Indian Wells Daily Preview: Alcaraz, Swiatek, Azarenka, Murray Play on Saturday - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells Daily Preview: Alcaraz, Swiatek, Azarenka, Murray Play on Saturday

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Carlos Alcaraz warming up this week at Indian Wells (twitter.com/bnpparibasopen)

Saturday’s second round singles action sees No.1 seeds Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz make their 2023 Indian Wells debuts.

Other matches feature two-time champion Victoria Azarenka taking on the always-dangerous Karolina Muchova, 2009 finalist Andy Murray facing 2017 semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta, defending champion Taylor Fritz playing recent breakout Ben Shelton, and Sofia Kenin against a fellow Major champ for the second round in a row, in Elena Rybakina.

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 11:00am local time.


Karolina Muchova vs. Victoria Azarenka (14) – 11:00am on Stadium 1

Azarenka has compiled a 10-5 record thus far in 2023, and most notably was a semifinalist at the Australian Open, where she beat two top 10 seeds (Keys, Pegula).  Her titles in the desert came in 2012 and 2016, and she was also the runner-up in 2021.

2021 was the year when Muchova reached her career-high ranking of No.19, but injuries have sidetracked her career for the last two seasons.  Karolina went just 11-12 in 2022, yet is off to a solid 8-3 start this year, and is coming off a quarterfinal run in Dubai.  She defeated Yulia Putintseva in three sets on Thursday.

Azarenka took their only previous meeting, in the fourth round of the 2020 US Open.  Muchova’s diverse style can frustrate opponents, as she provides a lot of different balls throughout a match.  However, Vika’s hard court prowess and recent success in Melbourne make her the favorite.


Carlos Alcaraz (1) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (Q) – Last on Stadium 1

After missing the Australian Open due to a leg injury, Alcaraz went 8-1 in February on clay, winning the title in Buenos Aires, and reaching the final in Rio de Janeiro.  While the same leg injury began bothering during that Rio final, his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero insisted this week that his charge is 100% heading into this fortnight.  Carlitos was a semifinalist here a year ago, where he lost an epic semi in extremely windy conditions to Rafael Nadal.  If Alcaraz wins the title this year, he’ll reclaim the No.1 ranking from an absent Novak Djokovic.

Kokkinakis became one of many heartbroken opponents of Andy Murray this year, losing a second round match in Melbourne that lasted an astounding five hours and 45 minutes.  Last month, Thanasi claimed a Challenger title on a hard court.  He’s already won three straight-set matches this week, having come through qualifying.

In their first career meeting, Alcaraz should be strongly favored.  While Kokkinakis is fully capable of defeating top players, Carlitos’ level across the past 12 months has been superb.  And the highly-popular 20-year-old Spaniard will have much of the packed house on Saturday evening cheering him on.


Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Claire Liu – Swiatek is 12-3 this season, with one title (Doha).  Liu is a 22-year-old American who was the girls’ champion at Wimbledon in 2017.

Andy Murray vs. Pablo Carreno Busta – Murray continues to thrive in marathon matches.  Following his over-three-hour victory on Thursday over Tomas Martin Etcheverry, he is now 7-0 this season in deciding sets.  Shockingly, this is his first career meeting with fellow veteran Carreno Busta, who is only 1-3 to start 2023.

Miomir Kecmanovic (26) vs. Stan Wawrinka (PR) – Kecmanovic broke into the top 30 last year thanks to 38 match wins, but is only 7-6 in 2023.  Wawrinka recently broke back into the top 100 for the first time in two years, as he’s still fighting his way back from a foot injury that caused him to miss over a year of action.

Taylor Fritz (4) vs. Ben Shelton – A year ago here, Fritz claimed the biggest title of his career in his home state.  20-year-old Shelton was a surprise quarterfinalist at January’s Australian Open.

Elena Rybakina (10) vs. Sofia Kenin (WC) – Kenin defeated another Slam champ, Sloane Stephens, in the first round.  Rybakina went 3-2 in February after reaching her second Major final in January.  When they played three years ago in Dubai, Rybakina prevailed 6-3 in the third.

Jannik Sinner (11) vs. Richard Gasquet – Sinner is a strong 12-3 on the year, after becoming the champion in Montpellier and the runner-up in Rotterdam.  Gasquet won a title at the beginning of the season in Auckland, but is just 3-4 since.

Peyton Stearns (WC) vs. Bianca Andreescu (32) – Stearns is a 21-year-old American who earned only her third WTA-level win on Thursday.  Andreescu’s big breakthrough occurred four years ago at this event, but she’s only 5-5 to start the year.

Ons Jabeur (4) vs. Magdelana Frech – This will be Jabeur’s first match since the Australian Open, as she recently had a minor procedure done on her injured knee.  Frech has now reached the second round of Indian Wells for the third consecutive year.  She’s only once achieved that feat at all other WTA 1000 events.


Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident

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Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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