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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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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