TENNIS -Novak Djokovic beat 9-time French Open Rafa Nadal 7-5 6-3 6-1 in two hours and 26 minutes on Nadal’s 29th birthday in the eagerly awaited quarterfinal at the Roland Garros putting an end to the Spaniard’s winning streak of 39 consecutive matches in Paris Diego Sampaolo
Djokovic is still in contention to become the 8th man to complete the Career Grand Slam. The Serbian player has scored his first win over Nadal at Grand Slam level since his triumph at the 2012 Australian Open. It was also the first time Djokovic has beaten Nadal in 7 meetings here in Paris.
Djokovic won eight of the first nine points to get an early break and then pulled away for 4-0. The crowd was in complete shock at Djokovic’s superior level of play and the sheer flatfootedness of Nadal at the beginning of the match. However, facing the possibility of 0-5, the Spanish legend converted on his 4th break point chance to claw his way back into the match for 5-5. It near appeared as though Djokovic had lost the momentum but he held serve comfortably for 6-5 and force Nadal to come up with spectacular plays to stay in the set. Nadal was able to save 5 set point but Djokovic remained determined and clinched the opening set on his 6th set point, 7-5 in 67 minutes. Djokovic had 19 winners alone in the set.
The second set went on serve until the 8th game when Djokovic broke serve for 5-3 before earning a fourth set point with a half-volley drop-shot which he converted for 6-3. It appeared as though all that energy that Nadal spent attempting the comeback in the first set proved critical as he was a touch slow. From the onset of the 3rd set, it was clear that Nadal was not up to the challenge that was Djokovic on the day. The Serbian again raced out to a 4-0 lead and this time, he remained steadfast in the task at hand. Down 1-5 and serving to stay in the match, Nadal double faulted on match point handing Djokovic the win 7-5 6-3 6-1 after 2 hours and 26 minutes.
Djokovic converted on four of his 11 break points and won 70 percent of his net points. This was his 27th consecutive victory this year. This win for Djokovic is historic as it was only the second defeat in 72 matches for Nadal in the Roland Garros. Before Djokovic the only other player able to beat Nadal in Paris was Robin Soderling in 2009. Nadal’s dominance stretched back to 2005 when he won the first of his 9 titles.
“It started already before the match. You go through more emotions than for any other match. Playing against Rafa at Roland Garros is a special thing. It’s a special mach. Tomorrow is a new day. I have to move on. It’s only the quarter finals and I want to fight for the title. Celebration can wait. I have to direct my thought to the semis”, said Djokovic.
Djokovic will face Andy Murray who became the first British player to reach three semifinals at the Roland Garros after beating David Ferrer in four sets with 7-6(4) 6-2 5-7 6-1 after three hours and 21 minutes. Murray clinched his 15th consecutive match on clay. He won his first two titles on this surface in Munich and Madrid. Djokovic leads 18-8 in their 26 encounters against Murray. It will be the fourth time they clash this year with Djokovic winning the three matches at Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami.
In the first set where both players got three breaks of serve Murray fended off two set points as he was serving to stay in the set at 5-6 before winning the tie-break on his fourth set point. In the second set Murray broke twice and fended off all the three break points he faced to win 6-2. Ferrer bounced back from an early break down before fending off a match point while serving to stay in the set at 4-5. Ferrer, finalist in Paris in 2013, got the break in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead before serving out for the third set for 7-5. Murray converted his third match point to cruise to 6-1 in the fourth set
“I was frustrated to lose the third set but I got off to a good start in the fourth set, so my frustration didn’t last long”, said Murray.
Andrey Rublev: “I don’t expect anything from myself in Melbourne”
Russian 22-year-old rising star Andrey Rublev started the 2020 season on a high note winning back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide. He beat French Next Gen player Corentin Moutet in the final of the Doha Qatar Exxon Mobil Open in the first week of the new year and repeated the feat by beating South African rising star Lloyd Harris in Adelaide.
Rublev has extended his winning streak to 12 matches, including 8 wins in the first two weeks of the 2020 season. He won the Doha title without dropping a set during the week. In Adelaide the Moscow native had to dig deep to beat Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 in a hard-fought semifinal match. With the Doha-Adelaide double Rublev became the first player to win back-to-back titles in the first two weeks of the season since 2004, when Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty won two consecutive trophies in Adelaide and Auckland.
Rublev picked up where he left off in 2019, when he won the Kremlin Cup in his hometown Moscow beating Adrian Mannarino in the final and finished runner-up to Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Hamburg final. The player coached by Fernando Vicente scored the biggest win of his career when he beat Roger Federer in Cincinnati to reach his first Masters 1000 quarter final before losing to eventual champion Danil Medvedev. At the US Open he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios en route to reaching the fourth round at the US Open before losing to eventual semifinalist Matteo Berrettini.
“I was not thinking about this statistic, but it’s an amazing feeling. I am really happy. I hope I keep working. I hope I keep improving, and we’ll see what’s going to happen”, said Rublev.
Rublev will open his Australian Open campaign against local favourite Christopher O’Connell in the first round. The Russian player is projected to play against David Goffin in a potential third round match, Alexander Zverev in the fourth round and Danil Medvedev in the quarter final.
Rublev, who has never advanced from the third round at the Australian Open, has no expectations for the first Grand Slam of the season.
“I am not waiting anything from myself in Melbourne. The only thing is that I want to fight and I believe well on court in my first match. Then we will see. I don’t think I am invincible, but for sure I am more confident in what I do after two titles in a row. I am working to be more consistent, to be more mentally strong. This is what we were working for and I am happy that these two weeks went this way. I got two titles. It’s amazing. I never had this before”, said Rublev.
Ugo Humbert claims the first title of his career after winning all-French final against Benoit Paire in Auckland
Twenty-one year-old Ugo Humbert beat Benoit Paire 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 7-6 (7-5) after 2 hours and 34 minutes in the all-French final of the ASB Classic in Auckland to claim the first title of his career.
Humbert has become the first French player to win the Auckland tournament. He enjoyed a great week beating Denis Shapovalov and John Isner en route to reaching the final.
Humbert earned the first break of the match in the second game after a double fault from Paire and held his serve with a service winner in the next game to open up a 3-0 lead. Paire broke back in the fifth game with a backand return winner. Humbert broke serve again in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Paire broke back in the seventh game to claw his way back to 3-4. Humbert earned three set points, when Paire was serving at 5-6. Humbert reeled off five consecutive points from 2-2 to claim the tie-break with three mini-break after a forehand error from Paire.
Paire fended off three break points in the third game of the second set before breaking serve in the fourth game after a double fault from Humbert. Paire saved a break point at 5-3 with an ace and closed out the second set with a backhand down the line winner.
Humbert earned an early break in the second game of the decider with a backhand crosscourt passing shot, before saving three break points at 4-2. Paire hit three consecutive backhand winners, as Humbert was serving for the match at 5-3 30-0. Paire got the crucial break in the next point, when Humbert sent a forehand long. Paire saved a championship point with a backhand volley winner in the 10th game. Paire held his serve with a backhand volley winner to draw level to 5-5. Paire rallied from 0-30 down in the 12th game to force the decisive set to the tie-break.
Humbert earned a mini-break on the sixth point with a forehand return to take a 4-2 lead and earned three championship points at 6-3. Humbert sealed the win on his third chance when Paire sent a backhand wide after 2 hours and 35 minutes.
“It’s a tournament of revenge because I have lost to four of five players I played this week. It’s a great improvement for me and I could not dream of a beginning for the season”, said Humbert.
Roger Federer Plays Down Air Quality Concerns Ahead Of Australian Open
Roger Federer has rejected concerns that air quality will affect the Australian Open ahead of his first round match on Monday.
Roger Federer has rejected the idea that air quality concerns will be a factor at this year’s Australian Open.
Recently air quality has been fairly unsafe as a recent result of the Australian bushfires that have impacted many parts of the country.
Melbourne has been one of the cities that has been impacted the most with many animals, firefighters and civilians suffering.
As the Australian Open approaches, it has also affected the first grand slam of the year with many players in qualifying suffering on Tuesday and Wednesday with conditions being deemed unsafe to compete in.
This has raised concerns about the tournament itself, which starts on Monday and one player that has been criticised in his lack of action is Roger Federer.
The 20 time grand slam champion is on the ATP Players Council and today he broke his silence, insisting that the air quality shouldn’t be a factor at this year’s Australian Open, “No, I don’t worry. From what we were told yesterday in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300. Ours is set at 200,” Federer told the media on Saturday.
“From that standpoint, I think we’re moving in a very safe range. We’re not here for six months straight at over 200, 300, you know. That’s when maybe effects really become bad. No, I don’t worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke. Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again. It’s not like we’re stuck outside at all times.
“I think communication is key from the tournament to the people, to the media, to the fans, to the players, because you do hear it’s not safe to be outside, keep your pets inside, close your windows. You have court calls, then you look at the haze and everything, it doesn’t look good. I think we’re going to get through it and it should be fine. It shouldn’t move, no.”
Conditions are expected to get safer in time for the first week of the grand slam as rain has hit the latter stages of the past week in Melbourne.
Although Federer has played down concerns of the air quality causing harm to the players, it is still is a cause for concern amongst tournament directors if the conditions played a part in the second week.
As for Federer, he starts his Australian Open campaign against Steve Johnson on Monday and is taking the tournament one match at a time, “I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick,” Federer said.
“Practice has been going well. Had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough. I know it’s a super long road to victory. That’s why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low. No, I’m excited to play Steve. He’s a good guy. I think with his old-school playing – big forehand, slice backhand, good serve – I think it’s going to be a nice match for me, as well.”
The Swiss will be looking for his 7th Australian Open title in Melbourne and his third in four years but will have to play Novak Djokovic before the final. The match with Johnson will be third on Rod Laver Arena on Monday after Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams play their matches.
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