Madrid Open Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals

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Maria Sakkari on Tuesday in Madrid (twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen)

The women’s singles semifinals will be staged on Thursday, featuring four of the top 12 seeds.

The top two players in the world, Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, are just one round away from a rematch of the Stuttgart final of two weeks ago.  But first, they must respectively get past Veronika Kudermetova and Maria Sakkari.

Also on Thursday, the second two men’s singles quarterfinals will be decided.  One features the fourth seed taking on a lucky loser, while the other includes two players ranked 99th and 121st in the world.

And the men’s doubles semifinals on Thursday feature four of the top eight seeds, as well as top singles players Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov.

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 1:00pm local time.


Maria Sakkari (9) vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 4:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

Sabalenka is a superb 27-4 on the year, and has reached the quarterfinals or better at every tournament she’s played.  Aryna won this event two years ago, and has dropped only one set heading into this semifinal.

Sakkari is 19-8 this season, and into her fourth WTA semifinal of the year.  This is Maria’s eighth 1000-level semifinal, and she is 2-5 in her previous seven.

Semifinals remain a considerable stumbling block in Sakkari’s career.  She’s also 0-2 in Major semis, and 0-2 in the semis of the WTA Finals.  Sabalenka had similar issues earlier in her career, going 0-3 in Major semis, though that ended this year in Melbourne when she broke through and claimed her first Slam.

This is a rematch from the same round of the last joint-1000 tournament in Miami, when Aryna defeated Maria 6-2, 6-3.  Overall Sabalenka leads their head-to-head 5-3, with all eight matches taking place on hard courts.

Based on 2023 form, as well as Sakkari’s history in semifinals, Sabalenka is the favorite on Thursday.  But the Greek has been playing some of her best tennis of the season this fortnight, and should provide plenty of resistance to Aryna on this day.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Veronika Kudermetova (12) – Not Before 9:00pm on Manolo Santana Stadium

Swiatek is 24-4 in 2023, and 8-0 on clay.  And in almost Nadal-esque numbers, is now 52-7 lifetime on this surface at tour level.  Iga is 6-1 in WTA 1000 semifinals, but her only loss came in her most recent appearance, two months ago at Indian Wells, in a loss to Elena Rybakina.

Kudermetova was just 10-9 this season before arriving in Madrid, having lost six of her last seven matches.  But she’s competed excellently throughout this event.  Veronika has won all four of her matches in three sets, and even saved a match point against Daria Kasatkina.  This is her first WTA 1000 semifinal.

Swiatek is 3-0 against Kudermetova, and has frankly dominated all three meetings, with set scores of 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0, 6-1.  And those sets were all contested on hard courts.  On clay, Iga’s best surface, the World No.1 is a huge favorite to advance to Saturday’s final.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Zhizhen Zhang vs. Aslan Karatsev (Q) – Zhizhen has become the breakout story of this fortnight, with consecutive victories over Denis Shapovalov, Cam Norrie, and Taylor Fritz.  And most notably, all three of those wins were in a third-set tiebreak, saving three match points against Fritz.  This is the farthest a Chinese man has ever advanced as a Masters event.  Karatsev also defeated three seeded players to reach this stage: Botic van de Zandschulp, Alex de Minaur, and Daniil Medvedev.  Last October in Astana, Zhang beat Aslan in three sets.

Jan-Lennard Struff (LL) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) – Tsitsipas is 21-6 this season, and 9-2 on clay.  He is playing for his 14th Masters semifinal, and his third in Madrid.  Struff has now accumulated 32 match wins this year at all levels, and has won three consecutive three-setters.  Stefanos is 3-2 against Jan-Lennard at tour level, but Struff took their only meeting on clay, four years ago in Barcelona.


Thursday’s full Order of Play 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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