Rafael Nadal Inches Closer To Roger Federer’s 18 Grand Slams - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Inches Closer To Roger Federer’s 18 Grand Slams



Relying on a more complete game than when he was in his prime, Rafael Nadal is challenging Roger Federer’s all-time record of 18 Grand Slam titles. The Fab Four are expected to provide great entertainment at Wimbledon.


PARIS – At the beginning of this year’s French Open, every player in the locker room agreed that Rafael Nadal was the overwhelming favorite to win the event. That same sentiment was also shared before Sunday’s final between the Spaniard and Stan Wawrinka, despite the Swiss’ perfect record in Grand Slam finals with three victories out of three championship matches that he contested.

The bookmakers’ odds were clearly in Nadal’s favor as well: Wawrinka’s win was paid 5-to-1. The bookmakers can usually make a profit when gamblers equally bet on both players, so it was evident that they tried to discourage gamblers from putting their money on Nadal and encourage them to bet on Wawrinka instead.

After Nadal saved a break point in the third game, the match was one-way traffic. Often serving at 125 MPH, Nadal only conceded 14 points in 12 service games. Rafa showed an outstanding physical condition throughout the entire two-week tournament, dropping only 35 games in 7 matches: This means that he only lost an average of 5 games per match, which is something that hasn’t happened in almost 40 years. We must go all the way back to 1978 when Bjorn Borg lost only 32 games in order to find an equally impressive record.

Nadal’s 10 French Open titles is even more impressive than Borg’s resume. The Swede captured 6 French Opens in the 1970s and early 1980s. With Sunday’s win, Rafa climbs back to world No. 2 for the first time since October 2014.

Wawrinka electrified the French crowd with a thrilling five-set encounter against Andy Murray in the semifinals and many wondered if the aftermath of that grueling match affected his lackluster performance in the final. Looking back at the tournament’s history, very rarely a runner up managed to win fewer games than Stan in the championship match: Gottfried won only 3 games against Vilas in 1977, Federer won 4 against Nadal in 2008, Vilas won 5 against Borg in 1978, Franulovic won 6 against Kodes in 1970 as well as Pilic against Nastase in 1973 and Verkerk against Ferrero in 2003.

At the end of the day, the women’s final won by Jelena Ostapenko was more entertaining than the men’s. Nevertheless, it is certainly not Nadal’s fault if he is much better than everyone else on clay courts. Since winning his first title at Roland Garros in 2005, he lost only two matches, one against Djokovic in the quarterfinals in 2015 and the other against Soderling in the round of 16 in 2009.

Former French Open finalist and Eurosport analyst Alex Corretja said: “This is the best Nadal that we have ever seen. In the past, he used to be a more defensive player and it could take him three hours to win three sets. Today he is much more aggressive, his backhand is much deeper and stronger and his serve is much faster. When he decides to charge the net, he always ends up winning the point.”

In his post-match press conference, Nadal thanked his uncle and coach Toni: “I would have never won at Roland Garros without him. He has been helping me since I was four years old. Today I served better than in the other matches, but I am not sure if this was my best match. At the beginning, both Stan and I were extremely nervous and I missed many forehands. After the first five games, I finally settled in the match and I played very well with my backhand. I think that my best match was against Basilashvili.”

At the beginning of his career, Rafa’s game wasn’t as complete as it is now. In the past, the Spaniard used to rely on his incredible defensive skills, while today he is a more aggressive baseliner and his serve is stronger and faster. Whenever he charges the net, he rarely loses a point as his volleys are top-notch.

“Now that Nadal has 15 Grand Slam titles to his name, I am sure that he will try to surpass Roger’s record at 18. We will see an incredible fight from both legends at Wimbledon this year,” Alex Corretja explained.

If Nadal hadn’t failed to capitalize on a 3-1 lead in the fifth set against Federer in this year’s Australian Open final, the gap between the two would be only one Grand Slam title. Rafa is five years younger than Roger and, to everyone’s surprise, he doesn’t seem weary at all: In the final against Wawrinka, he retrieved a few balls that seemed almost impossible to reach. Last year Nadal skipped Wimbledon due to one of his many injuries and this year he seems determined to turn his misfortune around despite being a little apprehensive: “I hope that my knee won’t cause me any problems on grass. The low bounces usually require some extreme knee bending. I reached five Wimbledon finals in my career and I feel that if I emerge unscathed from the first couple of rounds, I will have the opportunity to do really well this year.”

Nadal doesn’t seem particularly worried about equalling Roger’s record of 18 Grand Slams. He is also not obsessed by the No. 1 ranking: “If I keep posting good results, my ranking will certainly improve. We will see what happens in the second half of the season.”

The last time that Roger won the Australian Open and Rafa captured the French Open was in 2010. 7 years later with Roger at 36 years of age and Rafa at 31, the two “aliens” are even better and stronger than they used to be. Despite the loss, Wawrinka will be the new world No. 3, while Djokovic will slip to No. 4 for the first time since 2009.

With Roger, back in action during the grass court season, the Fab Four will certainly provide great entertainment. Hopefully none of them will have to face any tricky opponents in the early rounds at Wimbledon: If they all make it through to the second week, I am sure that we will have the opportunity to see a few epic matches.

I am not equally sure that the women’s tournament will be as fascinating, but it will be interesting to see whether Jelena Ostapenko can confirm what she did in Paris or she is only a one-hit wonder. The Latvian won the junior event at Wimbledon a few years ago, so she has the game to play well on grass.

(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com )

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Iga Swiatek’s Ultimate Reflection: From Rome Heartbreak To Breakthrough Triumph

Iga Swiatek ultimate reflection has taught us the physiological demands of being an athlete.



Iga Swiatek’s life has changed over the last few years and now the world number one reflects on the defeat that defined the success that followed over the last few years.


Picture the scene. It was the 15th of September, 2020. The world was continuing to go through a traumatic time with the COVID-19 Pandemic six months in and tennis had just restarted a few months earlier in America.

A young 19 year-old called Iga Swiatek had just burst onto the scene having dominated the ITF tour and also conquered Grand Slam juniors. The Pole had won Roland Garros doubles with Caty McNally and followed that up by winning Wimbledon in singles.

Swiatek’s transition to the main tour was taken to like a duck to water as she reached her first final in Lugano in 2019 in April. That was followed by a decent showing at Roland Garros, reaching the last 16 before being demolished by former champion Simona Halep.

However at a young age, Swiatek had showed she can compete with the very best and more success was predicted for the Pole in the future.

Although nobody would predict was about to follow over the next few years with Swiatek eventually winning two Roland Garros titles and becoming one of the most dominant world number one’s in recent history.

Before we get to tennis domination, Swiatek had to go through what every athlete has to go to and that’s defeat.

It was in the Italian capital right before Swiatek’s first Grand Slam title in 2020 that the Pole suffered a massive setback as she would lose the most significant match in her career.

On the 15th of September 2020, Iga Swiatek went out in the first round to Arantxa Rus 7-6(5) 6-3.

A shocking defeat for Swiatek, who had high expectations for Rome and was looking to build some last minute momentum before her favourite Grand Slam of the year.

It was a career defining defeat for Swiatek though as she would win Roland Garros a few weeks later, claiming her first of three Grand Slam singles titles so far.

Three years later, Swiatek returned to Rome as the world number one and as defending champion ahead of her second Roland Garros title defence coming up in Paris.

In the Italian capital, Swiatek gave the ultimate reflection of that defeat to Rus that changed her career:

“Well, it wasn’t easy honestly. It was pretty tricky part of my career. I mean, I just started, but career,” Swiatek reflected on after her 6-0 6-0 demolition of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“Well, this match, I remember it like a pretty traumatic one. She played, like, high balls. It really worked here on this slow surface. I couldn’t manage that properly. I was making a lot of mistakes. I didn’t feel really well.

“Then I remember we had some serious talks with the team on what to change and how to, like, reset, what I should do to feel a little bit better. I came home to practice, and that period of time wasn’t, like, easy at all. I also probably had some expectations because it was clay and I knew that I can do better. Yeah, it was really, really hard.

“Even when I came on Roland Garros, I remember just being on the Jean Bouin before the tournament, practicing there. I literally had the talk with Daria if it makes sense to continue everything because I felt so bad. I felt like, I don’t know, my expectations were just pretty high. I felt really bad on court. Always tense and stressed, even when I was practicing.

“I was able to kind of just really, really reset and let it go. I remember I was practicing I think with Kiki Mladenovic. We made a bet, me and Daria, if I’m finally going to have one practice that is going to be without any drama. I don’t remember what’s bet was for, but I remember it was about not having drama on practice, just playing one practice that is going to be calmer than most of my practices, but this is the goal.

“Since then, I managed on this tournament to kind of let everything go. Honestly, when I played my first rounds in Roland Garros 2020, I thought I played so bad that I can’t go lower, so I’m just going to play and see how it goes. Then I won couple of matches. I was like, Okay, what’s going on? Why am I suddenly winning?

“I managed to keep that till the end of the tournament. That’s why my win last year on Roland Garros felt much more special, because I felt like I’m in the right place. In 2020 it all felt like it’s like a big coincidence that I’m even here in the final of Roland Garros, for example. It was a tough time for me.

“Looking overall, I wouldn’t say that my 2020 season was good. I would say I only played well on Roland Garros. I don’t even know why, so… I’m pretty happy that I, like, worked through that experience and actually understood that lowering expectations, just letting everything go, was honestly the key. I tried to repeat that throughout all these years.”

Swiatek’s answer to a question about a defeat that defined her career shows her maturity and world-class talent on and off the court.

A teenager to identify her vulnerabilities and weaknesses is not easy let alone bringing people in to work on solutions.

Swiatek’s Roland Garros victory in 2020 was the start of a few years of success but almost ended in dramatic fashion having gone through stress throughout the tournament.

However it was a blessing in disguise as the Pole was able to identify long-term solutions for problems that relate to stress for the future as well as creating an environment that proves that she can still win the big tournaments.

Now Swiatek is stronger mentally than she ever has been, who knows if she’ll win a fourth Grand Slam title in Paris this year but the formula has been set for future success.

Swiatek’s ultimate reflection has taught us that the Pole is well on course to dominate the sport and create a legacy for many other young athletes on how to diagnose psychological problems.

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The sorrows of the young Sinner



How strong is Jannik Sinner really? How the renaissance of Italian tennis deflated in Rome…


By Ubaldo Scanagatta

What could have been a memorable fortnight in Rome, despite some questionable scheduling and court quality, was hampered not only by the dire weather but also by the Italian players, who didn’t live up to the expectations. For the first time since 2019 no Italian, man or woman, featured in the quarterfinals. 

Jannik Sinner had reached the quarter finals one year ago, where he was defeated by Tsitsipas (76 62). In 2021 Lorenzo Sonego had an outstanding run to the semifinals, putting away Thiem and Rublev, and was only halted by Djokovic. Matteo Berrettini made it to the quarterfinals in 2020, where he lost to Ruud. 

Have we been overly trumpeting a Renaissance of Italian tennis in these years?

If we delve into the matter, we cannot really blame Matteo Berrettini for missing Internazionali BNL d’Italia two times in a row because of an endless string of injuries, neither can we criticize Lorenzo Sonego and Lorenzo Musetti for losing in straight sets against Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 5 in the world and one of the best clay specialists, a two-time winner in Montecarlo, finalist in Roland Garros 2021 and Rome 2022. And Marco Cecchinato, while brushing away Bautista Agut, flashed glimmers of his heyday, namely 2018-19 when he reached the semifinals in Paris and a peak ranking at No.16.

Sonego even had two setpoints in the second set, which he didn’t play so brilliantly. Musetti had snatched a break in the second set but let the Greek back in before fatally dropping serve in the 12th game, just like in the first set. When the points get tight, the gap between the top players and the others suddenly widens.

There is no doubt that the great disappointment came when Jannik Sinner unexpectedly lost to Francisco Cerundolo. Throughout his young career the Argentinian had already beaten three top ten players (Ruud, Rublev and Auger-Aliassime) and is a tough hurdle to clear on clay, but the way he disposed of Sinner in the last two sets with a double 62 was discomforting.    

A great disappointment because expectations were immense, considering that in the three Masters 1000 he played this year he had reached one final (Miami) and two semifinals (Indian Wells and Montecarlo).

 Djokovic and Alcaraz, were the first two favourites for the title. But Sinner was rated as a third pick. And once Alcaraz and Djokovic were most unexpectedly ousted from the tournament he appeared as a likely winner. Also because Tsitispas hadn’t got off to brilliant start of clay season; Ruud had been struggling even more and Medvedev had never won a match in this previous four participations in Rome. 

So is Sinner really as strong as here in Italy we say he is? Only Einstein could answer: it’s all relative.

Of course he’s a strong player. And it’s likely he’s going to stay in the top 10 for a long time. Much longer than Panatta, Barazzutti and Fognini did. Probably also than Berrettini, who has already been in the top ten longer than the three I mentioned, though helped by  favourable circumstances, like the frozen rankings due to Covid.

How strong is he? Well, it depends on who we compare him with. If we look at his birth certificate, we cannot but think of Carlitos Alcaraz and Holger Rune.

Well, perhaps we have a little exaggerated, spurred by patriotism and craving for a true Italian champion, who has been missing since Panatta. Because the results achieved by Alcaraz, a Major and 4 Masters 1000, as well as No. 1 of the ATP ranking are quite different. It’s true that Jannik has beaten him on 3 occasions out of 6, at Wimbledon, Umag and Miami, not to mention the epic match at the US Open when he lost in 5 sets after having a match point. But this simply means that Alcaraz suffers his game, his powerful hitting from the baseline. In this sense there’s not such a huge gap, but many other aspects have to be taken into account.

Which are Jannik’s limits, compared with the current No. 1 in the world? Alcaraz is a much more complete player in terms of touch and finesse, natural gameplay fluidity, explosiveness of shots, physical strength, athleticism and variety of recovery skills and, therefore, unpredictability, tactical ductility, from serve and volley which he sometimes executes persistently, as he did against Medvedev, never looking like a fish out of water at the net) to marathon runner resilience. He can mix up powerful serves and kick serves, continuously varying angles and spin. His dropshots are completely natural. Jannik’s tennis, instead, often gives the impression of being robotic, even though he has made great progress in the last year.         

I have often said that Jannik Sinner resembles Ivan Lendl, because Ivan’s philosophy was centred on work, work, and work, but he definitely wasn’t endowed with the same natural talent as John McEnroe. Yet he won more than McEnroe and this must be the hope, the goal of Sinner and his team.

Rune is a much more natural talent than Jannik. And it’s not only his mentor who says this.  He’s more complete, he serves better, he lands drop shots with greater ease, he can alternate powerful groundstrokes and changes of pace…like Big Cat Mecir. He plays a clever tennis, instinctive at times, but also well-reasoned.

He has already won a Masters 1000, and he’s ahead of Jannik. He’s got a big personality, though sometimes he comes up with unpleasant behaviour on court. He quite reminds me of McEnroe. People just would wait for Mac to meltdown. It will be the same with Rune. The way he put away Djokovic, in spite of the match interruption due to rain which probably cost him the second set, proves his mental qualities. He had displayed the same qualities when he beat Sinner in Montecarlo.

He has achieved goals which Jannik has just got close to. Jannik seems to be often hampered by injuries. He’s not a natural tennis player, he’s not a natural athlete. But his desire to succeed is so impressive that he will overcome these shortcomings.

Alcaraz lost to Marozsan, but before losing he tried everything. He snatched a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak of the second set, which he ended up losing 7-4, because he too is young and can suddenly have lapses. But he battled away and tried to change tactics, whereas Jannik seemed flat and just gave in, without finding the strength to react and fight back.

Sinner is young too, and sooner or later he’s going to get through these situations. But he has to find his way. Many are the features of his game he has to work on: his serve, his volleys. His ultimate breakthrough is still to come.      

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye  

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The Madrid Open Men’s Final Was Three Sets Of Sheer Excitement



Image via https://twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen

Winning is the ultimate key for Carlos Alcaraz or any tennis player.


Three sets in a non-major match just make winning more exciting for everyone other than the loser, even though Jan-Lennard Struff can take solace this time. After all, he was just a lowly “Lucky Loser.”

Struff actually took Alcaraz out of his game all the way until the Spanish 20-year-old finally came up with back-to-back love service games to secure a long 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory on Sunday in Madrid.


It was only then that Alcaraz could breathe easily against Struff’s amazing power and ability to win key points at the net.

Struff actually out-Alcarazed his foe until the end appeared to be in sight. The big German seemed to have an answer for everything Alcaraz could come up with until those last two service holds by the newest adult member of tennis greatness.

Alcaraz simply showed the packed house his true greatness and will to win. The young man was the true gem in the Madrid ATP Masters 1000 event.


Alcaraz appeared to do it all with a broad smile on his young face. Three sets just made it more exciting for everyone other than the loser.

Alcaraz seems to enjoy the extra practice time when he needs it. And he needed it to turn back a 33-year-old opponent who played his heart out until the end.

He was outhit and outplayed, but when it came time to end things, Alcaraz was ready for the challenge.


Struff didn’t do anything really wrong. Alcaraz just did what he does best. Win.

The usual one-sided wins by Alcaraz, of course, are supreme fun for his growing number of fans. But at times like Sunday, Alcaraz appears to need to keep the pressure on until the clutch time comes. Otherwise, the fans might start celebrating too early.

After all, they already are in Rafa Heaven. What are the fans supposed to do if their two greats, Alcaraz and Rafa Nadal, have a showdown in Paris?

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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