Novak Djokovic fights back from bagel to reach Rome quarters - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic fights back from bagel to reach Rome quarters

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Novak Djokovic has set up a blockbuster quarter final encounter with Rafa Nadal at the Rome Open but the Serbian had to do it the hard way after overcoming Thomaz Bellucci 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 39 minutes.

 

It’s not every day that you see the world number one (whoever it may be) on the receiving end of a bagel but Djokovic posted what was probably his worst set of tennis in over a year, with plenty of unforced errors and no spark to his game. Albeit, credit must also be given to Bellucci who was tremendously solid from the back of the court and granted his opponent no lifelines. In fact, Djokovic only recorded three points in the opening three games. There were a few games where the stupefied Serb made inroads and looked like he would break his duck but Bellucci, who looked up for a long and draining mental battle, dashed those hopes and remarkably rounded off the first set 6-0 to the astonishment of Campo Centrale.

When Djokovic finally won his first game of the clash he raised his arms to the air and it definitely marked a turning point. He seamingly gor rid of the rust and started to hit the winners he’s always hit and erradicate his unforced errors. This forced Bellucci into making more mistakes and Djokovic finally broke the Brazilian in the sixth game and steered towards a 6-3 second set win.

It may have been one set all but the unanimous feeling was that the match was all but over. Djokovic broke Bellucci in the opening game and felt in control of every rally. Despite a couple of hiccups, notably at 3-2 on serve, Djokovic didn’t have much trouble closing out the deciding set 6-2 and will now have to recover quickly to take on Rafa Nadal, in what will be a huge match to draw many conclusions for the upcoming French Open. A huge mental battle which could hold a huge influence on proceedings in Paris in a couple of weeks time

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Dominic Thiem Hopes To Emulate Coach Massu In 2021

The Austrian has set his sights of claiming an Olympic medal despite previously saying he was not a fan of the event.

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World No.3 Dominic Thiem has confirmed that he is targeting glory at the Olympic Games next year after previously casting doubts over playing at the event.

 

The US Open champion confirmed on his website that he will be playing at the Games because the event ‘fits into his schedule’ and he wants to experience what his coach went through. Mentor Nicolas Massu is a two-time Olympic champion after winning both the singles and doubles titles at the 2004 Athens Games. The 41-year-old is the first and only athlete from Chile to have won multiple gold medals.

“I am going to participate at the Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo starting on July 23! I have been thinking about it for a longer period of time, and next year it eventually fits into my tournament schedule,” Thiem wrote on his personal website.
“I am looking forward to it to compete for a medal. My coach Nicolas Massu won two gold medals in Athens in 2004, he told me about the incredibly wonderful emotions. I want to feel these kind of emotions myself. For an athlete the atmosphere at the Olympics must be unique, I want to soak it all up.”

Thiem’s commitment is a big U-turn compared to that of the past. Prior to the 2016 Rio Olympics, which he didn’t play in, he said that the Olympics were only important if you win a medal. During the same interview he added that he would rather play on the ATP Tour and in the Davis Cup.

“I’m not a big fan of the Olympic Games. The ATP calendar is a bit complex due to the Olympic event,” he told TennisNet in 2015.

The Tokyo Games were meant to take place earlier this summer, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tennis tournament is set to be held at the Ariake Coliseum which usually hosts the Pan Pacific Open. Thiem will be bidding to become the first player from his country to win a medal in the Open Era. The only other Austrian to have won a medal at the Games was Felix Pipes who won a silver in the doubles competition back in 1912.

Besides his Olympic ambitions for 2021, Thiem has also confirmed that he will be playing in the Laver Cup. A team event that features Team Europe takes on the rest of the world. The competition is officially part of the ATP calendar but offers no ranking points.

“On the one hand everybody is completely serious about it, everybody wants to win this trophy – on the other hand we have so much fun, the best tennis players present themselves as friends and cheer for each other,” he commented about the three-day competition.

The Laver Cup will take place after the Olympics in September.

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It Isn’t Just Football Who Are Mourning The Loss Of Diego Maradona

The world of football has lost one of its icons and tennis has lost a loyal fan.

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Diego Maradona (image via Sky Sports Tennis Twitter)

It was during the 2013 Dubai Tennis Championships when Diego Armando Maradona stated that tennis was his second favourite sport after his beloved football.

 

The Argentinian sporting icon was a passionate and enthusiastic follower for more than 30 years until his death on Wednesday due to a heart attack. Regularly he would be seen watching matches in crowds at various tournaments. One of the earliest anecdotes took place in 1984 when he turned up to watch the French Open final and cheered on John McEnroe, who was taking on Ivan Lendl. Swiss journalist Rene Stauffer was sitting next to him and remembers the iconic figure ‘cheering like crazy.

Of course it was his fellow countrymen and women who Maradona was most interested in supporting. One in particular was Juan Martin del Potro who won the 2009 US Open. He once joked ‘Next week I’ll be the one training del Potro myself. I will ask Franco Davin to step aside and Diego will train del Potro.‘ He appeared to have a great amount of respect for the former world No.3 who is one of thousands mourning his death.

I feel that you return to the place that belongs to you, HEAVEN. For me you will never die. Rest in peace,” Del Potro wrote on Twitter.

After retiring from professional football in 1997 Maradona encountered his own personal demons as he battled with health issues and drug addiction. Nevertheless, his passion for sport never suffered. Attending various Davis Cup ties, he was usually seen shouting and cheering for his countrymen. He even had his own VIP box sporting his country’s flag with the words ‘The Maradona family is here‘ during the 2017 final between Argentina and Croatia.

Despite his calibre, Maradona said that he was star struck to meet some of tennis’ top names. One of those was former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki who got talking to him during the Dubai Tennis Championships seven years ago. At the time Maradona was an ambassador for the Dubai Sports Council (DSC).

“I had the pleasure to meet Caroline Wozniacki. She is one of the top players and she is very beautiful and a very nice girl,” he said. “Despite her ranking and all her achievements, she came to say hello to me, although I’m the one who wanted to get up and go and greet her.”

As for the three giants of men’s tennis, Maradona cheered them on and spoke to them on numerous occasions. Wheather that was in person or via video message.

For Rafael Nadal this year marks the 10th anniversary of when the two spoke with each other at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. When the news broke of Maradona’s death he was one of the first to pay tribute.

“One of the greatest sportsmen in history, Diego Maradona, has left us. What he did in football will remain. My deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family, the world of football, and to all of Argentina.” He wrote on social media.

It was in the same tournament as Nadal when Novak Djokovic once said ‘to have him as a supporter is an incredible honour and a pleasure.‘ A few months on from that, the two briefly spent time together in Abu Dubai as the Serbian conducted his off-season training.

One of Maradona’s final interactions with tennis before his death took place last year when Roger Federer played an exhibition match in Buenos Aires. In a video message broadcasted on the screens of the stadium he said to the Swiss ‘you were, you are and will be the greatest. There’s no other like you.‘ Words that brought tears to the eye of the 20-time Grand Slam champion. Originally the two had planned to meet in person but were unable to due to Maradona’s health.

It was just three weeks ago when world No.9 Diego Schwartzman spoke out about the influence the footballing great has had on his country. The two never met in person but like many others, he was an idol for the tennis star.

“He’s been a sports idol since I was a kid. I’ve seen it on YouTube, not only, I’ve seen it on TV too. I’ve never seen him for real. He’s one of my soccer idols and I love soccer.” Schwartzman said.
“Wherever we go, everyone knows Argentina thanks to Maradona! This is the reason why I have the first name, Diego.”

Argentina has declared three days of national mourning following Maradona’s death.

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Uncle Toni Hoping 2021 Will Be ‘Difficult But Exciting’ For Rafael Nadal

The 59-year-old gives his verdict on Nadal’s 2020 season.

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The man who introduced Rafael Nadal to tennis as a child believes this year has been largely positive for the Spaniard despite his ATP Finals defeat.

 

Toni Nadal, who is the uncle and former coach of the 20-time Grand Slam champion, has hailed Nadal’s performance in an article written for El Pais. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 34-year-old has won two titles and 27 matches on the ATP Tour this season. The standout achievement took place at his beloved French Open where he lifted the trophy for an historic 13th time. Nadal has earned $3,856,127 in prize money which is the third highest in men’s tennis after Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.

“When it comes to taking stock of this strange year, the assessment has to be clearly positive,” Toni said. “Raising the French Open for the 13th time amply justifies this appreciation. But, in addition, the game exhibited both at Roland Garros and in London makes me hope to see him face a difficult but exciting season in 2021, in which he will once again have exciting opportunities.”

There was also disappointment for Nadal towards the end of the season. At the Paris Masters he fell in the semi-finals to Alexander Zverev. A couple weeks later at the prestigious ATP Finals he crashed out in the semi-final stage once again but this time it was to Daniil Medvedev, who went on to win the title. Nadal is yet to win either of these two tournaments in his career.

Reflecting on Nadal’s latest loss to Medvedev, Toni described it as a ‘great opportunity that slipped away.’ The world No.2 led by a set and even had a chance to serve the match out before losing 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. Prior to the clash, Nadal had won 173 out of 175 matches after claiming the opener.

“In the second half of this first set, Rafael made the right decision to change strategy and stopped playing his usual game to cut mostly his backhand and play more in the centre of the court. The intention was, clearly, to neutralize the attack of his rival, who returned insufferable blows if the track was opened,” his former mentor reflected.
“This change took effect and my nephew managed to score the first set and advance to what seemed like a definite 5-4 with serve in the second.’
“But, obviously, the script was not fulfilled that way. After not being able to score that conclusive game, he lost the set in the tie break and then, judging by the impression he gave me, the fatigue he suffered somewhat he was no longer able to maintain the same intensity in the rest of the match.”

Besides Nadal, Toni also took note of those outside of the Big Three who are becoming to be more prominent on the Tour. Including Dominic Thiem who won his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and was also runner-up at the Australian Open. Thiem could challenge Nadal for the number two spot next season.

“I am convinced that the step forward taken by Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas or Alexander Zverev, not to mention someone else, is now definitive,” he said. “But I am also happy that, for yet another year, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will fight to the limit of their strength to continue climbing to the podiums of the Grand Slams and the most important tournaments.”

The year-end ATP top 10

  1. Novak Djokovic SRB 12,030 points
  2. Rafael Nadal ESP 9,850 points
  3. Dominic Thiem AUT 9,125 points
  4. Daniil Medvedev RUS 8,470 points
  5. Roger Federer SWI 6,630 points
  6. Stefanos Tsitsipas GRE 5,925 points
  7. Alexander Zverev GER 5,525 points
  8. Andrey Rublev RUS 4,119 points
  9. Diego Schwartzman ARG 3,455 points
  10. Mateo Berrettini ITA 3,075 points

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