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
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.
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Alcaraz Fell Victim To Unbeatable Medvedev
Carlos Alcaraz was no match for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open semi-finals.
A star had to fall. There was no other way.
This time, Carlos Alcaraz was the victim. Daniil Medvedev was unbeatable.
The 6-6 Russian was everywhere, playing almost perfect tennis in a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alcaraz.
So, one former champion went down while one advanced to Sunday’s final at the U.S. Open.
And then there was Novak Djokovic, another former champion headed for the title match.
U.S. OPEN WAS THE BIG WINNER FRIDAY
The U.S. Open couldn’t lose once Djokovic dominated young American Ben Shelton, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Djokovic appeared to be content with just winning while getting the preliminaries over with. He seemed to be a little miffed by Shelton’s cockiness. There were no hugs or embraces when the match ended. Just a handshake.
Shelton has huge potential, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready to join the likes of Djokovic, Medvedev and Alcaraz. He’s a better athlete than he is tennis player.
Novak is ready to go for a record 24th Grand Slam title.
Believe it or not, Medvedev will be playing in his fifth Grand Slam final.
Sunday should be a great day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with two former champs, Djokovic and Medvedev, going against each other.
CAN COCO HIT WITH SABALENKA
The women’s final will be interesting. Can Coco Gauff compete with Aryna Sabalenka?
Sabalenka looked helpless against Madison Keys’ big strokes and serves in the first set of their semifinal on Thursday.
Sabalenka couldn’t win even one game in that set. She looked helpless.
But she obviously felt all along that she could beat Keys anytime she wanted. Or why else would the powerful Sabalenka go for broke on almost every shot? And it almost cost her.
Amazingly, Sabalenka waited almost to the final moments to decide to play within her game and stop the wildness.
Once Sabalenka decided to settle down and play to win, Keys went just the opposite way, similarly to her one-sided loss to Sloane Stephens in the 2017 U.S. Open final.
Keys appeared ready to win this time as she held a 6-0, 5-4 advantage over new world’s No. 1 Sabalenka, who seemed to be stumbling all over the court as she repeatedly hit wild shots in every direction.
Just like that, everything changed. Sabalenka started hitting winners everywhere as Keys reversed roles with Sabalenka. Not only did Sabalenka win the second set while dropping just one point in a tiebreaker, she stormed through a decisive 10-point third-set tiebreaker to win the match.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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