Masters 1000: Madrid And Rome Will Increase Draw Size To 96 Players From 2023 - UBITENNIS
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Masters 1000: Madrid And Rome Will Increase Draw Size To 96 Players From 2023

Madrid and Rome will switch to the enlarged formula next year whereas Canada and Cincinnati will adapt this from 2024. Many other details have yet to be settled to define the calendar.

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Article was first posted on ubitennis.com – translated by Alice Nagni, Michele Brusadelli and Kingsley Kaye

 

There’s no doubt that Andrea Gaudenzi’s tenure as ATP-president has been one of the most tumultuous in tennis history so far: it began with the five-month interruption due to the pandemic, then he had to deal with the growing protests of the players on the prize money division and the creation (without too many consequences so far) of the PTPA. In January 2022 the Djokovic affair in Australia, then the “China problem” (the autumn tour is still in troubled waters despite being formally confirmed) and now the implications of the war in Ukraine with Wimbledon’s recent decision to ban Russians and Belarusians from the Championships.

Even the most hyperactive leader may feel overloaded. However, Gaudenzi’s main focus during this period has laid on the development and the implementation of his strategic plan to lay the foundations for building an increasingly sustainable tour in which players can finally get their fair share of the earnings. Masters 1000 profits can represent the backbone of the future sport sustainability.

The most significant change in Gaudenzi’s strategic plan is the extension of all Masters 1000 tournaments to 11-12 day joint tournaments with 96-player draws. The tournaments structured in this way, with their greater revenues, will be able to include a series of smaller events, from the ATP 500 to the ATP 250 and to the Challenger Series, so that they will be offered logistical support and allowing a reduction in expenses through economies of scope and scale.

Last October, during an interview to the Sports Business Journal, Gaudenzi confirmed that the strategic plan was already 70% approved and that only the final pieces were missing to move on to the operational phase of the project.

During the last tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, the ordinary meetings of the ATP executive were held as usual and, according to what Ubitennis has found out, they definitively approved the passage of most Masters 1000 to longer events with a 96-player draw. In particular, the Mutua Madrid Open and the Italian Open should start with the new format in the 2023 season, while the Canadian Open/Western&Southern Open in Cincinnati should switch to the extended draw only from 2024.

It is not clear, at the moment, how the calendar will be reorganised to allow for the expansion of these Masters 1000 tournaments, which in the case of the “Internazionali BNL” of Italy will also need to solve some logistical problems in order to provide support to the additional players (and most likely men and women) who will be arriving in Rome owing to the new extended draw.

Traditionally the back-to-back of the Indian Wells BNP Paribas Open and the Miami Open monopolises the entire month of March, with four weeks entirely dedicated to just two events. It has not yet been confirmed how the Madrid and Rome tournaments will be held, considering the new configuration: in the past years there was discussion, also at the ATP Board level, about the possibility of joining the two events in a “ying-yang” mode by compacting them into three weeks only and dividing the 23 days available (including the weekend before the start) between two tournaments of 11-12 days each. This would have involved playing the finals of the Madrid tournament on Wednesday, an option firmly opposed by the former owner of the Madrid event, the volcanic Romanian Ion Tiriac. Now that Tiriac has been replaced by IMG, which has acquired the Mutua Madrid Open, in addition to the Miami Open that they have already owned for many years, the situation may be different, but no statement on such matter, neither official nor unofficial, has been released.

Another option could be to replicate the Indian Wells / Miami model, scheduling in the second week of the two ATP Masters 1000 a “satellite” tournament at ATP 250 level, which players who have been eliminated from the main draw of the Masters 1000 could participate in. In this way it would be easier to bring these ATP 250 events under the protective wing of the corresponding Masters 1000, and the calendar would not be disrupted, allowing the smaller tournaments that are currently scheduled to find an attractive placement.

The official announcement is expected quite soon: Gaudenzi was harbouring the not too secret ambition to define the 2023 calendar in the Indian Wells meetings, and even if all the details have not been defined, it is likely that we will soon have a much more solid idea of what the 2023 season will be like.

Naturally there are various other relevant aspects to be defined: in the first place it will be necessary to understand if the WTA Tour will implement the same changes, so as to align the joint events. This year the Mutua Madrid Open has featured quite a bizarre discrepancy: the WTA event will start on Thursday with a 64-player draw (no byes for the top seeds) and rest days will be introduced in the second week. As a result, the third round of the men’s draw will be played on the same day as the women’s semifinals. 

The part of the season which follows the US Open is still shrouded in doubts. China has not yet relented its zero-Covid-policy, which has led to a harsh lockdown for Shanghai, and immigration laws are still extremely strict. Travellers coming from foreign countries are subject to a three-week hotel quarantine. It’s unlikely tennis players will accept such terms after almost a year of “normal life”. Therefore, the situation, also as far as 2022 is concerned, appears to be rather fluid. 

Neither can the Bercy issue be overlooked. Scheduled at the end of an exhausting season and just before the Nitto ATP Finals and the Davis Cup Finals, the Paris Masters 1000 often appears as an earthenware pot amid iron vases. A few years ago ATP had considered moving the event to February, and such an option could be pondered on again. 

Great changes ahead for the Tennis Tour Calendar, which over the next two seasons may find a better balance in dividing profits between tournaments and players as well as an improved sustainability for facing the future with greater confidence.      

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

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


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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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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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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