, you know, during these times, it’s a super sensitive subject, and anything that you decide, it’s unfortunately going to create a lot of conflict, a lot of separation instead of unification.” He continued.
Djokovic also mentioned other suggestions coming from WTA and ATP, that possibly men’s and women’s players from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia could play together at some exhibition event during the slam or something like this and prize money could go to the victims in Ukraine. There were different ideas, but there was never really a strong communication coming from Wimbledon.
He stressed that removing the points from Wimbledon, therefore not allowing players to earn or to defend points, is a decision that affects everyone, a lose-lose situation for everyone, as he called it.
Nonetheless, the charm and prestige of Wimbledon shall rest unaltered and its meaningfulness extends far beyond: “A Grand Slam is still a Grand Slam. Wimbledon for me was always my dream tournament when I was a child. You know, I don’t look at it through the lens of points or prize money. For me, it’s something else.”
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