Miami: Djokovic Tames Nadal - UBITENNIS
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Miami: Djokovic Tames Nadal

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TENNIS – Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the Miami Master 1000 event. The Serb wins for the fourth time in Miami and completes the double with Indian Wells for the second time. The world numbers 1 & 2 now hold all the Master 1000 titles. Cordell Hackshaw

It was not that many people that did not predict that Rafael Nadal (1) and Novak Djokovic (2) would meet in the final of the 2014 Sony Open Masters 1000 event. It was just that no one expected the circumstances that brought them to this point. Neither player faced an opponent in the semifinals as both their adversaries forfeited with injuries. Kei Nishikori (20) who was set to face Djokovic pulled out first with a groin injury and then later on Tomas Berdych (7) withdrew with gastroenteritis against Nadal. Whether this was a conspiracy or mere coincidence, most fans knew that very little was going to stop Nadal and Djokovic from their 40th meeting being in Miami. Nadal has a slight edge in the head-to-head 22-17 but Djokovic has proven to be the better man on hardcourts with a 13-7 record. Nadal has never won this title and the three times he has made it to the finals, he has lost to Roger Federer (2005), Nikolay Davydenko (2008) and Djokovic (2011). Thus the Spaniard was hoping that the 4th time would be the charm as he attempted to stop the Serbian from taking his 4th Miami title. However, on this day, Djokovic showed signs that he is back to his 2011 self as he thoroughly dispatched Nadal in straight sets 6-3 6-3.

Nadal won the toss and elected to have Djokovic serve first. This seemed like an excellent strategy as Nadal was able to earn the first break point on Djokovic’s opening service game. However, Djokovic was able to save it and hold serve. This would prove to the key decisive moment of the entire match as Nadal would never see another break point opportunity for the rest of the match. Djokovic was serving that well! Nadal seemed to be quite passive on court as he stood “miles” behind the baseline unable to make any inroads on the Djokovic’s game plan. Serving down 2-3, Nadal found himself facing double break points as Djokovic’s measured returns were inch perfect on the lines. The Spaniard was able to save one but Djokovic converted and held comfortably to be ahead 5-2. At this point in the set, one expected a Nadal charge but Djokovic was just too strong. Nadal was able to hold but Djokovic remained solid on serve as he took the set 6-3. Djokovic had 64% 1st serve in, won 89% of those points and garnered 50% on his 2nd serve. Nadal on the other hand could only win 77% of his 1st serves and 43% on 2nd serves.

Between sets, Djokovic sat in his chair in a Zen-like state as he knew that in order to beat Nadal, he must remain resilient and absolutely focused. It was unclear what Nadal’s game plan at this point was going to be but his efforts were soon dismissed as Djokovic got the early break in the 2nd set and was up 2-0. Everything Nadal threw at Djokovic was to no avail. He was unbalanced and seemingly predictable and Djokovic was showing his supreme defensive skills on court. The usually fiery tempered Nadal was very tepid and lackadaisical on court. As each game went by, Nadal began to realize that his winning the match was impossible. Djokovic did show signs of a lack of focus when he failed to convert a break chance for a double break at 3-1. However, any thought of a Djokovic’s collapse was quickly dissipated with another strong service hold. Djokovic continued to display excellent serving as he improved in the 2nd set to an impressive 81% 1st serves in and won 82% of them. This in turn gave Djokovic the confidence to go after Nadal’s serve and be rewarded with winning 50% of the Spaniard’s 1st serves when he was able to get them in (75%). At 3-5, whilst serving to stay in the match, Nadal’s dejected face suggested that he knew that the end was very near at hand. Djokovic earned double match points with careless errors from the Nadal racquet. The Spaniard saved one. However, on the 2nd match point, words cannot describe how outstanding the point was as the two players furiously fought for it at net. Djokovic eventually took it with a magnificent clutch volley into the open court; Djokovic 6-3 6-3 over Nadal. The Serbian earned his 43rd career ATP title and 18th Master Series 1000 title placing him firmly in the 3rd slot of All-Time winners.

Nadal quickly left the court after the loss but in his on court interview, he commended Djokovic for a job well done to win the Indian Wells/Miami Master Series double acknowledging the tremendous effort to win both titles. The last time Djokovic won these two titles back to back in 2011, he went on to an unbeaten streak all the way to the French Open semifinals where he lost to Federer. Djokovic will be looking to repeat history again but only this time, he takes the French title; the only major title not in his trophy case. Djokovic, unabashed with the win stated, “I played a great match, from the start to the end everything was working really well.” He noted that he had to be aggressive and serve well in order to beat Nadal. When later asked whether he “broke the spirit” of Nadal on court, he without hesitation responded, “Of course I did!”

Interestingly enough, between Djokovic and Nadal, they are currently holding all the Master Series trophies including the Year-Ending-Championships title. However, at this point in their rivalry, winning for either player is less about the money or title and more about bragging rights and setting the tone for the upcoming clay court season where they will inevitably meet again. They are both scheduled to play Monte Carlo in two weeks’ time where Djokovic is the defending champion having won the title last year over Nadal who has 8 consecutive titles at the event.

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Rafael Nadal To Play Laver Cup In Berlin

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Rafael Nadal has eased speculation that he might be retiring from the sport soon after signing on to play in the Laver Cup later this year. 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is the latest player to join the line-up for this year’s team competition which features Europe taking on the rest of the world over three days. It will be Nadal’s fourth appearance in the competition and his first since 2022. He competed in the inaugural edition of the event back in 2017 alongside co-founder Roger Federer. 

“I am very happy to be playing Laver Cup in Berlin for Team Europe,” Nadal said in a press release. “I have some really special memories from my Laver Cup experiences, including all the emotions from London two years ago playing alongside Roger for the last time.”

Nadal’s decision to play comes amid questions about his future in the sport. The former world No.1 has previously indicated that this year could be his last on the Tour but he has stated that no decision has been made. In recent months he has been sidelined from action due to injury setbacks and has only been able to play in two tournaments so far this year. 

“At this stage in my career I really want to go out there and make the most of every opportunity I am given,” he explains.
“Teaming up is always an incredible experience and I have always enjoyed it, the competition is different and exciting. I’m looking forward to going to Berlin and helping Team Europe win back the Laver Cup.”

Other European players confirmed to be playing are Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. Meanwhile, Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul have agreed to play for Team World. This year’s event will be held in Belin at the Uber Arena between September 20-22. 

The Laver Cup was inspired by golf’s Ryder Cup. It was co-founded by Federer’s Team8 management company (which he formed with agent Tony Godsick), businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann and Tennis Australia. In 2019 it became an official ATP sanction event and now has a place on the official calendar. 

Nadal is set to return to competitive action at the Madrid Masters which he has won on five previous occasions. He has been drawn to play teenage wild card Darwin Blanch in the first round. If he wins, Nadal will then play Alex de Minaur who knocked him out of the Barcelona Open last week. 

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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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