Does Rafa Nadal have the wars of the red clay season figured out? - UBITENNIS
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Does Rafa Nadal have the wars of the red clay season figured out?

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TENNIS – It’s easy to understand why Rafa Nadal might have appeared to be playing sluggish, tentative and unaggressive tennis at the start of the European clay-court season. It’s total war on red clay. It’s a long war. Maybe too long for one human being to go full speed from start to the finish line. James Beck

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

It’s easy to understand why Rafa Nadal might have appeared to be playing sluggish, tentative and unaggressive tennis at the start of the European clay-court season.

It’s total war on red clay.

It’s a long war.

Maybe too long for one human being to go full speed from start to the finish line, although Nadal has made a mockery of that analysis for much of his career.

Even the top horse must pace himself

This battle might be compared to the Kentucky Derby.

If the top horse comes out of the gate too aggressively, the horse is likely to fold before the finish line. Instead, for maximum results, the jockey must pace the horse to some extent. Even the great ones and possible great ones such as California Chrome.

When the finish line comes into focus, aggression and tenacity become critical to success.

Nadal obviously was pacing himself in Monte Carlo and Barcelona where he suffered quarterfinal losses to fellow Spaniards David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro. The ultimate red-clay prize is a week away in Paris.

Nadal is still in his prime at 27 years old, but playing four clay-court events leading into the French Open can drain a player’s intensity, especially one who plays with as much intensity as Nadal.

Is Nadal slipping?

So, is Rafa Nadal slipping? Don’t bet on it.

He almost corralled Australia. Only his back got in the way in the final, along with explosive Stan Wawrinka.

Nadal probably will still be around in late summer in New York City. If he can stay healthy, the odds of Nadal winning a Grand Slam title or two look pretty good after the way he has won three straight three-setters in Rome, the last two coming back from a set down to defeat Mikhail Youzhny and Andy Murray.

Rafa is a totally different player in Rome than the one who started the clay-court season. He’s intense and aggressive.

He’s pulling magic out of his bag, making the type of signature shots that only Nadal in the history of men’s tennis has been able to consistently convert.

Agassi backs up Nadal

I thought it was quite significant a few days ago when Andre Agassi proclaimed Nadal and not Roger Federer was the greatest player ever. This wasn’t just a broadcaster rambling on the air, this was a sincere analysis by one of the most respected tennis players ever to play the game.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the Roger Federer supporters’ claim that Federer is the greatest, when it is impossible to back up that claim with anything other than the number of Grand Slam titles Federer has won. Agassi pointed out that Nadal’s greatness came in the Golden Age of Tennis — the Federer, Nadal, Murray and Novak Djokovic era. Agassi obviously was alluding to the fact that Federer won seven Grand Slam titles before Nadal turned 20 years old.

Of course, there isn’t a way to accurately measure a Nadal or Federer against a Rod Laver. The only thing anyone knows for sure is that they are all among the greatest players ever.

James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com

See James Beck’s Post and Courier columns at:

http://www.postandcourier.com/section/PC200903

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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