NEW YORK — Rafa, you gave your followers quite a scare.
No. 19 looked like it was in the books when you got the first break point of the ninth game of the third set. But it wasn’t, and the second break point flew by as well.
Oh well, it was just 5-4, Daniil Medvedev. There was still time to close out the match in three sets. But after deadlocking the set at 5-5, you won only one point in the last two games of the set.
IT MIGHT BE A LONG NIGHT
Settle back, Rafa Nadal fans. It might be a long night.
The men’s final of Sunday’s U.S. Open was going the distance, even though Nadal served with double game points in the decisive 10th game of the fourth set, but still lost the set.
Nadal even served for the match with a 5-2 lead in the fifth set. He lost that one on a time violation first-serve penalty leading to a double fault to end the game.
Was it time to get worried about Rafa getting No. 19 this night? Was this going to be a Serena-like case of bad fortune for Nadal? Of course, Serena Williams one day earlier had failed again for an all-time tying No. 24 Grand Slam title.
It could have happened to Nadal, too. Anything could have, judging from the way his tall and amazingly agile and quick Russian opponent was playing.
MIGHTY SERVE ENDED A HISTORIC FINAL
Nadal looked like he had a lock on No. 19 again before wasting two match points with Medvedev serving the ninth game of the fifth set.
Rafa even had to fight off a break point in the 10th game before ending the nearly five-hour marathon with a perfectly place serve down the middle.
He went flat on his back in disbelief, and Medvedev went around the net. The two embraced.
It, indeed, was one of the most memorable moments in the history of Grand Slam tennis.
Finally, a 7-5, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory that pushed Nadal’s Grand Slam championship total to within one of Roger Federer’s all-time record.
AN AMAZING PERFORMANCE BY BOTH PLAYERS
This was simply an amazing match that left a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, mostly of Nadal supporters, drained. It was that riveting.
This had to be one of the greatest U.S. Open finals ever.
Medvedev put on an unthinkable display of grit and talent, a sheer desire to win. Medvedev and Nadal were like acrobats at times as they moved around the court to pull off amazing tennis stunts. Anything was possible because of the two players’ athletic abilities.
Nadal is definitely for real. But if his 23-year-old Russian opponent is for real, as he certainly appeared Sunday night, the Australian Open isn’t going to be a picnic for Federer, Nadal or the injured Novak Djokovic, or anyone else.
And then there’s the French Open where Rafa will be heavily favored to get No. 20 if he fails in Melbourne. Of course, if Rafa plays the way he did in the first two sets on Sunday, he may notch No. 20 Down Under.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? WHY NOT A DRAW?
What happens if both Nadal and Federer are tied for the all-time lead with 20 Grand Slam titles each?
If they’re deadlocked in another year or two, it might be time for a permanent dual timeout for both players. As sad as such a day would be, it would be a day to celebrate. Co-record holders wouldn’t be a bad way to go since retirement is inevitable for these two great players.
Although Federer demonstrated at Wimbledon and Nadal showed Sunday night, they can still rival the best tennis has to offer, but the rest of the men’s tennis game isn’t going to take a break waiting for these two greats to retire. Medvedev and his likes will continue to close the gap until there isn’t one.
PRESSURE WILL CONTINUE TO BUILD
As a result of what happened in Sunday’s U.S. Open final, the days ahead will add even more pressure for both Nadal and Federer each time a Grand Slam rolls around.
Federer already has felt that pressure, both here and at Wimbledon, as he tried to widen his lead over Nadal and Djokovic. Even Nadal seemed to feel some of the same pressure Sunday night while trying to close out Medvedev.
After defeating Federer in the Wimbledon final, Djokovic called Federer “one of the greatest ever” in his acceptance comments after the match. Federer frowned, but Djokovic was right.
Djokovic knows, because he’s not out of the all-time race just yet.
It would be nice if Federer and Nadal could/or would retire at the same time, and join Rod Laver as the greatest men’s tennis players ever. But just not quite yet.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
Shock French Open Date Change Triggers Player Backlash
The change to the grand slam calendar hasn’t gone down too well.
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) has come under fire for a lack of communication after making an unexpected announcement regarding the next grand slam tournament.
On Tuesday a statement was released confirming that the French Open has been delayed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Which has brought the entire tennis season to a halt. Astonishingly they now intend to hold the tournament between September 20 – October 4, which is just seven days after the conclusion of the US Open. The announcement has caught many off guard with neither the ATP, WTA or ITF yet to publish an official response.
“In order to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in organising the tournament, the French Tennis Federation has made the decision to hold the 2020 edition of Roland-Garros from 20th September to 4th October 2020.” The FFT said in a statement.
“Though nobody is able to predict what the situation will be on 18th May, the current confinement measures have made it impossible for us to continue with our preparations and, as a result, we are unable to hold the tournament on the dates originally planned.”
Whilst it was always highly likely that the date for Roland Garros would be changed due to the ongoing crisis, the way in how it was done has once again highlighted serious communication issues in the sports. Many players have taken to social media to express their frustration that they were not consulted about the decision until it was made public.
“Strong Move by French Open/FFT to move to end of Sept. I thought the powers that be in tennis were supposed to be all about working together these days?” Former world No.1 doubles player Jamie Murray wrote on Twitter.
Jonny O’Mara, who is a top 60 doubles player, also took a swipe at the situation on social media by saying ‘Glad I’m on twitter to see tournament schedules and updates. Been searching my junk mail for days.’ Diego Schwartzman wrote ‘once again we found out on Twitter.’
One of the strongest critics is Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, who is a member of the ATP Player Council. In a post that has since been deleted, Pospisil described the move as ‘madness’ before seemingly calling for a union to be formed. A highly debated topic in recent time among players and those governing them.
“This is madness. Major announcement by Roland Garros changing the dates to one week after the US Open. No communication with the players or the ATP.. we have ZERO say in this sport. It’s time. #UniteThePlayers.” He wrote.
In another tweet, the 29-year-old stressed that his criticism only related to the communication provided by the FFT and there was no other motive.
This is such a difficult time. Everyone is being impacted by this catastrophe. Enhancing communication & working together to find solutions should be the priority. Not going Rogue & making selfish/arrogant decisions to further impact the tour in a negative way. #RolandGarros
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) March 17, 2020
On the women’s tour, there has also been a reaction from top players. Although instead of words, they have chosen to communicate their opinions via memes.
— Elina Svitolina (@ElinaSvitolina) March 17, 2020
— Belinda Bencic (@BelindaBencic) March 17, 2020
Everything is fine. pic.twitter.com/VenGwYSqLw
— Madison Keys (@Madison_Keys) March 17, 2020
It is understood that at least one player had been contacted about the announcement before it was made official. Journalist Eric Salliot has reported that French Open tournament director Guy Forget spoke with Rafael Nadal. Nadal, who is the reigning US and French Open champion, is yet to comment in public.
« Réaction de surprise de la part de l’ATP. Il fallait prendre cette décision au nom de l’intérêt supérieur du tournoi. On ne pouvait pas balayer la saison de terre battue. Ce sera l’été indien. Guy Forget a appelé @RafaelNadal » Signé @bgiudicelli_pr #RolandGarros
— Eric Salliot (@ericsalliot) March 17, 2020
It is understood that the ATP and WTA will likely release a statement tomorrow. Meanwhile, on the same day The All England Tennis Club has confirmed that they are hoping to hold Wimbledon on the set dates (29th June-12th July). Meaning there will possibly be three grand slams on three different surfaces within three months. A situation that may trigger a revolt from players in the coming weeks.
Why Rafael Nadal Doesn’t Want Novak Djokovic To Win Another Grand Slam
The world No.2 also sheds some light on the WhatsApp group the Big Three have.
This week Rafael Nadal has a chance to once again return to the top of the rankings if he has a little bit of luck on his side.
The 19-time grand slam champion returns to action at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Mexico. A tournament he has won on two previous occasions. Nadal is required to win the event once again if he wishes to rise back to world No.1 on Monday. Even if he does that, the Spaniard also has to hope that his rival doesn’t reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Djokovic started his campaign on Monday with a straight sets win over Malek Jaziri.
“I always have good memories. I come here (to Acapulco) because I love the tournament, the organization, and the public makes me feel at home.” Nadal told reporters on Monday.
“The love of the people is exceptional and that encourages me to be here another year and makes me very happy. I have the illusion of enjoying Acapulco, it is an important week for me personally, after Australia, this is a test to see how I feel. I hope to be prepared.”
Nadal and Djokovic are members of the prestigious Big Three, who have won the past 13 majors between them. Also in the group is Roger Federer. In their head-to-head Nadal trails 26-29 to the Serbian and has lost three out of their four most recent meetings on the tour. Both men have praised each other on numerous occasions throughout their careers, but do they also secretly want the other to fall?
In Nadal’s case the answer is yes. Reflecting on the recent Australian Open final, the 33-year-old admitted that he wanted Dominic Thiem to win. Thiem had a two-set lead over Djokovic, but lost in a thriller.
“In this world we sometimes live with a bit of hypocrisy.” Nadal explained.
“I have a very good relationship with Dominic, as I also have with Djokovic, but if you ask me if I prefer Djokovic to have more Grand Slams that me, my answer is no.’
“It is a purely professional issue, I do not hide to say that, as if you ask Novak about whether he prefers me to win or Dominic in Roland Garros, Dominic will probably be the answer.’
“This is the reality of the competition, it is not going against anyone or any strange reason. If Djokovic wins, I congratulate him and I go to the next tournament, but if you ask who I wanted to win (the Australian Open), I prefer Dominic. “
At present Nadal is second on the all-time list for most grand slam titles won at 19. One behind record holder Federer and two ahead of Djokovic.
One example of the good working relationship between the Big Three is a Whatsapp group they have. Which was recently revealed to the public by Djokovic, who said he has ‘tremendous respect’ for his two other rivals.
Naturally tennis fans are wondering what is said on that chat and if there are any revelations made. However, it appears that the group isn’t as unique as first through with Nadal shedding further light on it.
“We are not just the three of us in a group. Yes, we are in groups with more people, groups with all of us in the Players Council to be informed of all the news that is happening and that is transmitted there, some other group that we are all three … but not alone.” The Spaniard said.
“We do not have frequent communication, that is, daily, between us, but when there are things that we need to know about each other, congratulations, concerns … no longer in the group, but on a personal level, we usually have no problem writing to us privately. The group is more for professional work issues than for personal issues.”
Nadal will start his Mexican campaign against Pablo Andujar in the first round. He will be hoping to fair better in the tournament than 12 months ago, when he was knocked out in the second round by Nick Kyrgios. Who went on to win the title. Despite the disappointment, the top seed said he doesn’t have a ‘feeling of revenge.’
“I’ve never had a feeling of revenge before a tournament, I don’t think that feeling helps you win more games, but quite the opposite. Revenge makes you not think clearly. Wth serenity, and when it comes to competing, the important thing is to have a cool enough head to give my best level. “ He concluded.
The last tournament Nadal won on the tour was the US Open in September.
Roger Federer Pulls Out Of French Open Following Surgery
The unexpected announcement means the former world No.1 will be out of action for at least almost four months.
20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer will miss the entire clay-court season after confirming that he has undergone surgery on his right knee.
The world No.3 underwent arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday in his native Switzerland following consultation with doctors. A minimally invasive procedure that involves the examination and treatment of the joint. Federer said his right knee was ‘bothering him for a little while’ and that doctors are ‘very confident of a full recovery.’ The 38-year-old also missed six months of the 2016 season due to a knee injury.
In a statement, Federer confirmed that he will not be playing another tournament until the grass season. Ruling him out of the upcoming North American hard-court swing, as well as the French Open. The only clay court tournament he was due to play in 2020.
“My right knee has been bothering me for a little while.” Federer said on social media.
“I hope it would go away, but after an examination, and discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery in Switzerland yesterday (Wednesday).”
“After the procedure, the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery.”
“As a result, I will unfortunately have to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Bogotá (exhibition), Miami and the French Open. I am grateful for everyone’s support. I can’t wait to be back playing again soon.”
Concerns about Federer’s current form started during his run at the Australian Open where he lost in the semi-finals to Novak Djokovic. In Melbourne, the Swiss player experienced issues with his right leg. He described played down the issue as ‘pain and problems’ following his quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren, which he took a medical time-out during.
“Of course, you want to be 100% to be able to train again, then get ready for hopefully Dubai. Right now it’s only guessing. I’m very happy that I don’t feel any worse than when I started (the match). That’s for me super encouraging.” He told reporters on January 30th,
Nevertheless, Federer has recently been in action. Almost two weeks ago, he took on Rafael Nadal in an exhibition match in South Africa and won 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. The clash was in aid of the Roger Federer Foundation, which supports early childhood education in six southern African countries, including South Africa. An estimated $3.5 million was raised, according to the associated press.
Should everything goes to plan, Federer’s next tournament will now be the Halle Open, which he has a lifetime contract to play at unless injured or ill. The tournament starts on June 15th.
It is only the second time in his career, Federer has undergone the knife whilst playing on the tour. The first was back in 2016 when he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
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