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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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Iga Swiatek Annoyed By Scheduling Dilemma Ahead Of Season Finale

Iga Swiatek has admitted it’s unlikely that she will play the Billie Jean King Cup Finals after a scheduling dilemma.

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(@thenet_m - Twitter)

World number one Iga Swiatek admits she is annoyed by facing a scheduling dilemma ahead of the end of the season.

 

Swiatek has dominated the 2022 season having won two Grand Slam titles and five other titles this season.

This means she has qualified for the WTA Finals which will take place on the 31st of October in Texas.

However Swiatek is now becoming the victim of her own success as she now faces a dilemma over whether to represent Poland at the Billie Jean King Finals.

The BJK Cup Finals, take place the week after in Glasgow where Poland will face the Czech Republic and the USA in their Group.

Speaking to Polish media Swiatek admitted she is unsure whether she will compete in Scotland and criticised the WTA for their lack of organization over the events, “I am dissatisfied, although I know that arranging everything is complicated,” Swiatek was quoted by Give Me Sport Women as saying.

Certainly, the fact that the WTA and ITF federations in a sense did not cooperate to facilitate our task is irritating to me. I will definitely take steps to let them know about my dissatisfaction.

“I don’t understand the scheduling. I’m not gonna lie that I’m happy about the fact that if I go deep in [the] Finals, I will have to not only play tired but also jetlagged the next day. So I can’t confirm whether I’ll represent Poland or not. I’m sorry.”

Swiatek’s father, Tomasz, backed up his daughter’s criticism and wishes for more communication between the WTA and players in the future, “It’s an extremely unfortunate deal,” he said.

“And yet we have a very difficult group for that in the BJK Cup. The dates of both events are missed. There is a clash between the ITF (organisers of the BJK Cup) and the WTA (organisers of the WTA Finals). Instead of taking care of the development of women’s tennis, they cannot communicate.”

So far both Swiatek and Ons Jabeur have qualified for the WTA Finals with Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula expected to join them.

Caroline Garcia, Aryna Sabalenka, Daria Kasatkina and Simona hold the other four spots with just weeks left of the season.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Roger Federer Claims Happiness Over Tennis Retirement In Emotional Last Match

It was an emotional evening in London as Roger Federer said goodbye to tennis.

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Roger Federer (@LaverCup - Twitter)

Roger Federer has said that his retirement from tennis was full of joy not sadness after an emotional occasion at the Laver Cup.

 

The career of one of the greatest tennis players of all time is over after 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer played his last match of his career at the O2 Arena in London.

Federer teamed up with Rafael Nadal to take on Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock with the American pairing claiming victory 4-6 7-6(2) 11-9 to level the tie for Team World at 2-2.

However celebration was limited as the whole venue celebrated, cried and soaked up the emotion that Roger Federer’s career was over.

There were tears from Federer, his family as well as rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the end of an era was upon Tennis.

Even a performance from Ellie Goulding saw the Arena’s emotion get stronger as the Swiss maestro said goodbye to a sport he has played since he was a kid.

However despite the tears Federer claimed after the match that it was a day of celebration not sadness as he closed a big chapter of his life, “It’s been a wonderful day. I’m happy, not sad. It feels great to be here. I’m happy I made it through,” Federer told the BBC website.

“It’s been the perfect journey. I’d do it all again. Everyone’s here, the boys and girls. My wife has been so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn’t.

“Being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn’t feel the stress so much even if I felt something would go during the match. I am so glad I made it through and the match was great. I couldn’t be happier.”

After 1,750 matches in his career, Federer now faces the prospect of leaving the sport he has know for over 20 years as a professional tennis player.

But Federer gave the biggest hint yet that he wants to continue to be apart of the sport for the future.

Speaking to the press Federer claimed that he wants to travel around the world to say thanks to those who didn’t have a chance on Friday evening, “Hopefully we’ll see each other again on a different type of tennis court, somewhere around the world,” Federer was quoted as saying by the BBC website.

“I think the message from me was just making sure I relay my passion for the sport to the fans. I have no plans whatsoever, where, how, when. All I know, I would love to go and play places I have never played before or go say thank you for years to come to all the people that have been so supportive of me.

“The hard part about the Laver Cup was that tickets were already sold out. The people who maybe would have also loved to be here couldn’t make it. Maybe there is another way down the stretch we can party all together.”

An incredible career was celebrated, rejoiced and soaked in by the whole of Tennis and now Federer gets to reflect on a once in a lifetime career.

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