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.


Roland Garros 2024: Rafael Nadal Faces Alexander Zverev In Blockbuster Opening Round

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev will meet at Roland Garros in the first round with Andy Murray taking on Stan Wawrinka in the opening round.



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Rafael Nadal has been drawn against Rome champion Alexander Zverev in the opening round of Roland Garros.

The 14-time Roland Garros champion will most likely be making his last appearance at the event where he has such a great history at.

It’s been a mixed clay court season for Nadal who built gradual momentum in Madrid but suffered an early exit in Rome to Hubert Hurkacz.

Now the Spaniard has been drawn to take on the champion of Rome, Alexander Zverev, in the opening round.

The match is a repeat of the 2022 semi-final where Zverev broke his ankle losing almost a year of his career.

This contest headlines the second quarter of the draw which also features Karen Khachanov, Holger Rune and Daniil Medvedev.

In the other quarter of the top half of the draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic will begin his Roland Garros campaign against Pierre-Hughes Herbert.

There is also a potential third round clash with either Gael Monfils or Lorenzo Musetti for Djokovic, who is currently in Geneva gaining extra match practice ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season.

The Serb could have a repeat of last year’s final in the quarter-finals with Casper Ruud as the Norwegian begins his campaign against Jakub Mensik.

In the bottom half of the draw Jannik Sinner plays his first tournament since suffering a hip injury in Rome as he takes on Christopher Eubanks in the opening round.

Sinner could face Cameron Norrie in the third round with the Brit taking on Pavel Kotov in his opening round before playing the winner of the battle of the Grand Slam champions between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Murray and Wawrinka will clash for the fourth time at Roland Garros with Wawrinka leading their head-to-head 2-1 in Paris.

This section also includes in-form players such as Hubert Hurkacz, Alejandro Tabilo and Rome finalist Nicolas Jarry.

Finally Carlos Alcaraz will begin his Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier before potentially playing Jack Draper in the second round.

Another exciting clash awaits Alcaraz in the third round in the form of Sebastian Korda with Andrey Rublev or Stefanos Tsitsipas being potential quarter-final opponents.

This is the full draw with Roland Garros beginning on Sunday.

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Alexander Zverev Secures Return To Top Four After Winning Italian Open



Alexander Zverev has clinched his first Masters title since 2021 after downing Nicolas Jarry in straight sets at the Italian Open.

The world No.5 surged to a 6-4,7-5, victory at the Faro Italico to become the 10th player in the Open Era to win the Rome trophy on multiple occasions. He also won the tournament in 2017. Zverev’s latest win was aided by an impressive service display from the 27-year-old who also hit 15 winners against eight unforced errors. He is now 22-1 against players ranked outside the top five at the tournament with his only loss being to Matteo Berrettini five years ago.

“It means a lot. Winning my first (Masters) title and winning my first after my injury in Rome. Rome is a very special place for me,” the new champion said afterwards. 
“I said at the beginning of the week if Rome is the place of firsts for me I’m extremely happy about it. It’s a very special week.” 

Playing in his first Masters 1000 final since 2022, Zverev produced a serving masterclass throughout the opening set with the German winning 20 out of 21 points. In contrast, Jarry experienced more difficult but valiantly fought back with the Chilean saving two straight break points at 4-4. Eventually, the third seed sealed the opener two games later with the help of some costly shots coming from across the court. A deep shot towards the baseline was unsuccessfully returned by Jarry, handing Zverev a set point which he converted.

Continuing to pile the pressure on in the second set, Zverev had a double chance to break for a 3-1 lead but failed to capitalise on that opportunity. The opportunities continued to come and go. Back-to-back double faults from Jarry at 4-5 handed Zverev two championship points but once again he failed to take advantage. Eventually, he sealed victory two games later with the help of a forehand shot that Jarry returned out. Prompting Zverev to raise his hands in delight before later paying tribute to his rival. 

“He’s playing huge. You can see that by the opponents he beat and how he beat them,” he said of Jarry. 
“I told him if he continues playing like that he is going to have many more chances. I’m happy to be the winner.”

As a result of his Rome triumph, Zverev has secured a top-four seeding for the French Open. On Monday he will rise in the PIF ATP rankings to No.4 which will be his highest position since August 2022. During that same year, he sustained a serious ankle injury which sidelined him for months. 

“The focus is on Paris, that’s for sure. but let me enjoy this one for a day or so and then I will have my full focus on Paris,” said Zverev.

Zverev has now won six Masters 1000 titles which places him in joint-ninth on the all-time list along with Daniil Medvedev. 

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Novak Djokovic Accepts Geneva Wildcard Ahead Of Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic has accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva as he looks to improve his form ahead of Roland Garros.



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Novak Djokovic has shockingly accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva.

The world number one hasn’t had the best season so far having yet to reach a final at any of his events this season.

There was hope for Djokovic that his fortunes would change on clay and the Serb started his clay court season by reaching the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo before losing to Casper Ruud.

However Djokovic’s clay court hopes were dashed in Rome as he lost in the third round to in-form Chilean Alejandro Tabilo.

This has meant that Djokovic risks being undercooked for the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros.

Therefore the Serb has had no option but to take a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 in Geneva.

Djokovic will join Casper Ruud, Andy Murray, Denis Shapovalov and Taylor Fritz in next week’s event.

Next week’s appearance will be the first appearance in Geneva in Djokovic who will be the top seed in Switzerland.

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