Mutua Madrid Open: Defending Champion Nadal drawn with Federer. Nole retires from the tournament - UBITENNIS
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Mutua Madrid Open: Defending Champion Nadal drawn with Federer. Nole retires from the tournament

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TENNIS – World Number 1 Rafael Nadal will start his title defence of the Mutua Madrid Open at the Caja Magica against the winner of the first-round match between Juan Monaco and Jurgen Melzer. His possible rivals in the Round of 16 could be German veteran Tommy Haas, Robin Haase or Jarkko Nieminen. Diego Sampaolo

Interviews, results, order of play and draws of the Mutua Madrid Open

Nadal will be looking to bounce back from two back-to-back quarter final defeats in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona in two clay tournaments where he was used to dominate. He will have to defend 2000 points in the next two weeks in Madrid and Rome. Last year Nadal beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the final in the Caja Magica.

“When you lose you have a hard moment and you have more doubts. But that’s what happenedI have already said several times. I didn’t try to win Monte-Carlo or Barcelona 12 times. Maybe that is not normal. This is the reality of the situation. It’s normal to lose three times in the quarter finals. Maybe what is not normal is what happened during the past nine years”, said Nadal.

“I feel really good playing here. Madrid is a very special tournament for me. The energy this tournament gives me is something a bit different to others”.

“When you come back from tough moments, you come back with a little more intensity to try to be back as soon as possible”.

Nadal could face either Tomas Berdych or Grigor Dimitrov in a possible quarter final. The Czech player, who lost against Carlos Berloq in the Oeiras final, will start against either Radek Stepanek or Jurgen Melzer in the second round before a potential intriguing match against Grigor Dimitrov who won the third ATP title of his career and the first on clay in Bucharest last week. First the young Bulgarian will have to face clay specialists like Marcel Granollers and Pablo Carreno Busta, the ATP Most Improved player in 2013.

Nadal has been drawn in the same top half with Roger Federer who will return to the Mutua Madrid Open where he won two years ago. Nadal and Federer could square off in the semifinal in another chapter of their rivalry. Federer recently lost his fourth Monte-Carlo final against his compatriot Stan Wawrinka.

Federer will be looking to improve the result of last year when he did not get through the Round of 16. He will start against a French rival (either Benoit Paire or Giles Simon) before facing a possible third round match against Roberto Bautista Agut who upset Tommy Robredo 6-4 6-4 i the first round on Sunday.

Federer could meet either Jo Wilfred Tsonga or Andy Murray in the quarter final. If he faces Tsonga, the two players could play a re-match of the recent quarter final in Monte-Carlo won by Federer.

Murray will face a tough draw as he could make his debut against Nicolas Almagro who recently beat Nadal for the first time in his career in the quarter final in Barcelona before meeting Tsonga in the Round of 16.

This year’s Australian Open Stanislas Wawrinka will be looking to win his back-to-back Master 1000 tournament on clay in Madrid after clinching his first Monte-Carlo title.

Wawrinka will start his campaign against Dmitry Tursunov in the second round before meeting Mikhail Youzhny, Federico Delbonis or Feliciano Lopez in the third round.

Wawrinka has been drawn in the third quarter as Milos Raonic and they could square off the quarter final. The young Canadian has not a easy draw as he could meet Jeremy Chardy in the second round. Chardy beat Bucharest finalist Lukas Rosol in the first round in three sets with 4-6 6-3 6-4. on Sunday.

The possible Round of 16 match could be played between Raonic and in-form Kei Nishikori, who recently won his first tournament on clay in Barcelona, a tournament won by Spanish clay specialists in the last 12 years. Last year the Japanese star beat Roger Federer to reach the quarter final in the Spanish capital before achieving his career.high when he moved up to World Number 11 in the ATP Ranking. Nishikori will start his Madrid campaign against Croatian player Ivan Dodig. The winner of this match may face Guillermo Garcia Lopez who edged Pablo Andujar 6-2 2-6 6-2 in the first round on Sunday

“It was a big surprise for me to win a clay tournament. It was my first clay title. I didn’t play against top-10 players but I still think it was a good week for me”, said Nishikori

Nishikori also won in Memphis and reached the semifinal in Miami after beating Roger Federer in the quarter final. The advice provided by Michael Chang has certainly contributed tp his recent success.

“Michael is giving me good improvement. My tennis is getting better and stronger. Michael is not in Madrid with me but it’s going well with him. My next goal is to get into the top 10. It’s not going to be easy. My goal is not just to stay in the top-10 for one week. Hopefully I can keep that ranking all the time. I feel very strong especially after winning in Barcelona. It was unfortunate to have an injury in Miami. Hopefully I can stay healthy for a while and do well in every tournament. The big goal is to qualify for the ATP World Tour Final”, said Nishikori.

Unfortunately 2011 Madrid champion Novak Djokovic, who had been originally drawn in the bottom quarter, has been forced to withdraw from Madrid as he has not fully recovered from his wrist injury which affected his Monte-Carlo semifinal against Roger Federer.

“I am very sorry for the Madrid tournament and all Spanish fans to have to pull out of the Madrid Mutua Open. I did everything possible in order to play in Madrid, which is one of the biggest tournaments of the year, but unfortunately my right arm has flared up again. Now I will have to recover and heal my injury. I look forward to returning to Madrid next year”, said Djokovic on Sunday. There is a chance that Djokovic could recover in time to play in Rome.

In this quarter of the draw Marin Cilic, who is tied for second place on the 2014 match-wins ranking with 25 wins, could face either Italian 13-seed Fabio Fognini, who won in Vina del Mar and lost the final in Munich against Martin Klizan this week or Ukraine’s Aleksander Dolgopolov who reached the Indian Wells semifinal this year losing to Roger Federer after a third set win over Rafa Nadal in the third round.

David Ferrer has been drawn in the bottom half of the draw The player from Valencia, who reached the Monte-Carlo semifinal after beating Rafa Nadal on his favourite clay tournament in the quarter final but was knocked out in the second round in Barcelona against Gabashvili, will start against either his compatriot Albert Ramos or Frenchman Nicholas Mahut. He could face a Round of 16 match against either John Isner or Phillip Kohlschreiber.

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Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

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Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

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Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

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Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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Matteo Berrettini Looks To Draw Inspiration From Jannik Sinner

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner ahead of his comeback to the ATP tour.

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(@TheTennisLetter - Twitter)

Matteo Berrettini is looking to draw inspiration from Jannik Sinner as Berrettini is continuing his recovery from his injury.

The former Wimbledon finalist has had a horrible run of injuries which has seen the Italian fall down the rankings as he is now at 124 in the world.

After suffering a horrible injury at the US Open during his match with Arthur Rinderknech, Berrettini was looking to make his return at the Australian Open as he was set to face Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening round.

However just before the match, Berrettini withdrew as he decided to delay his comeback to the tour as he will aim to return to the court as soon as possible.

If Berrettini needed any inspiration then Jannik Sinner’s triumph at the Australian Open could be that much needed spark as the Italian beat Novak Djokovic on his way to capturing a first Grand Slam title.

Speaking an interview Berrettini explained that he is still not 100% and admits he is looking to draw inspiration from Sinner’s form, “I’m better, but I’m not yet 100%,” Berrettini was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

“The goal is to play the whole season, and without these setbacks which are destroying my body and my head. Sinner did a miracle. I will also use this energy for my tennis. I was happy with what Jannik said.

“We have a good relationship, which has strengthened in recent months. We are different but similar. We are pursuing the same dream.”

Berrettini will hope Sinner’s success will have a positive influence on his recovery and quicken his return to the tour as the former world number six aims for a successful return to the tour.

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