Rafael Nadal Creates History With 11th French Open Title - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Creates History With 11th French Open Title

The king of clay has continued his love affair with Roland Garros by winning his 17th grand slam title at the age of 32.

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World No.1 Rafael Nadal has become the first man in history to win the same grand slam title 11 times after defeating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, in the final of the French Open.

The 32-year-old, who has only ever lost two matches at Roland Garros in his entire career, thwarted the threats posed by his dangerous rival. Thiem is one of only three men in history to have scored three or more wins over Nadal on the clay. On the Philippe Chatrier Court, the Spaniard held his nerve against an animated Thiem, who was not afraid to show his emotions on the court. Blasting 26 winners along with 24 unforced errors to  extend his reputation as the most decorated player in the history of the French Open.

“I’m very happy to have won the tournament. I played a very good match today.” Nadal said immediately after his win. “Well played today by Dominic. He has played a good week (at Roland Garros. I’m happy (for him) because he’s a great friend. One of the players that the tour needs.”

Gunning for his seventh win over the Austrian at Roland Garros, Nadal was tested from the onset. After getting off to a perfect start by breaking for a 2-0 lead, Thiem broke back instantly. The Austrian’s ability to combine power and slice rewarded him and earned him praise from the crowd. Nevertheless, a more composed and experienced Nadal remained on the offensive, forcing his opponent to come through some tricky service games. Including one where Thiem required 12 minutes to hold serve to level 3-3. It appeared that a tiebreaker could be on the cards, but a disastrous Thiem service game, consisting of four consecutive unforced errors, handed the world No.1 the first set. Providing an anti-climax to what was an opening set of high quality by both players.

Firmly in the driving position, Nadal gathered in momentum as the match progressed. Breaking immediately at the start of set number two following a Thiem backhand sailing beyond the baseline. The problem for the 24-year-old wasn’t his ability on the court, but maintaining it against a player as consistent as Nadal.  As for Nadal, he too felt the pressure on the court. Receiving a code violation for breaking the 25-second rule between points. Still, it failed to hinder Nadal’s progress.

Continuing to dodge the threats coming from across the court, the Spaniard extended his lead to a set and 5-2. Two games later the two-set lead was sealed with the help of another Thiem backhand error, which landed in the tramlines.

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The scare

Twice Thiem has managed to battle from two-sets down to win, but not this time. Once again another marathon service game concluded with Nadal breaking. Elevating him to just four games away from the title.

Even an unexpected issue with his finger failed to halt Nadal. Leading the third set 2-1, 30-0, he stopped play to undergo a medical assessment. The reason was due to the middle finger of his left hand, which froze in one place.

“It was a tough moment in the third set when I got cramp in my hand. I was very, very scared. But that’s sport. It was very humid today I was against a player that pushed me to my limits.” Nadal commented about the problem.

Storming towards the finish line with the help of a double break, Nadal finally sealed title No.11 at Roland Garros after 202 minutes of pulsating action. Four championship points came and went before he triumphed on his fifth after a Thiem backhand shot landed just beyond the baseline. Prompting a relieved Nadal to lift his arms in delight.

“I played my best match (of the tournament) today in the final. It is very important to play your best against Dominic. I had to be very aggressive because he is a difficult opponent.” Said the 17-time grand slam champion.
“It’s just amazing. I can’t describe my feelings because it’s not even a dream. It was impossible to think that I could win this title 11 times.”

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Thiem’s tribute

Runner-up Thiem praised his rival following their clash in Paris. The Austrian is only the second male player from his country to contest a major final after Thomas Muster. He is the youngest Roland Garros finalist since 2010.

“I think what you are doing is one of the most outstanding things to do in sport.” He said to Nadal. “To win this tournament 11 times is amazing.
“For me this has still been two great weeks. I still remember when you (Nadal) won here the first time. I was 11-years-old and watching it on TV. I honestly never expected that I would one day be playing the final here, I’m really happy.”

Nadal is now the fourth player in the Open Era to win three grand slam titles after their 30th birthday. Joining Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer. He exits Roland Garros with 2.2 million euros in prize money and 2000 ranking points. Guaranteeing that he will be world No.1 at the start of the grass season, which will officially get underway tomorrow.

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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