Miami Open Daily Preview: Upsets Leave the Draws Wide Open - UBITENNIS
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Miami Open Daily Preview: Upsets Leave the Draws Wide Open

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A look at the grounds of the Miami Open (twitter.com/HardRockStadium)

Seeded players have struggled mightily thus far in Miami.  After the first two rounds of women’s singles, only 11 of the 32 seeds remained.  On the men’s side, 18 of 32 seeds survived the first two rounds. 

 

Italy’s Jannik Sinner, the runner-up a year ago, was close to becoming another seeded casualty, but saved three match points in the second round against Emil Ruusuvuori.  On Sunday, he faces Pablo Carreno Busta, who was a Miami semifinalist in 2018.  And on Sunday evening, 2018 finalist Sascha Zverev plays American Mackie McDonald, who upset Grigor Dimitrov in the last round.

WTA singles action on Sunday features three recent Indian Wells finalists: 2022 champion Iga Swiatek, 2021 champ Paula Badosa, and 2021 runner-up Victoria Azarenka.

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.


Jannik Sinner (9) vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (17) – Fourth on Butch Buchholz Court

Not only did Sinner play an extended third-set tiebreak on Friday, but he also played one the only previous time he’s met Carreno Busta.  Except on that day, the Spaniard prevailed.  That match occurred two years ago in Rotterdam.  Sinner was only ranked 79th in the world at the time, but two years on, he’s progressed considerably, ranked 11th.  The 20-year-old has a lot of points to defend at this event after his run to the finals a year ago.  Jannik is an impressive 14-2 on the year, though he had to withdraw from Indian Wells two weeks ago due to illness.  Carreno Busta is only 9-5 in 2022, and arrived in Miami having lost four of his last five.  And his last two losses were, coincidentally, decided by third-set tiebreaks.  Sinner’s escape in the last round should take a bit of pressure off in his first big event defending so many points.  And his punishing groundstrokes should be enough to overcome a slumping Carreno Busta.


Sascha Zverev (2) vs. Mackie McDonald – Not Before 9:00pm on Stadium Court

Since Zverev’s run to the finals four years ago, he is just 1-3 in Miami.  And in Indian Wells two weeks ago, who was upset by surging American Tommy Paul.  McDonald is another American who has quickly risen up the rankings.  He started 2021 ranked 194th in the world, as he had struggled since coming back from hamstring surgery.  But the 26-year-old had a strong 2021 season, highlighted by advancing to the final of the ATP 500 event in Washington, and recently debuted inside the top 50.  Mackie resides and trains in Florida, so he is accustomed to the heat and humidity the area often provides, as evidenced by how he outlasted an overheated Dominik Koepfer in the first round.  But he is 0-2 against the German, which includes a straight-set loss just last month in Montpellier.  And with the weather forecast to be rather cool on Sunday evening, Zverev’s serving prowess should comfortably get him past McDonald.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Casper Ruud (6) vs. Alexander Bublik (30) – Ruud leads their head-to-head 3-1, which includes two victories last season.  But earlier this month in Davis Cup, Bublik defeated Ruud in a tight three-setter.

Iga Swiatek (3) vs. Madison Brengle – Swiatek will officially be the new World No.1 after this tournament, and is now 21-3 on the year.  Brengle is 31-year-old American who took out Liudmila Samsonova on Friday.  Last February in Adelaide, Iga beat Madison 6-3, 6-4.

Coco Gauff (14) vs. Shuai Zhang – Gauff is a Florida resident, though she’s only 2-2 thus far at the state’s biggest tournament.  Shuai dominated Sorana Cirstea in the last round by a score of 6-1, 6-1. 

Jessica Pegula (16) vs. Elena Rybakina (17) – Pegula comfortably overcame Sloane Stephens on Friday.  Rybakina is a solid 11-4 in 2022, and was a finalist in Adelaide.

Paula Badosa (5) vs. Yulia Putintseva – Badosa is 14-5 this season, and could become the new World No.2 with a strong result this fortnight.  At Wimbledon last July, she defeated Putintseva 6-4, 6-1.

Victoria Azarenka (12) vs. Linda Fruhvirtova (WC) – Azarenka is a three-time champion, but she scarcely survived a third-set tiebreak against Ekaterina Alexandrova on Friday night.  Fruhvirtova is a 16-year-old ranked 279th in the world who has already created some buzz at ITF-level events.  She took out Elise Mertens in the last round.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Emma Raducanu Unfazed By Rankings Drop Ahead Of US Open Title Defence

Emma Raducanu talked about pressure as she takes on Serena Williams in Cincinnati.

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Emma Raducanu (@marioboc17 - Twitter)

Ahead of her US Open title defence in a couple of weeks, Emma Raducanu remains unfazed about her potential drop down the rankings.

 

Emma Raducanu is set to defend her US Open title in a couple of weeks after winning her maiden grand slam title as a qualifier last year.

The Brit will have 2,000 points to defend and an early exit risks a huge rankings drop in what has been a big experience for the 19 year-old this year.

Raducanu enters the last grand slam of the year without form or momentum on her side having only won back-to-back matches at three events this year.

Speaking in Cincinnati, Raducanu told the press that she is prepared to start from the bottom again if she has to, “If I lose 2,000 points so be it, I’ll start again from the bottom,” Raducanu told reporters.

“I know I can do something that no one else has done. I qualified and won the US Open, so I can start from the beginning, I can start from zero and I’m not afraid of that.

“I just think that everything that’s happening right now has probably just meant to be in my journey and I need to go through those development stages at some point because I did miss them. I went from playing 25ks to winning the US Open.”

Raducanu’s rise has been incredibly quick and the Brit will be anticipating that anything can happen over the next few months in terms of her development.

Defending the grand slam is huge pressure and it will be interesting to see if returning to the US Open will inspire her to raise her level.

Before Raducanu goes to the US Open, she competes in Cincinnati and faces 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams in her opening round.

Williams is currently on her farewell tour and Raducanu admits it’s going to be an unforgettable experience to play her, “I think it’s gonna be an exciting match. I’m looking forward to it,” Raducanu said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to play probably the best the best tennis player of all time. It’s probably going to be my last opportunity to ever play her. I think that, for our careers to have crossed over, I think I’m really fortunate that I get to play her.

“Whatever happens, I think it’s gonna be a really good experience for me and something that I will remember for the rest of her life.”

The match will now likely take place on Tuesday after originally been scheduled for Monday evening.

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Major Champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka Square Off

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Andy Murray practicing this past week in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

For the second consecutive week, a combined ATP Masters/WTA 1000 event is being staged in North America.  This week, it’s the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The singles draws in American’s heartland are loaded: the ATP draw features 14 of the world’s top 16, while the WTA draw features all 16 top-ranked players.

 

Most notably, Serena Williams will play what is assumedly the next-to-last event of her career, and will face reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the first round.  And Rafael Nadal will play his first match since withdrawing from the Wimbledon semifinals due to his ongoing left foot issues.

Monday’s action is headlined by Major champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who will play each other for the 22nd time. 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Stan Wawrinka (PR) vs. Andy Murray – Third on Center Court

Their rivalry dates all the way back to 2005, when Wawrinka defeated Murray in Davis Cup.  Their most prominent encounter took place in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, when Stan outlasted Andy in a five-setter that lasted over four-and-a-half hours.  And neither man has been the same since that grueling battle.  Just weeks later, Murray’s hip problems derailed his career, while Wawrinka would undergo knee surgery.  Both men have now battled multiple serious injuries over the last five years.  Overall Andy is 12-9 against Stan, and 8-4 on hard courts.  Murray has gritted his way to 22 victories this year, while Stan is only 3-7 since returning from foot surgery this spring.  Based on current form, as well as Murray’s history at this event, where he is a two-time champion, the Brit is the favorite on Monday.


Matteo Berrettini (12) vs. Frances Tiafoe – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

Berrettini returned from surgery on his right hand in June, and promptly went on a 12-match win streak.  However, he unfortunately missed Wimbledon due to testing positive for COVID-19.  And last week in Montreal, Matteo lost in the opening round, though that one-sided loss to Pablo Carreno Busta doesn’t look quite as bad after Pablo’s fantastic run to his first Masters 1000 title concluded on Sunday.  Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing year for Tiafoe, who is only 20-17 and has suffered some painful losses.  At Wimbledon, he lost a four-and-a-half hour fourth round match to David Goffin despite having a two-sets-to-one lead.  And just last week in Montreal, Frances was up 4-0 in the third over Taylor Fritz before losing the last six games of the match.  Their only previous meeting occurred four years ago on clay in Rome, where Matteo was victorious in his home country in straight sets.  Can Tiafoe avenge that loss in his own home country?  Frances often excels during night matches in the United States, with his five-set win over Andrey Rublev at last year’s US Open serving as a prime example.  But Matteo has been the much stronger performer for a few years now, and his potent serve/forehand combo makes him the favorite.


Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Amanda Anisimova vs. Daria Kasatkina (9) – Anisimova has reached the second week of every Major this season, while Kasatkina has won 18 of her last 24 matches, which includes a title run this month in San Jose.  Amanda leads their head-to-head 2-0, and dominated Daria 6-2, 6-0 at the beginning of this year.

Jil Teichmann vs. Petra Kvitova – Teichmann was a surprise finalist here a year ago.  Kvitova is only 17-15 this season, though she did win a title on grass in June.  They’ve played three times since last year, with Jil claiming two of those three matches.

Denis Shapovalov vs. Grigor Dimitrov (16) – Shapovalov has now lost nine of his last 10 matches dating back to May.  Meanwhile it’s been over four months since Dimitrov has won more than two matches in a row.  Grigor is 2-1 against Denis, and 2-0 on hard courts.

Sloane Stephens (WC) vs. Alize Cornet – It’s been a streaky season for Stephens, with nine of her 11 victories coming at just two events.  Cornet has achieved two noteworthy results this season: reaching her first Major quarterfinal in Melbourne, and ending Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak at Wimbledon.  This is their first career meeting.


Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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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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