Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: A Look at Two Appetizing Second Round Matchups on Friday - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: A Look at Two Appetizing Second Round Matchups on Friday



“Minister of Happiness” Ons Jabeur this week during media day (

Another two-week combined event is already underway in Rome, with second round ATP and WTA action taking place on Friday.


The top eight men and the top eight women in the world are all present in the capital of Italy.  After missing Madrid due to injury, Novak Djokovic makes his return in Rome, and plays his first match on Friday.  Meanwhile, second-seeded Carlos Alcaraz is making his Foro Italico debut, and looking to remain undefeated this season on European clay.

Iga Swiatek is the top seed in the women’s draw, and is the two-time defending champion in Rome.  Iga also plays her first match on Friday.  But she is not headed for a third consecutive championship showdown with Aryna Sabalenka, as the second-seeded Madrid champion was upset on Thursday night by 2020 Australian Open champ Sofia Kenin

Friday’s play is headlined by two second round clashes between notable names, as Ons Jabeur faces Paula Badosa, and Grigor Dimitrov plays Stan Wawrinka.

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

Stan Wawrinka vs. Grigor Dimitrov (26) – Second on Grand Stand Arena

Wawrinka is now 12-9 on the year, after defeating Ilya Ivashka 6-2, 6-4 in the first round on Wednesday.  Stan is 25-16 lifetime in Rome, having reached the final 15 years ago, and the semifinals eight years ago.

Similarly, Dimitrov is 11-8 this season, and just 3-2 on clay.  Throughout his career, he’s 10-10 at this tournament, having reached a semifinal in 2014 and a quarterfinal in 2020, when this tournament was staged in September.

Their rivalry dates back to 2011, which Wawrinka leads 7-5 overall.  Stan has claimed five of their last six encounters, though they’ve haven’t played in over three years.  On clay, they’re locked at 2-2, yet they’ve never previously played in Rome.  But in the 13th meeting between these two one-handed backhands, I give Wawrinka the slight edge.  Even though Stan has struggled to regain his form after multiple surgeries, he remains a more formidable threat on this surface.

Ons Jabeur (4) vs. Paula Badosa – Third on Center Court

Jabeur is only 11-5 in 2023, as she’s missed significant time this year due to multiple injuries.  Most recently, she suffered a calf injury in Stuttgart, forcing her to retire from the semifinals of that event, and miss Madrid altogether.  This is her first match in three weeks, at a tournament where she is the defending runner-up, having lost last year’s final in straight sets to Swiatek.

Similarly, Badosa missed time this season as well due to injury, and is only 14-7 thus far.  In Madrid, she scored an impressive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Coco Gauff, before losing to Maria Sakkari.  Paula already survived a first round scare in Rome, prevailing in a third-set tiebreak against Anna Lena Friedsam.  This is only Badosa’s second appearance in Rome, after going 1-1 here last year.

Badosa leads their head-to-head 2-1, and 1-0 on clay.  The Spaniard took their last two meetings: two years ago at Indian Wells, and last year in Stuttgart.  With Jabeur just returning from injury, I like Badosa’s chances of making it three in a row on Friday.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Thanasi Kokkinakis (Q) vs. Jannik Sinner (8) – Sinner is 26-6 this season, but missed Madrid due to illness.  Kokkinakis is 9-7 at tour level, and just 1-1 on clay, with both those matches against Jamue Munar, who retired from their first round match on Wednesday after just six games.  Jannik is 2-0 against Thanasi.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Swiatek is 25-5 on the year, though she’s coming off a tough loss in the final of Madrid to Sabalenka.  Pavlyuchenkova has only played eight matches this season at tour level, after missing the last six months of 2022 due to a knee injury. 

Arthur Fils (Q) vs. Holger Rune (7) – Rune is 22-9 in 2023, and 8-2 on clay, having won the title in Munich after saving match points.  Fils is an impressive 18-year-old from France who is 20-7 this year at all levels. 

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Tomas Martin Etcheverry – Djokovic is 17-3 this year, and 64-10 lifetime in Rome.  He is a six-time and defending champion, having defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2022 final.  Etcheverry was already a finalist this season at two clay court events (Santiago, Houston).

Marketa Vondrousova vs. Bianca Andreescu (24) – Andreescu is just 9-8 on the season, and 0-1 on clay, after suffering an awful ankle injury in Miami.  Vondrousova is a strong 17-7, and beat Kaia Kanepi in the opening round. 

Jasmine Paolini vs. Elena Rybakina (7) – Rybakina is 24-7 this year, but has lost her last two matches, including a retirement in Stuttgart due to a lower back injury.  Paolini is a 27-year-old Italian who ousted Xinyu Wang in the first round.

Friday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Casper Ruud Topples Rune To Reach French Open Semis



Casper Ruud came out on top in his all-Scandinavian clash with Holger Rune to seal his place in the semi-finals of the French Open. 


Ruud, who is seeded fourth in the draw, battled to a 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, win over his Danish opponent in what was a topsy-turvy encounter on the Philippe Chatrier Court. It is the second year in a row that the Norwegian has defeated Rune in the last eight of Roland Garros and he now leads their head-to-head 6-1. He is through to the last four of a major for only the third time in his career. 

“I’m very relieved. I came into this match trying to not play with pressure but it is not easy when you’re playing a big match against Holger who is never easy,” Rune said during his post-match interview. “He is very aggressive. Luckily for me the first two sets he wasn’t feeling it too well. He made a lot of errors and I got a lot of points for free.’
“That helped settle my nerves but he fought back in the third set. In the fourth set, I was lucky to keep that break.”

The highly anticipated nighttime clash began in one-way fashion with Ruud claiming 12 out of the first 15 games with relative ease as an erratic Rune struggled to find his game on the court, hitting a total of 40 unforced errors during the first two sets. 

It wasn’t until the third frame that Ruud finally faced some resistance on the court as his opponent orchestrated the crowd to get behind him. Prompting the 20-year-old to hit a series of impressive shots to revive his hopes.

However, Rune’s comeback was short-lived as Ruud broke once more midway through the fourth set as he moved to a game away from victory. He earned his first match point at 5-2 following a double fault from his rival but failed to convert. Two more opportunities then came and went for Ruud before he managed to serve the match out in the following game.

“I think I did well,” he replied when asked about how he handled his nerves. “I kind of looked at it (the match) as if he was the favourite. He won the last time we played and he has had a better year than me so far.’
“He was hoping to get into his first (Grand Slam) semi-final and I was hungry to get into another semi-final. Luckily it worked out well for me.”

Awaiting the 24-year-old in the semi-finals on Friday will be Alexander Zverev who defeated Tomás Martín Etcheverry in four sets. He trails their head-to-head 1-2 but they have never faced each other on clay. 

“Ruud has been there before. He was in the final here last year, so he knows exactly what it means and what it takes,” Zverev told reporters.  

Ruud is now 16-5 this season when it comes to playing matches on the clay. Since the start of 2020, he has registered 86 wins on the surface which is more than any other player on the ATP Tour.

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Alexander Zverev Reaches French Open Semis 12 Months After Horrific Injury



Alexander Zverev says there is still work to be done at the French Open after sealing his place in the semi-finals of the tournament on Wednesday. 


The world No.27 battled to a hard-fought 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, win over Argentine underdog Tomas Martin Etcheverry in a match that featured numerous lengthy rallies. After dropping the second set, Zverev then had to bounce back from a break down at the start of the third before restoring his lead. Overall, he hit 45 winners to 44 unforced errors and converted five out of 11 break point opportunities. 

“I’m happy to be in a semifinal of a Grand Slam any time that I’m there but for me, the tournament is not over,” Zverev said during his press conference.
“I’m happy to be here, but I know that hopefully I have two more matches ahead, and they’re not going to get easier.”

It is the third consecutive season that Zverev has reached the last four at Roland Garros and the sixth time he has done so at a Grand Slam so far in his career. He has now won 13 consecutive matches against players ranked outside of the top 20 at the French Open. 

Unlike his previous Grand Slam runs, this one is perhaps more sweeter for the German considering what he has been through over the past year. At the clay court major in 2022, he took on Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals where he suffered a severe ankle injury that ended up sidelining him from competition for seven months.

“I couldn’t play for the first seven months of my injury. Then for the next three, four months, I was still in pain. I wasn’t able to move the way I wanted to.” Zverev recounted.
“I think I’m at a stage now where I’m not thinking about the injury so much anymore. I’m not thinking about what happened. I’m just happy to be back where I was last year, and I have another chance. Hopefully I can take it.”

Despite his credentials, Zverev has only featured in the final of a major tournament once before. That was at the 2020 US Open where he led Dominic Thiem by two sets to love before losing the match in five. 

His record is a stark contrast to that on the ATP Tour where he has reached 30 finals, winning 19 titles. His collection includes two ATP Finals trophies, a gold medal from the Tokyo Olympics and five Masters 1000 crowns.

“Grand Slams are tennis history. That’s what you play for. I think the two most important things in tennis are Grand Slams and the Olympic Games.” He said.
“When you are in a semifinal or final of either of those, I think that’s very different from being in a final of another tournament.”

Zverev is aiming to become the first German man to reach a French Open final since Michael Stich in 1996. 

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Plays Coco Gauff in a Rematch of Last Year’s Final



A look at last year’s trophy ceremony after the women’s championship match (

The quarterfinals conclude on Wednesday in Paris.


A year ago in the women’s singles championship match, Iga Swiatek defeated Coco Gauff 6-1, 6-3 to win her second Roland Garros title.  Swiatek leads their head-to-head 6-0, having claimed all 12 sets they’ve contested.  Can Coco provide any real resistance on Wednesday?

In the other WTA quarterfinal, Ons Jabeur and Beatriz Haddad Maia vie to reach their first French Open semifinal.

On the men’s side, we have another prominent rematch from last year’s tournament.  A year ago in this same round, Casper Ruud eliminated Holger Rune in a contentious Scandinavian battle.  Yet in 2023, Rune has been the better player.  Who will prevail this time around?

And one year after the serious ankle injury Sascha Zverev suffered in the semifinals of this event, he looks to return to that round, and faces a surprising quarterfinalist in Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) vs. Ons Jabeur (7) – 11:00am on Court Philippe Chatrier

Jabeur is only 15-6 on the year, after missing time this season due to multiple leg injuries.  But she has rounded into strong form at a good time, dropping only one set to this stage.  This is the farthest Ons has ever advanced in Paris, as she plays for her third Major semifinal, all within the past year.

Haddad Maia had never previously advanced beyond the second round of a Slam, with an 0-7 record in that round.  Yet here she is in her first Major quarterfinal, on the surface where the least amount of previous success had come.  Beatriz has survived three consecutive three-setters, including an over three-and-half-hour one in the last round against Sara Sorribes Tormo.

These players met just two months ago in the same round on the same surface, with Jabeur easily prevailing 6-3, 6-0 in Stuttgart.  Ons will surely be the fresher player, and has an obviously huge edge in experience.  I like Jabeur’s chances of achieving her first Roland Garros semifinal.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Not Before 12:30pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

In their 12 aforementioned previous sets, most have not even been close.  Only one, their very first, has gone to a tiebreak, and Gauff has averaged just 2.4 games per set. 

Coco is also yet to play her best this year.  While her record of 23-8 is far from embarrassing, she had not reached a quarterfinal in three months before this fortnight.  She continues to tinker with her forehand and serve, and has made recent changes to her coaching team.

Swiatek is 32-6 this season, and has lost only nine games through four rounds, though she did receive an unfortunate retirement in the last round from an ill Lesia Tsurenko.  So while Gauff always remains a threat, a Coco upset on Wednesday would be a bit of a shock.

Sascha Zverev (22) vs. Tomas Martin Etcheverry – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Zverev arrived in Paris with little form, and even admitted to feeling emotional returning to the scene where such a devastating injury happened a year ago.  But he has played excellently through four rounds, dropping just one set against his only opponent seeded higher than him (Tiafoe).  Sascha is playing for his third straight semifinal in Paris.

Before this year, Etcheverry had never won a match at a Major, and only owned four career victories at ATP level.  But the 23-year-old has won 19 tour-level matches this season, and reached two clay court finals (Santiago, Houston).  Tomas Martin is yet to drop a set this tournament, defeating three seeded players (de Minaur, Coric, Nishioka).

But in their first career meeting, Zverev is a huge favorite.  His power and experience should allow him to comfortably dictate matters on Wednesday.

Holger Rune (6) vs. Casper Ruud (4) – Not Before 8:15pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Ruud got off to a modest start in 2023 after achieving his first two Major finals in 2022, and accumulating 51 match wins.  But he’s now 15-5 on clay this season, and took three tight sets from Nicolas Jarry in a straight-set fourth round match that lasted nearly four hours.  Casper is 2-0 in his previous Slam quarterfinals.

Rune has been on a tear since last fall, reaching seven ATP finals, and winning three of them.  That includes three clay finals within the last two months (Monte Carlo, Munich, Rome).  He survived a grueling round of 16 contest against Francisco Cerundolo, decided by a fifth-set tiebreak.  This is Holger’s second Slam quarterfinal, after losing in four sets here a year ago to this same opponent. 

These two men exchanged words both at the net and in the locker room after that quarterfinal.  Casper, like many players, has voiced how immature he finds Holger’s on-court behavior to be.  Ruud won their first four meetings, but just two weeks ago in the semifinals of Rome, Rune came from behind to win in three.  All five of those matches took place on clay.

Holger appeared physically fatigued during much of his match on Monday against Cerundolo.  The outcome on Wednesday may heavily depend on his physical condition.  But if he’s feeling close to 100%, I give Rune the slight edge to achieve his first Major semifinal.

Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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