Rafael Nadal Wary Of Tough Times Ahead In Madrid Despite Surge In Form - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Wary Of Tough Times Ahead In Madrid Despite Surge In Form

The 10-time French Open champion believes staying grounded is a key factor behind his success.

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MADRID: A winning streak of 12 matches has failed to ease Rafael Nadal’s apprehensions about his bid to win this year’s Madrid Open.

The world No.1 enters the tournament as the leader of the pack. Fresh off of winning back-to-back titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, the Spaniard hasn’t dropped a set on the clay since last May. The figures suggest that Nadal’s victory at the Caja Magica this week is a certainty, but he himself is taking nothing for granted.

“In Barcelona I played very well in totally different conditions. Here it’s completely different.” Nadal said on Monday. “In Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, you have the feeling that you are in control of the situation. Here, it’s different. It’s difficult to have the same feelings as in Barcelona and Monte-Carlo, especially the first days.
“It takes you time to adapt to how the ball bounces and flies. It’s not under control like the other two tournaments. Everything is a little bit more difficult.”

Madrid is located 450 meters above sea level. The high altitude means that the ball travels quicker during matches. Favoring the more aggressive and hard-hitting players. Nevertheless, Nadal has claimed the title five times since 2009.

“I have been training on the outer courts. The feeling is that the ball flies faster than other courts. I have a feeling these courts are faster.” He commented about his preparations for Madrid.

The 31-year-old has established himself as the king of clay in recent years. To date he is the most successful ATP player on the surface in the Open Era with a total of 55 titles to his name. At the French Open he is the first and only male player to win the same grand slam 10 or more times.

It could be argued that part of Nadal’s success is his ability to stay grounded. He could be forgiven to believe that he is invincible on the clay this season given his record. Although previous experience of injury and rivalry with other members of the ‘big four’ reminds him that nothing is guaranteed.

“I don’t think that I am superior to the other players. Maybe some tournaments have been better than others, but that doesn’t guarantee that in the future I’m going to be better than my opponents.”

Nadal will get his campaign under way in the second round against either Gael Monfils or Nikoloz Basilashvili. Both of whom he leads in their head-to-head. Against Monfils, Nadal is cautious over the threat the Frenchman poses despite winning 17 out of 29 matches against him.

“Gael is a tough opponent for everybody. He’s a player with a lot of talent, with a lot of potential. He’s a tough opponent.” He commented on Monfils. “Let’s see what’s going on in the first round between him and Basilashvili. Both will be a tough one. Gael always is a challenge.”

Since the birth of the tournament in 2002, Nadal is one of only two Spanish players to have won the trophy. The other was Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2003.

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

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

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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