Madrid Open Preview: History Beckons As Alexander Zverev Faces Thiem In The Men's Final - UBITENNIS
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Madrid Open Preview: History Beckons As Alexander Zverev Faces Thiem In The Men’s Final

The two will lock horns for the sixth time on Sunday in what will be a historic occasion for both players.

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Alexander Zverev (zimbio.com)

In a big upset, Spaniard Rafael Nadal is not present for Sunday’s final in Madrid. Instead, we have two of the top candidates to be the next player to breakthrough and win their first major title.

 

Alexander Zverev vs. Dominic Thiem

For 21-year-old Zverev, this is his fourth career Masters 1000 final. All of these have come within the past year, and he already has two Masters titles, including one on clay in Rome last year. That success has brought him to a career-high number three in the world. A win here may help him to finally translate that success over to the majors. He is yet to advance further than the fourth round at a Grand Slam event, though it seems only a matter of time (and not much time at that) before that changes. Zverev is yet to drop a set this week, and he’s on an eight-match winning streak after taking the title last week in Munich.

For 24-year-old Thiem, this is his second career Masters 1000 final. His only previous appearance came last year at this same event, where he lost in two tight sets to Nadal. The Austrian has been the second best clay court player over the past few years. He’s a two-time French Open semifinalist, and owns multiple clay victories over not only Nadal but also Novak Djokovic. Following his defeat of Nadal earlier this week, he seems like the player with the best chance to compete with Rafa at Roland Garros. Thiem toughed out two very tight matches in his first two rounds this week, but played stellar tennis against both Nadal and Kevin Anderson.

Thiem owns a 4-1 record against Zverev, including all three times they’ve played on clay. They haven’t played in over a year, and Zverev is a much more complete player today. None of their previous matches have been straight sets, so this has the potential to be a highly competitive and compelling final. This is a tough one to call, as both come into this final playing with a lot of confidence. If Thiem is hitting his shots on Sunday as well as did the past two days, his big game could overwhelm and frustrate Zverev. Dominic will be hungry to win his first title at this level, especially against his younger opponent who already has two. His past success against Zverev, especially on clay, should prove valuable and propel him to the biggest title of his career.

Five things to know about the men’s final

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  1. Zverev is bidding to become only the fifth active player to win three tour titles at Masters level. Joining Rafael Nadal (31), Novak Djokovic (30), Roger Federer (27) and Andy Murray (14).
  2. Should Thiem win, he would become the First Austrian to win a Masters title since Thomas Muster at the 1997 Miami Open.
  3. So far in the Madrid tournament, Thiem has dropped his serve seven times. Zverev is yet to be broken, winning all 38 of his service games. On the other hand, Thiem has hit more aces at 19-14.
  4. Heading into the final, both players have won 25 matches on the tour so far this season. Thiem has a win-loss record of 25-6 (16-3 on the clay). Meanwhile, Zverev’s stands at 25-7 (12-2 on clay).
  5. Whoever wins will become the first player from their country to win the Madrid trophy (male or female).

The head-to-head record

2016 Munich (Germany on clay) – Thiem won 4-6 6-2 6-3
2016 Nice (France on clay) – Thiem won 6-4 3-6 6-0
2016 Roland Garros (France on clay) – Thiem won 6-7(4) 6-3 6-3 6-3
2016 Beijing (China on hardcourt) – Zverev won 4-6 6-1 6-3
2017 Rotterdam (Netherlands on hardcourt) – Thiem won 3-6 6-3 6-4
Zverev leads 4-1

The men’s final will take place on Sunday at 18:30 local time (GMT+1).

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Robin Soderling: “People always remember when I beat Nadal at Roland Garros. It was a great feeling”

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Former Swedish player Robin Soderling remembered the worst period of his life during an interview with Behind the Raquet website. Soderling was diagnosed with mononucleosis, an illness that forced him to miss the US Open at the last minute. He decided to take more time out of tennis and withdrew for the rest of the season and from the 2012 Australian Open.

 

Soderling has not played a tour level match since he won the 2011 Swedish Open in July 2011. He was at the peak of his career and was ranked world number 5 at the time. At the age of 26 he was ranked inside the top 5 for more than 50 consecutive weeks.

Soderling spoke to Noah Rubin for Behind the Raquet telling how he lived through this period and how hard was to go from beating Nadal at Roland Garros to the difficult times, when he was not able to get out of bed.

“It was extremely difficult to make the decision to retire. I played my last match when I was 27 years old. In my head I had many more years left in tennis. I was at the peak of my tennis career when I got sick with mononucleosis, which was around two years before I retired. For a long time before I was diagnosed I was stressed, tired and rundown. Through this all I kept playing, I became sick all the time because my immune system was weak, but I kept pushing. Deep down in my mind I knew something was wrong. Even though I was playing well, it was all up and down, until I got mononucleosis. I feel like the combination of my bad immune system and seriously overtraining affected me. Doctors said I first got it in Indian Wells in 2011. It was not too bad at the beginning but got worse after my last tournament in Bastad. I did not leave my house for six months. After about a year I would begin to feel better. I would train a little, up the intensity, and then the symptoms would come back. I would get so tired and the fever would come back. When I made the decision I could finally accept it and figure out how to live my life again. It was a weird feeling during my first six months after my career because I did not care about tennis. Later, I started to watch tennis on TV and saw the players I was playing against then. I started to want to be on the track again, competing. After so long, It already felt like too much time had passed to come back and did not have the energy to do it either. There are times when I blame myself, when I wish I could take a step back and not take things so seriously. I lived in that bubble where everything was tennis. Now I see it only as a sport. My problem was that I did not have that on/off button. I could not change my mindset between games, practice sessions, and time off the track. There are no times out of season in tennis. It is a sport that does not allow you to disconnect and even on vacation you have to take care of your body”.

Soderling played the best match of his career on 31 May 2009, when he upset the “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros 2009. Only Novak Djokovic managed to repeat this feat in 2015.

“People always remember when I beat Nadal at Roland Garros 2009. It was a great feeling. I don’t think anyone in the world expected me to win that match. It was strange, because right after the match, I realized it wasn’t the final. I wanted to be focused because if you relax, you easily lose a match. People always bring up when I beat Rafael Nadal at the 2009 French Open. I did not want to be that guy to beat Rafa but then lose in the finals. I just wanted to stay focused because if you relax even a little bit you lose a match, like a Grand Slam final, easily. At the time I did not realize how big of an accomplishment it was. I remember getting back to the locker room and having about 350 text messages. It kind of started to hit me that this was a big thing. I appreciate all the support I got that day and still get for winning that match but the bigger story is Nadal. We will never see someone winning 12 Roland Garros titles again”.

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Mats Wilander: “Novak Djokovic is the biggest loser during the interruption due to the coronavirus pandemic”

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Former Swedish tennis legend Mats Wilander talked about the consequences of the coronavirus on tennis during an interview to the French sports newspaper L’Equipe. Wilander recognized who are the possible winners and losers of the coronavirus pandemic that is plaguing the entire world.

 

Wilander said that Novak Djokovic is the biggest loser in the interruption. The 17-time Grand Slam champion won the first edition of the ATP Cup, his eighth title at the Australian Open against Dominic Thiem and the ATP 500 title in Dubai beating Stefanos Tsitsipas.

“It’s a shame that is everything in the world and also in tennis. I miss live tennis. It would have been the most important period of the season with Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. We are missing the best period of the season. It’s terrible for all tennis fans. Players may have the chance to train, but the biggest challenge is to find the motivation, because they don’t know exactly what they are training for. It’s like the 2018 Wimbledon semifinal between Anderson and Isner. We don’t know when this situation will end”.

The season has been suspended until 13th July and there is a big question mark over the planned resumption next summer. Even top 10 players cannot train on the tennis court, because there are exit restrictions in large parts of the world.

“Djokovic had not lost a game this season and only the coronavirus has been able to curb his momentum. The Serb is the biggest loser during the interruption. I think that other possibly affected players have also been the most outstanding tennis players of the Next Gen, since they were facing a great opportunity to approach the big three and be able to fight them in some Grand Slam. I was confident that the young promises were going to have a great year. I thought 2020 was going to be the year of the youth. They have progressed a lot in training and tennis players like Shapovalov, Tsitsipas and Auger Aliassime will grow playing the maximum number of matches. When you are young, training does not interest you much. All you want is to spend almost four hours on a tennis court and fight for victories against better tennis players than you”.

 Wilander thinks that few tennis players are the beneficiaries of the long break.

“I think the only players who can take positive things out of this situation are those who ended up injured after the Australian Open. When all this returns to normal, everyone will start from scratch, but right now it is impossible to know when it will be. Many players are preparing physically at home to not lose their physical shape, but they know that it is very difficult for them to play again this season. The most complicated thing is to stay motivated”.

Fans will miss the opportunity to see Roger Federer and Serena Williams, who are near the end of their careers. After the cancellation of the grass season, Federer announced that he will play in Halle and Wimbledon in 2021, but it remains to be seen how many months the Swiss Maestro will be able to play in these uncertain times.

“Many people will think that young players have been the most affected because they lose the opportunity to play against the best players on the circuit, but I have another theory. Fans are also the losers. The pandemic has caused us to miss the opportunity to see Federer and Williams on the track since for them time is not their friend, knowing that they are almost at the end of the careers.”

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Stefanos Tsitsipas: “I will miss Wimbledon and I can’t wait to 2021”

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Stefanos Tsitsipas said that the Wimbledon cancellation news was just an April fool after organizers of the famous British tournament called off their Grand Slam event due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and public health concerns.

 

Tsitsipas made his debut at Wimbledon in 2017 and reached the fourth round in 2018. He lost to Stefano Travaglia in the opening round at Wimbledon last year, but he bounced back winning the ATP Finals in London.

This year Tsitsipas won the Marseille title for the second consecutive year and lost the Dubai final against Novak Djokovic in Dubai. He lost to Milos Raonic in the third round at the Australian Open. At the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup in Australia he beat Alexander Zverev and lost to Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgios.

Tsitsipas was the first Greek player to break into the top 5 and the first player from his country to reach a Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open in 2019. Last year he scored the biggest win of his career against Novak Djokovic in Shanghai and won three titles in Marseille and Estoril. He finished runner-up to Roger Federer in Dubai and to Dominic Thiem in Beijing.

“I went to bed thinking this was all a bad April fools joke but I woke up today to find that Wimbledon is actually cancelled. I will miss this special event and I can’t wait to 2021. Stay home. Stay sane”, wrote Tsitsipas in a Twitter post.

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