Rafael Nadal Gives His Verdict On Bid To Break Federer’s Grand Slam Record - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Gives His Verdict On Bid To Break Federer’s Grand Slam Record

The world No.2 evaluates his chances of becoming the most decorated player of all time in the majors.

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Rafael Nadal (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

French Open champion Rafael Nadal has said he is not fixated on the prospect of overtaking Roger Federer for most grand slam titles following his latest triumph in Paris.

 

The world No.2 defeated Dominic Thiem in four sets on Sunday to win a record 12th title at Roland Garros. A milestone that has been achieved by no other player at any other major in the history of the sport. Nadal’s overall grand slam trophy tally now stands at 18. Two adrift from that of Federer, who lost to Nadal in the semi-finals.

“It’s a motivation, but it’s not my obsession. If you ask me whether I would like it, of course.” Nadal told Spanish speaking press. “Is that’s a goal in my career, no. It’s not what makes me get up every morning or go and train and play. It’s not the way in which I view the sport, and it’s not the way in which I consider my sports career.”
“I don’t think my future will be worth any more if I equal Federer’s record or if I do something like Djokovic or whatever. I consider that I’m going much further than I dreamt about in my career.” He added.

At the age of 33, Nadal is four years younger than Federer. However, he isn’t the only player with a shot of breaking Federer’s record. Novak Djokovic, who has won three of the past four grand slam tournaments, is currently on 15. Out of the three players, Nadal has won the fewest matches at the four major tournaments. His total currently stands at 260, compared to 270 for Djokovic and 347 for Federer.

“You can’t be frustrated all the time because the neighbour has a bigger house than you or a bigger TV or better garden. That’s not the way that I see life.” He said.
“I just try to do it my way. I feel very lucky about all the things that are happening to me. And if, at the end of my career, I am able to win a couple of more Grand Slams and be closer to Roger, it will be unbelievable. If not, for me, it will still be unbelievable.”

A difficult year

Besides looking at what may happen in the future, he is relishing the latest achievement of his career after what has been turbulent past few months. During an injury-stricken 2018 season, he was only able to contest seven tournaments. Five of which were on the clay. Heading into this year, knee problems cut short his bid in Indian Wells and forced him out of the Miami Masters.

“I was not enjoying it too much, I was worried about my health. I was down mentally and physically after Indian Wells,” said Nadal.
“I was too negative. After Madrid and Barcelona, I was thinking about what I needed to do. I could stop for a while and recover or change my attitude and recover.”

Embarking upon this season’s clay season in mixed form, Nadal credits his turnaround to taking ‘baby steps.’ Something that was triggered during the Barcelona Open when he locked himself away and reflected on where his season was heading. Since April has has reached three consecutive semi-finals in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. Following on from that, he won the Italian Open before his latest victory in Paris.

“I don’t think that making drastic changes or drastic improvements are a good thing. It’s better to take small steps that you can consolidate. And I feel that I have been able to do that over the past four weeks, every week a little bit better, every match a little bit better.”

Wimbledon next

The focus of the tour has now switched to the grass with Wimbledon starting in less than a month. A tournament Nadal hasn’t won since 2010. Out of the four majors, it is his worst performing grand slam in terms of wins. However, he has missed playing at the All England Club three times in 2004, 2009 and 2016.

“As everybody knows, I love to play on grass. And as everybody knows, I am not able to play so many weeks in a row like I did ten years ago, eight years ago. So I have to do my schedule.” The 33-year-old explained.
“Honestly, the last two years that I played at Wimbledon, I felt close (to my best) again. Even if the first year was that match against (Gilles) Muller, I played great tennis there too. I was very close to being in the quarter-finals, and last year I was one point away to that final.”

Nadal has confirmed that he will not play any warm-up events on the grass. Something he has done for the past two years. The last time the Spaniard played on the surface outside of a major was back in 2015 at Queen’s. He has won 82 titles so far in his professional career, but only four of those have been on the grass.

Following his latest win, Nadal has achieved 950 victories on the ATP Tour. The fourth highest of all time.

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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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