Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: A Jam-Packed Schedule with Three of the ATP Top Five, and Seven of the WTA Top 10 - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: A Jam-Packed Schedule with Three of the ATP Top Five, and Seven of the WTA Top 10

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Rafael Nadal practicing on Sunday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Wednesday provides an overabundance of tennis, with dozens of appetizing matchups around the grounds throughout the day.  Rafael Nadal will play his opening match against John Isner, a player who has tested him on clay in the past.  Other top ATP names in action include Sascha Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Jannik Sinner, who plays fellow Italian Fabio Fognini.

 

Second-round WTA matches on Wednesday are headlined by world No.1 Iga Swiatek, who has been unstoppable in her last four tournaments.  And two-time Major champion Simona Halep faces Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s two most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Rafael Nadal (3) vs. John Isner – Second on Center Court

Nadal is now 22-2 in 2022, yet is coming off a loss to Carlos Alcaraz last Friday in Madrid.  This will be Rafa’s fourth match since returning from a rib injury that forced him to miss Monte Carlo and Barcelona.  11 years ago at Roland Garros, Isner became one of the few people to push Nadal to five sets at that event, when he went up two-sets-to-one in the opening round.  Overall, eight of the 19 sets they’ve contested have gone to 7-5 or deeper.  However, Rafa has won six of those extended sets, with their French Open meeting remaining the only time Isner has taken such a set from Nadal.  And considering John is only 11-10 this season in singles, and 0-7 lifetime against Nadal, the King of Clay is a heavy favorite to prevail.  But Isner’s serving prowess still makes him an undesirable opponent for most players, and he can often garner a set if it remains tight.  And this is the one clay Masters event where the American has previously been a semifinalist, in 2017. 


Danielle Collins (7) vs. Simona Halep – Fifth on Pietrangeli

Last summer in Canada, Collins defeated Halep 6-4 in the third, after a near three-hour battle.  That was the last victory in a 12-match win streak for Danielle, who claimed back-to-back titles in Palermo and San Jose.  But since reaching the Australian Open final in January, Collins is only 4-3, as she’s battled back and abdominal issues.  Meanwhile, it feels like Halep is on the verge of a big season.  She is 19-5 in 2022, with her only losses since March coming at the hands of Iga Swiatek and Ons Jabeur, two of the this year’s top performers.  With Patrick Mouratoglou as her coach, and the injury issues of last year seemingly behind her, a third Major title could be in Simona’s near future.  At an event where Halep is 20-8 lifetime, and where Collins is 2-2, the Romanian is the favorite to advance.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Sascha Zverev (2) vs. Sebastian Baez (Q) – Zverev will be only three days removed from the thrashing he suffered in the final of Madrid.  Meanwhile, between his title run in Estoril and coming through qualifying in Rome, 21-year-old Baez is on an eight-match win streak.

Belinda Bencic (12) vs. Amanda Anisimova – This is a rematch from January’s Australian Open, where Anisimova upset Bencic in the second round 6-2, 7-5.  Amanda is 8-2 on clay this season, while Bencic is 9-1.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Elena-Gabriela Ruse (LL) – Swiatek is now on a 23-match win streak, with four consecutive titles dating back to February.  Ruse took out American Shelby Rogers in the first round.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Grigor Dimitrov – Last week in Madrid, Tsitsipas comfortably beat Dimitrov, just as he did in Barcelona as well.  Overall Stefanos is 4-1 against Grigor, and 3-0 on clay.

Leylah Fernandez vs. Daria Kasatkina – Both players are 4-4 in their last eight matches.  This will be the first career meeting between these two extremely creative players.

Jannik Sinner (10) vs. Fabio Fognini – Sinner is now 21-5 on the year, and 5-2 on clay.  Fognini is 12-8, with nine of those wins coming on clay, including a victory on Monday over Dominic Thiem.

Cameron Norrie (7) vs. Marin Cilic – A year ago in the Estoril semifinals, Norrie took out Cilic in two tight sets.

Paula Badosa (2) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Q) – Badosa went 17-3 on clay last year, but is a meager 5-3 in 2022.  Sasnovich started the season by reaching a tour final in Melbourne.


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Rankings Update: Novak Djokovic Consolidates His Supremacy

How has events at last week’s Italian Masters impacted on the standings?

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ATP NOVAK DJOKOVIC OF SERBIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

by Roberto Ferri, translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

The ATP Masters 1000 Rome, aka the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, haven’t significantly impacted the ATP Rankings.

 

Thanks to his first final in Rome, Stefanos Tsitsipas overtakes Rafael Nadal; Casper Ruud is back in 8th place while Matteo Berrettini loses two positions and now is No. 10. The most striking news is that Novak Djokovic, while conquering his sixth crown in Rome, appeared close to his best tennis and has once more opened up quite a gap between himself and his chasers. 

TOP 20

PositionPlayerCountryPts+/-
1DjokovicSerbia8660 
2MedvedevRussia7980 
3ZverevGermany7200 
4TsitsipasGreece61701
5NadalSpain5525-1
6AlcarazSpain4770 
7RublevRussia3945 
8RuudNorway39402
9Auger-AliassimeCanada3850 
10BerrettiniItalia3805-2
11NorrieGB3355 
12SinnerItaly31951
13HurkaczPoland3095-1
14FritzUSA2920 
15ShapovalovCanada26711
16SchwartzmanArgentina2505-1
17Carreno BustaSpain21351
18OpelkaUSA2090-1
19Bautista AgutSpain1903 
20DimitrovBulgaria1785 

NITTO ATP FINALS RACE TO TURIN

I came, I saw, I conquered.” Considering the geographic context, the Julius Ceasar quote seems most appropriate for commenting on Novak Djokovic’s triumph in Rome: thanks to the 1000 points earned in Rome, the world number 1 has whizzed up to 10th position in the ranking of the best players in 2022 with 1610 points.

Ahead of him (until when?) there are:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1NadalSpain3620
2TsitsipasGreece3490
3AlcarazSpain3460
4Auger AliassimeCanada2025
5ZverevGermany1980
6RublevRussia1920
7MedvedevRussia1900
8FritzUSA1765
9RuudNorway1615

NEXT GEN RACE TO MILAN

No changes have occurred in the ranking of the best under 21s:

PositionPlayerCountryPtsYOB
1AlcarazSpain34602003
2SinnerItaly12502001
3RuneDenmark5582003
4MusettiItalia4862002
5LeheckaCzech Rep.4832001
6DraperGB4492001
7TsengTaipei4202001
8NardiItaly2312003
9CobolliItaly2222002
10NakashimaUSA2002001

BEST RANKING

Eleven players in the top 100 reach their career best:

PlayerPositionCountry
Van de Zandshulp29Netherlands
Brooksby34USA
Rune40Denmark
Cerundolo44Argentina
Giron49USA
Bonzi53France
Altmaier54Germany
Lehecka77Czech Rep.
Tabito78Chile
Halys86France
Taberner88Spain

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Championship Sunday

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Iga Swiatek on Saturday in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Iga Swiatek has won her last 27 matches.  Ons Jabeur has won her last 11 matches.  They are easily the two best WTA players of the year thus far.  On Sunday, in their first meeting of the season, only one of them can continue their winning streak.

 

Novak Djokovic is a five-time champion in Rome, and a six-time runner-up.  This is his seventh final out the last eight years.  He faces Stefanos Tsitsipas, in a rematch of their dramatic championship match nearly a year ago at Roland Garros.

Also on Sunday, the men’s and women’s doubles finals will be played.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ons Jabeur (9) – 1:00pm on Center Court

This should be an excellent championship match, featuring the WTA’s two hottest performers, and two of the sport’s most eclectic and likeable players.  Swiatek claimed their first meeting three years ago in Washington, but Jabeur took their last two (Wimbledon, Cincinnati).  Their Wimbledon encounter was easily their most prominent, where Ons came from a set down on Manic Monday, winning both of the last two sets 6-1.  The differences on that day were Jabeur’s superior play on break points, converting 7-of-7, compared to only 3-of-15 by Swiatek.  And Ons was +7 in winners to unforced errors, while Iga was -7. 

But nearly a year later, Swiatek has evolved into an even smarter, ultra-confident competitor.  She is 36-3 this season, with 27 straight victories.  And 22 of those 27 consecutive wins have been in straight sets.  Jabeur’s 11-match win streak is quite impressive as well, though she’s required two dramatic comebacks within the last 48 hours.  On Friday, she was down 6-1, 5-2 to Maria Sakkari, and two points from defeat.  On Saturday, she saved match point against Daria Kasatkina, eventually prevailing 7-5 in the third. 

As per the WTA, Jabeur is 21-0 this year when she wins the first set, making that set on Sunday all the more crucial.  But considering how draining Jabeur’s last two matches have been, Swiatek is the favorite to defend her title, and extend her win streak to 28-0 heading into Roland Garros.  That’s especially true on this surface, as these players are yet to meet on clay, which is Iga’s best surface.


Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) – Not Before 4:00pm on Center Court

Their last meeting was the aforementioned French Open final, where Tsitsipas could not close out the match out despite winning the first two sets.  That was Novak’s fifth consecutive victory over Stefanos, and third straight on clay.  They also played last year in the quarterfinals of this event, when Djokovic won 7-5 in the third.  And at Roland Garros two years ago, they also went the distance, with Novak winning in five.  The Greek’s only two victories over Djokovic have come on hard courts: four years ago in Canada, and three years ago in Shanghai. 

Tsitsipas leads the ATP this year with 31 match wins, and an impressive 14-2 record on clay.  By contrast, this is only the unvaccinated Novak’s fifth tournament of the season, and he hasn’t won a title.  Yet Djokovic has been the more in-form player this week, advancing to this final without dropping a set.  Tsitsipas has been pushed to a decider three times this week.

But has Djokovic fully rediscovered his top form?  Can he earn his first victory over a top five player since November?  This will be a huge test for Novak, and will reveal just how ready he is for his French Open title defense, which begins in just a week’s time.  He’s yet to be fully tested this week, and I fully expect Tsitsipas to do so.  Winning this title would be a huge boost for either player heading into Paris, as it will either be Novak’s first title in six months, or Stefanos’ second Masters 1000 title on clay this season.  Based on recent results, and Djokovic’s lack of play this season, I give the slight edge to the more match-tough Tsitsipas to win on Sunday.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos (2) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Madrid Open champions Dabrowski and Olmos are playing for their second WTA 1000 title in as many weeks.  This is Kudermetova and Pavlyuchenkova’s first tournament as a team.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (3) vs. John Isner and Diego Schwartzman – Mektic and Pavic were easily the best men’s doubles team of 2021, with nine titles.  But they’re yet to win a tournament this season.  Isner has already won two Masters 1000 doubles title this season with two other partners (Sock, Hurkacz).


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Conquering the world: Carlos Alcaraz beats Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic to cement Barcelona-Madrid titles (Part Two)

Carlos Alcaraz will now look to translate his success from the ATP Tour to Roland Garros.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@MutuaMadridOpen)

In part one, I assessed how Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz continues to take the tennis world by storm after his victory in Barcelona.

 

Now I turn my attentions to his success in another famous Spanish city.

Madrid Masters victory

Alcaraz again began his Madrid Masters campaign in style, beating the dangerous Georgian Nicoloz Basilashvili in straight sets.

A stern test came in the form of Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who pushed the birthday boy that day to three sets.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdMSI6uKJZB/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Alcaraz moving through 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final clash with his idol Rafa Nadal.

Now, some context is needed that the 21-time Grand Slam was appearing in his first tournament back since recovering from a rib injury.

An opening round win against Serbian Miomir Kecmanović was backed up with a tight three-set triumph over Belgian David Goffin, with the veteran Spaniard saving four match points.

To his credit, Nadal pushed his young apprentice all the way, before going down 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, with the second set showing his obvious quality, despite being partially fit.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdOP5Jtg2Pn/

If this moment was a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis, then Alcaraz’s impressive win over Novak Djokovic could point to the man who may dominant the future of tennis.

The world number one was fortunate to play a match less, after the shock withdrawal of old rival Murray in the third-round.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CdRFDuFgIHv/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

But he was no match for the imperious Alcaraz who triumphed at front of the delighted home support, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).

The first player ever to beat Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back on a clay court in the history of tennis.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

And Alcaraz made it a highly commendable 5-0 in finals, destroying Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-1, with little challenge unlike the previous encounters with Norrie, Nadal and Djokovic.

James Spencer (Twitter: @jspencer28) – Alcaraz Verdict

In truth, I had a sneaky feeling that Alcaraz would triumph in Barcelona.

The way he is playing with such finesse and confidence, particularly against the Monte Carlo Masters champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas, was incredible to see.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Saving match points against Alex de Minaur, also showed his mettle.

He also has an unbelievable shot selection and fitness levels.

Beating Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back is no easy feat.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRGhGyq64J/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Often just one win knocks the stuffing out of you, mentally and physically, but not for this kid.

Alcaraz doesn’t get carried away. And this has been shown consistently this season.

Winning the Miami Masters could have led to a drop in motivation, yet he has looked even more motivated if anything.

He’s performed on hard-court and clay court surfaces with an assuring dominance.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRDN0Hq_zY/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

In fact, he is unbeaten on clay this season, losing three times in total all season.

Matteo Berrettini in five at the Australian Open.

Nadal in the semis of Indian Wells in a tight three sets, that ultimately injured the elder Spaniard, which could have ramifications on his entire fitness this season, and the destination of the French Open trophy.

And a close three-set defeat to up and coming youngster Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdTpZI6o1kX/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

The new world number six must surely be the new favourite to WIN the French Open later this month.

Skipping the Italian Open should help the 19-year-old heal any niggling injuries.

If he does win in Paris, he will be the youngest Grand Slam champion since you guessed it, Nadal.

Only time will tell.

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