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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Emma Raducanu Finding Positives Ahead Of Eastbourne Return And ‘Pristine’ Wimbledon Experience

Emma Raducanu will play Eastbourne for the first time this week.

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Emma Raducanu is finding the positives as she looks forward to a big next few weeks.

The former US Open champion is preparing to play Wimbledon for the first time in two years.

Last year, Raducanu was undergoing multiple wrist surgeries but now the Brit returns to her home Grand Slam.

In an exclusive interview with Porsche Raducanu described Wimbledon as ‘Pristine’ as she prepares for a big two weeks at SW19, “I’m looking forward to competing at Wimbledon this year,” Raducanu explained.

“Obviously, Wimbledon is Wimbledon, and that speaks for itself, but I’m most looking forward to the stage which I missed last year and now I’m looking forward to coming back and being in a better place than I was in 2022!

“For me, it’s always about the rich history and traditions, like the pristine grass courts and iconic white dress code. It’s always the tournament that every player dreams of winning.

“The courts at Wimbledon are obviously pristine and look beautiful. The aesthetics and tradition that come with the tournament are unparalleled. Being a British player at Wimbledon is incredible, the atmosphere is hard to put into words.

“I particularly love court 1 because I feel the fans get more involved, that coupled with everything else that Wimbledon brings gives you extra motivation to perform well.”

Heading into Wimbledon, Raducanu enters the tournament with a semi-final in Nottingham and is now prepared to play in Eastbourne for the first time.

Ahead of Eastbourne, Raducanu admitted she is finding the positives in her preparation and is looking forward to her experience in Eastbourne, “Preparation has been going well thanks. I have had a good last few days training in London before Eastbourne this week so excited to get going,” Raducanu stated.

“Yes, I took a lot of positives from Nottingham. I performed well, and it showed me that my game is strong on the grass, so yes, it’s given me positivity heading into Wimbledon. Most importantly for me though at Wimbledon I feel in a place where I’m in love with the sport. Whatever happens this Wimbledon, I have full belief in myself for the years to come too.

“I’ve never played in Eastbourne, it’s on the water which I like, minus the wind maybe and it’s another home tournament where I get to play in front of a home crowd! That’s the best part.”

Raducanu will face fellow Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens in a blockbuster opening round match on Tuesday.

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Tommy Paul Downs Lorenzo Musetti Wins Maiden Grass Court Title At Queen’s Club

Tommy Paul is the new American number one!

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Tommy Paul has won his maiden grass court title at Queen’s Club after defeating Lorenzo Musetti 6-1 7-6(8).

The fifth seed was too good for the Italian who never really got going as Paul claimed his first title at ATP 500 level.

It was Paul’s third ATP title of his career and moves to world number 12 after an impressive week.

Heading into the final, Paul had beaten Jack Draper and Sebastian Korda and the American continued his red-hot form in the opening set.

Incredible movement on the grass as Paul played efficient counter-attacking tennis as he frustrated Musetti early on.

The American secured the early break for a 3-0 lead as the world number 13 dictated with power and touch.

Looking for a response, Musetti aimed to dictate play on the backhand and the Italian’s serve was firing in the next game as he secured his only hold of the match.

However, Paul was too consistent and solid as the American broke again and would soon win the opening set 6-1.

In the second set, Musetti started more positively as he was more proactive and aggressive as he looked to control his power more.

Paul managed to outlast Musetti’s early power to keep moving the Italian about and creating angles to hit winners into.

After a controlled start, Musetti produced a reckless seventh game as erratic unforced errors saw Paul break for a 4-3 lead.

The American was calm and collected for the majority of the match but when serving for the match Paul faltered under pressure.

Too many missed first serves saw Musetti with an opportunity to break back and the Italian didn’t need a second invitation as a crisp backhand return winner sealed the break back to level the set at 5-5.

An inspired Musetti applied pressure on Paul with some phenomenal hitting from the baseline as he secured consistent winners.

The American held his nerve to force a second set tiebreak as the American looked to overcome some jitters.

It looked like Musetti was going to cruise to the tiebreak but the Italian squandered a 4-1 lead in what was a highly entertaining tiebreak.

In the end Paul would win the tiebreak 10-8 and secure his first ATP 500 title as well as becoming the new American number one.

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Jannik Sinner Wins Maiden Grass-Court Title In Halle

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Jannik Sinner - Parigi 2024 (foto X @ATPTour_ES)

Jannik Sinner has reached another milestone in his blossoming career after claiming his first title on grass at the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle. 

The world No.1 ousted fifth seed and doubles partner Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(8), 7-6,(2), in a tightly contested encounter. Sinner was sternly tested by the big-hitting Pole who knocked French Open finalist Alexander Zverev out of the tournament on Saturday. Nevertheless, he managed to come out on top to become only the eighth player in PIF ATP ranking history to claim a trophy in his first tournament as world No.1.

“This means a lot,” Sinner told TennisTV. “It was a tough match against Hubi. I knew that I had to serve really well. You play only a couple of really important points throughout the whole set. I tried to produce in the best possible way in the important moments. 
“I’m very happy about this tournament because it’s my first time winning (a title) on a grass court. It’s a good feeling.”

Proceedings got underway with a 53-minuite opening set which saw no breaks of serves during the first 12 games played. However, each player had one opportunity to do so during the early stages. In the tiebreak, Sinner continued to be troubled by Hurkacz after failing to maintain a 5-2 lead. Then at 6-5, he was unable to convert his first set point due to an ace from his opponent. He missed a second opportunity to do so before prevailing on his third by hitting a shot deep to the baseline that his rival returned into the net. Making Sinner the first player to take a set off Hurkacz this week. 

It was a case of deja vu in the second frame with both players standing strong behind their serve. Hurkacz was unable to find a way to break but he did win over the crowd after hitting a fantastic over-the-shoulder passing shot without looking to win a point. 

Meanwhile, Sinner continued to weather the storm as he closed in on victory. The second tiebreaker saw him capitalised on back-to-back unforced errors from his rival en route to a 5-1 lead. Two points later he earned his first match point with the help of another costly mistake from across the court before closing the match out with ease.

Sinner’s latest victory is only the second time he has beaten a top 10 player on the grass with his first triumph being against Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon two years ago. He is also the second player to win Halle whilst ranked No.1 in the world after Roger Federer. 

Heading into Wimbledon, the 22-year-old has won four ATP trophies so far this season on three different surfaces. He has now won 38 out of his last 41 matches played. 

“I’m looking forward to it,” Sinner said of the next Grand Slam. “Last year I made the semis and played some good tennis. So let’s see what’s coming this year. 
“For sure I’m more confident on this surface. Obviously, the grass here (in Halle) might be a bit different to Wimbledon but I have a week to prepare so hopefully it is going to be a good tournament.”

Sinner is the 17th active male player to win a tour-level title on all three surfaces. 

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