Indian Wells Daily Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Singles Championships - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Daily Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Singles Championships

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Iga Swiatek after her semifinal victory on Friday evening (twitter.com/bnpparibasopen)

20-year-old Iga Swiatek has won four titles in her young career.  The first was her 2020 Roland Garros triumph, and the most recent two are WTA 1000 titles, both of which she procured within the past year.  On Sunday, she vies for her third WTA 1000 title, and her second in a row.

 

26-year-old Maria Sakkari only has one title in her career, from a smaller event in 2019.  She’s 1-3 lifetime in finals, and prior to this fortnight, was a meek 4-14 in semifinals.  But after eliminating defending champion Paula Badosa in Friday’s semifinals, Sakkari has reached the biggest final of her career.

In 2017, 35-year-old Roger Federer returned from a significant injury layoff to win 20 of his first 21 matches, which included titles at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.  Five years later, 35-year-old Rafael Nadal is looking to top that feat.  After a five-month injury layoff, he acquired titles in Melbourne and Acapulco, and is undefeated to start 2022.  Nadal would extend his winning streak to 21 with a victory on Sunday.

24-year-old Taylor Fritz is a California native, and he has exceled at his state’s biggest tournament.  This was the site of his first appearances at many stages of Masters 1000 events: the third round, fourth round, and just last October, the semifinals.  After surviving two third-set tiebreaks this fortnight, the American is playing for his second ATP title.


Iga Swiatek (3) vs. Maria Sakkari (6) – 1:00pm on Stadium 1

This will be their fifth meeting, all of which have occurred since May of last year.  Most recently, they played in the semifinals of February’s WTA 1000 event in Doha.  Swiatek prevailed, and went on to win the tournament.  That’s part of her current 10-match win streak, as she leads the WTA with 19 wins this season.  For Sakkari, it was yet another loss in a semifinal, her ninth since the beginning of 2020.  But that’s the only time Maria has lost to Iga.  The Greek claimed their encounters last year at Roland Garros, Ostrava, and the WTA Finals.  All four times they’ve played, the match has been decided in straight sets.  Despite their head-to-head, Swiatek is a considerable favorite in Sunday’s final.  She carries significant momentum into this match, and possesses a far superior record in the latter stages of tournaments over Sakkari, as Maria’s nerves have often impacted her play in these moments.   


Rafael Nadal (4) vs. Taylor Fritz (20) – Not Before 3:00pm on Stadium 1

Their only previous matchup was also a North American final.  Two years ago in Acapulco, Nadal defeated Fritz 6-3, 6-2.  It’s difficult to not favor Rafa to prevail again on Sunday, but the 21-time Major champion must be feeling pretty depleted after an over three-hour epic with Carlos Alcaraz just 24 hours prior.  Not only did Fritz play earlier in the day, allowing him more time to recover, but he spent less than two hours on court.  That’s not even to mention the foot injury Nadal has been battling, or the apparent pectoral injury he suffered during Saturday’s semifinal.  And as much as the crowd adores Rafa, the American audience will surely be soundly behind their own player.  I expect Fritz to make this a tight affair, but a confident Nadal is extremely tough to overcome.  Rafa has won his last eight finals, and 23 of his last 26.  And he hasn’t lost a final to man not named Federer or Djokovic in over five years.  If Nadal does win on Sunday, he will tie Novak Djokovic with 37 Masters 1000 titles, the most all-time.

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Simona Halep Cliches Third National Bank Open Title With Topsy-Turvy Win Over Haddad Maia

The two-time Grand Slam champion battled with her own consistency on the court en route to her latest title.

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Image via https://twitter.com/NBOtoronto/

Simona Halep overcame a poor start and lacklustre second set performance to oust Beatriz Haddad Maia and win the National Bank Open on Sunday.

 

Halep looked far from her best at times on the court as she battled to a hard-fought 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, win over her Brazilian rival who beat world No.1, Iga Swiatek, earlier in the tournament. During the roller-coaster clash, which lasted more than two hours, she hit a total of 16 winners against 31 unforced errors. The triumph avenged her loss to Haddad Maia two months ago in the final of the Birmingham Classic.

“I’m really exhausted, today has been a tough battle,” Halep said during the trophy presentation.
“I have won in Montreal two times but never here (in Toronto) so today is a special day. I fought really hard because I wanted to win in front of you guys (the crowd).”

Seeking her third title at the tournament in her career, Halep erratically started her latest final. A nightmare opening service game saw the Romanian produce four double faults, as well as a forehand error, to go down a break early on. Paving the way for Haddad Maia to surge to a 3-0 lead. After that blip, Halep soon found her footing on the court as she staged a valiant fight back. Winning six games in a row to clinch the first set. She closed out the opener with a blistering backhand winner to the corner of the court.

It was a case of deja vu in the second frame with history-maker Haddad Maia breaking early on yet again. The 26-year-old is the first Brazilian player to reach the final of a WTA 1000 event. However, this time the world No.24 was able to maintain the advantage at the expense of a dramatic lull in form from her opponent. After storming to a four-game winning run, Haddad Maia eased her way to a 5-1 lead. Then serving to level the match, she triumphed with the help of back-to-back forehand errors from Halep.

Historically, the previous 20 finals at the Canadian Open have been won by the player who takes the opener. The last player to break this trend was Martina Hingis back in 2000 against Serena Williams.

Eager to avoid a Hingis-like fightback, Halep held her nerve to prevail during what was a rollercoaster decider. Three straight breaks of serve occurred before the world No.15 managed to hold and move ahead 4-1. Closing in on the title, Halep secured victory on her second championship point after a Haddad Maia forehand slammed into the net.

“Two months ago I wasn’t thinking that I would be lifting this trophy,” said Halep.
“Patrick (her coach) thank you for believing in me and being by my side since two months ago. Hopefully, I made you proud today even if I didn’t play great but I fought. Hopefully, we will have many more titles together.”

There is also a silver lining for runner-up Haddad Maia who will break into the world’s top 20 for the first time on Monday. The Brazilian is currently enjoying a breakthrough season where she has won two Tour titles. She is the first player from her country to reach the final of three or more WTA events within the same year since 1969.

“I want to congratulate Simona and her team. You work very hard to be here and it’s very nice to share a moment like this with you in front of this crowd (in Toronto),” she said.
“Today I pushed myself as much as I could. I didn’t control my emotions very well today but even if I wasn’t playing my best tennis I was trying to fight. That was what I have done since the first round.”

30-year-old Halep has now won 24 titles on the WTA Tour and her ninth at a WTA 1000 event. It is the first time in her career she has managed to win the same tournament for the third time after previously triumphing in 2016 and 2018.

Halep will now rise to sixth in the rankings on Monday which will be her highest position in over a year.

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Canada Daily Preview: Championship Sunday Features Halep/Haddad Maia and Hurkacz/Carreno Busta

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Hubi Hurkacz this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Sunday in Toronto, Simona Halep plays for her third title at this event.  She faces a surging 26-year-old in Beatriz Haddad Maia, who has already defeated four top 15 players this week, including world No.1 Iga Swiatek.

 

In Montreal, Hubi Hurkacz is vying for his second Masters 1000 title, after winning his first last year in Miami.  In Sunday’s championship match, he plays Pablo Carreno Busta, who at 31-years-old has reached his first Masters 1000 final in his 52nd appearance.


Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Simona Halep (15) – 1:30pm on Centre Court in Toronto

What a season Haddad Maia is having.  She started the year ranked 83rd in the world, but with 43 match wins and three titles at all levels, she will debut inside the top 16 on Monday.  She is the first Brazilian to reach a WTA 1000 singles final.  Beatriz credits her 2022 success to focusing on being more aggressive.  But Halep is a player who has achieved much success by absorbing her opponents’ power and using it against them.  And after a solid yet underwhelming season, Simona says her fire is back this week in Toronto.  This will be her fourth meeting with Haddad Maia, and her third this year.  She leads Beatriz 2-1, though they split their two 2022 encounters.  In a match of this magnitude, which is new territory for Haddad Maia, Halep’s experience and more consistent style make her the favorite to win her third title in Canada.


Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Hubi’s path to this final has been a complicated one.  All four of his matches went the distance, and he even had to save a match point against Albert Ramos-Vinolas.  Meanwhile, Pablo had advanced to his first Masters 1000 final rather decisively, only dropping one set to this stage.  Hurkacz and Carreno Busta are 1-1 at tour level, as each earned a hard court victory over the other last year.  Three of the four sets they contested were decided by tiebreaks, which is not surprising given their contrasting styles.  Hubi will look to dictate matters with his serve, while Pablo will look to extend points and force Hurkacz into long baseline rallies.   However, Hubi often doesn’t mind participating in long rallies.  As impressive as Carreno Busta’s level has been this week, Hurkacz has been the better player this season.  Hubi’s serve and powerful groundstrokes make him a slight favorite to win his second Masters 1000 crown.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez – Gauff and Pegula were finalists this year at Roland Garros.  If they win on Sunday, Gauff will become the new world No.1 in doubles, and be the youngest player to do so since Martina Hingis.  Melichar-Martinez and Perez have already defeated three seeded teams this week.

Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski (3) vs. Dan Evans and John Peers – Koolhof and Skupski lead the year-to-date doubles rankings, and are playing for their sixth title of the season.  This is only the second event in 2022 for Evans and Peers as a team.  Evans was also a semifinalist this week in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Serena Williams Set For Raducanu Challenge In Cincinnati

Serena Williams will play US Open champion Emma Raducanu in one of her final tournaments before the end of her career.

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Serena Williams (@BleacherReport - Twitter)

In what could be the penultimate tournament of her career, 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams takes on US Open champion Emma Raducanu in Cincinnati.

 

Potentially two more tournaments to go before a legend of the sport retires in the form of Serena Williams.

Williams began her farewell tour in Toronto where she went out in the second round to Belinda Bencic and will look to make a bigger impression in Cincinnati.

However an intriguing task awaits in her opening match in Ohio as she will take on US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the opening round.

Raducanu enters the match in uninspiring form having reached the quarter-finals in Washington before an opening round exit against Camila Giorgi in Toronto.

It will be interesting how this match fairs as Williams gets a taste of facing the younger generation before she departs the sport.

That match is in a packed part of the draw where the winner of that match will play the winner of Kaia Kanepi and Victoria Azarenka.

There is also a huge match between Bianca Andreescu and Camila Giorgi with the winner taking on seventh seed Jessica Pegula in the second round.

As for Serena’s sister, Venus Williams, she hasn’t fared much better with her draw as she takes on 14th seed Karolina Pliskova in her opening round.

Also in this section of the draw is fourth seed Maria Sakkari who takes on either a qualifier or Alison Van Uytvanck.

Other highlights of the bottom half of the draw will see Sofia Kenin take on Shelby Rogers while Amanda Anisimova takes on Daria Kasatkina.

Naomi Osaka is also in the bottom half of the draw where she takes on Shuai Zhang.

Meanwhile in the top half of the draw Iga Swiatek will look to bounce back after an early exit in Toronto as she takes on Sloane Stephens or Alize Cornet in her opening round.

Other exciting matches in the top half of the draw sees Simona Halep take on Karolina Muchova while Beatriz Haddad Maia takes on Jelena Ostapenko.

Here is the full Women’s singles draw with Serena Williams expected to play on Monday night:

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