Rafael Nadal claims his ninth title in Rome - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal claims his ninth title in Rome

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Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 6-0 4-6 6-1 in the eagerly awaited final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia on the Centre Court in Rome to claim his ninth title of his legendary career in the Italian capital. Nadal has become the first player in history to win 34 Masters 1000 titles.

 

Nadal and Djokovic met for the 54th time in their careers and for the 26time in a final. Djokovic entered the Rome final with a 28-25 win-loss record and beat Nadal in three sets in this year’s Australian Open final by the scoreline of 6-3 6-2 6-3.

The top 2 players of the ATP Ranking won 12 of the last 14 Rome titles.

Nadal took a bagel win in a one-sided first set with three consecutive breaks and earned 59 % of his return points. Nadal broke in the first game of the opening set after a loose forehand from Djokovic. Nadal went up a double break to open a 3-0 lead with a forehand down the line and claimed the opening set in the sixth game with a service winner after 38 minutes.

Djokovic bounced back in the second set and earned a break point in the fourth game, but Nadal saved it with a forehand down the line winner.

The Serbian player saved three break points he faced in the seventh game of the second set and fended off another chance at 4-4. Nadal wasted a game point in the 10th game and sent a forehand long to drop serve in the 10th game. With his only break Djokovic claimed the second set 6-4 forcing the match to the third set.

The Serbian player earned his first break point of the match at 2-1 in the second set with a forehand, but Nadal saved it with an inside.in forehand winner. Nadal brought up three break points at 3-3 0-40 with a lob that Djokovic smashed into the net.

Djokovic saved the 4th fourth break point of the second set at 4-4 before breaking serve at deuce in the 10th game to close out the second set 6-4, when Nadal missed wide.

Nadal started the decisive set with an immediate break at deuce in the opening game. Djokovic saved a break point in the third game at deuce, but dropped his serve for the second time at 30 in the fifth game to trail 1-4 after a backhand error Nadal wrapped up the match with his third break in the seventh game on his first match point at deuce to clinch his ninth title in Rome and his 34th Masters 1000 trophy. Nadal has lifted his first title of the 2019 season and his first tournament since last August’s Rogers Cup.

Nadal won the Rome title for the second consecutive year becoming the first player to successfully defend a title in 2019. The Spanish player had not won a single tournament in 2019, but he reached three consecutive semifinals in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.

The Spanish player becomes the oldest Rome champion in the history of the Rome tournament.

Nadal received the Rome trophy from former Roland Garros and Rome champion Gustavo Kuerten during a ceremony attended by Italian tennis legend Nicola Pietrangeli and Italian tennis Federation President Angelo Binaghi.

“For me it’s always an honour to play in Rome. I played here for the first time in 2005. I thank the crowd for their support. I played the first set very well. The most important thing is to return to my best level. All titles are special, but this win means a lot to me, because Rome has a very important place in the history of our sport. I had a very difficult week. For me, as I have said ever day, winning titles is important, but for me the most important thing is to feel myself competitive and healthy. And then with the feeling I am improving.” Nadal said during a post-match interview with TennisTV.

 “I know if I reach my level, you can win or you can lose, but normally I will have my chances. Especially on this surface. I am very happy with my victory. It was a great match, I played well and now I’m just enjoying the moment.” Nadal summarised.

 “It is always special playing against Novak, against Roger (Federer). These kind of matches has been tradition in the sport for the last 10 or so years.” he said.

 “Novak is having a great season. Winning in Australia and winning last week in Madrid. It’s an important win for me, but what means a lot is winning again here in Rome. It is one of the most important events of the year.”

Nadal did not drop a set en route to reaching the final, while four-time Rome champion Djokovic won two three-set marathon matches against Juan Martin Del Porto in the quarter final and Diego Schwartzman in the semifinal and spent 5 hours and 34 minutes compared to Nadal ‘s 3 hours and 22 minutes.

“No, I don’t want to talk about the fatigue. Simply Nadal was the better player today.” Djokovic said during the trophy presentation.

 

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Old Timers

Experience is the name of the game in Halle on Thursday.

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Roberto Bautista Agut (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

The second match of the day at the Noventi Open featured a couple of old timers. Frenchman, Richard Gasquet is thirty-three and Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut is thirty-one. They’ve both been around since the early part of the twenty-first century. Lest that seem like a short time ago, it is now 2019 and soon we will be slipping into the roaring twenties. (Yes, I know that was a twentieth century tag, but maybe there will be a whole new set of Mousquetaires, i.e. Jean Borotra, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste. Then again, maybe not.)

The match today was over in just two minutes more than an hour. Bautista Agut came out on top 6-1, 6-4. It was a match that seemed to hover over the baseline with Gasquet moving toward the net more often than Bautista Agut, but not much. There was a good deal of hit and miss going on from both players, with lengthy rallies tending to be non-existent. The grass seems much more amenable to the tennis this year. The bounces seemed slow but steady – even if the serving speed of this match was toned down a bit from today’s earlier match between two Italians – Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi. (Berrettini sent many serves over the net at speeds, well over 125 miles per hour [200 kilometers per hour]. He won in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2).

Gasquet became a professional tennis player in 2002. That’s a lot of days to spend on the court – more than 6,200 actually. (If years are more easily visualized, then that’s seventeen.) Over all those years, his winnings have averaged about a million American dollars for each of them. (That amount may seem like a good deal of money for batting a little ball across a net, but, there are coaches, trainers, physical therapists, and all the other folks who work to keep a player in the best shape possible that need to be paid for. Then one must add to that, the airfare, the transportation, the hotel rooms and all the other sundries that can total more than one can calculate in a day or two.)

To say that Gasquet’s career is pedestrian is a misnomer. He began playing as a youngster. At nine, he was touted as the “next” future champion in February 1996 on the cover of French Tennis Magazine. He was nine. In 2007 he reached his highest ranking of 7. He has slipped to number 54 today, which is his lowest since 2010. He’s always been a competitor. He has spent all of his adult life on the tennis court, always expecting a win. Seventeen years is a long time to stay in top form. It is apparent he still loves tennis, and amazingly his one-handed backhand is a sight to behold. It flows like a feather in the wind.

He could be thinking of moving over to allow the younger players a space in the rankings, or like many other competitors today, he may feel there’s another win waiting for him. This one could be just around the corner at Wimbledon. His hopes for the future are likely simple and to the point – London may be calling.

Bautista Agut has been a professional player since 2005. As of today, he has been ranked in the top 30 of the ATP rankings for 267 consecutive weeks. That’s a smidge over five years. He began playing tennis at five. He scampers about the court like a youngster, to this day. Actually, he enjoys horseback riding and owns seven horses, which I assume he leaves at home in Spain.

Earlier this year, in the first round of the Australian Open, he managed a win over Andy Murray in a trying five set match. He then moved on to the second round and defeated John Millman in yet another five setter. In the third round, he mowed Karen Khachanov in straight sets. He continued his winning ways by defeating Marin Cilic (last year’s Gerry Weber Open champ). But, then he met the up and coming Greek player, Stefanos Tsitsipas who was on a real high after defeating Roger Federer. Stefanos showed him the door. He then re-entered the top 20 and now he stands at 20 today.

With all that historic momentum stored in his memory banks, he might just have a chance at defeating nine time champ, at the Noventi Open, Roger Federer whom he will face in his next match here in Halle. Federer defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a nail biter – 7-6, 4-6, 7-5. This is Federer’s charmed tournament, and Bautista Agut will need all the luck and skill he can conjure to manage a win in the last match on Friday.

 

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Berrettini Stops Seppi In A “Mat” Versus “Andy” Battle

Matteo Berrettini and Andreas Seppi played a Noventi Open second-round match that was truly scintillating.

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Matteo Berrettini (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

It was the first Thursday match on the Noventi Open Stadion court, but it could have easily been played at Foro Italico in Rome. Matteo Berrettini took on Andreas Seppi in a second round contest at the ATP 500 championship played in Halle, Germany.

 

As is always the case with matches between countrymen, there were a collection of appealing back stories to tell. Starting from the top, it was a classic “young player versus veteran” battle as the 23-year-old Berrettini faced Seppi, who turned 35 in February. It featured two individuals who are basketball player tall, given that Berrettini is 6’5” and Seppi is 6’3”. The similarities continued, as both are right-handed, hit two-handed backhands and absolutely pummel their ground strokes.

They did exactly that for an hour and 44-minutes until the youngster, nicknamed “Mat” downed the oldster, known as “Andy”, (who was a tournament qualifier), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

They put on a dazzling show, taking full advantage of a court that provided “sit up and hit it” playability on shots that were attempted from the middle of the lawn. Those that travelled close to the sidelines slowed, then skidded. The overall conditions resulted in an array of exchanges that were often quick, and pulsating. A sprinkle of occasional, deft and feathery dropshots were tossed into the mix (shots that just cleared the net before abruptly coming to a stop near one of the alleys)

“ATP Matchfacts” once again becomes the bible story for the match, but the stats really do little to enlighten anyone who didn’t actually watch what took place. Seppi put together workable service numbers notching four aces, along with three double faults. Berrettini, who regularly clocked serves in the plus 125 MPH range, blazed twelve aces against one double fault. More important, he converted three of five break point opportunities that came his way, while his opponent enjoyed a one for three success rate. In the final count, Berrettini earned 88 of the 157 points played (56%). Seppi claimed 69 points which equalled 44%.

Last week, Berrettini was on his game taking the Stuttgart title without losing a set. In April, he won Budapest. Adding to the home country flavour, he played Halle for the first time in 2018 and lost to, none other, than Seppi, 6-3, 7-5 in the first round.

Seppi was born in Bolzano, Italy but now resides in a city with a magically lyrical name – Caldaro sulla Strada del Vino – which is in Italy’s South Tyrol. An individual who appreciates contrasts, his favourites surfaces are clay and grass. His last choice speaks to the success he has had playing on it. Prior to meeting Berrettini, his career grass court record was 58-43. In Halle, he was 12-8, including a final round appearance in 2015 where he dropped a 7-6, 6-4 decision to Federer.

Berrettini comes from Rome, but now calls Monte Carlo home. Hard court is his favorite surface, but he was 7-3 on grass before meeting Seppi. Adding to his profile, he has a younger brother, Jacopo, who is a 20-year-old touring professional, who stands Seppi height (6’3”).

In the quarterfinals, Berrettini will face Karen Khachanov, the No. 3 seed. The Russian is the same age as the Italian and an inch taller (6’6”). They have played twice, both in 2019. On indoor hard court, in February at the Sofia Open, in Bulgaria, Berrettini was 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 better. A week ago, in Stuttgart, he triumphed again, 6-4, 6-2. Both victories took place in the round of 16.

In a repeat of Thursday’s scheduling, Berrettini will return to first match Noventi Open Stadion status against Khachanov…and it promises to be quite an exhibition as was today’s.

 

 

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Stefanos Tsitsias Draws Positives From Huge Scare At Queen’s

It was a difficult day at the office for the world No.6.

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London: Stefanos Tsitsipas narrowly avoided a shock exit from the Fever-Tree championships after coming through a marathon second-round encounter.

 

Gracing his presence on the grass courts in London for the second time on Thursday after finishing his first round match earlier, he faced France’s Jeremy Chardy. A semi-finalist at the tournament 12 months ago, who has lost his last seven matches against top 10 opposition. On paper, the Greek was the heavy favorite to triumph, but in reality, it was a more closely contested encounter with Tsitsipas coming out on top to win 4-6, 7-6(0), 7-6(4). Hitting 40 winners to 26 unforced errors, and saving seven out of the 11 break points he faced.

“I didn’t play very well at the beginning of the match. I found my rhythm for some reason when he (Chardy) was serving for the match.” Tsitsipas said afterward.
“Everything was working, positive and good. I managed to win the tiebreak in the second set, kept the momentum going.’
“I didn’t play my best, but somehow I survived.”

The roller coaster encounter saw the Greek struggle with his consistency early on against Chardy, whose use of slice came in handy for him. Down a set, it looked as if it was over for Tsitsipas after he got broken at 4-4 in the second. Handing the Frenchman a chance to serve the match out. Nevertheless, the top seed battled back to force the proceedings into a tiebreaker. Which he emphatically dominated with a seven-point winning streak.

All to play for, a marathon Chardy service game lasting almost 15 minutes opened up the decider. Fighting hard, Tsitsipas secured his breakthrough two games later as he broke for only the second time in the entire match. Closing in on the victory, the seesaw continued with an exchange of breaks occurring twice. With little disparity between the two, it was only fitting that a tiebreaker should separate the two. Which Tsitsipas managed to prevail in after spending two hours and 38 minutes on the court.

“In my first round match, I didn’t feel very good on the court. Now I feel a little bit better. Like I am advancing and proceeding with my play.” The world No.6 evaluated.
“It’s a very short period that you play on the grass. You kind of forget when you leave the grass season. You mentally forget how it is because there are certain thoughts on the grass that takes time to digest.”

Next up for the Australian Open semi-finalist will be Canadian rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime. The world No.21 toppled the controversial Nick Kyrgios 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 7-5. The match ended with Kyrgios allegedly tanking on match point before throwing his racket outside of the court.

“I’ve never beaten Felix in the singles. He has a big game and big potential. He can play really well, really aggressive and can be unpredictable.” Tsitsipas previewed.

Earlier in the day, a duo of seeds crashed out of the tournament. Kevin Anderson, who was playing in his first tournament since Miami, lost 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, to Gilles Simon. Meanwhile, Stan Wawrinka was stunned by Nicolas Mahut. Wawrinka was leading the decider 5-3, but failed to serve the match out and ended up losing 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(2).

“I just kept fighting and I came back at the end of the second set.” Said 2007 finalist Mahut.
“I kept playing better and better. I’m so happy to play on this court. It is one of the best courts I have ever played on. It’s a great win for me, I have so much respect for Stan.”

Mahut and Simon will play each other in the quarter-finals.

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