Rafael Nadal Wins Number Eleven - UBITENNIS
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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.

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Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag

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Spanish Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in his first ATP tour-level final with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open in Umag. 

 

Alcaraz has become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008. 

Alcaraz broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead and held his next service games to close out the first set 6-2. 

Ramos Vinolas came back from a break down three times in the second set, when Alcaraz served for the match. Alcaraz battled through the second-set tie-break to clinch the win after two hours. 

Alcaraz set up a final against Richard Gasquet, who battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmeier 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. 

Gasquet has become the second oldest finalist in tournament history. The 35-year-old saved seven of hi sten break points, but he converted just just 3 of his 17 break points.  

Gasquet rallied from a break down twice to draw level to 4-4 before winning the tie-break 7-2. Altmeier converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. Altmeier saved three break points in the second game, before Gasquet converted his second break point in the sixth game to win the second set 6-3. 

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Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 to open his bid for a gold medal at the Olympics.

 

The world number one’s bid to achieve the golden slam is on after thrashing the Bolivian in humid conditions.

A perfect start for the Serbian who is looking to achieve the one thing he is yet to achieve and that’s win a gold medal.

Next for Djokovic will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

In 32C temperatures, Djokovic was looking to start his campaign off against Bolivian veteran Hugo Dellien.

The slow paced courts would suit Dellien as he engaged in some long rallies with the world number one early on.

Despite creating three break points in the fourth game, Djokovic would fail to break early on.

However Djokovic increased his level mixing up the pace and depth of his shots to create angles for simple winners.

On his fifth break point Djokovic would break for a 4-2 lead and the top seed would break for a second time as Dellien had no answers for the Serb’s defensive skills. First set to Djokovic in 33 minutes.

A similar pattern evolved in the second set only this time Djokovic did get a break in the fourth game, breaking to love.

Accurate serving and construction of points gave Djokovic an easy first round match as another break secured the match and sealed his spot into the second round.

A fine performance in tough conditions gave Djokovic’s bid for history the best possible start.

Next for Djokovic will be Jan-Lennard Struff who beat Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-4.

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Brandon Nakashima shocks John Isner to reach first ATP final in Los Cabos

Brandon Nakashima stunned John Isner to reach the final in Los Cabos.

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Brandon Nakashima (@AbiertoLosCabos - Twitter)

The American became the youngest American to reach a final outside the US since Andy Roddick back in 2001.

 

Brandon Nakashima booked his spot in the final beating an out of sorts John Isner 7-5, 6-4 in one hour and 28 minutes firing 12 aces and winning 82% points with his first serve.

“It’s always going to be tough playing against him, It’s always so hard to return his serve and try to get into the rallies with him but I tried to get back as many returns as I could and there was blocking or chipping the return or hitting over it and just try to mix it up a lot while getting different looks and I knew when I had the opportunities and when I got close in games I knew I had to take advantage of that as much as possible so luckily I was able to do it and of course taking care of my service games was important as well”.

For the first six games of the opening set, neither player had an issue holding serve but at 3-3, it was the San Diego native with the first chance to break but was denied by the world number 39’s big serve.

At 5-4, the world number 134 had two more chances to break and he got the crucial break and served out the first set.

Winning the first set seemed to invigorate the 19-year-old and he earned an early chance to break in the first game of the second set and broke to take a 1-0 lead. Once again that one break was enough to serve out the match and seal the victory.

After the match, Nakashima spoke about becoming the first American player to reach a final outside the US since Andy Roddick back in 2001.

“It feels great and it’s a big accomplishment for me and of course all the Americans, we like to play in the US but it’s nice to see that I am playing well outside the US and luckily it’s not too far from my home here so I have been enjoying it here a lot both on and off the court and really looking forward to playing tomorrow again”.

Nakashima will face the number one seed Cameron Norrie in the final and can feel confident as the last time these two players met, the American beat him.

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