10 Years Ago in Madrid: Nadal and Djokovic Play a Three-Set Semifinal for Over Four Hours - UBITENNIS
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10 Years Ago in Madrid: Nadal and Djokovic Play a Three-Set Semifinal for Over Four Hours

In the first year the tournament was played on clay, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played their first truly epic contest.

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In 2009, Rafael Nadal had already solidified himself as the King of Clay.  Rafa was undefeated at Roland Garros, having won all four times he played there.  He arrived in Madrid as reigning champion at three of the four Majors, having finally defeated Roger Federer in the final of Wimbledon, and repeating that feat at the Australian Open.  

 

Comparatively, Novak Djokovic was yet to fully establish himself.  Djokovic only owned one Major title to Nadal’s six. Novak hadn’t advanced farther than the semifinals at the last four Majors, and wouldn’t return to a Major final for another 15 months.  But a victory over Nadal on clay might serve as a turning point in Novak’s career.

Coming into this event, Djokovic was yet to defeat Nadal on clay.  Overall Novak had only prevailed in four of their 17 matches to date, and had lost to Rafa twice on clay in just the past few weeks.   Neither man had dropped a set prior to this semifinal, but no one anticipated the extended drama that was about to play out.

In the first set, Djokovic broke Nadal in his first service game, which would be the only break of the set.  Novak was forcing Rafa to make uncharacteristic errors, as Nadal had 14 unforced and only five winners in the set.  Djokovic won the first set comfortably in 50 minutes, 6-3.

There wouldn’t be another break of serve until the third set.  In the second, Djokovic had a total of four break points in three different Nadal service games, but would fail to get a return into play on any of those four occasions.  When Rafa held for 6-5, Novak would give one of his sarcastic round of applause to the Spanish crowd when they cheered his error. Djokovic would exhibit many signs of frustration as the match went on, which could only encourage Nadal’s belief in mounting a comeback.  Nadal’s only break point of the set came at 6-5, which was also a set point, but Djokovic stayed on the offensive and forced a tiebreak. At 3-2 in the second set tiebreak, Rafa would smack a forehand right on the line to get the minibreak, and wouldn’t look back. Nadal would take the tiebreak 7-5, in a second set that lasted one hour and 37 minutes.

In the third set, Djokovic was highly agitated to start.  Nadal though would give him a chance to break at 2-1 with a poor service game.  On the second break point, Novak hit a huge forehand close to the line to grab a 3-1 lead.  But in true Rafa fashion, that’s when he applied even more pressure to Djokovic. At 30-30 in the next game, Nadal hit a drop shot winner to end a 32-shot rally, and Djokovic began to feel cramping in his left leg, nearly three hours into the match.  A forehand error would hand the break right back to Nadal. Those would be the last break points of the match. Djokovic would then take a medical timeout and have his legs massaged, and received further such treatment during changeovers as the set progressed.  Novak would get to deuce in two of Rafa’s forthcoming service games, including the 6-5 game, but never earned a chance to break.

After three hours and 40 minutes of play, they reached the third set tiebreak.  The first minibreak would go to Djokovic at 3-3, as Nadal hit a routine forehand long.  But Novak would again give the lead right back, hitting his own forehand long on the very next point.  At 4-4, Rafa had a great look at a crosscourt forehand pass for another minibreak, but it clipped the tape.  Djokovic would get another minibreak at 5-5, as Nadal hit a backhand long, giving Novak a match point on his serve.  On the 20th shot of the rally, Nadal would pull a huge forehand up the line for a winner to stay alive, getting his home crowd on their feet.

Djokovic immediately earned a second match point in a 19-shot rally off a Nadal backhand error, but Rafa would save it with a forehand winner on another 19-shot rally, despite a blistering Novak return on a second serve.  At 7-7, a service winner would give Nadal his first match point, which Djokovic saved with a drop shot/forehand passing shot combo. An unreturned serve gave Djokovic his third match point at 9-8, but his backhand return would land just long.  After they switched sides again, Rafa hit a huge forehand winner down the line off a great Djokovic return in the corner. And on his second match point at 10-9, another forehand down the line clinched the victory for Nadal, four hours and two minutes after they started.  Despite winning five more points overall, Djokovic went down in defeat, to the delight of the Spanish crowd.


This was of course a preview of many marathon matches to come in this rivalry.  Their long rallies with the court spread well beyond the painted lines would define men’s tennis for the next decade.  On this day, the difference was Nadal’s confidence, positivity, and relentless nature.

The next day in the final, an understandably depleted Nadal would suffer a rare loss to Roger Federer on clay.  A few weeks later, Nadal would shockingly go down in defeat at the French Open to Robin Soderling, his first of only two career defeats at Roland Garros.  That would leave the door open for Federer to win his only French Open title, completing his career Grand Slam. Djokovic would not overcome Nadal on clay until two years later at this same event.

 

 

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Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Venus Williams are the stand-out names in Adelaide

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Four top 10 players Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens and former Grand Slam champions Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber will grab the headlines at the Adelaide International from 12 to 18 January 2020.

 

A total of seven Grand Slam champions and five former world number one players will take part in the Adelaide WTA tourament.

This year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty leads a star-studded line-up, which includes 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens and seven other members of the top 20.

The Main Draw also features Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske, Sloane Stephens and Danielle Collins, World Number 30 Quang Wang. World Number 12 and this Rome WTA Premier finalist Johanna Konta will play her first tournament since the US Open following a knee injury.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams has been announced as the Top 20 wildcard.

“It is always exciting to play at a new tournament in front of new fans. I have had so many memorable times times in Australia over the years and I am looking forward to discovering Adelaide and all it has to offer”, said Venus Williams.

The men’s line-up includes 2019 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, Alex De Minaur, Lucas Pouille and Andrey Rublev.

“The full list of players is a real who’s who of tennis, from Australia’s favourite Ashleigh Barty to the iconic Venus Williams, right through to the young talent of Alex De Minaur and the experienced campaigner Novak Djokovic in the men’s field”, said South Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway.

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Coco Gauff joins strong line-up in Auckland

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US 15-year-old tennis sensation Coco Gauff will start her 2020 season at the ASB Classic in Auckland joining a strong line-up, which also features former Grand Slam champions Caroline Woniacki, Jelena Ostapenko, Serena and Venus Williams, Jelena Ostapenko and Svetlana Kuznetsova and double defending champion Julia Goerges, reigning US Open champion Bianca Andreescu and this year’s Roland Garros semifinalist Amanda Anisimova.

 

The line-up of the 2020 edition of the Auckland tournament will be a mix of youth and experience. Williams, Kuznetsova, Wozniacki and Goerges have collected a total of 127 titles between them.

Serena Williams won 23 Grand Slam titles and clinched 72 WTA titles. This year the US legend reached two finals at Wimbledon and at the US Open.

In last year’s edition of the Auckland tournament Andreescu came through the qualifying round before beating world number one players Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki en route to reaching her first WTA Final. Andreescu went on to win three titles at Indian Wells, Toronto and the US Open. One year ago the Canadian player of Romanian origin was ranked world number 178 and is now sitting at world number 5 in the WTA Ranking.

Gauff became the youngest player to qualify for the main draw at Wimbledon last summer and went on to reach the main draw before losing to Simona Halep. Gauff reached the third round at the US Open and won her first WTA title in Linz after beating World number 8 Kiki Bertens along the route.

Organisers of the Auckland tournament also confirmed that 18-year-old rising star Amanda Anisimova will take take part at this event from 6th to 12th January 2020.

The line-up is completed by Petra Martic and Cici Bellis. Martic has reached her career high ranking of 15 after winning her first WTA title in Istanbul. The Croatian player has reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and at the US Open and the final in Zhengzhou.

Bellis is coming back from an injury. The US player was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year at the age of 18. She reached the semifinal of the Oracle 125 tournament in Houston.

“This is clearly the best field we have ever had ever in Auckland. It will be the first time we have had two top 10 players, when you add in three further Grand Slam winners, double defending champion Julia Goerges, and two prospects on the WTA Tour Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova”, said tournament director Karl Budge.

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The ATP announces the nominees for the 2019 Awards

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The ATP has announced the nominees for the player-voted categories Awards: Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award.

 

Comeback of the year:

The candidates for the Comeback Player of the Year Award are Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka.

Murray underwent second right hip surgery on 28th January and missed five months and made his come-back at Queen’s, where he won the doubles title together with his partner Feliciano Lopez. He made his singles return at Cincinnati as wildcard losing to Richard Gasquet in the first round. He earned his first singles comeback win at Zhuhai before losing to eventual champion Alex De Minaur in the second round. He reached his first quarter final after his comeback at the China Open in Beijing beating Matteo Berrettini in the first round before losing to eventual champion Dominic Thiem. The Scotsman completed his comeback by winning the Antwerp title against Stan Wawrinka.

Rublev sustained a back injury at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2018 and made his comeback during the 2019 summer season when he reached the final in Hamburg losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili. Last August Rublev scored the biggest win of his career so far in Cincinnati where he beat Roger Federer in the third round in straight sets. He went on to lose to eventual champion Danil Medvedev in the quarter finals. At the US Open Rublev beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios before losing to Matteo Berrettini in the fourth round. Rublev advanced to his ATP Masters 1000 doubles final in Paris Bercy with his teammate Karen Khachanov losing to Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicholas Mahut.

Tsonga fell to world number 262 in ATP Rankings on 5th November 2019 (his lowest since number 284 on 25th September 2006). In 2019 he won two titles on French soil at Montpellier and Metz and reached the quarter final at Rotterdam, Lyon and Paris Bercy.

Wawrinka missed almost three months due to injury problems in 2018, but he started his comeback in 2019 when he reached his first tournament final in over 20 months, where he lost to Gael Monfils in three sets. He beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round at Roland Garros in an epic five-set match that lasted 5 hours and 9 minutes, and he went on to advance to his first Grand Slam quarter final in two years. He went on to lose to his compatriot Roger Federer in four close sets. At the US Open Wawrinka advanced to the quarter final after defending champion Novak Djokovic pulled out after losing the first two sets. It was the first match between Djokovic and Wawrinka in the 2016 US Open final. Wawrinka went on to lose the quarter final to Danil Medvedev. Wawrinka reached the final at Rotterdam and Antwerp.

Most improved player of the year:

 The candidates for the Most Improved Player of the Year are Danil Medvedev, Felix Auger Aliassime, Matteo Berrettini and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Medvedev improved his best ranking from world number 16 on 15th January to world number 5 at the end of the year. The 23-year-old Russian player won four titles in Sofia, Cincinnati, St. Petersburg and Shanghai and reached five more finals in Brisbane, Barcelona, Washington, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal and at the US Open. He led the ATP Tour this season with 59 match wins to 21 defeats.

Tsitsipas was ranked world number 15 last January and ended the season ranked world number 6 with three titles at Marseille, Estoril and at the ATP Finals in London. He was the first Greek player to break into the top 5 and the first Greek to reach the Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open. He earned 54 wins this season. He became the youngest player to beat Nadal on clay. He scored the biggest win of his career over world number 1 Djokovic in Shanghai Masters 1000.

Berrettini improved his ranking moving up from world number 52 on 7th January 2019 to his career-high at number 8 at the  end of the year. The Italian player won two titles in Budapest and Stuttgart and reached the semifinal of the US Open. He became the first Italian player in history to win a match at the ATP Finals when he beat eventual finalist Dominic Thiem. He ended the season with a record of 43 wins to 25 defeats.

Auger Aliassime started the season as the world number 106 on 7th January 2019 to number 21 at the end of the season. The 19-year-old reached three finals in Rio de Janeiro, Lyon and Stuttgart and qualified for his first Masters 1000 semifinal in Miami.

Newcomer of the year:

The candidates for the Newcomer of the Year Award are Felix Auger Aliassime, Casper Ruud, Miomir Kecmanovic, Jannik Sinner, Mikael Ymer, Corentin Moutet, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Alexei Popyrin.

Jannik Sinner started the year ranked world number 553 and reached his career high as world number 78. The Italian 18-year-old player won three ATP Challenger titles in Bergamo, Lexington and Ortisei and qualified for his first ATP 250 semifinal in Antwerp. He lost to Stan Wawrinka in the first round in his debut Grand Slam tournament at the US Open.

Casper Ruud improved his ranking from world number 111 to world number 54 and reached the final in Houston.

Miomir Kecmanovic improved his best ranking from world 126 to number 59 at the end of the year and finished runner-up to Lorenzo Sonego in the Antalya final.

Mikael Ymer improved from world number 196 to world number 74 and won four Challenger titles at Noumea, Tampere, Orleans and Mouilleron le Captif.

Corentin Moutet ended the season ranked 83 at the end of the year. He reached the third round at Roland Garros and won two Challenger titles at Chennai and Lyon.

World number 87 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina reached the semifinal at Estoril and won two finals in Seville and Liuzhou. He was ranked world number 241 last January.

Alexei Popyrin finished the year ranked 97 after reaching the third round at the Australian Open and at the US Open.

 

The candidates for the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Diego Schwartzman and Dominic Thiem. This award is given to the player, who conducted himself at the highest of professionalism and integrity, who competed with his fellow players with the utmost spirit of fairness and who promoted the game through his off -court activities.

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