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.”
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.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
French Player Tests Positive For COVID-19 Hours After Australian Open Defeat
The world No.40 was preparing to leave the country.
Ugo Humbert is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 following his first round loss at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Humbert, who was the 29th seed in the men’s draw, is understood to have produced a positive result during a routine procedure players have to conduct before they leave the country. It is unclear as to if he is currently suffering from any symptoms.
Humbert crashed out of the tournament to compatriot Richard Gasquet, who won their match 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6 (3), 6-3, in three hours and 18 minutes. Gasquet also tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia earlier this month but was given the all clear to play at Melbourne Park following a negative test. There was a 15-day period between the 35-year-old announcing on Twitter he had the virus and his first match against Humbert.
“I was tested positive on my exit test yesterday and I’ll stay one more week in isolation in Australia,” Humbert wrote on Instagram.
“Thanks for your support and see you soon.”
The 23-year-old has started his season by winning one out of four matches played. Prior to the Australian Open, he scored one of the biggest wins of his career by defeating Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Cup in the group stages. However, following that victory he suffered losses to Alex de Minaur and Matteo Berrettini.
Tennis Australia is yet to comment on Humbert’s positive test.
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