Madrid Open Daily Preview: Major Champions Murray, Kvitova, Thiem, Sabalenka Play on Thursday - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Daily Preview: Major Champions Murray, Kvitova, Thiem, Sabalenka Play on Thursday



The grounds crew prepping the clay courts in Madrid (

The first joint ATP/WTA 1000 event of the clay season is underway in Madrid.


Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are both absent due to injury, leaving defending champion Carlos Alcaraz as the headliner of the ATP singles draw in his country’s biggest event.  Daniil Medvedev, Casper Ruud, and Stefanos Tsitsipas are the other top seeds.

The WTA singles draw sees Stuttgart champion Iga Swiatek as the top seed, with Stuttgart finalist Aryna Sabalenka as the second seed.  Are they headed for a rematch in the final of Madrid?  Not if other top names such as Jessica Pegula or Elena Ryabkina have anything to say about it.  Unfortunately, Ons Jabeur is not present to defend her title, after injuring her calf in Stuttgart.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Jule Niemeier vs. Petra Kvitova (10) – 11:00am on Arantxa Sanchez Stadium

Kvitova is 17-5 on the year, and is coming off a title run in Miami, her biggest title since she won this event in 2018.  Petra is a three-time champion in Madrid, with a career record of 32-9, compared to only an 8-8 record at the other WTA 1000 event on clay in Rome.

Niemeier was a surprise quarterfinalist last summer at Wimbledon, but is only 4-11 on the year, at one point going on a six-match losing streak between February and April.  She defeated Xin Yu Wang in the first round in straight sets.

Kvitova claimed their only previous meeting by a score of 6-2, 6-1, last year on a hard court in St. Petersburg.  On Thursday in the high elevation of Madrid, which has enhanced Petra big ball striking in the past, Kvitova must be considered a strong favorite.  However, that’s assuming her foot injury, which was the reason she withdrew from Stuttgart last week, is not a significant issue.

Sorana Cirstea vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 7:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

Despite her loss in Sunday’s Stuttgart final to Swiatek, Sabalenka is having a fantastic year.  Aryna is 23-4, with two titles, which of course includes her first Major in Melbourne.  Sabalenka won this event two years ago, beating Ash Barty in the final.

However, one of Aryna’s four losses this season came at the hands of Cirstea, who defeated her in straight sets last month in Miami.  Sorana had a great run on North American hard courts in March, reaching the quarterfinals at Indian Wells and the semis in Miami.  She eliminated Lauren Davis in the opening round in three sets.

The aforementioned Miami quarterfinal is their only prior encounter.  On Thursday, Sabalenka will be the favorite to avenge that loss.  While some of Cirstea’s best career results have come on clay, including a WTA title two years ago and her only Major quarterfinal back in 2009, Aryna has been one of 2023’s best performers, and is fully comfortable on this surface.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Kyle Edmund (PR) vs. Dominic Thiem (WC) – Thiem is a two-time runner-up in Madrid, and reached the semis on two other occasions, but is just 6-12 on the year at all levels.  Similarly, injuries have sidetracked Edmund’s career, as he’s only 2-7 this season at all levels.  Their only previous meeting occurred six years ago in this same country, as Thiem defeated Edmund in straight sets in Barcelona.

Coco Gauff (6) vs. Irene Burillo Escorihuela (Q) – Gauff is 17-6 in 2023, and as per Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim, is rumored to now be working with Jermaine Jenkins, the former coach of Naomi Osaka, and former hitting partner of Venus Williams.  Burillo Escorihuela is a 25-year-old Spaniard ranked 318th in the world who upset Kaia Kanepi on Wednesday.

Elisabetta Cocciaretto vs. Paula Badosa (26) – Badosa is the top-ranked Spanish woman, even though she is currently outside the world’s top 40.  Cocciaretto is a 22-year-old Italian who won an ITF-level clay court tournament just a few weeks ago. 

Andrea Vavassori (Q) vs. Andy Murray – Murray played pretty terribly by his own admission in his only other clay court match this season, two weeks ago in Monte Carlo.  Vavassori is a 27-year-old Italian who has won 17 matches on clay this year at all levels. 

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.


Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker

According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.



Alexander Zverev (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.


Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.

This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.

However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.

The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.

Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.

“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.

“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”

Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.

Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.

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Juan Carlos Ferrero Analyses Key Areas For Carlos Alcaraz’s Development

Juan Carlos Ferrero has outlined the next steps in Carlos Alcaraz’s development.



(@tennisnewsbrazil - Twitter)

Carlos Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero has analysed the key areas for the Spaniard’s development heading into the 2024 season.


The former world number one’s season has come to an end after a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon title as well as winning two Masters 1000 titles.

Alcaraz capped off an incredible season by reaching the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.

However there is a long way for the Spaniard to go if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic.

Speaking to Marca Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero spoke about the Spaniard’s development and said that Alcaraz is too emotional, “Be more regular in games, not open doors. Sometimes there are mistakes and it is something that we have to improve a lot,” Ferrero commented.

“Although it is true that he opens doors, he always competes well and at the highest level. He knows it, the other day he already said that Novak doesn’t give you one. He has to improve his decision making and he will achieve that with experience. Carlos is very emotional and that sometimes helps him and other times not so much.”

It’s clear Alcaraz’s high-quality is there but to consistently do it against Djokovic is another task altogether as the Spaniard looks to go from strength-to strength next season.

One area that is clearly a priority for Alcaraz is physical conditioning especially considering what happened against Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier in the season.

Ferrero said that will be a clear focus heading into 2024 but couldn’t guarantee that Alcaraz will play a tournament before the Australian Open, “Because of the year and the fatigue he has been in, what he needs is rest and disconnecting for 8-10 days with his friends,” Ferrero stated.

“From there, the thinking must go back to working really hard, strong and well to start very strongly in Australia. One can never be sure of that. Sometimes you play a tournament and it doesn’t go well, you left home too early. There are many ways of thinking.

“This year we haven’t played Australia and he finishes number two. That means there is no urgency to play a tournament early. Carlos is a player who enters competition quickly, you don’t usually see him without rhythm.

“Although it is true that he becomes more dangerous from the round of 16, from the quarter-finals. I am confident that the two exhibition matches and the training sessions will help us play a good tournament.”

Alcaraz will be looking to play the Australian Open which starts on the 15th of January after the Spaniard missed last year’s tournament due to a leg injury.

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Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain



Nadal RG 2022 by Night (foto @RolandGarros)

The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans. 


Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.  

Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.

“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying. 
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”

Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.

“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’

Will Kyrgios play?

Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity. 

“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …” 

Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment. 

“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”

The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions. 

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