Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori Set to Clash in ATP Barcelona Final - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori Set to Clash in ATP Barcelona Final

Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori scored convincing wins to set a blockbuster final clash in Barcelona.

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8th time champion will meet two-time defending champion in the final of the ATP Barcelona Open Bancsabadell as Rafael Nadal and Kei Nishikori both convincingly booked a spot for the final act on the Spanish red clay. In the most fascinating final possible we will finally know the answer to a question many had in the tennis community over the past two years and more exactly since the 2014 final of the Masters 1000 played in Madrid. Back then, Nishikori and Nadal were playing one another only for the second time of their career on clay, with Nadal dominating the first encounter in 2013 at the French Open. In Madrid two years ago, Nishikori played a stunning final, outplaying the Spaniard in the first set to then surrender suddenly to a back problem and ending up retiring down 3-0 in the third set. The question many had was: What would have happened if Kei didn’t get injured? We will now know, as Nadal and Nishikori will meet for the 10th time on Sunday.

Nadal has won 8 of the 9 matches he played against Nishikori before, the most recent being the match played in Indian Wells, where the Spaniard didn’t lose a set winning easily by 6-4 6-3. With both players having found a second home in the past in Barcelona, the quality of the match should be high and the clash should be entertaining.

The first player to book a spot in the final on Saturday was the Japanese, who beat French Benoit Paire by 6-3 6-2 avenging the losses faced against Paire at the US Open and Tokyo in 2015. Nishikori was just too solid for Paire, forcing on the forehand and moving the French around the court to start dominating early on. After just 67 minutes, Kei won the match to reach his 3rd final of this 2016 season. The Japanese will be competing in his 17th ATP final on Sunday, bidding for a 12th career title.

Later in the day, Nadal continued his domination over Philipp Kohlschreiber, beating the German for the 12th time in 13 mathes winning by 6-3 6-3. Despite not playing his best tennis, Nadal grinded the German from the baseline, staying solid and playing deep. The only moment Nadal had to recover was when serving 5-3 in the first set, when the Spaniard trailed back 0-30. Saved that game, Rafa was down a break and 3-2 in the second, before reacting promptly to conquer four games in a row and close down the match after 1 hour and 32 minutes.  Nadal will play in his final number 101, the third in the 2016 season. The Spaniard will be seeking a 69th ATP title.

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Andrey Rublev Reclaims Prize Money, Points After Appealing Against Dubai Disqualification

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Andrey Rublev will receive ranking points and prize money from the Dubai Tennis Championships despite being disqualified from the event for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The Russian world No.5 has won an appeal against the sanction he received last week at the ATP 500 event. Rublev screamed in the face of a lines judge during the third set of his semi-final match against Alexander Bublik. A Russian-speaking official told supervisor Roland Herfel that the tennis star had sworn in his native language, which he denied doing. As a consequence, he was defaulted from the match which usually carries an automatic penalty of that player losing all their points and prize money earned at the tournament.

However, the ATP appeals committee has concluded that those penalties are ‘disproportionate ‘ in this case. Regulating in Rublev winning back more than $150,000 and 200 ranking points. However, a fine of nearly $30,000 has been upheld. 

“The ATP has reviewed an appeal from Andrey Rublev, following the player’s default from the semi-finals of the ATP 500 tournament in Dubai,” the I Newspaper quoted an ATP official as saying
“The appeal process took into consideration testimonies from the player, officials, as well as a review of all available video and audio materials.
“The appeals committee concluded that, beyond forfeiting the match, customary penalties associated with a default – namely loss of rankings points and prize money for the entire tournament – would be disproportionate in this case.
“As such, Rublev retains semi-final points and prize money for the tournament.”

The initial penalty issues against Rublev caused criticism from some players with Daria Kasatkina saying it was a ‘joke’ that no video replay system was in place. The ATP plans to implement electronic line-calling at all of its events by next year. Meanwhile, Bublik said shortly after the incident that he had doubts that Rublev ‘said something crazy.

Rublev will return to action in Indian Wells later this week where he will be seeded sixth in the draw. 

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Indian Wells Chief Haas Backs Djokovic, Sabalenka For Title Glory

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Tommy Haas - Wimbledon 2018 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic should be considered the favourite to capture the men’s title in Indian Wells despite not playing at the event for five years, according to its tournament director. 

Tommy Haas has lent his full backing behind the world No.1 who is set to return to action later this week for the first time since his semi-final loss to Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open. Djokovic hasn’t played at Indian Wells since 2019 due to reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the event was cancelled in 2020, he was unable to play the next three years due to travel restrictions that were in place. Under an emergency health law, foreign visitors to America were required to be vaccinated against the virus and the tennis star wasn’t. He applied for special exemptions to play but was refused by authorities. These restrictions ended last year. 

Djokovic, who has previously named Indian Wells as his favourite event, is a five-time champion. The only other male player to have won the tournament as many times as him is Roger Federer. He was also runner-up in 2007 to Rafael Nadal. 

Looking ahead to this year’s tournament, former world No.2 Haas told Eurosport that he considers the 24-time Grand Slam champion as the title favourite and played down the significance of his recent loss in Australia. 

“Djokovic has had such success there, he’s coming back. I feel like every time he doesn’t win a tournament, we all look at it as a failure, right? And I hate to use that word anyway,” Haas said.
“But even the semis at the Australian Open, we all look at it like, ‘Oh, he lost in the semis, he didn’t win the Australian Open.’ But you know how many people of players would love to get to a semi-final one time.
“It’s really outrageous, so you can never count him out. He’s obviously always gonna be a favourite and he’s always gonna look at himself as like, the favourite to win the title.”

Among those challenging the Serbian for the title will be Sinner, who is currently on a 12-match winning streak after also winning Rotterdam last month. Meanwhile, defending champion Carlos Alcaraz will be out to prove a point as he seeks his first title since Wimbledon last year. Daniil Medvedev, who lost in the final to Acaraz 12 months ago, will also be hoping for a strong run. 

As for the women’s event, Haas has not picked world No.1 Iga Swiatek and instead chose Aryna Sabalenka as the one to watch. After capturing her second Australian Open title, Sabalenka suffered a shock defeat in Dubai where she lost 12 out of the last 15 games played against Dona Vekic. The Belarussian was runner-up in Indian Wells last year to Elena Rybakina. 

“On the women’s side, Sabalenka, you know, she has such a big, powerful game. Gives her a little bit more time sometimes in Indian Wells too,” Haas explained.
“But she moves well, she’s feeling obviously very, very good about her game — defending her title at the Australian Open. So I kind of give her the edge also going in, no matter what happens the next couple of weeks.”

The first round of matches at Indian Wells will get underway on Wednesday. This year’s singles champions will each earn $1.1M in prize money. 

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Katie Boulter Wins Biggest Title Of Career In San Diego To Break Into Top 30 For First Time

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Katie Boulter - Nottingham 2023 (foto Twitter @the_LTA)

Katie Boulter has become only the second British woman to win a WTA 500 event since the category was introduced following her fairytale run at the San Diego Open. 

The 27-year-old clawed her way back from a set down in Sunday’s final to bear Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Boulter struggled at times with her serve and produced 13 doubles faults but managed to weather the storm to claim the biggest title of her career to date. Kostyuk was also tentative behind her serve with the Brit breaking her seven times en route to victory. 

Boulter has now recorded 14 wins over top 50 players during her career with five of those victories occurring in San Diego. Besides Kostyuk, she also beat Lesia Tsurenko, Beatriz Haddad Maia, Donna Vekic and Emma Navarro. 

“I don’t know what just happened,” Boulter said afterwards. “This week has been very, very special for so many different reasons. This one is pretty amazing, I’ve worked very hard for it, I played some incredible tennis all week.
“Today was a complete battle, with myself as well, because I was a little bit nervous. But I managed to get over the line, and that I’m very proud of.
A lot of it was about me staying as tough as I possibly could mentally, and I managed to keep my cool and actually kind of went within myself and calmed myself down a lot. I think that really helped me, and then I started to relax and play through shots a little bit more.”

The victory has elevated Boulter up the rankings to a career-best of 27th in the world. It is the first time she has cracked the world’s top 30. She is the lowest-ranked player to win a WTA 500 event since 2021 when Liudmila Samsonova won the Berlin crown whilst ranked outside the top 100. 

Meanwhile, Kostyuk has risen to 32nd in the WTA rankings which are four places below her best. The sixth seed dedicated her runner-up trophy to her family in Ukraine. 

“First of all everyone in the stands. Slava Ukraini. I don’t want to make it too sad, I want to say thank you to my family back home.” She said during the trophy presentation.
“It’s been a difficult last couple of nights for Ukraine. My family is in Ukraine right now. I don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow. There’s no one who sacrificed more for my career than them. I want to dedicate this small trophy to them.” 

Boulter has won two WTA titles so far in her career. Her first triumph was at the Nottingham Open last year. 

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