A season of red clay to start, who to watch? - UBITENNIS
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A season of red clay to start, who to watch?

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TENNIS – Will Rafael Nadal be once again the only man under the spotlight for the full length of this 2014 season of red clay ? With only five losses in the past four seasons, it is very unlikely to see the Spaniard suddenly lose his crown, but Novak Djokovic will not stay on the side watching. Giulio Gasparin

 

Will Rafael Nadal be once again the only man under the spotlight for the full length of this 2014 clay season?

With only five losses in the past four seasons, it is very unlikely to see the Spaniard suddenly lose his crown, but Novak Djokovic will not stay on the side watching.

The Serbian is looking for his only missing Grand Slam title in Paris, where he reached the final only once in 2012, when he lost to Nadal in four sets.

The rivalry between the world number one and two is very likely to dominate the scene of the European clay season for a series of reasons.

First of all, Nadal has lost on the red clay only to one top 10 player in the past four years: Djokovic, including the latest loss in Monte Carlo, the “second home” for the champion of Manacor.

Secondly, as already mentioned, the world number two is surely looking forward to finally complete his career Grand Slam and he knows he probably is the only one capable of stopping Nadal on the courts of Roland Garros –like showed last year, when the eventual champion needed a 9-7 fifth set struggle to beat him.

Another reason why tennis fans should aspect a clear dominance of the world’s top two lays in the fact that the rest of the usual slam contenders and outsiders is clearly a whole step behind them on the red clay.

The group on the chase is clearly led by world number three and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka.

The Swiss is however called to face a hard task stepping on the courts of a slam with a whole new amount of attention derived from the Australian success.

Wawrinka is, anyway, a player grown up on the often slow clay of the Alps and in the past has shown great skills on the red dirt. He is likely to go deep into the draws, also thanks to his high seeding, but it is very unlikely to see him pulling a major upset.

The most famous of his compatriots, Roger Federer, has demonstrated that he is still alive and that he wants to be a slam contender again, but the more aggressive tennis that is helping him back is surely not suitable for clay.

The 17 times slam champion has won only once the Roland Garros and it was in 2009, the only time in recent years that Nadal did not raise the trophy, nor reached the final, and it is quite clear that his game has never been apt for the red.

Similarly to Wawrinka, one would expect him to go deep into the draws and it is not impossible for him to win Madrid, where the clay is faster than most hard courts, but in Paris his target would be to reach a semi-final.

Last year’s Roland Garros finalist David Ferrer is unlikely to repeat his exploit, but the Spanish grinder is one of those players that you simply know will fight heart and soul for every point, every game, every tournament.

He has not had the best of the starts this season, but he collected a title on the clay of Buenos Aires and he surely will be one of the most consistent players during the clay swing.

Among the players that are expected to shine during the next weeks, Italian Fabio Fognini is clearly the most discussed.

After winning back to back events in Stuttgart and Hamburg in the summer of 2013, the Italian has started a new chapter of his career and is looking eager to enter the top 10, 35 years after the last Italian who did it, Corrado Barazzutti.

His recent win over Andy Murray in Davis Cup showed he is ready to take his career another step ahead, but even if he can manage to control his temper, it is hard to imagine the Italian challenging Nadal and Djokovic.

With a title in Vina del Mar and a final in Buenos Aires, he has already tested his clay skills in this season and he is expected to upset most of the players between five and ten in the world.

Despite having reached at least one semi-final each in the past at Roland Garros, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych are the names to keep an eye on when in search for a possible upset.

John Isner remains the top 10 player with the poorest record on European clay and has never passed the round 3 in Paris. It is hard to imagine he can do any worse, but probably any better as well.

The duo of young up and coming talents, Dimitrov-Dolgopolov has never expressed a great game on clay, but they are both playing their career best tennis and it will be interesting to see how they will adapt to the red.

A different case applies to Ernest Gulbis, that ever since his heart breaking loss to Nadal in Rome last year, when he came extremely close to a fantastic win, has never expressed any similar level on clay.

His extravagant tennis and moody attitude, as usual, will make him the most unpredictable of the top players.

One last name needs to be drawn to attention, young Argentine Federico Delbonis is improving a lot and by reaching the final of Hamburg last summer, he has already demonstrated how competitive he can be on the dirt. This year he has taken the title on the clay of Sao Paolo and he could easily be the unseeded player that everyone would like to avoid.

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Novak Djokovic Survives Almighty Sinner Scare to Reach Wimbledon Semis

The dramatic encounter featured a fight back, multiple breaks of serve and even an injury scare.

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Reigning champion Novak Djokovic staged an epic comeback to keep his hopes of winning a seventh Wimbledon title alive after ousting Jannik Sinner in a five-set thriller.

 


Djokovic, who only dropped six games against Sinner in their previous Tour meeting, was forced to battle back from two sets down to prevail 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, in a roller-coaster encounter on Center Court. The triumph marks Djokovic’s 84th win at the tournament which is the joint-second highest tally in history alongside Jimmy Connors. Only Roger Federer has won more.

“Huge congratulations to Jannik today for a big fight. I’m sure that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for him on the big stage. He’s mature for his age and is already an established top 15 player over the last few years,” said Djokovic.
“He was unfortunate today but he has plenty of time.”

Taking on one of the most promising future prospects of men’s tennis, Djokovic’s latest encounter was a match of two halves. Initially, he appeared as if he would suffer a shock loss to world No.13 before he managed to conjure up an emphatic comeback. Breaking Sinner’s spirit who was bidding to become only the third Italian man to reach a Wimbledon semi-final in history.

“We had two different matches. He was the better player for two sets. (Then) I went out for a toilet break, had a little pep talk (with myself) in the mirror,” the 20-time major winner revealed.
“Sometimes in these circumstances where not much is happening positively for you on the court in terms of tennis. These things are necessary – a little break and pep talk to try to recuperate.’
“I was fortunate to start well in the third set by breaking his serve and that gave me the confidence boost. I saw a bit of doubt in his game and my experience of these kinds of matches helped me.”

The first set was a roller-coaster encounter between the two tennis titans on Center Court. Reigning champion Djokovic started out guns blazing by winning seven points in a row before Sinner got onto the scoreboard after prevailing in a 17-shot rally. The top seed looked to be in full control until a double fault on break point enabled his rival to bounce back. Continuing to play some inspired tennis with blistering shot-making, a cross-court winner enabled the Italian to break once again and this time had the chance to serve the opener out. A task he passed with flying colors.

Continuing to take his game to Djokovic, Sinner appeared unfazed about trying to become the youngest men’s semi-finalist at SW19 since 2007. Producing powerful hitting from the baseline, the 20-year-old extended his lead two games into the second frame. A stunning backhand volley followed by a Djokovic error elevated him to a 2-1 advantage. Spurred on by the crowd, the unprecedented onslaught continued with the help of some costly errors from the Serbian. He sealed the double break with the help of a successful Hawk-Eye challenge before securing a two-set lead in his favor with the help of a 122mph service.

Facing a swift exit, Djokovic once again illustrated the fighting spirit that he is renowned for. Capitalizing on a blip in form from Sinner, he cruised through the third set to resurrect his chances. 

Steaming rolling his way into a decider, Djokovic continued his dominance during the fourth frame by winning four straight games. However, closing that set out was full of drama. First, Sinner suffered an injury scare after going over his ankle before continuing. Then Djokovic fended off a break point and squandered two set points before closing it out. 

A stunning sliding passing shot in the decider set Djokovic up with a chance to break and move to a game away from victory. Something he did with the help of a Sinner error which the Italian instantly regretted by putting both his hands on his head. After that mishit, Djokovic ended the clash with a love service game. 

“I’ve been blessed to play professional tennis for 20 years but nevertheless I go through those doubtful moments like everybody else. The inner fight is always the biggest fight. Once you win the fight the external circumstance is more likely to go in your favor. I knew I could turn this match around. I have done that a few times in grand slams.” Djokovic concluded.


 

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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Why Rafael Nadal Faces His Biggest Test Yet

Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink joins UbiTennis to reflect on the highs and lows of day 8 of Wimbledon.

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Will the upcoming quarter-final be Rafael Nadal’s hardest match yet? How will Nick Kyrgios’ shoulder recover?

 

The second Monday at Wimbledon was one full of intrigue in the men’s draw. Whilst on the women’s side, Simona Halep was in impressive form against Paula Badosa but tennis commentator Flink explains why he thinks her upcoming clash with Amanda Anisimova will be tougher.

Alongside Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta, Flink also looks at Jannik Sinner’s chances of causing a huge upset against reigning champion Novak Djokovic. 

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WIMBLEDON: Rafael Nadal Coy Over New Injury Speculation

After the foot problems in Paris, there is a strong possibility the Spaniard could be experiencing another injury issue.

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image via twitter.com/atp

There are fresh concerns surrounding Rafael Nadal after he declined to go into the reason why he was wearing abdominal taping during his fourth round match at Wimbledon. 

 

The 22-time Grand Slam winner was seen wearing some kind of protection in the abdominal area after changing his t-shirt during one of the breaks. In recent weeks Nadal has been dealing with physical issues due to a long-term foot condition he has. At the French Open he revealed that he had to undergo injections in order for him to continue playing en route to winning the tournament for a 14th time.

Playing 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp, Nadal battled his way to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(6), win. Speaking to reporters after his latest win at The All England Club, the Spaniard sidestepped a question about a potential abdominal problem he could be experiencing. 

“I am a little bit tired of talking about my body. It’s not that I don’t want to answer your question, but at the same time sometimes I am tired of myself, all the issues that I am having. I prefer to not talk about that now,” he replied.
“I am in the middle of the tournament and I have to keep going. All respect for the rest of the opponents. I am just trying my best every single day. For the moment I am healthy enough to keep going and fight for the things that I want.”

Continuing to stay coy about his form and health, Nadal offered an alternative perspective when asked if he was nearing his best level once again. He has dropped just two sets in four matches played so far at Wimbledon which is his first grass-court event since 2019. 

“It’s always the same here. It’s not about how close I am to the level or not. I don’t know that. I can’t predict what can happen.” He said.
“But the positive thing is the first two matches haven’t been good. Then two days ago I played at a high level for the first time. And today most of the matches, again, at a very positive level.”

The straight sets scoreline failed to tell the true story of Nadal’s roller-coaster win on Center Court. Taking on Zandschulp, a player who burst onto the main scene last year by reaching the US Open quarter-finals as a qualifier, the 22-time major champion engaged in a match of two halves. Nadal looked on the verge of an easy victory after breaking once in the first set, twice in the second and storming to a 5-2 in the third. However, the Dutchman refused to go down without a fight by displaying his best tennis of the match to draw level. 

Now engaged in his first real test, Nadal was under intense pressure to close it out in three. If he didn’t there would have been an inevitable delay for the roof to come on due to poor light. If that occurred, there would be less than two hours of play left before the 11pm curfew began.

Nevertheless, Nadal didn’t need the roof as he squeezed through the tiebreaker. After squandering three consecutive match points, he prevailed on his fourth with the help of a lob that triggered Zandschulp to smash the ball out. 

Nadal is through to his 47th major quarter-final and is only the third man in the Open Era to do so at Wimbledon after celebrating his 36th birthday. In total, he has won 309 main draw matches at Grand Slam tournaments.

In the last eight, the Spaniard has a shot of revenge when he takes on Taylor Fritz who ended his 20-match winning streak earlier this year in Indian Wells. During that match, Nadal had a rib injury and he had beaten the American earlier that month in Mexico. 

“That last match (in Indian Wells) was zero because I had a stress fracture on my rib, and it was difficult to learn many things because the pain was terrible playing that match.” He said. 

As for Fritz, he believes their upcoming clash will be at a higher standard given the form both players are currently in. Fritz is currently on a eight-match winning streak after recently claiming the Eastbourne Open title. 

“It’s going to be a lot different match obviously. Indian Wells was kind of crazy with both of us being extremely beaten up before the final. This time I think we’ll get healthier versions of both of us, we’ll see.” Fritz previewed.

The question for nadal, is how healthy is the current version of him really is? Only time will tell. 

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