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WTA Miami Open Semifinal Predictions Including Ashleigh Barty vs Elina Svitolina – Last Word on Baseball

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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

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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

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Oilers Rookie Notebook: Dylan Holloway’s wrist injury a tough blow – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — The first blow came even before Edmonton Oilers rookie camp had opened, with prized prospect Dylan Holloway going under the knife Tuesday to repair a broken scaphoid bone in his left wrist.

What made it even more disappointing was, after busting the bone in the NCAA playoffs with the University of Wisconsin, Holloway had surgery after Wisconsin’s season ended in late March in Chicago that was designed to have him ready to play hockey this fall. But that surgery failed.

Holloway, Edmonton’s first-round pick in 2020 (14th overall) lunched with Holland during a Calgary world junior camp in August, and the Oilers GM didn’t like what he heard.

“He was telling me that he couldn’t shoot, couldn’t take draws. He was getting frustrated,” Holland said. “We were five to six months down the road … and there was very little healing going on. Probably about 30 per cent. The decision was made: nothing was really happening, and we’d need to start the process all over again.”

Holloway is only 19, but can play in the American Hockey League. He was likely destined for Bakersfield this year, which is definitely where he will be assigned when he heals up sometime around the new year.

Hopefully.

No Room At The Inn

The Oilers roster is pretty much set with veterans, with precious few (if any) spots for a youngster to worm his way into the NHL.

But two left shot defencemen who may have the best shot — along with left winger Tyler Benson — are both in town and ready to begin their North American transition in earnest. Dmitri Samorukov and Philip Broberg are at the Rookie Camp prep’ing for main camp, where it isn’t a total reach that one might be able to stick around.

“They’re both going to be in North America,” said Holland, who had good news when doctors cleared Samorukov for full contact after a January shoulder injury suffered in Moscow. “He was playing very well in the KHL, but hasn’t played hockey since January. Two years of pro — one in Bakersfield, one in (the KHL) — and I’m also excited to see where Broberg is at, like everybody else.

“Do they force their way onto the Edmonton Oilers roster? Or do they have to go down to the American League and continue their development into NHL defencemen? That’s what we’re trying to find out, but they are both here (in North America) to stay.”

Samorukov, 22, played a season in Bakersfield then went home to CSKA Moscow last year, the club where he was raised as a player. Broberg, 20, spent two developmental seasons in Sweden’s top league with Skelleftea, while limping through the 2021 World Junior here in Edmonton.

“I had a knee injury and a shoulder injury at the World Juniors. It was difficult,” said the defenceman, who played through the pain. “It is an honour to play for your country, especially at the World Juniors.”

Broberg said he was about “80 percent” when he returned to Skelleftea, and by season’s end, his minutes were down. Samorukov injured his shoulder in a January battle drill during practice and lost the back half of his KHL season, but says the last two seasons have him ready to challenge for a spot on an NHL blue line.

“When I first came to the AHL two years ago, it was really good for me. Learning how to be a pro player,” he said. “Then, the season in the KHL, I established myself as a pro player. Now, we’re trying to knock in the door. To do our best.”

Remember, Samorukov first came over as a 17-year-old to play three junior seasons for the Guelph Storm. He had 45 points in 59 games in his 19-year-old season and then nicely quarterbacked the Russian powerplay at the World Juniors in Vancouver-Victoria. But the 197-pounmder has settled on a less offensive game as a pro.

“Of course when you come from junior you have a lot of points. You think you might be something special,” he smiled. “Then you realize you have some guys who can really get points. (You learn) what kind of game you have to play. I know who I am right now.”

Samorukov was part of the ask by Arizona when they were peddling goalie Darcy Kuemper, a package considered too rich by Holland. Now, we’ll begin to get a closer look at the 2017 third-rounder, who moves a nice puck and stands six-foot-three.

“This rookie camp offers him a good chance to get up and running,” said Bakersfield head coach Jay Woodcroft, “so he’s feeling confident heading into main camp next week.”

Tyler’s Time?

Is this finally the year that Tyler Benson cracks the Oilers roster? It had better be — he is waiver eligible now, at age 23 years of age with four pro seasons under his belt.

With left wingers Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Warren Foegele in town, it’s pretty clear that Benson will have to make the club as a fourth-line left-winger and try to move up from there. He’s in against Devin Shore and Brendan Perlini for that 4-LW spot, as a former candidate for exceptional status as a junior now finds himself in a utility role if he wants to get his NHL career off the ground.

“We came up with a plan to develop different areas of his game (in Bakersfield last season),” Woodcroft said. “For example, his board work. Introducing him to the penalty kill. Something he had minimal experience on, but something we felt provided a line of sight or a pathway to … make our parent club.

“Tyler was a point-per-game player last year and played on what I felt was the most dominant line in the Pacific Division of the AHL. He made plays,” his coach said. “The opportunity before him is obvious. He feels like he’s in top shape, mentally ready to go, and he’s excited about that opportunity.”

Edmonton’s recent first-round pick (22nd overall) Xavier Bourgault hit the gym hard this summer, putting on 10 lbs. He comes to camp at six feet tall and 172 pounds, so he has a ways to go.

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Blue Jays optimistic Jose Berrios won’t miss next start after abdominal scare – Sportsnet.ca

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Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Jose Berrios is doing much better after leaving Tuesday’s game with an abdominal injury, manager Charlie Montoyo said Wednesday.

After the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the team reported that Berrios left the game due to abdominal tightness on his left side and received post-game treatment.

Berrios threw seven innings of one run ball Tuesday, striking out six and allowing only four hits.

“He’s doing fine,” Montoyo said. “He’s doing a lot better than we thought, which is great news. Actually, you might get to see him playing catch in a little bit to see how he’s doing. He did all the tests. Everything looks good.”

The right-handed pitcher who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline is 11-8 on the season, with a 3.43 ERA in 173.1 innings pitched.

The Blue Jays wrap up their series with the Rays on Wednesday at 3:07 p.m. ET/ 12:07 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and SN Now.

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France to open Billie Jean King Cup defence against Canada

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Reigning champions France will kick off this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Prague against Canada on Nov. 1, with the final scheduled for Nov. 6, the International Tennis Federation said on Wednesday.

Formerly called the Fed Cup, the women’s team competition featuring 12 nations was originally scheduled to be held in Budapest in April last year before being postponed twice due to the pandemic.

France triumphed in the 2019 edition when a team featuring Kristina Mladenovic, Caroline Garcia and Pauline Parmentier defeated Australia.

This year, Belgium, the 2001 winners, will face 2017 runners-up Belarus on the opening day, while eleven-times winners Czech Republic will play on Nov. 1 and Nov. 4.

The competing nations will each play two group-stage ties to determine the winners of the four three-team groups, who will then progress to the semi-finals. Each tie will consist of two singles matches and a doubles match.

Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Australia, the U.S., Russia and Switzerland will be the other nations competing.

 

(Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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