WTA Finals & ATP Paris Masters Daily Preview: Djokovic Plays Rune in a Rematch of Last Year’s Final - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals & ATP Paris Masters Daily Preview: Djokovic Plays Rune in a Rematch of Last Year’s Final



Novak Djokovic on Thursday in Paris (twitter.com/RolexPMasters)

It’s Quarterfinal Friday in Paris, while round-robin action concludes on Friday in Cancun, with the last two semifinal spots still to be decided.

A year ago, Holger Rune announced himself to the tennis world by defeating Novak Djokovic in the final of the Paris Masters, one of five top 10 players he upset that week.  On Friday, we get the rematch in the quarterfinals.  It’s a big match for both as far rankings are concerned, as Djokovic looks to extend his lead over Carlos Alcaraz in the race for No.1, and Rune tries to secure a qualifying spot for the ATP Finals.

In Cancun, Iga Swiatek (2-0) leads her round-robin group, but has not mathematically clinched her semifinal spot quite yet.  On Friday, she’s plays Ons Jabeur (1-1), in a rematch from last year’s US Open final.  Plus, both Coco Gauff (1-1) and Marketa Vondrousova (0-2) still have a chance of advancing, and will square off on Friday.  The full breakdown of the complicated advancement scenarios in this round-robin group can be found here.

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

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Holger Rune (6) – Not Before 7:30pm on Court Central in Paris

Djokovic now leads Alcaraz by 680 points in the year-to-date rankings, and could earn another 180 points with a victory on Friday.  He is a six-time champion in Paris, and is currently on a 15-match winning streak, dating back to August.

Rune has 3,460 points this year, and his victory on Thursday put him in a solid spot to qualify for the ATP Finals.  His next closest competitor, Hubert Hurkacz, would now need to reach the final to pass him.  Holger is on an eight-match winning streak at this event, and will certainly gain some useful knowledge from his new coach Boris Becker, who of course spent years coaching Novak.

A year ago in the final of this tournament, Rune came back from a set down to win 7-5 in the third, saving six break points in the last game.  Holger also defeated Novak in a three-setter six months ago at the Rome Masters on clay.  Djokovic’s only win in this rivalry to date came at the 2021 US Open, but even then, a young Rune ranked 145th in the world managed to win a set.

But on Friday, I favor Djokovic to avenge his recent losses to Rune.  The 20-year-old has struggled in recent months, and is playing with a lower level of confidence than he was here a year ago, when he had an excellent indoor hard court run to end the year.  And we know how much Novak enjoys fighting off the next generation.

Iga Swiatek (2) vs. Ons Jabeur (6) – Not Before 6:00pm in Cancun

Swiatek is 4-2 against Jabeur overall, and 2-1 on hard courts.  In the championship match of last summer’s US Open, Iga defeated Ons in straight sets.  Their only other meeting this year didn’t last long: in the semifinals of Stuttgart on clay, Ons retired after just three games due to injury.

Injuries have unfortunately been a big part of Jabeur’s season, as she’s only accumulated 36 match wins, compared to 65 for Swiatek.  That’s just two shy of Iga’s impressive tally from last year.

On Friday, Iga is a considerable favorite over Ons.  The World No.1 is on an eight-match hard court winning streak, dating back to her WTA 1000 title run in Beijing.  And Jabeur comes into this contest having won just two of her last four matches, having withdrawn from her last tournament just a few weeks ago due to a knee injury.

Other Notable Matches on Friday:

Hubert Hurkacz (11) vs. Grigor Dimitrov – As mentioned, Hurkacz now needs to reach the final to qualify this week for the ATP Finals.  However, he is 0-3 against Dimitrov, with two of those matches decided by a final-set tiebreak.  Both players comfortably won in straight sets on Thursday.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (7) vs. Karen Khachanov (16) – Tsitsipas officially qualified for the ATP Finals by defeating Sascha Zverev in the last round.  Khachanov was a surprise champion here five years ago, but he is 1-6 lifetime against the Greek.

Alex de Minaur (13) vs. Andrey Rublev (5) – De Minaur still has an outside chance this week to qualify for his first ATP Finals appearance, but only if he wins the title, and if Rune loses to Djokovic.  Alex is 3-1 against Andrey, having taken all three of their hard court meetings.

Coco Gauff (3) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (7) – Both of these players struggled with their serve in windy conditions on Wednesday, with Gauff double faulting four times in a row while serving for the second set against Swiatek, and losing 12 of the last 13 points of the match.  That huge letdown will be tough to recover from on Friday, but Coco is 2-0 against Marketa, and defeated her 6-3, 6-0 this summer in Canada.

Friday’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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