Despite Recent Losses, Rafael Nadal Isn’t At A Crisis Point Yet - UBITENNIS
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Despite Recent Losses, Rafael Nadal Isn’t At A Crisis Point Yet

How worried should we be about the 11-time French Open champion?

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Rafael Nadal (photo by Chryslène Caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

On Saturday a new milestone was achieved in the career of Rafael Nadal, but it was one the Spaniard never wanted.

 

Heading into the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open, the former world No.1 had a flawless record at that stage of the tournament. Dropping one set in 22 matches played when he reached the semi-finals or beyond. However, his winning streak was ended by a relentless Dominic Thiem as the Austrian surged to a shock 6-4, 6-4, triumph. Illustrating why some believe Thiem will become the next player to dominate the clay after Nadal.

Losses on the clay are rare for Nadal. During 2018 he won 26 out of 27 matches played on the surface (including the Davis Cup). However, this season he has already suffered two defeats at the hands of Fabio Fognini and Thiem. It is only the third time the Spaniard has failed to win either the Monte Carlo or Barcelona title and the first since 2015. Even more extraordinary is that he heads into May without a clay-court title to his name so far this year. Something that hasn’t happened to Nadal since 2004.

“It does me the same harm to lose here, than in Monte Carlo, than anywhere else. Honestly, it did not hurt me too much, last week in Monte Carlo it did me bad, they are completely different dynamics.” Nadal said following his loss to Thiem.
“There are defeats that hurt more and others that can help, this is one of them. It’s been a long time since I felt so good playing on the clay, it’s been the best match I’ve had since the clay tour began.”

Nadal’s recent trophy drought has been partly due to his string of injury setbacks. Over the past year he has been marred by problems with his abdominal and knees. On top of that, he also underwent a minor procedure on his ankle last November. Last year, Nadal withdrew or retired from 11 out of 12 tournaments that were played on a hard court.

Despite being one of the most successful players in the history of the sport, Nadal is only human. It is evident that his start and stop progression on the tour has affected his game. As it would with other top players. One area of his game he admits need work on is his serve. Against Thiem in Barcelona, he hit five double faults and won only 43% of the points behind his second serve.

“The serve [was] an important part of the match (Saturday) afternoon,” The world No.2 said. “I didn’t serve well at all, especially the second serve. So when I started to miss the second serve, I really lost a little bit of the confidence on trying to go for a good first serve, because I was without confidence on the second, so that affects the first.”

Despite his recent misfortunes both on and off the court, Nadal is confident that he is on the right path. This time of the year is statistically the most important for him. He is defending a total of 4680 points on the tour during the clay season. He has already dropped 500 points in Monte Carlo and 320 in Barcelona. However, his world No.2 position remains intact for the time being.

“I think I’ve done the hardest thing, lay a positive foundation to get ahead, a few days ago the situation was much more complicated.” Nadal stated. “I have once again enjoyed playing tennis and lost to a top-level opponent. I’ve been competitive until the end, but I’ve had to play more games like that to have a clearer option for victory.”

The next test for Nadal will be at the Caja Magica, venue of the Madrid Masters. He is a five-time champion of the tournament, which has unique conditions because of its altitude of around 2000 feet.

“Now comes a complicated week like Madrid, with conditions totally different from here.” He said.
“Right now I am in a position where I am happy, I can aspire to things that a week ago I saw complicated. Last week I did not advance, but this one I did.”

It is true that Nadal is yet to find the form that has earned him the nickname of ‘the king of clay.’ Raising the chances of another player potentially triumphing at Roland Garros later this year. However, the 17-time grand slam champion has still maintained his consistency on the tour. Since winning the French Open last year, he has reached the semi-finals or better in seven out of the right tournaments he has been able to play in.

Nadal may be experiencing difficulty on the court, but don’t write him off yet.

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Roland Garros: Novak Djokovic Dealt Thiem Challenge As Nadal Starts Against Qualifier

Novak Djokovic has been set a trickier draw than Rafael Nadal as they look to meet each other in this year’s final.

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Novak Djokovic (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic could face last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals at Roland Garros as Rafael Nadal begins against a couple of qualifiers. 

 

This year’s draw is set to be the most competitive in a while on the men’s side as there has been a lack of dominance from Rafael Nadal in the lead up, having only won Rome.

Despite this, the Spaniard is will still be favourite to win his 12th title in Paris after what looks to be a fairly routine draw.

Meanwhile Novak Djokovic will be looking to hold all four grand slams at the same time for the second time in his career as he looks for a second Roland Garros title.

However standing in his way will be the likes of Borna Coric, Alexander Zverev and more notably last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem.

So with that being said, lets look at the men’s draw in closer detail:

1st Quarter – Djokovic’s Section

World number one Novak Djokovic will start his bid for a second Roland Garros title against Polish rising star Hubert Hurkacz. The Pole made his first Masters 100 quarter-final in Indian Wells and made his breakthrough in Paris last year, so this will be no easy for the Serb.

A match against Sam Querrey could then await in round two, with Gilles Simon being the projected round three. There is also the likelihood of playing Borna Coric in the second week, who will begin against Aljaz Bedene.

In the bottom half of this quarter, out-of-form Alexander Zverev will face John Millman in the first round, with Monte-Carlo runner-up Dusan Lajovic in round three. However a major roadblock could await the German in the last 16 as Fabio Fognini is in his section of the draw. The Italian will play compatriot Andreas Seppi in round one.

Notable R1’s:

Shapovalov v Struff

Fognini v Seppi

Johnson v Bautista Agut

Second Quarter – Thiem’s Section. 

Last year’s finalist, Dominic Thiem starts his bid for a first grand slam title against American wildcard Tommy Paul, with a potential round three meeting against Kyle Edmund.

The Brit will begin his campaign against Jeremy Chardy in a tough first match. Thiem’s potential quarter-final is Juan Martin Del Potro, who begins against powerful Chilean Nicolas Jarry. Talented Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime also appears in this quarter and is a potential third round for the powerful Argentinian.

Other potential seeds for Del Potro include Karen Khachanov and Lucas Pouille, while Gael Monfils is a dangerous floater in Thiem’s section.

Notable R1’s:

Chardy v Edmund

Verdasco v Evans

Jarry v Del Potro

Third Quarter – Federer’s Section

Roger Federer’s return to Roland Garros will begin against natural clay-courter Lorenzo Sonego. A third round match against in-form Matteo Berrettini could also await the 20 time grand slam champion, while Marco Cecchinato and Diego Schwartzman also lurk in Federer’s part of this quarter.

The Swiss’ potential quarter-final is Stefanos Tsitsipas, who starts against Maximillian Marterer. There is also a potential fourth round match against Stan Wawrinka or Marin Cilic for the Madrid finalist.

Notable R1’s:

Opelka v Garin

Tipsarevic v Dimitrov

Fucsovics v Schwartzman

Fourth Quarter – Nadal’s Section

Defending champion Rafael Nadal is looking for a remarkable 12th title in Paris and will begin against two qualifiers. A great draw gets better for the Spaniard, who will play David Goffin in his third round and also has Nikoloz Basilashvili in the last 16, a man he beat in Rome last week.

In the other section of this draw, Daniil Medvedev will look to take charge when he plays Pierre-Hughes Herbert in the first round. While Kei Nishikori is a potential fourth round match as he starts against French wildcard Quentin Halys.

Notable R1’s:

Tsonga v Gojowczyk

Humbert v Popyrin

Herbert v Medvedev

Here is the full draw, with play starting on Sunday:

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Albert Ramos-Vinolas Reveals Best Moment Of Career Ahead Of Geneva Quarters

Albert Ramos-Vinolas reveals the best moment of his career ahead of his Quarter-Final at the Geneva Open.

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Albert Ramos-Vinolas (@RolandGarros - Twitter)

Albert Ramos-Vinolas has revealed the best moment of his career ahead of his Geneva quarter-final with Federico Delbonis. 

 

The Spaniard seems to have overcome a poor run of form lately after qualifying for Rome last week, he has now won back-to-back matches in Geneva.

A 6-0 6-3 win over Joao Sousa means he is into the last eight in Geneva to play Federico Delbonis as he looks to build momentum towards Roland Garros.

However before his quarter-final match, Ramos-Vinolas told atptour.com in a recent interview what the best moment of his career was, “The first time I won an ATP match in Barcelona in 2010,” The Spaniard said.

“It’s my home tournament… I passed the qualies and I won my first match and then I beat Fernando Gonzalez, who was No. 12 in the world. I was No. 161. It was maybe one of the best moments of my career. It was on Court 1, which is not the centre court, but it’s quite big.

“I still remember the feeling: I was really happy. Everybody was thinking that it was not possible. So they were supporting me like crazy, like when a big football team is playing against maybe one from the second division, and the second division team wins. Everyone was supporting me like crazy. It was a great atmosphere.”

It is no surprise that the moment came in front of his home fans as it is a moment that he will never forget. Since then the Spaniard’s biggest achievement came in 2017 when he reached his first masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo.

The 31 year-old will look to recreate his form in Monte-Carlo a couple of years ago to Geneva this week as he looks to win his second career title.

However it won’t be easy for Ramos-Vinolas as top seed Alexander Zverev still remains the draw as players look to gain some momentum heading into Roland Garros, which starts on Sunday.

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Tomas Berdych to Miss French Open For The First Time Since 2003

It will be the third grand slam the former top 10 player has missed within the past 12 months.

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Tomas Berdych (photo by chryslène caillaud)

Former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych will not play any clay court tournaments in 2019 after withdrawing from the upcoming French Open.

 

The 33-year-old has been absent from the tour since his first round loss to Feliciano Lopez in Indian Wells. Berdych has been hampered by issues within his back in recent weeks. He has been hoping to be fit in time for Roland Garros, but made a decision to withdraw from the event on Wednesday.

“I am not 100% ready to play the way I want and need to be competitive on the courts I love so much,” Berdych wrote on social media.
“I came to Paris and I had to take a tough decision and want another few days to fully recover and be ready for the grass season.”
“I love this tournament so much but I have to make sure not to further injure myself,” he added.

The Czech had played at the tournament every year since making his debut back in 2004. However, the French Open is his worst performing grand slam in terms of wins. So far in his career, Berdych has won 25 out of 40 matches played at the French Open. His stand out performance occurred in 2010 when he reached the semi-finals before losing to Sweden’s Robin Soderling.

It is not the first time back issues have forced Berdych out of action. In 2017 he was advised by doctors to end his season early due to persistent ‘back pain.’ He was also forced to skip both Wimbledon and the US Open due to the same problem.

Berdych, who last won a title at the 2016 Shenzhen Open, has played six tournaments so far this year. His best result occurred in January with a run to the final of the Qatar Open. He also reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and was a semi-finalist in Montpellier.

As a result of his absence, Berdych is currently ranked 100th in the world rankings. He will be replaced in the French Open draw by a lucky loser.

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