Mutua Madrid Open 2014 Interviews. Rafael Nadal: “Here I have to win three matches. It's easier that Real Madrid wins the Champions League.” - UBITENNIS
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Mutua Madrid Open 2014 Interviews. Rafael Nadal: “Here I have to win three matches. It's easier that Real Madrid wins the Champions League.”

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TENNIS Mutua Madrid Open 2014 – R. Nadal d. J. Nieminen 6-1, 6-4. An interview with Rafael Nadal.

 

Q. For the quarterfinals match, Tomas Berdych. It’s been a long time since the last time he beat you. In Rome, 2013, 2 0 for you. What are you expecting from him tomorrow? It’s going to be in the morning, so we’ll see.

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, in the morning, I think it’s going to be at 3:00. On the your time, right?

Well, it’s always the same thing: I think that Berdych today played an important match. He beat Dimitrov when he came from playing really well. Dimitrov is also doing very well, and that’s a lot of merit for Berdych.

I saw the first set. I saw a little bit of the second, one but not a lot because I was getting ready. He’s a very dangerous player on every single surface. Here even more with the altitude. The ball flies very fast and the serve is very difficult to break.

My goal is to try to be aggressive. I know that to play against him I don’t have to leave many spaces on the court. If he strikes the ball in comfortable positions I’m nearly dead, because he has a really high ball speed.

And I have to try to see what he does a little bit better. Maybe his movement is not as good. You know, perhaps when I’m good and a little bit stronger than him on that side moving from side to side on the court.

But all the rest, it’s really difficult to stop him if you’re not on your best level. Today I did a good match. During perhaps an hour I played at a really high level. Also, it’s true that after that I didn’t play such a high level. I had something in my head.

 

Q. What do you think, you will lift the trophy on Sunday or Real Madrid wins the 10th Champions League on the 24th?

RAFAEL NADAL: Real Madrid just needs to win a match, and over here I have to win three matches. It’s easier that Real Madrid wins the Champions League.

They have days to go, and I have only hours in front of me before my next match. And that’s are we have. I have to be ready. It’s an important match for me. I have been two weeks losing in the quarterfinals, so let’s see what happens.

Hopefully I can make it to the semifinals. I hope that I have the energy and the intensity required to be able to play against Tomas since the beginning in a proper way.

I hope that the fact that I’m playing at home it’s going to be an extra help.

 

Q. I want to talk a little bit about your answer. Last thing you said before about the good timing that you had to play on the court. Perhaps you played your best match on clay. Today you said you were playing well, but you said at the end of the match you had something on your mind. Was that a good thing or not?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, whatever you have on your mind, it’s not a good thing. Completely opposite. It’s true that during the first hour I played better than yesterday, more dynamically and with more intensity. I knew what I was doing with each ball with no surprises.

I was defending properly and knowing what was happening in every single moment. I could defend properly. Perhaps that’s something I wasn’t able to do in the last weeks. Perhaps today with more energy and I was more dynamic than before.

So I think I did that pretty well today. After that, well, when I was attacking I was doing it properly with no anticipation. I wasn’t going for the winner straightaway, but always having the initiative of the point.

When I was saying with no surprises, well, I was saying that if the ball came long, then the ball came long. If I wanted to do a short ball, I did a short ball. Things I didn’t do last week.

For example, last weeks if I wanted to play a long ball I maybe put it in the net. So those are things that get you out of the court.

Perhaps today things were more controlled than other days. That builds confidence for you whenever you’re moving and playing very well. Those margins of error give you confidence without having to go behind the tramlines a lot to win the point.

 

Q. When you said you had something on your mind, what are you talking about?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, that I committed some errors and didn’t play with the intensity that I was at the beginning. I don’t know how many unforced errors I made after the 2 0 in the first set or something like that, or 2 0, 3 0. I think very few. I think I didn’t commit nearly any unforced errors.

I would like to know how many I committed, but I felt I hardly committed any errors. You know, when you’re for a long time without missing anything, sometimes you can commit an error that I shouldn’t.

You know, I’ve done it in two consecutive games, one with his serve. I committed perhaps some errors one after the other. Perhaps another one also with my serve I committed some consecutive errors.

So, you know, he cannot go 3 2 when I have such a good dynamic. I have to go ahead again. When I am 3 1 I have to be 4 1, not 3 2.

After that, another game which I think I should have done the break at 4 3. That was a complicated moment because we were 3 3. I think that was the moment to go back in and break again, and I started with a good point and then I think I committed two errors.

So I think what i have to avoid in order to be competitive, in order to play well against the player that I have now.

 

Q. Accepting that your two opponents have been very hard, do you think tomorrow’s match is really a test to see if you’re playing better?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, instead of a test, it’s just another important match. Perhaps it’s the most difficult of all week without any doubts. I think I’m playing against the 6th in the world? 5th? Where he is?

 

Q. 6th.

RAFAEL NADAL: 6th. Well, you know, he’s a player that has been playing really well. He made it to the semifinals in Australia, he won in Rotterdam I think, and he’s a player that has a capacity to play at the maximum level.

I don’t know if it’s an exam, but it is a big test. We have to be ready to face it with the proper attitude. We have to be mentally strong for the moments that we have out there, because there’ll be complicated moments.

It’s never going to be an easy match. It’s going to be very equal, I hope. We just have to be ready to assume that and to keep on playing bravely.

 

Q. Last time that he beat you was here in Madrid in 2006. Can you remember anything of the feelings that you had back then? Do you remember something of that match?

RAFAEL NADAL: In 2006? Yeah, sure. Of course I do.

It’s not a match that I have good feelings about because it was a lot of years ago. It’s the past. It was one of the few times I had problems inside a court in my life.

It’s the past. All of us learn with the years. Me the first, and nothing. I think that tomorrow’s match has nothing to do with what happened in 2006. It’s a completely different history, different surface.

Unfortunately we’re pretty old now.

 

Q. The match against Pico was a little bit short. This one was a little bit longer. Do you think you have good rhythm here with the altitude in order to have a victory tomorrow?

RAFAEL NADAL: Tomorrow at 5:00 or 6:00 I’ll let you know. I don’t know what can happen in the future. Only thing I know is that I won two matches, which is always important.

I’ve won them more or less with continuity, which is also positive. Now the complicated part of the match comes. You have to go the step forward and play happily and bravely and I think with determination.

This is what I have to do if I want to have options.

 

Q. Congratulations today. Your analysis of the match today? It was going pretty well in the first set and he pushed you in the second set. Did you always feel in control of the match today?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no. When you are 4 All and breakpoint for the opponent you are not in control always. But it’s true that for one hour probably I was playing the best tennis that I played for the last three weeks.

One of the first days that I felt that I was doing with the ball what I really want to do. So that’s a very positive thing.

And the negative thing is in the match I had an opportunity to close the match with great feelings and I made few mistakes in a row. That makes the match more complicated. I gave the opportunity to Jarkko to play more aggressive and with more determination.

For me it was a mistake to give him that option because I had the match completely under control with 6 1, 3 0. Tomorrow is another is history against one of the best players in the world. I need to be at my 100% to have any chance.

I am going to try. I know I have to play better and better every day if I want to have chances.

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Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round

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Felix Auger-Aliassime practicing this week in Montreal (twitter.com/OBNmontreal)

On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis.  And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide.  In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals.  In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.


Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto

Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair.  After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.  And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her.  Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets.  Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight.  And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer.  Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches.  By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four.  While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely.  And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.


Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.  However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries.  The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam.  Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights.  Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games.  Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event.  But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches.  Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches.  Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three.  But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ.  Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches.  De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week. 

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match.  Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter.  Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Canada Daily Preview: A Huge Day of Action Headlined by Serena/Bencic and Medvedev/Kyrgios

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Serena Williams on Monday in Toronto (twitter.com/NBOtoronto)

On Tuesday, Serena Williams announced her retirement from the sport in a poignant essay.  With only a month left before one of the greatest players of all-time retires, Serena will play only her third match in the past 14 months on Wednesday, as she faces fellow Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.

 

In Montreal, the two ATP singles champions from last week will collide, as Los Cabos champ and world No.1 Daniil Medvedev takes on Washington champ and Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios

Those are just two of a plethora of high-profile second round matches on Wednesday.  Overall seven of the WTA top 10 and six of the ATP top 10 will be in action in a jam-packed day of tennis.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in both Toronto and Montreal.


Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Nick Kyrgios – Not Before 1:00pm on Court Central in Montreal

Medvedev did not drop a set during his title run last week in Mexico, and is the defending champion of this event.  But Kyrgios is having the best summer of his career.  He’s now claimed 12 of his last 13 matches, which of course includes his first Major singles final at Wimbledon.  And Nick is 2-1 against Daniil, though they’ve split two hard court meetings.  Three years ago in the final of Washington, Kyrgios prevailed thanks to two tiebreaks.  But at this year’s Australian Open, Medvedev was victorious in four.  Last year at this tournament, Daniil defeated a few other big servers such as Hubi Hurkacz, John Isner, and Reilly Opelka.  On Wednesday, his defensive skills may again prove to diffuse Nick’s serving prowess.  And as seen in the Wimbledon final, Kyrgios can get easily frustrated by opponents who can play elite-level defense.


Belinda Bencic (12) vs. Serena Williams – Not Before 7:00pm on Centre Court on Toronto

These next few weeks will be the last in perhaps the most remarkable career in tennis history.  Serena has said she does not want a lot of fanfare surrounding her last tournaments, but fans will surely be clamoring to see the all-time great one last time.  In just her third match this year, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in women’s singles faces the most recent gold medalist.  Bencic is now 28-13 this season, and two of her best results this season have come in the US.  She was a semifinalist in Miami, and the champion in Charleston.  Serena is 2-1 against Belinda, though Bencic’s only victory occurred in this same city seven years ago, when the Swiss star won this title as an 18-year-old.  Williams played some good tennis during her straight-set victory on Monday, and both players will assumedly be quite nervous knowing this is one of Serena’s final matches.  But considering Williams has not defeated a top 20 player since the 2021 Australian Open, Bencic should be favored on this day.  Regardless, this opportunity to watch Serena compete will be cherished by her millions of fans.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Swiatek is now 48-5 on the year, and has won her last three hard court tournaments dating back to February (Doha, Indian Wells, Miami).  Tomljanovic reached her second consecutive Wimbledon quarterfinal last month.  Their only previous meeting also occurred in Toronto, when three years ago the Australian retired after only five games.

Elena Rybakina vs. Coco Gauff (10) – The new Wimbledon champion played for a full three hours on Tuesday, eventually defeating Marie Bouzkova 6-1 in the third.  On the same day, Gauff dropped only four games to fellow American Madison Brengle. 

Tommy Paul vs. Carlos Alcaraz – Alcaraz is now 42-7 in 2022, and is coming off back-to-back finals at clay events in Europe.  Paul has accumulated 25 wins of his own this season, 16 of which have come on hard courts.

Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Leylah Fernandez (13) – Fernandez gritted her way to a three-set victory on Monday night in her first match since injuring her foot at Roland Garros.  Haddad Maia has 34 wins on the year, and won back-to-back grass court tournaments in June.  Earlier this season in the semifinals of Monterrey, Leylah prevailed over Beatriz in straight sets.

Qinwen Zheng vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur went 1-1 last week in her first two matches since her losing effort in the Wimbledon final.  Qinwen also lost to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, after two tight sets in the third round of that event.

Bianca Andreescu vs. Alize Cornet – Andreescu overcame injury to defeat San Jose champion Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday evening, requiring multiple medical timeouts in the first set alone.  Earlier in the day, Cornet took out Caroline Garcia in three sets.  Alize is 2-0 against Bianca.

Yoshihito Nishioka (SE) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Nishioka was a surprise finalist last week in Washington, where he earned impressive victories over five top 40 players, including Andrey Rublev.  Auger-Aliassime has now lost four of his last six matches.  Yoshi leads their tour-level head-to-head 2-1, which includes a dramatic three-set win three years ago at Indian Wells in a third-set tiebreak.

Jack Draper (Q) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) – Tsitsipas has not played since his embarrassing behavior in a third-round defeat at the hands of Kyrgios at Wimbledon.  20-year-old Draper has earned 35 match wins at all levels this season. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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6, 5, 4…is the rise of Carlos Alcaraz going to continue this week?

Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters 1000 may allow the Spaniard’s ranking to reach new zeniths

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CARLOS ALCARAZ OF SPAIN - PHOTO: ANGEL MARTINEZ / MMO

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Numbers are fascinating, even worshipped by some, unquestionable and reassuring. We may forget the fallibility of subjective evaluation and rejoice with the sense of power that comes with belief that any reality, from outer space to the inner world, can be measured, and expressed with numbers.

 

And numbers have been fuelling tennis headlines over the last weeks as Carlos Alcaraz has been heading on, his rise in the rankings unblemished by the losses to Musetti and Sinner in the finals in Hamburg and Umag and ticking on like an ultimate countdown.  

In the next two weeks Alcaraz will have limitless opportunities to reap points in the two Masters 1000 leading up to the US Open since he will only be dropping the points he earned last year in Cincinnati where, after qualifying, he reached the round of 32 before losing to Lorenzo Sonego.

There is more at stake for those he is chasing: Medvedev, winner in Canada and semi-finalist in Cincinnati is surely capable of bettering such results, but it will not be a walkover. Zverev is fully committed to rehab and unable to defend his Cincinnati 2021 crown. Nadal, who missed all the second part of the last season and could be a serious challenger in terms of point harvesting, has just had to pull out from Montreal owing to his still-healing abdominal injury.    

Nitpickers may suggest that the most recent hurdles cleared by Alcaraz have not coincided with immaculate victories and that what had seemed for a long time to be a perfect set-up engine, meticulously fine-tuned, has been starting to misfire.

No doubt that his 2022 campaign had been a crescendo up to his triumph in the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, where he brushed aside Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev. The match with Djokovic was of supreme quality and will stand out as one of the gems of the year.

Till then, his loss to Korda in Monte Carlo was the only lapse and could be considered an incident, as it may occur to any guy setting foot on clay for the first time in months, adorned with a new status as a tennis prodigy after his win in Miami and awaited by a roaring buzz of expectations.

In Paris, a first yellow alert did appear when he was on the brink of defeat in round 2 with Ramos-Vinolas in a match stained by 74 unforced errors. Then followed shining performances against Korda and Khachanov before falling in the quarter-finals to Zverev who overpowered him throughout most of their match. But Zverev was formidable that day and Alcaraz strove to the very end to find an escape way and was close to coming back, missing a set point in the fourth set tiebreak that would have tugged him into a decider.

His star seemed to be shining at Wimbledon after his impressive dominance over Otte, but two days later was obscured by Sinner. On this occasion, for the first time in his newly established career, his game appeared blunted.

Was his body starting to remind him he’s a teen, capable of formidable performances, but still to develop that endurance and resilience which are needed to maintain peak cruising over longer stretches?

Then followed defeats in Hamburg and Umag finals on clay. A final itself cannot be considered a disappointing result, but his halo of invincibility was dimmed.

Particular concern was his second defeat in a month to Sinner, where he appeared at loss for solutions over the last one hour and a half, his boisterous self-confidence slowly deflating and his body language revealing frustration. In his press conference, Alcaraz admitted such a sense of helplessness and said to be determined to figure out a way to win against the Italian. 

The point is that Alcaraz made such a great impression in the first part of this season that it has become hard to believe he can lose a match.

At his best, he can deliver any shot at any moment, with a variety rarely seen before. In an inspired instant, he can switch from herculean ball-striking to caressing a dropshot, which will land, bounceless, a few inches after the net. What about his eagerness to volley, often following his wondrously effective kick serve? Not to mention his serve which alternates power and spin, his endurance in winning long rallies, scuttling far and beyond to fling in a winner from out of the blue. Opponents cannot but be befuddled. 

And then, is clay really the surface that best suits his game? In an interview with Marca, he said he’s comfortable on all surfaces but feels that his dynamic game most suits hard courts. If we couple this statement with his enthusiasm for being in Montreal and playing the Canadian Open for the first time, after throwing in some hard work for a successful transition from clay to hard, we can be positive that the fire has been kindled, and the countdown for reaching the highest ranking orbits is running once again.      

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