Australian Open Day 14 Preview: The Men’s Final - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 14 Preview: The Men’s Final

It’s the 53rd instalment of the most prolific rivalry in the open era of men’s tennis.

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Here we are again, two of the best of all-time playing for the 15th time at a Major, and the 8th time in a Major final. Djokovic holds a slight 27-25 edge overall, and has taken 12 of their last 15 meetings. Nadal hasn’t beaten Djokovic on a hard court since the US Open in 2013. Rafa is 9-5 at Grand Slam events, and 4-3 in Slam finals. This is only their second meeting at the Australian Open, with the first of course being the epic, near six-hour 2012 final, which Djokovic won 7-5 in the fifth. Their last meeting was six months ago in the Wimbledon semifinals, the best and most pivotal match of 2018. It took two days to finish the over five-hour semifinal, which went to Djokovic, 10-8 in the fifth.

 

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Djokovic is 34-0 at the Australian Open as the top seed, which he is here. He’s also undefeated in Australian Open finals, winning all six times he’s advanced this far. Aside from the 2012 match with Nadal, he defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008, and took out Andy Murray four times in Australian Open finals. Novak is 14-9 in Major finals overall, and has won eight of his last 10. While he was never fully challenged in this tournament, there were times he did not look his best, particularly against Daniil Medvedev in the round of 16. But a retirement from Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals gave Novak’s body some time to heal after the grueling Medvedev match, and he never looked better than in his obliteration of Lucas Pouille in the semifinals.
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After last year’s US Open, I stated that Nadal would never again win a hard court Major. Rafa is one match away from proving me completely wrong. Over the past 15 months, Nadal has withdrawn or retired from 10 of the 12 hard court tournaments he has entered. Aside from this tournament, the only hard court event he has completed was also the only one he prevailed in: last year’s Rogers Cup in Canada. Nadal has destroyed all competition during this fortnight, and has not lost a set. The last time Rafa went into a Major final without dropping a set was the 2017 French Open, where he dropped just six games in the final to Stan Wawrinka. Ravi Ubha noted on Twitter that Nadal’s 48 games dropped through six rounds here is the fewest ever for him at a non-clay Major. His average serve speed is 5 mph higher than a year ago, as reported by Darren Cahill of ESPN. The adjusted service motion he developed in the offseason has paid immediate dividends. Rafa has only been broken twice in this tournament, and not since the opening round. He holds a 17-7 record in Slam finals, though he’s only 1-3 in Melbourne, having lost his last three Australian Open finals. After defeating Roger Federer in 2009, he’s lost to Djokovic in 2012, Wawrinka in 2014, and Federer in 2017. As Christopher Clarey of the New York Times highlighted, a win on Sunday would put Nadal in the elite company of Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only men to have won each Grand Slam event at least twice.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)

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Both men come into this highly-anticipated final having spent almost exactly the same amount of time on court. They should be fully fresh for this historically-pivotal match. Djokovic is going for his third straight Major, and his 15th overall. Nadal is playing for his 18th Major, which would put him only two behind Federer for the first time since Federer won his second Major 15 years ago. It’s hard not to consider Djokovic the favorite at the Australian Open, but Nadal’s form the past two weeks has just been phenomenal. Rafa was so close to winning their last meeting, last year’s Wimbledon semifinal, so I’m sure he’d love to avenge that loss. However, Melbourne feels like Novak’s home turf, and he’ll be determined to not let Nadal prevail in his house. The cooler temperatures in the forecast for Sunday evening are to Djokovic’s advantage. He does not enjoy playing in the heat, and Nadal’s balls won’t bounce quite as high. Djokovic has dominated this rivalry over the past five years, yet Nadal has been the more impressive of the two at this tournament. Also keep in mind that Djokovic has not won his last three tournaments, all on hard courts. He lost to Karen Khachanov in Paris, Sascha Zverev in London, and Roberto Bautista Agut in Doha. All things considered, I just don’t see Rafa accepting a loss on this day. I’m picking Nadal to dethrone the king of Melbourne in another dramatic five-setter.

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‘This kid Was Depressed’ – Naomi Osaka Opens Up About Personal Struggles

It has been a rough ride for the two-time grand slam champion in recent months.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision

World No.1 Naomi Osaka has shed light on the drawbacks she experienced from her rapid rise to fame following her opening win at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Germany.

 

In January the 21-year-old became the first Asian player in history to top the tennis rankings after winning the Australian Open. Her second grand slam title in a row. However, since Osaka’s Melbourne triumph she has experienced some lacklustre results on the tour. Winning back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. On top of that, Osaka also split with coach Sascha Bajin, who now works alongside Kristina Mladenovic, and hired Jermaine Jenkins.

The sudden rise of fame has elevated Osaka to the limelight and turned her into one of the most sought after tennis players in terms of sponsorships. Highlighted by her recent deal with Nike. However, it hasn’t all been a fairy tale for the Japanese player.

“I am really grateful for everyone that has been really positive towards me. It was really rough the last couple of months. The kid was depressed out there.” Osaka said following her win over Hsieh Su-wei in Stuttgart.
“If there is one positive thing that I can say about myself, it is that I learn quickly.”
“Definitely I’ve put a lot on pressure on myself and found it hard to deal with in the first few tournaments.”

Osaka’s troubles have been more mental than physical on the court. It was at the Dubai Tennis Championships, where the world saw how vulnerable the rising star is as she cried following a shock loss in the first round. Detailing how she has struggled to get use to being in the spotlight.

“The worst has been the expectation I put on myself, but I think we are good now.” She commented about life as world No.1.

To put into perspective the rise of introverted Osaka, she went from outside the top 40 without a title to a two-time grand slam champion and Asia’s first ever No.1 within a 12-month period. She is the first player to follow up on her maiden major win by claiming another since Jennifer Capriati back in 2001.

Now seemingly back on track mentally, Osaka will be hoping to extend her stronghold on the tour throughout the European clay-court season. She has just 200 points to defend during that period, compared to 2900 points for Simona Halep. Halep is currently the closest person to her in the WTA rankings.

“I set goals, but they are like short term.” She explains. “It’s not like winning the whole tournament. Of course I think about that. Now I’m just having fun, which is the mentality I had before I was number one. Hopefully it will go well.”

The next test in Stuttgart for the top seed will be Croatia’s Donna Vekic. Vekic has already defeated two top 10 players this season – Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens. Osaka leads their head-to-head 1-0.

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Rafael Nadal Defeats Emotional Ferrer To Reach Last Eight In Barcelona

Rafael Nadal ended David Ferrer’s time in Barcelona with a 6-3 6-3 win to move into the last eight.

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Rafael Nadal (@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal was too good for an emotional David Ferrer after a 6-3 6-3 win sealed the 11 time champion’s place in the Barcelona quarter-finals.

 

After a sluggish start, Nadal raced into a 6-3 6-3 win over Ferrer in what was a rain-delayed match in Barcelona to reach the last eight.

The match was Ferrer’s last in Barcelona as he will say goodbye to tennis in Madrid in a couple of weeks time after over 15 years on tour.

As for Nadal he will face the winner of Jan-Lennard Struff’s match with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

It was a slow start from the defending champion to begin with as he was failing to adapt to the slightly heavier conditions.

The world number 155 failed to convert his two break points though as he stayed with Nadal with some great court coverage and groundstrokes.

However Nadal’s power and angles were eventually too much for the grinding Ferrer as he finally earned the break in sixth game for a 4-2 lead.

A much better perspective and attitude from the 17 time grand slam champion helped him charge through the match, especially in the first set.

After the first rain delay, Nadal served out the opening set to give himself the early advantage in this third round match.

It was more of the same from Nadal in the second set as he controlled the baseline for an early break. However that didn’t last long as Ferrer continued to fight on and a sloppy game from Nadal handed the break back to the veteran.

The 37 year-old continued to show why his level of tennis can still match up to anyone on the tour as he stunned Nadal with some brilliant point construction.

But there was to be no epic comeback from the former Roland Garros finalist as two more breaks from Nadal sealed his place in the quarter-finals.

It was an emotional moment Ferrer, who played his last match in Barcelona, as he prepares to retire in a couple of weeks time in Madrid.

However for Nadal he noticed the improvement in level after a poor performance in the previous round, “Big difference. It was a tough match in all ways yesterday. Today was a different energy, a different motivation. In general terms, for me, I needed to play with a different attitude to make a step forward, and that’s what I did today.”

The world number two will now play Jan-Lennard Struff or Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last eight.

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Editorial

Tennis Has A Justin Gimelstob Problem

Once tipped to be the chief of men’s tennis, Gimelstob’s future in the sport looks to be coming to an end following his latest and most shocking controversy.

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Justin Gimelstob (image via awfulannouncing.com)

Once again in the coming weeks men’s tennis will be dominated by off-court politics in an all too familiar trend occurring this season.

 

Following on from the decision to remove Chris Kermode from his position, the focus is now on Justin Gimelstob. A man once tipped to take on Kermode’s position as CEO of the ATP. Earlier this week the 42-year-old pleaded ‘no contest’ to an assault charge against one of his former friends. A plea where somebody accepts the charges without accepting or admitting guilt. As a consequence, Gimelstob was handed with a 60-day community service and a three-year probation.

“Justin Gimelstob pled no contest to the charge filed against him and the Judge, after evaluating the evidence, exercised his discretion and reduced the charge to a misdemeanor,” said his legal team in a statement.
“Justin did this to move on with his professional life and focus on his family.”

The incident occurred last Halloween when Gimelstob approached Randall Kaplan and hit him a reported 50 times, according to a restraining order issued last year. The incident took place in front of Kaplan’s pregnant wife, who film some of the incident, and his two-year-old daughter. Prosecutors said that the stress of the attack caused Kaplan’s wife to have a miscarriage.

“Thankfully my husband survived, but our unborn child did not,” Madison Kaplan said. “My doctors said everything had looked perfect with the pregnancy before the attack. The only reason they could see causing the miscarriage was the stress from the attack. Justin might not have gotten his wish in killing Randy, but he did kill a tiny innocent little baby girl.”

The Rome vote

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Gimelstob is currently one of three player representatives currently serving on the ATP Board and represents the Americas region. They are elected by the Players council and play an instrumental role in decision making. Such as voting for the removal of Kermode.

The fact Gimelstob remains in his current position is one that has drawn concern from some. The All England Club confirmed on Tuesday that he has been banned from the Wimbledon legends event as well as sitting in the Royal Box. The Telegraph has also reported that officials are pondering whether to remove his credentials all together.

It will be the Player’s council decision if Gimelstob should maintain his current position or not. They will gather in Rome next month to have a vote on his future. Among the member’s is John Isner, who has Gimelstob as an ‘unpaid advisor‘ on his team. The world No.10 has previously described him as a ‘’a misunderstood character.’

“The decision was taken to let the judicial process run its course before any judgement was made on his future, so with that process complete this is now a subject for review by the board and/or the player council.” The ATP said in a statement.
“As a related matter, the election for the role of the next Americas player representative on the ATP board – the position currently held by Gimelstob – will take place as scheduled on Tuesday, 14 May, in Rome.”

Despite his work and dedication to tennis, the idea of voting to keep Gimelstob in his role seems illogical. Prior to his assault charge, he has been embroiled in a series of controversies. Speaking about former player Anna Kournikova in 2008 he once said ‘She’s a bitch. Hate’s a very strong word. I just despise her to the maximum level just below hate.’ He later apologised for that comment. In 2010 he also was briefly suspended from the Tennis Channel concerning comments he made about then president Barack Obama.

A return to The Tennis Channel?

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Besides his role at the ATP, Gimelstob has been a prominent figure and valuable commentator for The Tennis Channel. He took a leave of absence from the network in November due to the legal proceedings. Now he has received his sentence, it is unclear as to what will happen next.

“We are sure that Justin is pleased that this matter has been resolved. Since he took his leave of absence from Tennis Channel in November 2018, we have been waiting for the legal system to run its course. Now that this is behind him, we will have internal meetings among our executives — and meetings with Justin — to discuss his future with Tennis Channel.” The Tennis Channel said in a statement.

According to Deadline the situation is complicated due to the close relationship between the former player and Ken Solomon, who is the president of the Tennis Channel. Speaking to The New York Times Solomon said ‘We are here and ready to discuss the situation with Justin whenever appropriate, and will decide at that time.’

Despite the seemingly calm approach from the president of the network, some people within The Tennis Channel are questioning the situation.

“There is a feeling here that it would be shocking if he comes back and works for the Tennis Channel,” one source told Deadspin. “But at the same time, this guy is super powerful and has been at Tennis Channel since it started, so he has a very close relationship with [Tennis Channel president] Ken Solomon. They go way back.”

At one point in his post-playing career, Gimelstob was regarded as one of the most powerful men in tennis. His resume includes commentator, coach, ATP board member and owner of a television production company. Now his stronghold within the sport is rapidly loosening. Any decision by the ATP to keep him on their powerful board will be one condemned for years to come. Despite all he has done for the sport.

It is for this reason why at the upcoming Italian Open only half of the attention will be on the court’s. The other half will be on how the Player’s Council handles this situation. Another new headache for president Novak Djokovic and his fellow members.

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