Rafael Nadal’s Future In The ATP Finals Hangs In The Balance Despite Monster Win - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal’s Future In The ATP Finals Hangs In The Balance Despite Monster Win

It was another dramatic victory for the top seed in London, but will it be enough to keep him in the tournament?

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LONDON: Rafael Nadal’s future fate in this year’s ATP Finals is up to one of his rivals in the competition after he closed out his round-robin campaign with an epic win over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 

Nadal, who secured the year-end No.1 spot yesterday, fought from behind to record a roller-coaster 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5, win at The O2 Arena. Spending almost three hours on the court to avoid suffering multiple losses in the group stage of the tournament for the first time since 2011. Throughout the Monmouth battle, he hit six aces along 38 winners without facing a single break point in the entire match.

“I did all the things I could do today,” Nadal said afterward on the court. “I fought until the end. If I am able to play in front of you (the crowd) tomorrow against Roger it would be a huge honor.’
“If not, I hope to see you next year.” He added.

The London showdown was a clash of two different scenarios. Nadal knew that he had to win the match to even have a chance of progressing to the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time since 2015. In contrast, Tsitsipas had the luxury of knowing that regardless of how he performs he is through to the last four no matter what.

Despite the stakes being significantly higher for Nadal, Tsitsipas was not set on taking it easy. The opening set saw both players stan firm behind their service games as neither refused to buckle. Nadal’s attacking play was muzzled by Tsitsipas’ defensive capabilities. Creating a level playing ground between the two despite the world No.1 winning four out of their five previous meetings.

49 minutes passed with no break point opportunities occurring in Nadal’s must-win encounter. Paving way for a tiebreak where ironically the difficulty for both men was trying to hold their serve. Exchanging mini breaks between each other twice, it would be Tsitsipas who scored a decisive blow. A Nadal backhand into the net followed by another shot going beyond the baseline moved the Greek to his first set point. Cheered on by a huge roar from the London crowd, he clinched the lead with the help of a 134 mph ace.

Nadal would once again need to draw upon his warrior-like fighting spirit to turn his fortunes around. Emulating his heroics against Daniil Medvedev two days ago. Bursts of frustration from the 33-year-old erupted throughout the second set as he got within a point of breaking Tsitsipas on multiple occasions, but failed to do so. Despite his shortfalls, the breakthrough finally occurred during the business end. At 4-4, two games away from defeat, he wore down Tsitsipas’ serve to move ahead 5-4. Prompting an emphatic fist pump from the Spaniard as he took proceedings into a decider.

With all to play for, Nadal maintained a high level of intensity in his shot-making as the titanic clash continued. Electrifying the crowd in what was one of the best matches of this year’s tournament. The final set once again featured little disparity between the two, but it would be Nadal who would prevail. At 5-5 in the decider, an unsuccessful approach at the net from Tsitsipas resulted in the top seed breaking. Triggering jubilation among the Nadal contingent in the crowd. Serving for the win, he sealed it at the expense of another mistake from his rival. This time it was a shot into the net from the Greek.

Moments after his thrilling triumph, Nadal was presented with the year-end No.1 trophy for the fifth time in his career. Making it a double celebration.

“I am super happy. Honestly, after all the things I went through in my career in terms of injury, I never thought at the age of 33-and-a-half I would have this trophy in my hands again.” Said Nadal.

The chances of the world No.1 being in the semi-finals now lies in the hands of Medvedev. The Russian must defeat Alexander Zverev in his match later tonight. If he doesn’t, Nadal will be eliminated from the competition. Meanwhile, Tsitsipas must wait to see if he finishes first or second in the group. If Nadal does qualify, he will play Federer next.

Regardless of if he makes it or not, Nadal has paid tribute to those close to him during what has been a mixed season. Besides his two Masters 1000 and two Grand Slam titles in 2019, he has also been affected by various injury setbacks. The ATP Finals is the first event he has been able to complete since the US Open in September.

“It’s really emotional. There has been a lot of work to get me where I am today. Without my team and family this thing would have been impossible.” He reflected.
“There have been some bad moments and you have always been there. Before Monte Carlo, after Monte Carlo, without the support of these people, things would have been much different for me this year. I can’t thank them enough.”

Nadal has now won 53 matches this season.

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EXCLUSIVE: Daniil Medvedev On His Saudi Arabian Debut, No.1 Dreams And Russia’s Olympic Ban

The US Open finalist sat down with Ubitennis earlier this week.

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Within the past 12 months Daniil Medvedev has gone from a promising future prospect to one of the top players in the world of men’s tennis.

 

Up until June this year the 23-year-old was yet to crack the top 10, win a Masters title or reach the second week of a grand slam event. Then shortly after the conclusion of the Wimbledon championships, Medvedev enjoyed an emphatic period of success to achieve all three of those milestones. Within a three-month period he reached six consecutive finals at tournaments ranging from ATP 250 level to a grand slam. Enabling him to peak at a high of fourth in the world back in September.

Unfortunately for Medvedev, his surge came at price towards the end of his season. Losing in the first round of the Paris Masters and then all three of his matches in his ATP Finals debut. Something he blames on mental tiredness.

Not to be disheartened by the loss, the Russian is back on the court this week. He is one of eight players participating in the brand new Diriyah Tennis Cup. An exhibition tournament in Saudi Arabia, which has on offer $1 million for the champion.

“I do think in the middle of a pre-season a tournament like this is good. You can’t just practice for four weeks without knowing how your game is at the moment. Last year I also participated in one in France (Open de Caen).” Medvedev told Ubitennis.com about his decision to play.
“This is how we (my team) decided to do the preparation this year and are going to see how it works out.”

Kicking off his campaign on Thursday against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, Medvedev enjoyed an emphatic start. Disposing of his rival 6-3, 6-1, in less than an hour. Whilst the prize money is undoubtedly an appeal for all of those taking part, the Russian sees this week as a golden opportunity to evaluate his game.

“It is going to be important to see how my game is right now in the middle of the pre-season. To see what I need to improve more, what I need to work more on with my team.” He explained.
“Obviously after my last season, I have a lot of big expectations for 2020, but first of all I need to stay lucid and take it all match-by-match.”

Future dreams

Medvedev and Gael Monfils – Diriyah Tennis Cup (via Twitter, @DiriyahCup)

Given his recent breakthrough, Medvedev is being mentioned as a potential candidate to one day claim the world No.1 position. Since 2004 only four players have managed to hold the honour – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. To add to the pressure, former player Marat Safin has backed his compatriot to achieve the milestone in the future. Safin will be the captain of the Russian team in the ATP Cup, which Medvedev is participating in.

“I believe he can be number one in the world.” Safin told Russian media earlier this week. “His all-around game… we just need to work on certain small things.”

Despite the backing, Medvedev is staying grounded about the prospect. Insisting that he isn’t ‘obsessed’ with the world No.1 ranking. At present, he is more than 4000 points adrift from Nadal in the ATP standings.

“I have been thinking about it (the No.1 spot) since I was six-years-old, but the thing is that I’m not obsessed with it,” said Medvedev. “For example, if I was 40 and during my career, I achieved a best ranking of number two in the world, It would not change my life completely.’
“Of course working hard and playing so many tournaments you want to achieve the best ranking possible.” He added.

With his eyes on the grand slams next year, 2020 also gives Medvedev the chance to make his Olympic debut. However, it isn’t as simple as that. Earlier this week the Russian sporting federation was banned from major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) due to various violations. An investigation found that the Russian Anti-doping agency (RUSDA) deliberately tampered with athletes samples to hide positive tests.

The ITF notes that Russian tennis has never been linked to the controversy, however, players such as Medvedev will be under sanction. Unless the ban is overturned, they are only allowed to play at the event as neutral athletes.

“To be honest as a tennis player it is a little bit tough to talk about these things because I live in Monaco and we get tested in every country around the world. From 20 to 30 doping tests.” Medvedev states.
“I know what happened, but I don’t know how to react to it because I’m not in this (the Russian) federation.”

Asked if he will still play in the Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo, Medvedev cautiously replied ‘I think so.’ Although he is far from certain in doing so.

“Looking at this decision, it’s disappointing that me as a Russian player, who hasn’t nothing to do with this, will have to play without a flag. It is a little bit strange for me. I don’t know why this decision was made exactly so I don’t know if it was the right decision.” He concluded.

Medvedev ended 2019 with 59 wins on the ATP Tour. More than any other player this year.

Interview conducted by Alessandro Stella in Saudi Arabia

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Andy Murray Suffers Off-Season Setback

Preparations for the new year has hit a blip for the injury-stricken player.

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Former world No.1 Andy Murray has suffered a blip in his preparations for next month’s Australian Open due to an ongoing injury issue.

 

Multiple sources have confirmed that the three-time Grand Slam champion has been forced to pull the plug on his training block in Miami due to a groin injury he picked up during the Davis Cup Finals. Murray was set to spend two weeks in the city, where he owns a second house, alongside his team to prepare for the start of the new season. Initially, it was reported that the groin issue was just a minor setback in November. However, it is continuing to bother Murray.

“I had a bit of an issue with my groin, pelvis. I wanted to play but I wasn’t allowed to risk it.” He said on November 25th at The Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.
“It was more like a bony bruise. It’s mild. But that was something which if I had played on it, it could have got worse. And that’s why it was difficult for me.” He added.

It is the latest injury woe for Murray after what has been a roller-coaster 2019 season. Back in January he contemplated retiring from the sport due to as persistent hip injury. However, his career was given a lifeline after he underwent hip resurfacing surgery shortly after. Returning back to the tour in June, he gradually found his footing on the court once again. His major breakthrough occurred at the European Open when he defeated Stan Wawrinka to win his first singles title of any sort since 2017.

“Asia was basically where I started to realise I can do this because at the beginning of that trip, literally two or three days before the first tournament in Asia, I was having conversations with my team.” Murray commented about his resurgence.
“I was practising and I was like ‘no, I am giving this until the end of the year and if I’m not winning matches and feeling better than I am now, I don’t want to keep going.’
“I was putting a lot of effort in but my movement wasn’t at the right level, but as I started to play quite a few matches it changed quite quickly and I thought I was a lot further away than I was and that was what a lot of guys in the team were saying to me.”

This season the 32-year-old has achieved an overall win-loss record of 11-7 on the tour. Besides his Antwerp title, he also reached the quarter-finals of the China Open. It was in China, where he recorded his highest-profile win in terms of ranking. Defeating world No.13 Matteo Berrettini.

Currently ranked 126th in the world, Murray remains on course with his plans for the new year. He will start 2020 at the inaugural ATP Cup in Australia, where he will be working alongside captain Tim Henman. Who he personally nominated for the position.

It is touch and go to see if Murray will gain direct entry into the Australian Open main draw due to his current ranking. However, the five-time finalist is a strong contender to receive a wildcard.

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An Idiots Guide To Saudi Arabia’s Extravagant Diriyah Tennis Cup

Here is everything you need to know about the newest event in the world of tennis.

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Today marks the birth of a brand new off-season event taking place in the Middle East.

 

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is the first ever international tennis competition to be hosted in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. A total of eight players on the men’s tour will feature in the multi-million dollar tournament, which has a prize money pool of $3M. It is part of the country’s drive to establish themselves as a sporting powerhouse in the world. Just last week Saudi Arabia hosted Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight fight against Andy Ruiz.

“The Diriyah Tennis Cup can inspire new players and new fans in Saudi — male, female, old or young. Our goal is to have our people engaged in tennis, inspired by tennis, taking part in tennis and connected as a nation by the sport.” Said Prince Abdul Aziz.

Whilst there is hype surrounding tennis’ latest event, just over a year ago Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was heavily criticised for planning to play an exhibition match there before cancelling it. At the time the country was implicated in the killing of a prominent journalist in one of its own embassies. Prompting widespread condemnation. Saudi Arabia have also been criticised for their poor human rights record.

Here is everything you need to know about the tournament.

Where it is being played?

Diriyah is where the tennis stars will grace their presence. It is a town located to the north west of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The newly built Diriyah Arena, which is where the tournament takes place, has a footprint of 10,000 square meters. It took only two months to build and holds a capacity of up to 15,000. It is the same venue where Joshua’s ‘clash of the dunes’ boxing match took place last weekend.

Who is taking part?

For a brand new tournament, organisers have done exceptionally well to attract top names to the venue. The only former grand slam champion to take part is Stan Wawrinka. However, he isn’t the highest ranked player in the field. That honour belongs to world No.5 Daniil Medvedev, who enjoyed a meteoric rise during the second half of this year. Other top 20 players include David Goffin, Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils. The full list of entrants are the following :-

  • Daniil Medvedev RUS (WR 5)
  • Gael Monfils FRA (WR 10)
  • David Goffin BEL (WR 11)
  • Fabio Fognini ITA (WR 12)
  • Stan Wawrinka SWI (WR 16)
  • John Isner USA (WR 19)
  • Lucas Pouille FRA (WR 22)
  • Jan-Lennard Struff GER (WR 35)

What is the prize money and format?

The ability to attract a world-class field was substantially enhanced by the generous prize money that is available for those taking part. The winner exits with a payment of $1 million. To put that into perspective, Nick Kyrgios earned $384,120 for winning the Citi Open in Washington. An ATP 500 event. Even the quarter-finalist starts on $125,000.

BREAKDOWN
Quarter-finalist $125,000
Semifinalist: $250,000
Finalist: $500,000
Winner: $1,000,000

Final Consultation round: $100,000
Winner: $200,000

The structure of the tournament is similar to that of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, which started back in 2009. Held over three days, the knockout tournament will begin from the quarter-finals onwards. Consolation rounds (players who lost their previous matches) will also be taking place.

The order of play

Fognini’s clash with Isner will be the first ever match to be played at the event on Thursday. All four quarter-final matches will be played on the first day, followed by the semi-finals and final. On day two and three the consolation matches will be played.

Day 1 schedule

CENTER COURT start 04:00 pm local time
F. Fognini (ITA) vs J. Isner (USA)
G. Monfils (FRA) vs S. Wawrinka (SUI)
Not Before 8:00 pm
D. Medvedev (RUS) vs J. Struff (GER)
D. Goffin (BEL) vs L. Pouille (FRA

Why is a separate exhibition match taking place?

In a bid to showcase national talent, an exhibition match will take place on the last day of the competition. It will feature little-known player Ammar Al-Haqbani. The son of American-based diplomat Faleh Haqbani and a regular member of his country’s Davis Cup team.

“The Diriyah Tennis Cup presented by Saudi Aramco will have a significant impact on tennis in Saudi, especially for local tennis lovers and young talents who want to be professionals.” Al-Haqbani told arabnews.com.
“Watching closely as these big names compete at the Diriyah Arena will be a huge inspiration for them to work more and build their professional path in order to compete on the global stage in the future.”

His opponent will be former top 100 player Michael Mmoh, who was born in Saudi Arabia. His father was a part-time coach for the country’s Davis Cup team and his mother worked as a nurse. He moved to America at the age of 13.

“Having some of the best players in the world coming to the Kingdom can really inspire new fans to pick up a racquet and get on a court for the first time and play this great game.” Said Mmoh.

The exhibition match will be the first to be played on Saturday.

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