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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Casper Ruud Overcomes ‘Tough Start’ To Set De Minaur Final In Acapulco

Casper Ruud is into his first ATP 500 final after defeating Holger Rune in three sets.

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Casper Ruud is into his second consecutive final in Mexico after defeating Holger Rune 3-6 6-3 6-4 in Acapulco.

The Norwegian had to overcome an electric start from Rune to prevail in 2 hours and 24 minutes.

It was a clinical performance from Ruud who is now into his second consecutive final in Mexico after reaching the final in Los Cabos last week.

Speaking after the match Ruud admitted it was a tough start but he’s pleased to be in another final, “It was a tough start,” Ruud told the ATP website.

“Holger just came out firing bullets from the forehand, from the backhand and I had not too much time to play my game. I was frustrated at times, especially at the end of the first set, beginning of the second.

“I didn’t really feel like I got to play any points how I wanted to, so there was some frustration towards myself, towards my box, because I didn’t feel like we were doing the right thing.

“But luckily with one break in the second, it turned around a bit and in the third set it got a little physical. I think maybe Holger seemed like he was struggling a little bit and started firing even more and a couple of games it went in and he broke me, which is frustrating.

“Some unforced errors crept up on him and I served really well in the last game to close it out.”

Ruud is now into his first ATP 500 final in Acapulco where he will face defending champion Alex De Minaur.

De Minaur overcame Jack Draper after the Brit retired at 4-0 down in the deciding set.

Heading into Saturday’s final, De Minaur leads the head-to-head 1-0 although that was in a completely different scoring format in the Next Gen Finals.

Whatever happens on Saturday, Ruud will return to the world’s top ten.

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Andrey Rublev Disqualified In Dramatic Dubai Semi-Final

Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final in Dubai.

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Andrey Rublev was disqualified from his semi-final with Alexander Bublik after being accused of swearing in Russian.

The event took place in Dubai where Rublev had more than enough opportunities to win the match having been 4-2 40-0 up in the deciding set.

However Bublik came back into the match as he caught up with Rublev in what was turning into a fascinating contest.

The score was at 6-5 Bublik when Rublev’s frustrations boiled over when he allegedly told the official at the side of the court that he was a ‘f****** moron’ in Russian.

One of the officials on the sidelines at the side of the court reported the incident and the supervisor ruled that Rublev should be defaulted.

The incident below means that Rublev will now lose all his ranking points and prize money, resulting in Rublev exiting the world’s top five.

An ending that didn’t warrant the dramatic contest and after the match Bublik agreed that the consequences, “I highly doubt Andrey said something crazy,” Bublik was quoted by Sports Illustrated.

“He’s not this kind of guy. But I guess that’s the rules. That’s what they did, they just follow the procedure.”

Bublik will hope for a smoother finish to the final when he takes on Ugo Humbert for the title.

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Andy Murray Makes Retirement Hint After 500th Hard Court Win In Dubai

Andy Murray won his 500th hard court match in Dubai, placing him fifth on the all-time list.

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Andy Murray further hinted at retirement after securing a 500th hard court win of his career in Dubai.

The former world number one picked up his second win of the year with a 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov.

In typical Andy Murray fashion, the Brit came back from a set down to defeat the out-of-sorts Canadian as he progressed to the second round.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUVj537F-wQ

The win means Murray now has 500 career wins on a hard court and that is an achievement the world number 67 is proud of, “It’s not bad,” Murray told the ATP website as he sits fifth on the all-time list of hard court wins.

“Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that. There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

However those post-match comments weren’t the most shocking ones as Murray once again hinted at retirement this season.

The Brit has made subtle remarks that this year may be his last one but Murray’s comments today suggests that he may have already made his decision, “I probably don’t have too long left but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months,” Murray was quoted by ESPN as saying.

“I still love competing and still love the game but it gets harder and harder to compete the older you get, to keep your body fit and fresh.”

If the end is near for Murray than the Brit will look to end his career on a high for the next few months.

Before thinking about retirement Murray will look to go further in Dubai when he takes on either Ugo Humbert or Gael Monfils in the second round.

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