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The first WTA 1000 tournament since the re-branding of the series has not disappointed. A much stronger field (relative to the men’s side) has provided the WTA Miami Open with competitive tennis, dominant play, and shocking upsets. Maria Sakkari is the surprise semifinalist following her win over Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka. Ash Barty was close to losing her first match, but she battled throughout the tournament and the top seed has found herself in the semifinal. Her opponent Elina Svitolina has put together her best tournament of the year and is a dangerous player looking for her first big title since 2018. Bianca Andreescu may be the story of the week. Tennis fans have seen what she can do, but injuries have held her back from reaching her full potential. This is an excellent semifinal with all four players having a real chance of winning, and as usual, we have our predictions for the two matches below.
WTA Miami Open Semifinal Predictions
Bianca Andreescu vs Maria Sakkari
Head-to-head: First meeting
Bianca Andreescu came into this year with many questions after missing much of 2020 with injury problems that have plagued her young career. She lost in the second round at the Australian Open to the always-dangerous Su-Wei Hsieh, and made the semifinal at the follow-up tournament in Melbourne, though she did not face any top competition throughout the week. Sakkari has played a lot of tennis this year with an 8-5 record entering Miami. She has been inconsistent, scoring five wins over players inside the top-25, while losing twice to players outside the top-50.
Andreescu has finally looked to be finding her elite potential level this week in Miami. She triumphed over Amanda Anisimova in a grueling three set match that lasted almost three hours. The Canadian has played good tennis, but the length of the match in the Miami heat was a good test of her fitness that she strongly passed. She topped Garbine Muguruza who has been one of the top players in the WTA in 2021, showing she is back to her elite level. Sakkari pulled off the upset of the tournament, defeating Naomi Osaka in the quarterfinal in a dominant 6-0 6-4 victory. She has flew through the tournament, losing just one set all week in Miami. Sakkari has been on the verge of becoming a top-10 player for a while, and this week may be the boost that she needs.
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When healthy, Andreescu is one of the top five players in the WTA. Sakkari is an excellent player and has proved that this week, but her game is not quite on the level of Andreescu. Andreescu has showed her prowess on hard courts with her titles at the US Open and Indian Wells. Sakkari has yet to make a WTA 1000 final, and her one career title came on clay. Andreescu has a big edge in this match, and though Sakkari has been great this week, it is always a struggle to beat two elite players in a row. Andreescu will handle her nerves and play her game on the way to yet another big final.
Prediction: Andreescu in 2
Ashleigh Barty vs Elina Svitolina
Head-to-head: 5-1 Svitolina
Barty has looked a little vulnerable this week after several impressive tournaments in her return to tennis after over a year off. The world #1 has dropped a set in three of the four matches she has played this week in Miami. Svitolina has fared a bit better, but she has dropped two sets overall in her four matches. On the surface, Svitolina has had a good start to the year, though she has struggled in big matches. Before this week, she had yet to beat a player ranked in the top-25. She entered the week coming off a loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova and a blowout loss to Victoria Azarenka. Barty has only played three tournaments this week, with great results including a title at the Yarra Valley Classic and a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open. She did struggle in her most recent match, losing in straight sets to Danielle Collins.
Svitolina has dominated their head-to-head, but Barty won their most recent match at the 2019 WTA Finals. Interestingly, the better-ranked player at the time of the match has won every single one of their meetings, giving Barty and edge in this match. This is also significant because Barty peaked relatively late in her career. Many of their early matchups came when Svitolina was an established top player, while Barty was still battling to reach the top-20. Now Barty is a deserving top ranked player in the world and is one of the dominant forces in women’s tennis. She will be the favorite in the match, making Svitolina’s dominance in their previous matchups less significant.
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Though Svitolina did struggle earlier in the year, her performance here in Miami has been impressive. She scored a big win over Petra Kvitova in the round of 16. Kvitova has played great tennis this year, so this win will surely help Svitolina’s confidence. Barty has played back-to-back matches against the two strong Belarusians Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka. Both women have been hard to stop recently so both these wins show the grit Barty plays with that makes her so hard to beat.
This will surely be a close match between two of the best players in the game. Svitolina seems to be finding her groove and her consistent tennis helps her stay competitive and force her opponents to make mistakes. Barty will bring consistency to the table as well, plus a really strong serve that seems to continue improving. Barty’s serve has more power than any shot Svitolina plays, and her elite fitness will help her outlast the Ukrainian on the long points in the Miami heat. Barty will eke out a close match.
Prediction: Barty in 3
Main Photo from Getty.
Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year
(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.
With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.
F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.
The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.
“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.
The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.
“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”
Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.
International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.
One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.
Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.
The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)
Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now
The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.
The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 12, 2021
The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.
After acquiring Hall @ 50% & Lazar for Bjork, the #NHLBruins added $772K Cap Hit for remainder of year.
They have $24K of Projected Cap Space; $100K Annual Cap Hit that can be added, w/ 24 Active on Roster. Sending players to taxi would create more room.https://t.co/2o0hsHzUIy https://t.co/rXiRKKk3lt pic.twitter.com/I7ZRUSmSQp
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) April 12, 2021
The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.
The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.
Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.
The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.
Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.
Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca
It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.
“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.
It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.
But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.
It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.
“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”
Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.
Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.
“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”
But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.
When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.
Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.
“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.
Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?
It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.
“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.
“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”
It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.
But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.
You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.
What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.
“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?
“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”
Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.