Rafael Nadal Overcomes Fernando Verdasco Test To Set Up Federer Clash - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Overcomes Fernando Verdasco Test To Set Up Federer Clash

Joshua Coase

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Rafael Nadal. Photo: zimbio.com

Rafael Nadal safely made his way through to the fourth round in Indian Wells after a hard fought 6-3, 7-5 victory over fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the heat of the day in the California desert.

 

The opening half of the first set was highly competitive but a break down on serve led to a loss of confidence for Verdasco as the first set ran away from him. Nadal squandered an early break advantage in the second set, but seven double faults in all and only managing to win three of 13 points on second serve came back to bite his opponent late on in the contest.

The two Spaniards have shared many great battles in the past and met for a 19th time, the second year in a row at this event. Nadal won that last encounter 6-0, 7-6(9), but lost to his compatriot for only the third time when they met prior to that at the Australian Open.

Both players looked more than up for the fight and started off strongly on serve, with Verdasco getting pushed to deuce once on serve being the only test for the servers in the opening six games.

Nadal raised his level in the eighth game after winning a crucial opening point following a superb inside out forehand cross court which Verdasco could not retrieve. A couple of unforced errors from the world number 29 and a scintillating backhand down the line winner from the 14-time Grand Slam champion secured a break to love and put Nadal in the driving seat.

That streak of points was part of a run which saw Nadal win 12 of the last 13 points in the set to seal it 6-3 with just over half an hour played.

It appeared as though Verdasco was fading away and struggling in the heat as the first set rather petered out, but the 33-year-old responded. After holding serve, the former top-10 player worked his way back to 30-30, earning his first real look at attempting to break Nadal’s serve. After the world number 29 went for an ambitious forehand winner, which went well long, his opponent was stung into action, holding to level at a game apiece.

After working hard to make an impact early in the set, Verdasco failed to take advantage of his game points on serve, allowing Nadal to move to break point. An untimely fourth double fault handed the fifth seed a break of serve and a significant advantage in the match.

With the lead in hand the Spanish number one threw in a surprisingly poor service game, suddenly making countless unforced errors as he dropped serve to love to relinquish the break. The mistakes continued from the former champion in the next game as the 26th seed made it eight points in a row, taking a 3-2 lead.

Nadal had to come through another test on serve in the eighth game down 15-30 and was pushed to deuce but managed to survive to keep himself in the second set. After missing an opportunity to break the Verdasco serve in the following game, the fifth seed got what he desired in game eleven after another ill-timed double fault from the 33-year-old to hand the former champion the chance to serve for the match.

Despite only winning 70% of points behind his first serve in this set compared to 94% in the first, Nadal was able to close out the match at the first time of asking and secure his 16th win over his compatriot 6-3, 7-5.

Up next for the Spaniard, a highly anticipated fourth round clash with Roger Federer, who saw off Steve Johnson 7-6(3), 7-6(4).

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Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?

Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?

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Cincinnati Open, Western and Southern Open, Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez
Photo Credit: ATP Tour Twitter

In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.

 

In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.

Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.

“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.

These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.

“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.

Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.

This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.

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Svetlana Kuznetsova upsets Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career

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Russian wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova edged top seed this year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty 6-2 6-4 in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati to reach the 42nd final of her career.

 

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova, who is now ranked world number 153, scored her third win against top 10 players this week  after beating former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova.

Barty missed her chance to regain world number 1 spot from Naomi Osaka, who was forced to retire from her quarter final.

Barty earned the first break of the match in the second game of the opening set, when Kuznetsova netted a backhand. Kuznetsova broke back in the third game with a smash winner and earned another break at 2-2 when Barty netted a backhand. Kuznetsova hit a return winner to build up a 5-2 lead. Barty asked a medical time-out to treat he right leg. Kuznetsova held serve at 15 to close out the opening set after 30 minutes.

Kuznetsova went up a break in the first game of the second set. Barty won just three points on return in the second set. Kuznetsova closed out the second set with three winners in the 10th game.

“I am really happy. I am not really an analyzing person, but on my intuition, I am doing so much better, not repeating so many of my mistakes, just playing smarter and wiser now. It’s been so many different things when I was off, so I just enjoyed time off. Honestly, I was not missing at all the travelling and all the stress when you play tournaments, but now I have missed it and I feel good. I feel joy staying here and being here. It definitely helped me to have some time off to see other things outside tennis”, said Kuznetsova.

 

Kuznetsova set up a final against Madison Keys, who beat Sofia Kenin in straight sets. The Russian 34-year-old veteran player has qualified for her first final since last year, when she beat Donna Vekic in Washington.

 

“Madison is extremely tough. When she is on fire, it is really hard to play against her. It’s going to be a difficult match-up”, said Kuznetsova.  

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David Goffin reaches his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati

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David Goffin beat Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-4 on an overcast afternoon to reach the first Masters 1000 final of his career and his 13th title match at ATP Tour level at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Goffin has dropped just one set en route to the final.

 

Goffin is returning to his best form this summer under the guidance of former Swedish player Thomas Johansson. He reached the final in Halle and his first quarter final at Wimbledon. He received a walkover after Yoshihito Nishioka was forced to withdraw from the match due to food poisoning.

The Belgian player started the match with two consecutive holds before breaking at love to open up a 4-1 lead with a backhand winner down the line.

Goffin held his next service games to seal the opening set 6-3. Gasquet earned an early break to open  2-0 lead, but Goffin won five of the next six games with two breaks. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up served out the win at love in the 10th game after 1 hour and 16 minutes, as Gasquet sent his backhand long.

Goffin reached the semifinal in Cincinnati last year, but he was forced to retire due to an arm injury.

“I am very happy. It’s a tournament I like and I have played the best tennis in the past few years. I am really happy to reach my first Masters 1000 final here. It’s a great moment for me.”

 

 

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