WTA Finals & ATP Paris Masters Daily Preview: Jabeur, Pegula, Sabalenka Fight for Advancement - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals & ATP Paris Masters Daily Preview: Jabeur, Pegula, Sabalenka Fight for Advancement

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Ons Jabeur during media day in Fort Worth (twitter.com/wta)

The final round of round-robin play begins on Friday in Fort Worth.  Maria Sakkari is 2-0 and has already qualified for the semifinals.  But Ons Jabeur (1-1), Aryna Sabalenka (1-1), and Jessica Pegula (0-2) can all still claim the second semifinal spot in this group.  Here are Friday’s advancement scenarios, as per the WTA:

In Paris, it’s quarterfinal day featuring top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz, two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic, and a match between two of the ATP’s hottest players: Felix Auger-Aliassime and Frances Tiafoe.

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing matchup from both the WTA Finals and the ATP Paris Masters, while highlighting the other matches on the schedules.  Friday’s play in Paris begins at 2:00pm local time, while play in Fort Worth begins at 3:00pm local time.


Frances Tiafoe (16) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (8) – 2:00pm on Court Central in Paris

These were two of the big reasons why Team World finally earned their first victory over Team Europe at September’s Laver Cup.  Auger-Aliassime defeated Novak Djokovic, and Tiafoe defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas.  Both also earned important points for their team in doubles.  And both have been exceling outside of Laver Cup as well.  Felix is on a 15-match win streak, having won back-to-back-to-back titles the last three weeks.  Frances reached his first Major semifinal at the US Open, where he upset Rafael Nadal and nearly took out eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz.  He followed that up with a run to the final in Tokyo.  FAA leads their head-to-head 2-0, with a four-set victory in the fourth round of last year’s US Open, and a straight-set win earlier this year on clay in Barcelona.  And based on his current streak on indoor hard courts, it’s hard not to pick Auger-Aliassime to prevail again on Friday.


Ons Jabeur (2) vs. Maria Sakkari (5) – Not Before 7:00pm in Fort Worth

Regardless of the result of the Pegula/Sabalenka match earlier in the day, Jabeur will have a chance to qualify for the semifinals if she can defeat Sakkari, though she may need to win in straight sets if Sabalenka does the same.  Jabeur lost a tight three-setter to Sabalenka on Monday, but came back from a set down against Pegula on Wednesday.  Sakkari defeated both Sabalenka and Pegula in straight sets.  At tour level, Jabeur and Sakkari have split two previous meetings.  Maria was victorious two years ago in Ostrava on a hard court, while Ons prevailed earlier this season in Rome on clay.  Both matches went the distance.  On Friday, another extended contest would not be surprising.  But having won six of her last seven matches, dating back to her run to the final in Guadalajara, Sakkari is the favorite to remain undefeated.


Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Hulger Rune – It’s the top seed at the 2021 ATP Next Gen Finals against the projected top seed at the upcoming 2022 event.  Alcaraz has not dropped a set in two matches this week.  Rune has claimed 16 of his last 18 matches, and earned impressive victories this week over Stan Wawrinka, Hubert Hurkacz, and Andrey Rublev. 

Novak Djokovic (6) vs. Lorenzo Musetti – Djokovic is on a 12-match win streak in Bercy, dating back to 2019.  Musetti won a hard court event last month in Naples, and already upset Marin Cilic and Casper Ruud this week.  Lorenzo had a two-set lead over Novak at last year’s Roland Garros before succumbing to the eventual champion.  He also lost to Djokovic in straight sets this year in Dubai.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Tommy Paul – Tsitsipas was only 2-4 lifetime at this event prior to this week, but is yet to lose a set.  Tommy Paul has defeated three consecutive Spaniards this week: Roberto Bautista Agut, Rafael Nadal, and Pablo Carreno Busta.  Stefanos is 2-0 against Tommy.

Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (7) – Sabalenka has a strong chance of advancing with a win, but Pegula will need some considerable help even with a victory.  Aryna is 3-1 against Jessica, having claimed their last three encounters, though those were all on clay.  Pegula took their only hard court matchup back in 2020.


Friday’s full Order of Play at the WTA Finals is here, and the Paris Masters schedule is here.

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World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

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Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Roland Garros 2024: Casper Ruud Explains Geneva Decision, Martin Etcheverry Talks Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Two-time finalist Casper Ruud is into the second round with a straight sets win over Felipe Meligeni Alves.

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Casper Ruud has explained the decision behind playing in Geneva last week after he defeated Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3.

The world number seven is into the second round after a straight sets win over the Brazilian qualifier.

Ruud has reached the final the past two occasions here having lost to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in those respective finals.

Now the Norwegian is targeting more success in Paris this year and spoke about his opening round performance after the match, “Yeah, I was honestly very happy. I think it was a good start,” Ruud stated in his press conference.

“I think Felipe is a dangerous player, and obviously I didn’t know him so well. So not easy to know what’s going to come out of his racquet. I think he was firing pretty good serves and forehands.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty high-quality match and happy to be through in straight sets. That’s just what I was kind of hoping and looking for. Yeah, I’m very happy to be through.”

Given Ruud’s history at Roland Garros, there would be no reason to suggest that the Norwegian would need to play his way into form.

However that’s exactly what he did in Geneva the week before Roland Garros as he won the title in Switzerland.

After his opening round match Ruud was asked about why he always plays in Geneva instead of practicing on-site in Paris, “No, I decide based on the fact that I enter the tournament, and with the purpose of going. But of course, if you do super well in Madrid and Rome and you play, let’s say, 10 matches or more within those two weeks or the two tournaments, maybe, depending on how your body feels, it’s kind of easier to skip it,” Ruud explained.

“But that wasn’t the case for me in Madrid and Rome. I played only four matches there. I lost early in Rome. If I didn’t play Geneva I would have had 17 or 18 days since I lost in Rome until starting in Roland Garros, which in my eyes, my feeling, is just a bit too much. For some players, they don’t think it’s too much. They don’t have a problem with it.

“But for me I like going into tournament kind of mode and feeling in the zone when you’re playing an official match. That’s why I like playing. It gives me kind of confidence and match feeling going into a Grand Slam, which is the Grand Slam that I personally feel like I have the most chances to do well in.”

Ruud will aim to continue his good run of form when he takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round.

Martin Etcheverry Speaks On Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Finally Tomas Martin Etcheverry defeated Arthur Cazaux in four sets to seal his place in the second round.

The Argentinian is a big Novak Djokovic fan and after the match spoke about his love for Roland Garros and has tipped Djokovic to win this year’s tournament, “I think it’s my favorite tournament since I was a child, and I always want to play here,” Martin Etcheverry explained.

“This is a moment of the year that I want to be here and try to play my best tennis because I want to get a good result here.

“Yeah, is he my idol, and he is the No. 1 of the world. I don’t know, like six years right now. Yeah, I always try to watch him, trying to improve the game. I always trying to saw him. Yeah, I think he’s going to be No. 1 a lot of time. I don’t know if they have a good year this year, but I think it’s Novak Djokovic. Maybe he can win this tournament.”

Martin Etcheverry will play another Frenchman in the form of Arthur Rinderknech in the second round with Ruud being the potential third round opponent.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

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image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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