Rafael Nadal Credits ‘Disastrous’ Barcelona Match For Latest Resurgence On The Clay - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Credits ‘Disastrous’ Barcelona Match For Latest Resurgence On The Clay

The Italian Open champion looks back on his start to 2019.

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Rafael Nadal (photo by @Gianni Ciaccia)

11-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal has returned back to the winner’s circle after what has been a turbulent past few months on the tour.

Prior to this week, the 32-year-old was yet to win a trophy in 2019. A rare occurrence for a player who has won more ATP titles on the clay than anybody else in the Open Era. Injury problems have hindered his preparation and a series of disappointing losses hampered his momentum.

Nadal’s title drought came to an end on Sunday in Rome. Taking on a lacklustre Novak Djokovic, the king of clay prevailed in three sets. Narrowing their head-to-head to 28-26 in Djokovic’s favour. Prior to the final, the Spaniard didn’t drop a set in four matches played.

“Finally, I have a title. For me, the most important thing is feeling myself playing well and feeling healthy, with the energy that I need. If that happens, experience is that I am going to fight for titles sooner or later.” Nadal said during his press conference on Sunday.

It hasn’t been a completely disastrous start to the clay season for the Spaniard. Prior to Rome, he reached the semi-finals at three consecutive tournaments. Nevertheless, perfectionist Nadal was far from contempt with his performances.

The turning point occurred back in April at the Barcelona Open. A tournament where their main stadium is named in Nadal’s honour. In his opening match, he narrowly avoided a shock loss to Leonardo Mayer. Coming through in three sets. Nadal was eventually knocked out of the tournament by Dominic Thiem.

“The first round in Barcelona, that was a disaster.” Nadal reflected. “The first match of Barcelona tournament was probably personally the match with less energy I played in my career. After that I came back to the hotel and just tried to think what’s going on and try to fix it inside me.’
“I woke up the next morning with a different energy. That’s what happened. After that moment I think I improved.”

Whilst gaining in confidence, 2019 has still been a very different clay-court season compared to others. At the most, Nadal will win two titles on the surface if he defends his title at Roland Garros. The lowest tally for him since 2016. The last time he didn’t win multiple ATP titles on the clay within a season was back in 2004.

The timing of Nadal’s latest triumph occurs exactly a week before the start of the French Open. A grand slam Nadal has dominated throughout the majority of his career. Whilst he is staying grounded about his chances, others has labelled him as the player to beat. Including rival Djokovic.

“Nadal, number one favourite, without a doubt, than everyone else.” Djokovic said with a grin in Rome.

Looking at the bigger picture, another major title may not be the biggest achievement for the world No.2 this year. For him it is his ability to return back to competing at the top of the men’s tour once again after being sidelined by injury.

“I worked hard to be where I am, mentally and physically, and in terms of tennis, too. That’s the victory. It is the work of every day, more than winning titles. The most important victory is the daily work and the motivation to be back.” He concluded.

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Wrist Injury Threatening To End Holger Rune’s Olympic Dream

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Holger Rune will have a second medical opinion on Monday before deciding if he is fit enough to play at the Olympic Games, according to his team. 

The Danish world No.17 recently retired from his quarter-final match at the Hamburg Open due to a knee injury. The hope at the time was that his withdrawal would be just a precautionary measure ahead of the Olympics. However, he is also dealing with a second issue that appears to be more serious.

According to TV 2 Sport, Rune has been struggling with a wrist issue and underwent a scan on Sunday which his mother Aneke says ‘doesn’t look promising.’ Aneke is also the manager of her son’s career. Rune’s Olympic dreams now rest on the outcome of a second medical expert that he will visit tomorrow who has a better understanding of the sport. 

“Unfortunately, it does not look promising after the first medical opinion after the review of the scan of the wrist,” Aneke Rune told TV 2 Sport.

“We are waiting for two tennis-specific doctors who will give a second opinion tomorrow (Monday). Tennis wrists look different from regular wrists, so we’ll hold out hope for one more day.” 

Rune is one of three Danish players entered into the Olympic tennis event along with Caroline Wozniacki and Clara Tauson. The country has only won one medal in tennis before which was at the 1912 Games when Sofie Castenschiold won silver in the women’s indoor singles event. 

So far this season, the 21-year-old has won 27 matches on the Tour but is yet to claim a title. He reached the final of the Brisbane International and then the semi-finals of three more events. In the Grand Slams, he made it to the fourth round of the French Open and Wimbledon. 

It is not known when a final decision regarding Rune’s participation in Paris will be made.

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Hubert Hurkacz Undergoes ‘Knee Procedure’ Ahead of Olympic Bid

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Poland’s top player on the ATP Tour is not giving up on his dream of winning a medal at the Olympic Games despite recently undergoing a medical procedure.

World No.7 Hubert Hurkacz suffered a knee injury during his second round clash at Wimbledon against France’s Arthur Fils. In the fourth set tiebreak of their clash, Hurkacz dived for a shot but landed badly on his knee and required on-court medical attention. He then played two more points before retiring from the match. 

In a social media post published on Wednesday, the  27-year-old confirmed he underwent a procedure on his knee earlier this week but didn’t provide any further details.  Although Hurkacz has stated his intention to play at the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris, where the tennis event will be held on the clay at Roland Garros. 

“I had a knee procedure this Monday, but I’m feeling better already and my team and are dedicating extensive time each day to the rehab process.” He wrote on Instagram. 

“It’s a dream for every athlete to represent their country at the Olympics, and I want to make sure I am fully fit and ready before making the final decision to step on court. The aim is not only to participate, but to win a medal for my country.”

So far this season Hurkacz has won 34 out of 48 matches played on the Tour. He won the Estoril Open in April and was runner-up to Jannik Sinner in Halle. 

The Olympic tennis event is scheduled to begin a week Saturday on July 27th. Poland is yet to win a medal in the event but expectations are high with women’s No.1 Iga Swiatek also taking part. 

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Motivation, Pressure And Expectations – Novak Djokovic Targets History At Wimbledon

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image via x.com/wimbledon

Novak Djokovic has broken numerous records throughout his career but he still feels the pressure of trying to make history in the sport. 

The world No.2 is through to his 10th Wimbledon final where he will play Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago. There is plenty on the line for the Serbian who could equal Roger Federer’s record for most men’s titles won at SW19 and break the overall record for most major singles won in the sport if he triumphs over the Spaniard. Djokovic currently has 24 Grand Slam trophies to his name which is the same as Margaret Court, who won some of her titles before the Open Era started. 

“Obviously I’m aware that Roger [Federer] holds eight Wimbledons. I hold seven. History is on the line.” Djokovic said on Friday after beating Lorenzo Musetti.

“Also, the 25th potential Grand Slam. Of course, it serves as a great motivation, but at the same time it’s also a lot of pressure and expectations.”

Coming into Wimbledon, there had been doubts over Djokovic’s form after he underwent surgery to treat a knee injury he suffered at the French Open. However, he has defied the odds to reach the final. His run has also seen him beat Alexi Popyrin and Holger Rune before getting a walkover in the quarter-finals from Alex de Minaur, who sustained an injury during the tournament. Then on Friday, he overcame a spirited Musetti in three sets. 

Despite the challenge, Djokovic has insisted that his expectations to do well are always high no matter what the situation is. During what has been a roller-coaster first six months of the season, he is yet to win a title this year or beat a player currently ranked in the top 10. Although he will achieve both of these if her beats Alcaraz on Sunday. 

“Every time I step out on the court now, even though I’m 37 and competing with the 21-year-olds, I still expect myself to win most of the matches, and people expect me to win, whatever, 99% of the matches that I play.” He said.

“I always have to come out on the court and perform my best in order to still be at the level with Carlos [Alcaraz] or Jannik [Sinner] or Sascha [Zverev] or any of those guys, Daniil [Medvedev]. 

“This year hasn’t been that successful for me. It’s probably the weakest results the first six months I’ve had in many years. That’s okay. I had to adapt and accept that and really try to find also way out from the injury that I had and kind of regroup.”

Djokovic hopes that a Wimbledon win will help turn his season around like it has done in the past for him. 

“Wimbledon historically there’s been seasons where I wasn’t maybe playing at a desired level, but then I would win a Wimbledon title and then things would change.” He commented.

“For example, that was the case in 2018 when I had elbow surgery earlier in the year, dropped my rankings out of top 20, losing in fourth round of Australian Open, I think it was quarters of Roland-Garros, and just not playing the tennis that I want to play. Then I won Wimbledon and then won US Open and then later on became No.1 very soon.”

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Alcaraz is hoping to stop Djokovic in his tracks. Should he defend his title at Wimbledon, he would become the first player outside the Big Three to do so since Pete Sampras more than 20 years ago. He has won their only previous meeting on the grass but trails their head-to-head 3-2. 

“I’m sure he knows what he has to do to beat me,” said Alcaraz.

“But I’m ready to take that challenge and I’m ready to do it well.”

When the two players take to the court to play in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic will be 15 years and 348 days older than Alcaraz. Making it the largest age gap in a men’s Grand Slam final since the 1974 US Open. Whoever is victorious will receive £2,700,000 in prize money. 

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