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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Her First Singles Match in a Year

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Serena Williams during media day on Saturday (twitter.com/wimbledon)

One year ago, Serena Williams left Centre Court in tears, as she was forced to retire after just six games of her first round match due to a leg injury.  On Tuesday, she returns to Centre Court in what will be her first singles match since that emotional moment. 

 

Also on Tuesday, Rafael Nadal begins his quest for a third consecutive Major title.  After winning both the Australian Open and Roland Garros, he now owns 22 Slam titles, two more than both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.  And for the second straight year, one of “The Big Three” arrives at SW19 halfway to the calendar year Grand Slam.

Other top names playing their opening round matches on Day 2 include Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, RG runner-up Coco Gauff, Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, as well as Wimbledon champions Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, and Petra Kvitova.  With 10 matches postponed from Monday due to rain, and six more to be concluded, Tuesday will be an extremely busy day, as 80 singles matches are scheduled around the grounds of The All England Club.

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


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Jana Fett (Q) – 1:30pm on Centre Court

In the absence of the defending women’s singles champion Ash Barty, Swiatek has been selected to open Centre Court play on Day 2.  And it has now been over four months since Iga has lost a match.  The definitive world No.1 is on a 35-match win streak, and is coming off her second Major title in Paris.  However, Swiatek remains an unproven commodity on grass.  She’s only 4-4 lifetime on this surface.  Three of those four victories came last year during this event, when she advanced to the fourth round and lost to Ons Jabeur in three sets.  Fett is a 25-year-old whose most memorable tennis moment is unfortunately a painful one.  At the 2018 Australian Open, she was up 5-1 in the third over eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki, yet failed to convert two match points and eventually lost 7-5.  Jana will be a huge underdog in her first meeting with Iga, who has rarely been challenged in 2022.


Simona Halep (16) vs. Karolina Muchova – Second on No.1 Court

After missing last year’s tournament due to injury, this will be Halep’s first match at The Championships since defeating Serena Williams in the 2019 final.  And she faces perhaps the toughest draw any seeded player has been presented in the opening round.  Muchova has reached the quarterfinals in both of her previous appearances at The Championships.  She also was a semifinalist at the 2021 Australian.  Karolina missed the first few months of this season due to injury, yet despite the lack of play, upset Maria Sakkari at Roland Garros.  Yet in the very next round, injury again struck Muchova, as she rolled her ankle and was forced to retire in tears against Amanda Anisimova.  She seemed to recover quickly, as she was back on court two weeks ago in Berlin, where she lost her only grass court tune-up match to Ons Jabeur.  Halep is a solid 26-8 on the year, and went 6-2 this month on grass, achieving two semifinals.  Her partnership with Patrick Mouratoglou is yet to pay significant dividends, but perhaps that is about to change, as Patrick knows all about coaching players to Wimbledon titles.  Halep and Muchova have never played before, which makes this match all the more unpredictable.  But based on recent form, I give Simona the slight edge to provide Karolina with her first early-round loss at The Championships.


Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Francisco Cerundolo – Second on Centre Court

This will be Nadal’s first match at Wimbledon, and first match on grass, in three years.  But the last two times he played at The Championships, Rafa reached the semifinals, where he was stopped by players name Djokovic and Federer.  After requiring injections to his injured foot before every match he played at Roland Garros, Nadal has stated his foot is feeling much better heading into this fortnight.  Cerundolo was a shocking semifinalist at this year’s Miami Open, which was the first ATP event not played on clay where Francisco ever won a match.  Since that run, the 23-year-old has struggled mightily, with a 2-5 record.  An upset over Nadal on Tuesday would be startling, though all eyes will be on how comfortable Rafa looks on his injured foot.


Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) vs. Maxime Cressy – Third on No.3 Court

Auger-Aliassime made a Major breakthrough at this tournament a year ago, defeating Sascha Zverev in five sets to reach his first Major quarterfinal.  But on Tuesday, he faces a challenging first round opponent in Cressy.  The 25-year-old advanced to the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, and is coming off a title run on grass two weeks ago in Eastbourne, where he beat three top 20 players (Opelka, Norrie, Fritz).  His serve-and-volley style is a perfect fit for this surface.  And we’ve seen Felix play tightly early on in Majors, including just last month when he lost the first two sets of his opening round in Paris to a player ranked outside the top 100.  With the Canadian’s good friend Hubi Hurkacz getting upset on Monday, a similar upset on Tuesday of a player who went deep at this event a year ago feels fully possible.


Harmony Tan vs. Serena Williams (WC) – Third on Centre Court

It is quite startling to see Serena Williams as a wild card.  But the former multi-time world No.1 finds herself without a ranking after not competing for a full year.  She played two doubles matches last week in Eastbourne with Ons Jabeur, though this match will be much more revealing regarding her status as a contender to secure her 24th Major singles title.  Serena has said she enjoyed not training for much of the past year, partially due to injury, though she’s surely confident in her physical conditioning if she entered this singles draw.  Tan is a 24-year-old ranked 113th in the world, and is only 2-6 lifetime in the main draw of Majors.  And Harmony has never won a tour-level match on grass.  This is as kind of a draw an unseeded Serena could ask for, and should enable her to earn her first singles victory since last year’s Roland Garros.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Matteo Berrettini (8) vs. Cristian Garin – The 2021 finalist is an undefeated 9-0 on grass this season, coming off titles at both Stuttgart and Queen’s Club.  By contrast, Garin is 0-2 this season on this surface, and is 5-8 lifetime.  Matteo leads their head-to-head 2-1.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Elena-Gabriela Ruse – Gauff followed up her run to the final of Roland Garros with a semifinal run on grass in Berlin.  Ruse is a 24-year-old who captured a WTA title on clay last July. 

Petra Kvitova (25) vs. Jasmine Paolini – On Saturday, Kvitova claimed her first title in over a year in Eastbourne.  Paolini is a 26-year-old Italian who won her first WTA title last September in Slovenia.  Petra has taken both their prior encounters in straight sets. 

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Alexander Ritschard (Q) – Tsitsipas is only 3-4 at The Championships, though he won a grass court title on Saturday in Mallorca.  Ritschard is a 28-year-old making his main draw debut at a Major. 

Garbine Muguruza (9) vs. Greet Minnen – After winning the 2021 WTA Finals, Muguruza has struggled with her form and injury.  The 2017 champion is only 8-11 on the year.  Minnen is a 24-year-old who reached the third round of last year’s US Open. 

Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – Fritz was a champion on Saturday in Eastbourne.  Musetti is a 20-year-old Italian who is 0-2 on grass in 2022. 

Bianca Andreescu vs. Emina Bektas (Q) – Andreescu is vying for her first win at The Championships.  Bektas is a 29-year-old looking for her first main draw win at any Major.

Sloane Stephens vs. Qinwen Zheng – Stephens was a quarterfinalist here nine years ago.  Qinwen was the only player to take a set off Swiatek at the French Open.  Two months ago in Charleston, Zheng defeated Sloane 6-0 in the third. 

Denis Shapovalov (13) vs. Arthur Rinderknech – Shapovalov was a semifinalist a year ago, but arrives at SW19 on a five-match losing streak.  Rinderknech reached a final in Adelaide to start the season, and won a Challenger title on clay a few weeks ago.  And in Doha, Arthur upset Denis 6-4, 6-4.


Tuesday’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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ATP

ATP Montreal: Ruud Thrashes Auger-Aliassime To Reach Semis, Mixed Results For Brits

Casper Ruud eased past Felix Auger-Aliassime to set up a semi-final meeting with Hubert Hurkacz in Montreal.

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Casper Ruud (@OBNmontreal - Twitter)

Casper Ruud only dropped three games against Felix Auger-Aliassime to reach the semi-finals in Montreal.

 

The Norwegian is into the semi-finals in Canada after a dominant performance over home favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Ruud dominated from the start of the match as he produced a sublime performance only committing nine unforced errors throughout the match to reach the last four.

Ruud has had a good season on hard courts this season and is looking to make his second consecutive hard court Masters 1000 final after reaching the final in Miami.

Speaking after the match Ruud admitted he got a bit lucky but is happy to be in the last four in Canada, “It was one of those days where everything goes in one favour and luckily it was in my favour,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“With a player like Felix, you need to rely on some margins going your way. I didn’t expect them to all go on my side. It was a bit of a difficult start. I got broken but then was able to turn everything around. I hit my spots, made the shots I needed to and make him hit a lot of balls. That was the game plan and it worked well.

“The last hard-court tournament I played in was in Miami where I reached the final. I wanted to make a deep run here. I didn’t think it was too likely, being the first hard-court tournament back, but I have been playing great from the first point in the first match.”

Ruud will look to claim his first Masters 1000 title this week and rise to four in the world in the ATP rankings.

Next for Ruud is the only Masters 1000 champion left in the draw in the form of Hubert Hurkacz.

Hurkacz defeated the in-form Nick Kyrgios 7-6(4) 6-7(5) 6-1 to reach the semi-finals in Canada.

The eighth seed produced some big-serving and bold decision making as he reached his first semi-final since winning the Halle title.

Heading into their match, Ruud leads the head-to-head 1-0 where the Norwegian was victorious at Roland Garros this year.

Mixed results for British hopefuls

Meanwhile it was a mixed night for British players as Dan Evans reached his second career Masters 1000 semi-final while Jack Draper exited the tournament in the last eight.

Evans defeated Tommy Paul 1-6 6-3 6-4 to reach a landmark moment in his career in Montreal.

After his win Evans described the win as ‘extra special’ as he looks forward to a semi-final meeting with Pablo Carreno Busta, “The crowd, that’s what they buy their tickets for. That’s live sport,” Evans told the ATP website.

“You never know what’s going to happen. It was an amazing match, amazing atmosphere. I played on the court before. In the day it was amazing, but at night, there’s something about playing sport at night, it’s extra special.”

Evans will now play Carreno Busta in the last four after the Spaniard defeated British qualifier Jack Draper 7-6(4) 6-1.

Draper defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas earlier in the week but was no match for the resilient Spaniard.

Saturday’s semi-final will be the first meeting between Evans and Carreno Busta.

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Canada Daily Preview: Semifinal Saturday Features Ruud/Hurkacz and Pegula/Halep

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Simona Halep on Friday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

The singles and doubles semifinals will be played on Saturday in Canada.  In Montreal, a new men’s singles champion will be crowned, and Hubi Hurkacz is the only semifinalist to have previously won a Masters 1000 event (Miami, 2021).  Hurkacz is also in the doubles semifinals, so it will be a busy day for Hubi.  In singles, he faces a finalist from this year in Miami, Casper Ruud.

 

In Toronto, Simona Halep is the only former champion remaining, and is two wins away from her third title at this event.  On Saturday, she plays Jessica Pegula, who is into the semifinals in Canada for the second straight year.  Like Hurkacz, Pegula is also in the doubles semifinals.  She’s teaming with Coco Gauff, who will become the new doubles No.1 if they win the title.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 12:00pm local time in Montreal and 1:00pm in Toronto.


Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Hurkacz ended the winning streak of Nick Kyrgios on Friday, taking him out in three sets for the second time this season.  But Ruud was even more impressive on Friday, bouncing back from a marathon victory on Thursday over Roberto Bautista Agut to overwhelm Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, dropping only three games.  Predominantly known as a clay court player, Casper is also establishing himself as a considerable threat on hard courts.  That’s especially true in North America, where Ruud has claimed 16 of his last 19 matches.  But Hubi’s success on this surface remains superior, as does his serving prowess.  While Ruud prevailed in their only previous encounter, just a few months ago at Roland Garros, Hurkacz is the favorite on a hard court.


Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Simona Halep (15) – 1:00pm on Centre Court in Toronto

Halep has been dominant through four rounds this week, advancing without the loss of a set.  Simona has quietly put together a strong record of 36-10 this season, though she’s yet to achieve a big result, with only one title at the 250 level at the start of the year.  Pegula only dropped one set this week, to defending champion Camila Giorgi.  And similar to Halep, she’s accumulated a solid record this year (29-14) without winning a title.  This will be the first career meeting between these two players.  Considering Halep is now 25-6 lifetime at this event, and the way in which she has easily prevailed all week, her superior movement and defense should be enough to reach her fourth final in Canada.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Pablo Carreno Busta vs. Dan Evans – Carreno Busta has played superbly this week, eliminating the likes of Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini without losing a set to this stage.  Dan Evans has survived two grueling three-setters in as many days.  This is their first career meeting.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Karolina Pliskova (14) – Haddad Maia has earned three big wins across the last three days over Iga Swiatek, Belinda Bencic, and Leylah Fernandez.  Pliskova is looking to reach the Canada final for the second straight year.  They have split two previous encounters, both on hard courts.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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