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Rafael Nadal Wins Number Eleven

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Rafael Nadal (zimbio.com)

By Cheryl Jones

 

 

Last year Spanish dynamo, Rafael Nadal made history. He became the first man to win ten titles in a Single Grand Slam. This year, much as the last several years, he arrived at the same location, at the same time. There was a bit of a surprise waiting across the net. It wasn’t one of the usual “other” three – (They are Roger Federer who chose not to be here this year. Andy Murray is recovering from an injury isn’t here either. Novak Djokovic left early, having been defeated by an Italian upstart, Marco Cecchinato.) – who all have for quite a number of years consistently been his opponents as tournaments played on all surfaces are thinned to the last few before a champion is crowned. Actually it was because there’s a new guy in town and he’s from Austria.

Dominic Thiem is a twenty-four-year-old who owns a flowingly swift backhand and a complete grab bag of perfect shots that much to the consternation of other players are outright winners most of the time. Thiem is from Wiener Neustadt. He’s been playing tennis since he was six years old. When he became a professional in 2011, he was touted as someone to watch by most tennis aficionados who pay attention to upcoming stars. It was a good call. His performance in the 2018 Roland Garros battle on clay has been steady and brilliant all at the same time. He whittled away at the lineup on his side of the draw in Paris and after defeating the top “Next Gen” player Alexander “Sascha” Zverev, he moved on to Italian, Cecchinato in the semifinals, and even though the Italian player had vanquished Djokovic in the quarterfinals he was no match for the stealthy Austrian.

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To gain his now very familiar place, on Roland Garros’ final Sunday, Nadal managed to defeat an equal number of players along his way and when the two men strolled on to the court, the crowd went wild. They were looking forward to a great match, and they got one.

On paper the match itself appeared close. In reality, no matter how well the Austrian returned, Nadal had an answer that was served with exclamation points. Midway in the third set, Nadal moved to his sideline seat and yanked at the bandage that has been encircling his wrist the entire tournament. (When he was asked about the bandages earlier in the tournament, he said it was due to the humidity and the perspiration that might incidentally flow onto his hands and then his blister prone fingers.) He also tried pulling the wraps of adhesive tape that covered several of the fingers on his left hand, and when a medical staff person arrived on the scene, Nadal grimaced as the intervener massaged his forearm. Nadal wasn’t really idle, he reached with his right hand into his racquet bag and pulled out a pill, which he downed with a bit of water and soon he was back on the court, minus a point that was deducted for the unscripted timeout. Each change over from that point forward was spent with the same medic massaging that same left forearm and Rafa continued to grimace and took yet another pill. It must have been traumatic for Nadal and Thiem, too. Quite soon, the match was complete and surprise, surprise – Rafael Nadal had won his eleventh Roland Garros. The 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 score was more than enough to ensure the historic win for Nadal.

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The Spaniard, as always, took a bite out of the Coupe des Mousquetaires and grinned from ear to ear for the cameras that were snapping shots from every direction. He held the trophy high and as he pulled it to his chest as the Spanish National Anthem played, he cried tears of joy and hugged the coupe closer and closed his eyes, likely already planning to add yet another coupe just like the ones already in his trophy case – next year. That would make it an even twelve, and his need for symmetry could be satisfied with the perfect arrangement. (In case anyone has missed his need for that balance just check out his water bottle line-up next time he’s on court.)

Thiem had nothing to regret about his performance this afternoon. Nadal has seldom allowed anything to be a roadblock in his path to the final during Roland Garros. At 32 years old, and now with eleven wins here, he has been nearly perfect each time he has competed in Paris.

Thiem was seeded seventh to Nadal’s number one. In 2011 when Nadal had won his sixth Coupe, Thiem was runner-up in the Junior Boys. He lost a squeaker to Bjorn Fratangelo of the United States, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6. Thiem took the loss in stride and won his next three singles tournament. He actually finished 2011 with a win in the Dunlop Orange Bowl. From that point forward, he has been on a march to his current number seven ranking.

He spoke at length about the match and praised Nadal’s astounding achievement. He had watched Nadal from the comfort of his sofa eleven years ago and nearly every year thereafter. When asked which he preferred, he smiled and said, “Physically I enjoyed more watching him on the couch.”

He went on to say that it was wonderful that he had made his way to a final and iterated that “Still, I’m disappointed. It was a final. I really wanted to win.”

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When asked if he was surprised that it took until the seventh game of the second set before the umpire warned Nadal about his usual “too much” time taken between points, he said, “I didn’t say something to him because I don’t ever have a watch, so I don’t know how many seconds anyone is taking.” (Rumbles overheard from many an onlooker have suggested a timer with a “bing” sounding when the approved 25 seconds have expired.) It didn’t seem to matter in the long run, though. The extra three minutes that Rafa took dealing with his confusing finger injury merely cost the Spaniard a point and evidently he may have ascertained it was somewhat a “cost of doing business” demerit.

In his after-match interview, he said that the problem with his hand was a confusing cramp in his middle finger. He felt as if the wrist wrap had impeded the circulation to that digit and it frightened him. Evidently it all worked out and when the match was over, he remained Number One in the world for yet another week.

For once, Nadal didn’t serve one ace. Thiem managed seven of them, but all to no avail. Thiem’s unforced errors were nearly double what the Spaniard’s were. In the end, all of the statistics were immaterial. Rafael Nadal is staying where he feels best – at the top of the heap – The King of Clay.

ATP

‘I Know How To Get There’ – Karen Khachanov Targets Return To Top 10

The world No.31 has showed signs of his talent this season with a run to the Olympic final but a lack of consistency and changes to the ATP ranking system has hindered him too.

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Karen Khachanov - Credit: AELTC/Ian Walton

It wasn’t that long ago when Karen Khachanov was the highest-ranked Russian man on the ATP Tour and billed as the next big thing from his country.

 

A breakout 2018 season saw Khachanov claim three Tour titles with the biggest of those being at the Paris Masters which remains his most prestigious trophy to date. He also reached his first major quarter-final at the French Open during the same season and scored five wins over top 10 players. Those triumphs helped elevate him in the ranking to a high of eight.

However, since that breakthrough Khachanov has found himself on a a rollercoaster journey. He is yet to win another title since Paris but came agonisingly close at the Tokyo Olympic Games where he finished runner-up to Alexander Zverev. In his nine previous Grand Slam tournaments his best run was at Wimbledon this season where he reached the last eight before losing to Denis Shapovalov.

Now ranked 31st in the world, the 25-year-old is aiming to claim back up the ladder after the ATP changed their ranking logic to the method used prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The rankings turned out to be a big pun, it was frozen for a year and a half, only now normal counting has begun. I am not fixated on this,” Khachanov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. “My main goal is to get back to the Top10. I know how to get there. And the intermediate goals are to be healthy and motivated.”

Khachanov has been ranked outside the world’s top 20 since February and hasn’t been in the top 10 since October 2019. He is currently coached on the Tour by Jose Clavet who has previously worked with a series of top Spanish players such as Feliciano Lopez, Alex Corretja, Tommy Robredo and Carlos Moya.

“He travels with me everywhere, for which I am grateful to him. I trust him as a specialist, as a coach and as a friend,” Khachanov said of Clavet.

Khachanov has returned to his home country this week where he is playing in Moscow at the Kremlin Cup. A tournament he won three years ago by defeating Adrian Mannarino in the final. Seeded third in the draw this time round, he began his campaign on Wednesday with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, win over James Duckworth. In the next round, he faces another Australian in the shape of John Millman which he believes will be a far from easy task.

He is a fighter, a complete player, he does everything well, forehand and backhand with good intensity. He does everything at a good level, but the main quality is that he fights till the end, so it will be hard for me,” he said of his next opponent.

Moscow is the seventh tournament this year where Khachanov has reached the quarter-final stage.

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Filip Krajinovic To Skip Australian Open If Required To Quarantine For More Than Five Days

The world No.34 says he ‘sees no reason’ why vaccinated players should have to go through a long quarentine in Australia.

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Image via twitter.com/atptour (Alexander Scheuber)

The second highest-ranked Serbian player in men’s tennis says it would be ‘unacceptable’ for organisers of the Australian Open to require players to quarantine for more than a week if they have been fully vaccinated.

 

Filip Krajinovic has become the first player to publicly state that they will not be prepared to travel to Melbourne at the end of this season if they have to go through strict quarantine measures once again. All the players who participated in this year’s Australian Open were required to be quarantined in a designated hotel for 14 days upon arrival in the country. During their stay they were allowed to use training facilities but that was the only time they could leave the premises unless there was an emergency.

There is no final decision regarding the travel requirements for the 2022 tournament but there are concerns that unvaccinated players may not be allowed to enter the country. The Victorian government recently issued a mandate ordering all essential workers to be vaccinated, including athletes. However, the regional government will not have the final say concerning tennis players arriving in the country with the national government being the ones in charge of that decision.

“They are very rigorous there and honestly, if I have to be in quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Melbourne, I will not go to Australia,” Krajinovic told Serbian newspaper Blic.
“I was vaccinated, I did everything in my power to protect myself and the people around me, so I really see no reason to sit there for 14 days in a room.’
“If they (the organisers) say that after arrival I need, say, five days to be in isolation, that’s OK for me, but anything beyond that is unacceptable to me. With the season ending late, I will have 20 days to get ready and go. Charter flights will be organized again and the last one is planned for December 28 for the players and that is the final date when I can go to Australia. I will see what the final decision from Melbourne will be, so I will cut what is the best thing to do.”

Earlier this week Victoria’s Sports minister Martin Pakula urged players to be vaccinated because it give them ‘the best opportunity to play in the Australian Open.’ It is expected that if unvaccinated players are allowed to attend, they will be subjected to stricter restrictions. This might include a longer quarantine period upon arrival and limitations of where they can go during their stay.

Last year, all of those players had to do their 14 days of quarantine. Right now there looks like there will be different rules for people who enter this country who are vaccinated as against unvaccinated and I don’t think the tennis will be any exception to that.” Pakula told the Sports Entertainment Network (SEN).
“In terms of what rules apply for people to enter Australia, whether unvaccinated people are allowed in at all, I don’t the answer to that yet. That’s going to be the subject of discussion at national cabinet and among the federal cabinet … those rules are not set by state governments.” He added.

Krajinovic is currently ranked 34th in the world and has a win-loss record this season of 18-18. At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells he reached the second round before falling in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev. His best run so far this year was at the Hamburg Open where he reached the final.

“When we look at the whole of 2021, I played one final, one semifinal, there were good victories, but also worse results,” the 29-year-old commented.

Krajinovic is currently without a coach but is currently in ‘negotiations’ with somebody without elaborating further about who that person is.

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Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win

Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.

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Alexander Zverev (GER) Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

 

The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.

This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.

“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”

The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.

Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.

This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.

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