Rafael Nadal plays down ATP Finals hopes after crushing Stan Wawrinka - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal plays down ATP Finals hopes after crushing Stan Wawrinka

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Rafael Nadal in action during the 2015 ATP World Tour Finals in London (image via ESPN)

Rafael Nadal has distanced himself away from any association with being one of the favorites to win the ATP Finals following his comprehensive win against Stan Wawrinka.

Nadal’s route to this year’s season-end championship has been a roller-coaster experience for the 29-year-old. After slipping down to his lowest ranking in ten years, followed by failing to reach the last four at any Grand Slam tournament for the first time since 2005, Nadal is ending 2015 on a high note. Since last month the Spaniard has reached the final of the Shanghai Masters and the Swiss Indoors. He was able to continue the upsurge in his form with his victory against the French Open champion at the O2 Arena yesterday.

Speaking about his triumphant start to the ATP Finals, the 29-year-old has played down his chances of winning the prestigious event for the first time in his career.

“I won the first match, that’s all”. Nadal said.
“I haven’t won enough this year to think about winning the title”.

The 9-time French Open champion said that the slow surface as well as the tough competition is the reason behind why he doesn’t think that he is one of the favorites. Despite being known by many as ‘the king of clay’, Nadal admitted that he performs well in tournaments with faster surfaces. Due to his frequent success on the clay court surface, many think that Nadal would have preferred slower surfaces.

“I don’t play well on slow surfaces, I play better on fast”. Said Nadal.
“The thing about the hard courts, is that I have had the biggest success on the faster surfaces. Montreal is one of the fastest courts and I have had a lot of success there. Also, when I won the Olympics, it was a very fast court’.

The next match for Nadal will be against second seed Andy Murray. He will be eager to get revenge against the Brit after suffering a crushing defeat in the final of the Madrid Masters earlier this year. Despite that defeat, Nadal does have a positive head-to-head against the world No.2 of 15-6. Looking ahead to his 22nd clash against Murray, Nadal said that he was ‘excited’ about the prospect.

“It is an opportunity for me to play against the world no. 2 in the world, a player who has had a great season, a fantastic player on every surface, especially this one”. The 29-year-old said.
“I am excited to play the match. I only see this match as an opportunity to play against him and hopefully play a good match’.

Nadal also said that his performance this week is important for the start of the 2016 season. He is hoping to end the year with a confidence boost as he bids to claim his 15th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.

“”If I am able to play well here. I think it would be great news because it enables me to start next year with positive feelings, which is my main goal”. He concluded.

Nadal is scheduled to play Murray at the O2 Arena on Wednesday afternoon at 14:00 CMT.

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David Goffin Slams Hostile French Open Crowd

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A fan at the French Open spat out their chewing gum at David Goffin during a tense first round clash at the tournament on Tuesday. 

Goffin, who is a former quarter-finalist in Paris, described the reception he received from the crowd as ‘total disrespect’ during his clash against home player Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. A 20-year-old wild card who recently claimed his maiden Tour title in Lyon. The Belgian managed to oust the home player 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, after more than three-and-half hours of play. 

During one stage of the match, Goffin was seen holding his hand to his ear towards the rowdy crowd. A gesture he felt he had the right to do considering the atmosphere.

“When you are insulted for three and a half hours, you have to tease the public a little,” The I quoted Goffin as saying.
“Clearly, it goes too far, it’s total disrespect. It’s really too much. It’s becoming football, soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and there will be fights in the stands.
“It’s starting to become ridiculous. Some people are there more to cause trouble than to create an atmosphere.
“Someone spat out their chewing gum at me. It [the match] was getting complicated. That’s why I wanted to stay calm. IfI started to get angry about it, it could have destabilised me.”

The French Open crowd has a reputation for being highly animated during matches with there being numerous examples throughout the years. Nicolas Jarry received booing when he walked on the court to play Corentin Moutet after an incident between the two earlier this season. 

“This is repeated a lot in the locker room and among the ATP authorities. We’re going to have to do something about that,” Goffin continued.
“I think it only happens in France. At Wimbledon, obviously, there’s not that. Or in Australia either. And at the US Open, it’s still rather quiet. Here [at Roland Garros], it’s really an unhealthy atmosphere.”

However, former French Open junior doubles champion Mpetshi Perricard has praised the support he got from the fans during his match. It was only the second time in his career that the world No.66 has played in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament.

“It was really nice to have so much support,” he said.
“I had a lot in Lyon as well, but that was different because here the guys are really with you from first to the last point. It’sreally very pleasant to have such an audience.
“I like it that they encouraged me. It helped me when I was broken in the fourth [set], and I would like to thank them for it. It’s really fantastic to have these guys there.”

Goffin will be hoping to get more support in his second round match against Alexander Zverev on Thursday. He is making his 13th main draw appearance in Paris at the age of 33. 

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Novak Djokovic Wins First Round at Roland Garros in Straight Sets Again

Serbian delivers in the key moments: “I played a great tiebreak and stayed focussed.”

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A slightly rusty Novak Djokovic made hard work of his first-round match but came through unscathed against wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 for his 93rd career win at Roland Garros. 

The three-time winner in the French capital broke early to go 2-1 ahead and held throughout to take the first set 6-4 in 37 minutes. But the world number one has been in patchy form this year and was clearly searching for form during the match – sometimes appearing to move slowly sideways as well as not reacting well to drop shots. However, as he has shown throughout his career, he was clutch during key moments and won the points that mattered.

“I thought it was a good performance for me, solid,” said Dkojovic. “Of course I could have done better, I think, on return games, but also credit to him for serving very well, for changing things up, for seeing every time I would step back for second serve to give him a little bit different look – he would see that, he would come in.”

The second set went with serve until the tie-break where Djokovic took a 3-0 lead with the aid of an excellent wrong-footing backhand volley at the end of a gruelling 25-shot rally – which led to the first sustained fist pumps from the top seed. Herbert dumped a forehand in the net when 6-3 down and found himself two sets to love behind with a mountain to climb. 

The third set also went with serve and contained some beautiful points, to the delight of the home crowd who tried to raise more support for Herbert. But the Frenchman lost the match on his seventh double fault, and only won 51% of points on second serve and was passed eighteen times overall. Still, he regularly troubled the Serbian with his kick serve and received praise for his efforts: “His kick is tremendous,” described Djokovic. “Honestly, one of the best kick serves I have faced. [He’s] very talented, mixing things up. He can come to the net, just very crafty with his hands.”

That high-bounce off the serve perhaps explained why the Djokovic return was not at its usual high standard, but even though the Serb was short of his customary ruthlessness, he still kept calm and composed himself for the key moments, particularly the second set tie-break which he won convincingly.

The 37-year-old, who slipped when chasing a drop shot in the final game and was inexplicably booed by the home crowd for taking his time dusting off the clay, revealed the importance of the Majors as his career nears its end: “Grand Slams are the ones that are basically getting me up from the bed every day and knowing that I have to hit the practice courts. I always think about what I can do in Grand Slams. So here I am. Hopefully I can have another deep run.”

Djokovic is surely going to improve as the tournament progresses. He managed 68% of first serves in and won an impressive 84% of those points as well as 73% of second serves. He ended the match with four aces and an excellent 79% of points whilst at net. Remarkably, he has now won every first-round match since 2011 in straight sets, and has not lost before the quarter-finals since 2010.

Afterwards, Djokovic also spoke about being courtside for Sunday’s first-round blockbuster between Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev: “I don’t recall last time I actually watched a set of any match live on that level, other than Davis Cup,” he said. “It was great. Iga was there, Alcaraz was there, and we all wanted to get a glimpse of the atmosphere, you know, of that possibly unique moment, that could be his last. But Rafa was a bit unlucky with the draw, because Zverev, he is in a great form, winning Rome, and he was serving extremely well. It’s tough to play Sascha when he’s feeling the ball so well. But it was great to watch.”

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Holger Rune Beats Evans in Straight Sets and Moves into Round 2

Danish 13th seed praises improved mentality; aims to get back to the top five

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Ubitennis/Francesca Micheli

Thirteenth seed Holger Rune came through in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 over Dan Evans in cold indoor conditions under the roof on Suzanne-Lenglen and goes on to face Italian Flavio Cobolli in round two.

The defeat for Evans meant that there are now no British men left in the singles draw after disappointing first round losses for Andy Murray and Cameron Norrie.

Rune, who once shared a practice session with Evans, admitted it took time to figure out his opponent’s game style: “It’s not that I know his game inside and out. He likes the slice obviously, and he’s a very good grass court player as well so he plays pretty flat over the net. So, yeah, it took a lot of time to adjust.”

Rune, a two-time former quarter finalist at the French Open, broke serve with the score tied at 4-4 in the first set and then served out to take the opener. A single break of serve was enough again in the second, while he had to dig much deeper in the third set when he went 4-2 down but managed to maintain composure to win the last four games to seal victory. The 21-year-old was very satisfied with his first-round performance and was pleased his intense practice sessions had been paying off.

“It was a good start, I think. Very solid match from start to finish. We had a good preparation, I would say. We had obviously time after Rome to really prepare with my game and physically and mentally, as well. I think we used the time right. So now is just to perform and put everything together. We are working always on my game. I think my game is good. My physicality felt great today, so it’s a thing we have really been working on to be able to stay out there and not feel fatigued and feel explosive even after hours of playing, and I definitely felt that today.”

Rune finished the match with eight aces, and more than double the number of winners (44 to 21), while Evans struggled with his serve making less than 50% of first serves in play along with five double faults. Whilst approaching the net numerous times throughout the match, he was passed sixteen times by some wonderful strokes off both wings by his Danish opponent. Rune was impressed with his mentality afterwards: “Mentally I just had to stay composed. You know, there is always challenges in the matches. Today was a call here and there. I thought I stayed composed. Been working on that, as well.”

Rune, who won 75% of points on his first serve definitely felt like he is on the right path to get him back inside the top five of the rankings: “I feel like I’m kind of back on track, have stability in my team, which is nice in my life. So, it’s going in the right direction. I’m improving on court. Now it’s just about getting that few match wins under the belt, to get some rhythm and gain some confidence in the matches as well. Then, I believe, you know, I’m fitter than last year. I’m playing better and improved. I just need to put everything together.”

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