ATP Finals 2019 Day 2 Preview: Rafael Nadal Begins Hunt For Elusive Title - UBITENNIS
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ATP Finals 2019 Day 2 Preview: Rafael Nadal Begins Hunt For Elusive Title

Rafael Nadal competes to win this event for the first time, as well as secure the year-end No.1 ranking.

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It was just one week ago that Nadal regained the No.1 ranking from Novak Djokovic for the first time since 2018.  But with only a 640-point lead over Novak in the year-end race, he’ll likely need at least a few wins this week to still be holding that crown seven days from now.  Djokovic is certainly favored to reach the semifinals, and each round robin match win is worth 200 points, with a semifinal win worth 400 and a final win worth 500. Rafa is joined in the Andre Agassi Group by three players who are 23-years-old or younger.  Two of those players are making their ATP Finals debuts, while the other is the defending champion.

 

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (6)

These are the two debuting players in the Andre Agassi Group, and they aren’t exactly best friends.  Their first match was last year in Miami, when Medvedev had some heated comments for Tsitsipas after a testy match which consisted of a few extended toilet breaks and a let cord Tsitsipas winner for which Daniil said he received no apology.  But Medvedev has completely owned this rivalry, with a 5-0 record. Although, all their matches have been tight, with Tsitsipas claiming a set in four of the five. Since the end of the grass court season, Medvedev has been the best player in the world.  From July to October, he reached six straight hard court tournament finals, with three titles. During that 11-week span, he went 29-3. He leads the tour this season with 59 match wins. But all that tennis has taken a toll on Daniil, as he withdrew from his home tournament in Moscow due to exhaustion, and lost his opening round in Paris to Jeremy Chardy.  Tsitsipas had a great first half of the year, highlighted by reaching his first Major semifinal in Australia and winning two titles. But the second half wasn’t as impressive, with losses in the first round of both Wimbledon and the US Open. However, he’s improved his form since the Laver Cup, having not lost to a player outside the top 5 since that event. Stefanos will be hoping to catch Medvedev at less than his best today considering their head-to-head, though I expect Medvedev to be refreshed after playing only one match in the past month.  And he’ll surely be motivated in his ATP Finals debut against a player he’s clashed with in the past. Daniil should be favored to be victorious on Monday afternoon.

Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (7)

After pulling out of Paris just over a week ago with an abdominal injury he suffered during practice, Nadal’s participation at this tournament was in question, which has been a theme over the years.  This is Rafa’s 15th consecutive year qualifying for this tournament, yet this is only his ninth time playing.  The good news is if he’s healthy enough to play all three of his round robin matches this week, he won’t need to face Djokovic or Federer, as they were drawn in the other round robin group.  And just like Monday’s other singles matchup, this is a rivalry where one player owns a 5-0 record. Fortunately for Nadal, that head-to-head against Zverev is in his favor. Their first match was at Indian Wells in 2016, when Zverev had an easy volley on match point, but hit it into the net.  He wouldn’t win another game in that match, and still hasn’t gotten a win over Nadal. And though he was the champion here a year ago, 2019 has been a challenging year for Sascha. He’s experienced turmoil off the court within his team, and has failed to take his career to the next level. If Rafa is close to 100%, that should be enough to overcome a defending champion who is lacking confidence.

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(VIDEO) Novak Djokovic Makes Tearful Tribute To Mentor Kobe Bryant After Australian Open Win

The world No.2 pays his respect to ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time’ on the Rod Laver Arena.

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Novak Djokovic posing for a photo ahead of his quarter-final match with Milos Raonic at the Australian Open (image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

World No.2 Novak Djokovic shed tears following his quarter-final win over Milos Raonic after paying tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

 

The 16-time grand slam champion took to the Rod Laver Arena wearing a green zip-up top. On the top right of his jacket with Bryant’s initial along with the numbers 8 and 24. The jersey numbers Bryant worn throughout his 20-year NBA career with the LA Lakers. A love heart was also placed under the numbers on Djokovic’s top.

“’I don’t know what we could say. It really caught us by surprise.” An emotional Djokovic said during his on-court interview with John McEnroe on Tuesday.
‘He was one of the greatest athletes of all time, he inspired myself and many other people around the world. I had that fortune to have a personal relationship with him over the last 10 years.’
‘When I needed some advice and support, he was there for me. He was my mentor, my friend, it’s just heartbreaking to see what has happened to him and his daughter. It’s unbelievable.’

Bryant was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash that also claimed the life of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others. As an athlete, he achieved numerous milestones. Including being named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and two-time NBA Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Olympic gold medallist and played in 18 All Star Games.

Just days before Bryant’s death, Djokovic spoke about their friendship during an interview with ESPN. Praising him for the support he received during his elbow injury and fall in the rankings during 2017 and the start of 2018. Reflecting on the conversations the two have had, he said he received some ‘valuable guidance.’

“Kobe has been one of my mentors,” Djokovic told ESPN. “I’ve had several phone conversations with him and also of course when we see each other live in the past couple of years. When I was going through the injury with my elbow and struggling to mentally and emotionally handle all of these different things that were happening to me and dropping in the Rankings and then having to work my way up, he was one of the people who was really there for me to give me some very valuable advice and guidelines to kind of believe and trust in myself, trust the process that I’ll be back.”

Djokovic will play Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the Australian Open.

The tribute can be watched below (from 00:30 to 01:40)

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Dominic Thiem reaches his first quarter final at the Australian Open

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Dominic Thiem eased past Gael Monfils 6-2 6-4 6-4 after 1 hour and 50 minutes on the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open. Thiem has extended his winning streak to 6-0 in his head-to-head matches against Monfils.

 

He fought back from two sets to one down to beat Australia’s Alex Bolt in the second round, but he won eight of his past nine sets to advance to the quarter finals.

Thiem got two breaks in the first set and never faced a single break point in the entire match. The Austrian player converted his fourth break point after three deuces, as Monfils missed a backhand volley wide. Thiem started the third set with an early break in the first game, as Monfils hit an inside-out forehand wide from the middle of the court wide. Thiem won his next service games and held his final game at love.

Thiem will face Rafael Nadal in a re-match of last year’s Roland Garros final.

“I think that I played my best match so far at this year’s Australian Open. It’s a very good feeling. The score looks way easier than the match was. I think I was lucky to make an early break in each set and I was managing to hold my serve well. I am so happy because I am in the quarter final here for the first time”, said Thiem.

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Alexander Zverev tops Andrey Rublev to set Australian Open quarter final against Stan Wawrinka

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Alexander Zverev beat his friend Andrey Rublev 6-4 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 37 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open for the first time in his career and his third at Grand Slam level.

 

Zverev broke serve once in each set. The German player has not dropped a set at this year’s edition of the Australian Open.

Zverev ended Rublev’s 15-match winning streak. Rublev had not lost a match since October, winning four matches at the Davis Cup last November and back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide.

In the opening set Zverev earned his first break at 3-3, as Rublev hit a forehand into the net. He held his serve to consolidate the break and wrapped up the first set after 29 minutes, when Rublev hit a crosscourt backhand wide.

Zverev started the second set with an immediate break in the first game of the second set and closed it out with a hold at love with an ace after 29 minutes.

Zverev broke serve for the third time in the match in the ninth game of the third set to take a 5-4, when Rublev made a groundstroke error, and sealed the win with a forehand volley.

“It feels amazing. I played some great matches against some great opponents. This is Andrey’s first loss of the season, having won two tournaments and getting through to the fourth round with unbelievable tennis. I have known Andrey since we were ten years old. I think he will be top 15, top 10 very soon. I am just happy and I hope I can continue”,said Zverev.

Zverev will face Stan Wawrinka in the quarter final. The German star beat Wawrinka twice in their previous two head-to-head matches in St. Petersburg 2016 and Miami 2017.

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