Internazionali BNL d'Italia: Nadal reaches his ninth final in Rome - UBITENNIS
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Internazionali BNL d'Italia: Nadal reaches his ninth final in Rome

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TENNIS – Rafael Nadal swept aside Grigor Dimitrov with a double 6-2 to qualify for his ninth final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome and his 40th Master 1000 final. Nadal set up a eagerly-awaited final against Novak Djokovic. The final that everyone wanted. Diego Sampaolo

Interviews, results, order of play, draws of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome

Nadal broke serve to love for 1-0 when Dimitrov hit his backhand into the net and backed up his break holding serve in the second game to 15. In the first two games Nadal won 8 points to 1. Dimitrov held serve in the third game for 1-2.

Nadal won four consecutive points on serve for 4-2 before breaking serve for the second time in the match in the seventh game to pull away to 5-2 after 28 minutes. Nadal rallied from 0-15 to win four consecutive points closing out the first set in 33 minutes with 6-2. Nadal played a perfect first set in which he won 80 percent of his first serve points. Dimitrov made too many unforced errors

The start of the second set was very similar to the first set as Nadal broke serve to go up 1-0 in the opening game of the second set. Nadal faced a tougher challenge in the second game when he saved two break-back points.

Dimitrov held serve to win the third game for 1-2. Nadal backed up his opening break in the fourth game which came down to deuce before getting another break to pull away to 4-1 in the fifth game where Dimitrov committed an unforced error on his forehand. At 1-5 Dimitrov served to stay in the match and was able to fend off the first match point for 2-5.

In the eighth game Nadal made three unforced errors and faced the third break point of the match but he failed to convert it as he made an error with his backhand.

Nadal sealed the win with a forehand winner to set up a blockbuster final against Novak Djokovic who edged Milos Raonic in the afternoon.

Nadal won 73 percent of second serve points to win the fifth head-to-head match against Dimitrov but it was the first time that the Mallorcan star won in straight sets. On the contrary Dimitrov committed 32 unforced errors

There are good days and bad days. Sometimes you have the right feeling and sometimes you don’t. I started the match in a perfect way. In the second set he made more mistakes than usual. I played a solid match with my backhand. Yesterday I played a good match and today was a good confirmation that I play better, that the forehand starts to fly again, as well as the top spins. It was a warmer day and that made the ball a little bit quicker. The first two matches I played here there was a lot of wind. It is true that I prefer daytime but the feeling tonight was good. Against Simon it was very cold and tonight the feeling was different.”

After three tough three-set battles against Giles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny and Andy Murray, Nadal won a one-sided match a comfortable night in which he was never under threat. He was too strong for Dimitrov who reached his first Master 1000 semifinal yesterday on his 23rd birthday. The young Bulgarian, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter final at the Australian Open, will have other chances in the future starting from the Roland Garros.

It will be the 41th head-to.head match between Nadal and Djokovic. The Spaniard leads 22-18 in their previous 40 matches. Djokovic beat Nadal in the 2011 final in Rome but the Mallorcan beat the Serb three times in their four Rome matches.

Djokovic always plays unbelievable. He is a complete player and has all the shots. If I want to have chances to win, I have to play my best tennis and be aggressive. I twill be a very tough match.

Asked what he thinks about the new generation of players,” Nadal said:

It’s normal that the younger players play better. It isn’t normal what has happened during the last 5 or 6 years with the same players winning all the most tournaments If you look at the history of our sport, the younger generation is always pushing. Dimitrov Raonic and Nishikori are very good players and they are young, not 18 or 19 like me and Djokovic when we started to be there but things are changing a bit. There are no more players of 18 or 19 starting to be at the top. It seems that players achieve their best a little bit later. They are the new generation who will win the most important tournaments in the next 5-6 years. It’s a normal thing, we don’t want to be here forever”, said Nadal

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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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