Indian Wells: Murray and Wawrinka in Nadal's half of the draw - UBITENNIS
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Indian Wells: Murray and Wawrinka in Nadal's half of the draw

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TENNIS – World Number 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal and last year’s Wimbledon champion Andy Murray may square off in a mouth-watering quarter final at Indian Wells. Other potential quarter finals could be Federer vs Wawrinka, Berdych vs Gasquet and Djokovic vs Del Potro. Diego Sampaolo

Nadal and Murray, who claimed last year’s editions of the hard-court Master 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami respectively, have been drawn in the first quarter of the Indian Wells in the Californian desert and could clash in a potential quarter final. Nadal could face a very tough path to title defence as his possible rival in the semifinal may be either Roger Federer or Stanislas Wawrinka.

Nadal, three-time Indian Wells champion, will start his US hard-court campaign against either Denis Istomin or Radek Stepanek (who lost in three sets against Federer in the quarter finals in Dubai last week). The Mallorcan legend, who won two tournaments this year in Doha and Rio de Janeiro, could face Ukraine’s Aleksander Dolgopolov in the third round, and either Italian top-player Fabio Fognini, who has moved up to World Number 14 in the ATP Ranking following his fourth round at the Australian Open and his win in Vina del Mar or Gael Monfils. Nadal beat Dolgopolov in the recent Rio de Janeiro final and Monfils in the Doha final at the beginning of January.

Murray could face Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the third round, It may be a tough test for the Dunblane star as Andujar held two match points against Nadal in the Rio semifinal and led by a set and a break against Murray in Acapulco last week.

Murray could face another stiff challenge in the third round against Canadian rising star Milos Raonic for a place in the quarter finals.

Federer and Wawrinka could meet in a possible super Swiss derby in the quarter final in the second quarter of the draw. Federer showed glimpses of his past glorious tennis last week when he won the ATP in Dubai where he beat Novak Djokovic in the semifinal and Tomas Berdych in the final recovering from one set down in both matches, a clear indication that the Swiss Maestro is back to his top form also thanks to his successful relationship to Stefan Edberg. Dubai marked Federer’s first title win since Halle in 2013 last June.

The Basel native will start against a qualifier and play against Dimitry Tursunov in the second round but his path to the quarter finals could not be easy as he may face either Tommy Haas (who retired during the semifinal against Paolo Lorenzi last week in San Paolo) or Kei Nishikori in the third round.

Wawrinka is still unbeaten this year as he won in Chennai and the Australian Open (the first Grand Slam of his career) and helped Switzerland win the Davis Cup first round match against Serbia.
The Lausanne player, who has moved up to World Number 3 after his triumph in Melbourne, will debut against either Alex Bogomolov Jr. or Ivo Karlovic and either Lleyton Hewitt or  Kevin Anderson in the third round. Anderson played very well in the recent weeks reaching two consecutive finals in Delray Beach and Acapulco.

The third quarter of the draw will feature a potential quarter final match between last week’s Dubai finalist and this year’s Australian Open semifinalist Tomas Berdych and French top player Richard Gasquet.

This year’s Rotterdam champion Berdych may face Bautista Agut in the second round, Florian Mayer in the third round and a potential clash against the winner of the third round match between Grigor Dimitrov and Ernests Gulbis. Berdych leads 4-2 in his previous head-to-head matches against Dimitrov but he lost in the first round at Wimbledon in 2012.

Dimitrov won the second title of his career last week in Acapulco against Kevin Anderson after beating Andy Murray during the week. Gulbis won the Open 13 in Marseille two weeks ago. Dimitrov faced Gulbis last week in Acapulco where the Bulgarian prevailed after a late night match which lasted two hours and 40 minutes.

Gasquet’s potential rival in the third round could be US giant John Isner who has to overcome Phillip Kohlschreiber in the third round. The German lost in the semifinal of Dubai against Berdych last week.

Second seed Novak Djokovic may face last year’s Indian Wells finalist Juan Martin Del Potro in a potential fourth quarter of the draw in a re-match of 2013 Indian Wells semifinal won by Del Potro and last year’s Wimbledon marathon semifinal won by Djokovic after four hours.and 43 minutes (the longest Wimbledon semifinal in history). Djokovic, semifinalist in Dubai last week, may face in-form Croatian Marin Cilic, who won two titles in Zagreb and Delray Beach and lost the Rotterdam final against Berdych after knocking out Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Andy Murray.

Del Potro, who has suffered from wrist problems in recent weeks, will make his debut against Feliciano Lopez in the second round and Vasek Pospisil in Montreal before possibly facing Tsonga in the third round.

 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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