Australian Open Preview: Rafael Nadal v Alexander Zverev - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Preview: Rafael Nadal v Alexander Zverev

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Rafael Nadal (Zimbio)

Rafael Nadal (Zimbio)

Rafael Nadal will meet Alexander Zverev in the battle of the generations in tomorrow’s third round Australian Open. We are going to investigate this fascinating match-up.

 

Former world number one vs future world number one. Passion vs hunger. Grand slam winner vs future grand slam winner. This has all the credentials for one of the best matches of this year’s Australian Open. Both men have different styles of play that makes this match fascinating, the spin and agression from Nadal against the big server and grinder in Zverev. It is intriguing to see how the new generation are taking over from the legends of the game and going deep in the major events. Now that Novak Djokovic has been eliminated, it is a chance for the likes of Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem to make their way onto the big stage. Can they use youth over experience though, that is what we will find out when the German meets the 14 time grand slam champion.

Form

So far this season Rafael Nadal has reached the quarterfinals of Brisbane by beating Alexandr Dolgopolov and Mischa Zverev before losing to Milos Raonic. The Spaniard has looked in superious form so far in Melbourne, after comfortably dispatching Florian Mayer and Marcos Baghdatis. So Nadal will bring confidence going into his big clash on Rod Laver Arena tomorrow.

While Alexander Zverev started his season at the Hopman cup in Perth, he lost to Richard Gasquet in his first match before he picked up tough wins against Roger Federer and Dan Evans. So far in the Australian Open it has been a tale of two matches. In his first match he struggled against veteran Robin Haase as he fought back valiantly from 2 sets to 1 to advance. While the second match produced a sensational performance from the tall German as he convincingly beat young American Frances Tiafoe, to set up tomorrow’s big clash.

Previous Meetings

The two players have met once and it was a thrilling contest, it happened in Indian Wells where Zverev missed a shocking volley at the net to give the match to Nadal. It was a match where both players shined and a warning of what Zverev can produce. Nadal won the match 6-7(8) 6-0 7-5 and some of the highlights are below:

What did they have to say?

Rafael Nadal took the opportunity to give praise to his opponent before the match, “He has all the shots: great serve, great forehand, great backhand, everything. He’s a complete player. I need to put a rhythm very, very high to try to don’t let him play in comfortable positions. That’s what I going to try” 

While Alexander Zverev responded to Nadal’s praise, “It’s obviously great to hear from a legend like him that he thinks I can be very good and he thinks I can be good in the future, As well, I know that I still have to work very hard. I still have to, you know, improve a lot to be up there with them.”

Analysis

For Nadal it is about continuing his momentum and continue his level of play. He needs to return well and his base level of play needs to be at a high level. He needs to use psychological advantage and test Zverev just like he did in California. If he can achieve this and win the key points, he can win the match. However as we know from the Pouille match last year, he can get nervous on the key points and will need to forget about these moments.

For Zverev, it’s about serving well and keeping consistency. First serve percentage needs to be high, as this is where he can dictate play. He needs to be physically and mentally strong to compete at the highest level with Nadal. If he can use the pace of the court to his advantage then he can cause an upset similar to what Istomin caused Djokovic. He will need to get rid of those match point demons from Indian wells to be mentally prepared for tomorrow.

Prediction

As well as Zverev is playing, I think Nadal has been playing brilliant tennis at the moment and will dispatch Zverev in four sets. As you know anything is possible in tennis.

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‘He Did Everything I did, Only Better’ – Pat Rafter Names The Toughest Rival Of His Career

The two-time grand slam champion opens up about his toughest rivalry as he predicts a bleak outlook for the 2020 tennis season.

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Former world No.1 Pat Rafter has named an American tennis legend as the player who he struggled the most against throughout his professional career.

 

The 47-year-old was a star of Australian tennis during his playing days after achieving a series of milestones. His accolades include becoming the first player from his country in 28 years to reach the top of the ATP rankings in 1999 and becoming the first man to win the Rogers Cup, Cincinnati Masters and US Open within the same year. Rafter is also the last player outside of the Big Three to have won back-to-back US Open titles after triumphing in 1997 and 1998.

Despite his successes, there was one player that caused him difficulty. Rafter played Pete Sampras 16 times on the ATP Tour, but could only win four of those encounters. At one stage he lost to the 14-time grand slam champion eight times in a row.

“The toughest player I played against was definitely Pete Sampras – he did everything I did, only better.” Rafter told Eurosport.
“His record was the best so there’s no doubt about it Sampras the stand-out. I enjoyed playing Andre Agassi the most – I thought we had a really good battle, I really enjoyed playing him.”

The rivalry between the two was tense at times. Highlighted best by their encounter in the 1998 US Open semifinals. Sampras complained of a quadriceps injury following his loss to the Australian. Prompting Rafter to famously say ‘he’s becoming a bit of a crybaby.’ A few months before that comment, he admitted that his relationship with the American wasn’t solid by saying ‘We’re not the best of mates. I wouldn’t go out for a beer with him, put it that way.’

22 years on from the verbal exchange between the two, Rafter now describes it as a thing of the past. Insisting that his rival never took what he said to him ‘personally.’

“I can’t remember the exact words, but we had a run-in in Cincinnati one year – I probably told him to grow up.” He recounted.
“He cracked it when I beat him one time. But that was back in the old days, emotions were running high and don’t take it personally. It’s all good.”

No tennis in 2020

Besides reminiscing about his playing career with Eurosport, Rafter has also predicted a bleak outlook for this year’s tour. All professional tournaments have been suspended until July 13th due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time since 1945 Wimbledon has been cancelled due to the situation.

Many are now speculating as to when it will be possible for the tour to resume. The US Open is still optimistic that they can hold their tournament as scheduled later this summer. Meanwhile, the French Open is set to be played during the later part of September. However, Rafter doubts that either of those tournaments will happen.

“No, I think this (the virus) is going to be around for a long time.” Rafter commented on the chances of the 2020 season resuming. “Until they get a vaccine I can’t see how anyone is going to be playing.’
“Personally, I think it’ll be like the flu and we’ll have to get used to it.”

Potentially one solution for the tournaments would be to host matches without spectators. In order to minimise the risk of the virus spreading. An approach that has already been taken by other sports such as football. However, Wimbledon refused to consider that option this year.

“I think they could. No spectators. Sure. No ball-boys – I’d love to see the players pick up the balls themselves!” he concluded.

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‘Don’t Be Afraid’ – Nick Kyrgios Offers Support To Those Struggling During Covid-19 Pandemic

The bad boy of tennis says he will support those in need by delivering essential supplies.

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Former top 20 player Nick Kyrgios has urged members of the public to reach out to him if they require any help during the covid-19 pandemic in a social media post.

 

The two-time grand slam quarter-finalist has offered to deliver food to those who are struggling during the current crises, which has suspended the ATP and WTA Tours until at least July. It is estimated by economists that more than 500,000 people in Kyrgios’ home country of Australia will lose their jobs due to the outbreak. There have been more than one million cases of the coronavirus worldwide with many countries currently placed in a lockdown in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

‘If ANYONE is not working/not getting an income and runs out of food, or times are just tough… please don’t go to sleep with an empty stomach,’ Kyrgios wrote on Instagram.
‘Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send me a private message. I will be more than happy to share whatever I have.
‘Even just for a box of noodles, a loaf of bread or some milk. I will drop it off at your doorstep, no questions asked.’

In Australia there have been 5687 cases of Coronavirus as of Sunday which has resulted in 34 deaths. This is according to figures provided by chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy.

It is not the first time Kyrgios has offered to support those in need. Earlier this year he was an instrumental figure in helping raising money for the Australian bushfire appeal. Donating AUS$200 for every ace produced during the first month of the season and participating in a series of exhibition matches. According to 7 News, Kyrgios raised in the region of AUS$100,000 for the bushfire fund.

Kyrgios is currently ranked 40th in the world and has won six out of his nine matches played earlier this season. At the Australian Open he reached the fourth round before falling in four sets to Rafael Nadal.

 

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Diego Schwartzman On Playing The Big Three And Who He Believes Is The Best

The top-20 player pays tribute to the three tennis legends as he cast his vote in the greatest of all time debate.

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When it comes to taking on the Big Three in tennis, Diego Schwartzman is perhaps one of the best players to provide an insight into how frustrating it can be.

 

The Argentine world No.13 has played a member of the illustrious trio no less than 18 times in his career, but is yet to gain a single victory to his name. Consisting of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the big three have dominated men’s tennis in recent years. Between them, they have won the last 13 grand slams and at least one of them has featured in 58 out of the past 60 major finals. Since February 2004, Andy Murray is the only player outside of the group to have held the No.1 position.

Schwzrtman’s record against the big guns has seen him lose to Nadal nine times as well as succumbing to both Djokovic and Federer on four occasions. Nevertheless, the three-time grand slam quarter-finalist isn’t bitter as he hails their achievements in the sport.

“Against Nadal you always come in hope of giving him a fight on any day and on any surface, but you quickly realize that it is almost impossible to defeat him.” Schwartzman said during an Instagram live chat with journalist Danny Miche.
“Djokovic makes me feel that in the second game of service I no longer have lungs. It’s unbelievable.’
“Federer gives you more air (time), but you don’t seem to know how to play tennis. It’s amazing how he hits the ball.’
“The three are unbelievable, in different ways.”

There is also the ongoing debate as to who should be named the greatest of all time. Each player has their own credentials. Federer currently has the all-time lead for most grand slam titles at 20. Nadal has won more ATP tournaments on the clay than any other player in history. Meanwhile, current world No.1 Djokovic has won more prize money in the sport than any other player – male or female.

Weighing on the debate, Schwartzman has given the edge to Djokovic. Prior to the suspension of the tour due to covid-19, Djokovic started 2020 by winning 18 matches in a row. Claiming titles at the ATP Cup, Australian Open and Dubai Tennis Championships.

“At his best, Djokovic has beaten Rafael Nadal many times on the clay and Roger Federer many times on the grass. So maybe I would say that he is slightly above the other two.” He explained.
“Let’s see if you can reach the records, now it was packed and saw that pace being broken. But Djokovic knows that he has to keep the level, because if he doesn’t win he will win the other two.”

Schwartzman started the year by winning nine out of 14 matches played. His best performance of the season so far took place on home territory when he reached the final of the Cordoba Open before losing to Christian Garin.

The Big Three head-to-head

Djokovic

Nadal

Federer

Djokovic

N/A

29-26

27-23

Nadal

26-29

N/A

24-16

Federer

23-27

16-26

N/A

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