WTA Finals & ATP Paris Masters Daily Preview: Sabalenka and Pegula Compete for Advancement - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals & ATP Paris Masters Daily Preview: Sabalenka and Pegula Compete for Advancement



Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday in Cancun (twitter.com/wta)

World No.1 Aryna Sabalenka headlines on Tuesday in Cancun, while World No.2 Carlos Alcaraz headlines in Paris.

After winning their opening round-robin matches in straight sets, Aryna Sabalenka and Jessica Pegula both have the chance to secure their spot in the semifinals with a victory on Tuesday.  By contrast, Elena Rybakina and Maria Sakkari vie to keep their advancement hopes alive.

In Paris, Carlos Alcaraz returns from a short injury layoff to play his first match in three weeks, as he tries to catch Novak Djokovic in the race for the year-end No.1 ranking.  Plus, Sascha Zverev and Hubert Hurkacz look to earn crucial victories on Tuesday as they try to move into qualifying position for the ATP Finals.

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing matchup from both the WTA Finals and the ATP Paris Masters.  Tuesday’s play in Paris begins at 11:00am local time in Paris, and at 2:30pm local time in Cancun.

Sebastian Korda vs. Hubert Hurkacz (11) – Second on Court 1 in Paris

Hurkacz is now 42-21 this season, with two titles.  One of those is his second Masters 1000 title, which he collected just a few weeks ago in Shanghai.  That run included a semifinal victory over Korda, by a score of 6-3, 6-4.  Hubi is now 10-2 this fall on hard courts, as he makes a late-season surge and tries to secure his second appearance at the ATP Finals.  After reaching the final of Basel last week, he now sits in ninth place in the Race to Turin, 215 points out of the eighth and final qualifying spot.  This week, Hurkacz will need to reach the semifinals or better in order to move up. 

Korda is just 25-16 in 2023, as he missed much of the year due to a wrist injury.  But like Hurkacz, he’s played well this fall, with the aforementioned semifinal appearance in Shanghai, and a runner-up result in Astana.  Sebastian’s current rank of No.23 in the world is a new career high, which he could improve on with a good run this week.

Overall Hurkacz leads their head-to-head 2-1, with all three matches taking place on hard courts.  But their biggest meeting to date went to Korda, who prevailed in a final-set tiebreak this past January in the fourth round of the Australian Open.  With the pressure of ATP Finals qualification looming, and having just played an ATP final 48 hours prior, it will be challenging for Hurkacz to play his best tennis.  I give Korda the slight edge on Tuesday to even their head-to-head.

Aryna Sabalenka (1) vs. Jessica Pegula (5) – Not Before 3:45pm in Cancun

Despite being extremely vocal regarding the quality of the court in Cancun, Sabalenka simply dominated Maria Sakkari on Sunday, by a score of 6-0, 6-1.  And with Swiatek also winning her opening match, Aryna remains 630 points ahead of Iga in the race for the year-end No.1 ranking.  Meanwhile, in Pegula’s opening round, she earned her first WTA Finals victory, after going 0-3 last year in both singles and doubles.

One of those losses a year ago came against Sabalenka, when Aryna was victorious 6-3, 7-5.  Overall Sabalenka is 4-1 against Pegula, though her other three victories came on clay. 

Sabalenka appeared unphased on Sunday by the pressure of holding onto the No.1 ranking to close out the year.  She’s been the best hard court player of 2023, and is a considerable favorite to notch another win over Pegula on Tuesday, and to advance to the semifinals.

Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Marton Fucsovics (Q) vs. Sascha Zverev (10) – Zverev has nearly clinched a spot in the ATP Finals, as he’s currently in seventh place, and over 400 points ahead of Hurkacz.  Sascha has never before played Fucsovics, who is just 2-2 lifetime in Bercy. 

Roman Safiullin (Q) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (2) – Alcaraz is now 63-9 on the year, yet trails Djokovic by 500 points in the year-to-date rankings.  This is his first meeting with Safiullin, who reached a hard court final just last month in Chengdu.

Elena Rybakina (4) vs. Maria Sakkari (8) – These players have split two prior encounters.  Rybakina prevailed in three sets three years ago in St. Petersburg, while Sakkari prevailed in straights earlier this season at Indian Wells. 

Tuesday’s full Order of Play for the WTA Finals is here, and for the ATP Paris Masters is here.


Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment



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



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



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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