Rafael Nadal: “I changed completely the position on the return. I was returning very close to the baseline” - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal: “I changed completely the position on the return. I was returning very close to the baseline”

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TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN – 25th of January 2015. R.Nadal d. K.Anderson 7-5, 6-1, 6-4. An interview with Rafael Nadal

Q. It seems like after 5-All you had no problems anymore.

RAFAEL NADAL: Problems? There is always. There is always some key points of the match that change the dynamic of the match. Is true that I was lucky in the first set to have the set with me because was very dangerous. I think Kevin was playing very aggressive from the beginning, going for the winners every shot. He had the breakpoint before in the 3-2 or 3-All, I think. Then with the 5-All I was lucky, sure. I played two forehands down the line, because was not an easy forehand because he pushed me. I changed the direction, but I can miss that shot, no? Then a few good serves, but especially the ace again. Yeah, but in general, even if he had that chances in the first set, even in the first set seem that he was having more chances than me, I was playing better than the days before, no? I felt myself with better rhythm in the legs, better rhythm with my forehand. So in general, I am very happy the way I played today. The way that I improved my level is not the most important thing; obviously the victory is.

Q. Until the game that you broke him in the first set, you had only won one point on his serve. Was it a matter of you figuring out the serve, or did his level of serving drop?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know if you saw that, but I changed completely the position on the return. I was returning very close to the baseline. Is easier to start more aggressive and make the transition aggressive to defensive than defensive to aggressive. So is something that I talk before the match, and we decided to go close to the baseline in the beginning. Then if was not working, try to play more points. I had that feeling that I need to make him feel that he needs to play a winner to win the point, no? Because before my feeling was he was winning too many points only with the serve. So I tried to change that at the end of the first set. I was able to have some good returns. One very good one, but then the other ones, just put the ball inside the court and then try to let him think a little bit more than what he was doing until that moment. That’s what changed the dynamic of the games on the return. Very favorable way for me.

Q. Tell us how you get out of these difficult positions. What is going through your mind in those moments?

RAFAEL NADAL: I try to think point by point. I know with Love-40, losing that games with the first set and losing the first set against a player, a very good player like Kevin, he has big serve, and then he’s able to play good from the baseline, pushing you from the first ball. So I know that I going to play with lot of pressure during the rest of the match if I want to have chances to win. And I fought point by point. I just tried to change a little bit the way I was serving. I served a little bit more aggressive. It’s true that I had two forehands down the line, as I said before, that can miss. But for the rest, I had two good — Love-40 was that forehand down the line, but then in the 15- 40 and the 30-40, two good serves to the body. Something that I was not serving very often since that moment, so I changed that. Then breakpoint I changed the direction and serve probably the fastest serve for me this tournament, 205 ace in the middle, no? So just try to play with the right decision, right determination, and I did. Worked well. But sometimes works well, sometimes isn’t.

Q. A lot of other players get tight in these moments. You don’t seem to get so tight, so worried.

RAFAEL NADAL: I am (smiling).

Q. You said a week ago before the tournament that you didn’t consider yourself one of the favorites to win it, but ask you in a week if you’re still here. You’re still here. How do you feel about your chances to go further now with four wins under your belt?

RAFAEL NADAL: I am one of the eight. That’s the most important thing, no? I am in the last eight of the tournament. Seriously, for me, I cannot talk about that. I never talked during my career about that. But especially in this moment when you are coming back after a period of time where you were not on competition and you’re going to play a very tough player like Tomas Berdych that he started the season great playing very well in Doha, and now he’s here in quarterfinals. I don’t know if he lost a set. I don’t think so. He’s playing great. Will be a very tough opponent, no? But for me quarterfinals is a great result, talking seriously. Arriving here, losing in the first round of Qatar, not playing matches for the last seven months, to have the chance to be in quarterfinals again here is a very positive thing for me. I’m very happy for that. I am sure that going to help me for the next events. For sure I going to try my best after tomorrow. I am not a person that I am happy like this and that’s it. No. I try to play better and better every day. If that happens, I hope to keep having chances for the next match. But today is a day to be happy the way that I improved my level of everything, talking about tennis, all the things I have to do on court. I was closer today. Even if I played the first two sets the other day well, today I was much closer what I have to do to try to have success.

Q. How far do you feel you are from your best shape? 60%? 70%?

RAFAEL NADAL: That’s not mathematics. You cannot say number. Doesn’t matter at the end. I am in quarterfinals. I am feeling better every day. You don’t know. Today I was at very, very high level winning against Kevin Anderson. I don’t know which ranking he has.

Q. 15.

RAFAEL NADAL: Winning against the No. 15 of the world in straight sets, would be very arrogant if I say I’m not a very high percentage. Happy the way I played today. Is the first day that I felt that I was playing at the level that I want to play and the way that I want to play. Let’s have a chance to practice tomorrow, keep doing well the things I did today, and then try to arrive for the next match with the highest energy possible and try to be ready for it. I know it’s going to be very tough.

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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