Rafael Nadal Ousts Kyrgios In Thrilling Australian Open Grudge Match - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Ousts Kyrgios In Thrilling Australian Open Grudge Match

The night-time clash started with Kyrgios paying tribute to Kobe Bryant, but it was Nadal who came out on top.

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World No.1 Rafael Nadal is through to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open after battling his way past a determined Nick Kyrgios on Monday.

 

The highly anticipated showdown lived up to expectations as Nadal rallied to a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(4), win over the former top 20 player. Emulating his four-sets win over Kyrgios that occurred in the second round of Wimbledon last year. In their latest clash, both players illustrated glimmers of their best tennis as they battled through their nerves. Although it was Nadal who came out on top in their latest encounter.

“It has been a very tough match. It seemed like at the beginning I was in control a little bit, but against Nick you are never in control because if you make a mistake like I did during the second set he has the break and  it is so difficult to break him.” Nadal said during his on-court interview.

Historically the relationship between the player’s have been far from straightforward. Nadal has previously criticised Kyrgios for his at times controversial behaviour on the tour. Meanwhile, Kyrgios once accused him of being a ‘super salty loser.’ Although both have since played down their spat. There would be no further breakdown in relations during what was a relatively peaceful clash on Monday evening in Melbourne. The 222-minute showdown saw the top seed hit 64 winners to 27 unforced errors. Compared to Kyrgios’ tally of 50 and 43.

With a place in the quarter-final of a grand slam at stake, Kyrgios began his quest with a touching tribute. Taking to the court for his showdown, he walked into the arena wearing an LA Lakers top in memory of Kobe Bryant. The NBA superstar who was killed on Sunday in a helicopter crash at the age of 41.

Meanwhile, Nadal also paid tribute to Bryant following his pulsating win on the Rod Laver Arena.

“He always wanted more, he always wanted to increase his level. He was an inspiration for the world of sport. Kobe Bryant will be in our hearts and our minds for the rest of our lives.”

The match

Early on Kyrgios looked lethargic on the court and lacked intensity in his shot-making. Enabling the world No.1 to break four games into the match and subsequently take the first set with relative ease.

Despite taking an early stronghold, Nadal soon came under pressure from the world No.26, who he lead 4-3 in their head-to-head prior to their latest clash. Kyrgios’ turn to strike saw him elegantly hit a winning forehand shot to break for a 3-1 lead in the second frame. Gaining in momentum and raising the decibel levels around the Rod Laver Arena, he went on to level the match by closing the second set with two consecutive aces out wide.

Nadal is no stranger to fighting back against Kyrgios after dropping a set during two out of his four previous wins over him. Despite Nadal’s list of achievements that include a record 12 French Open titles, he struggled to tame his fiery rival. The third set was a cat and mouse chase will no breaks of serve heading into a crucial tiebreaker dominated by nerves.

The top seed looked to be in full control of the tiebreaker with a 4-1 lead in his favour. However, a forehand shot into the net from Nadal enabled Kyrgios to break back and eventually draw level at 5-5. The drama didn’t stop there. A Kyrgios double fault handed the Spaniard set point and a chance to restore his lead.  Something Nadal failed to do after he also hit a double fault. Nevertheless, he prevailed on his second opportunity with the help of a forehand shot from his rival slamming into the net. Making it the third consecutive time Nadal has won a tiebreaker against Kyrgios on the tour.

After issuing his latest blow to Kyrgios, the 33-year-old rapidly gained in momentum against his faltering rival. Three games into the fourth set, a lacklustre service game from Kyrgios enable him to break for only the second time and extend his lead further.

However, there would be another twist to the match. Serving for a place in the last eight at 5-4, a tense Nadal faltered at the worst possible moment. Handing the break back to Kyrgios. A true testament to the resilience he demonstrated throughout. With all to play for it would be another tiebreak that would separate the two. Which Nadal eventually prevailed in after a Kyrgios forehand slice ploughed into the net to secure his victory.

“He played a good game. I played a scary game when leading 5-4 (in the fourth set).” Nadal reflected after.
“That’s part of the game. I accept that and I tried to recover mentally. I tried to find again the level of tennis before the tiebreak.”

Praise for Kyrgios

Through to the quarter-final of a major four the 41st time in his career, Nadal paid tribute to Kyrgios’ performance. Publicly encouraging the controversy-hit player to maintain his commitment to the sport.

“When he’s playing today with a lot of positive attitude he gives a lot of positive things to our sport.” He said.
“I encourage him to keep working like this because he is one of the highest talents that we have on the tour and I like this Nick Kyrgios during the  tournament.”

Nadal, who hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2009, is through to the last eight in Melbourne for the 12th time in his career. His reward will be a showdown with Dominic Thiem, who downed Gael Monfils in straight sets earlier in the day.

“It will be tough. We know each other very well.” Nadal said of Thiem.
“He’s a great fighter and hits the ball very strongly. I’ve seen him play very well (against Monfils) so it’s going to be a tough one.”
“I know I need to play my best but I really believe I am moving in the right direction.”

Nadal leads Thiem 9-4 in their head-to-head.

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France’s Lucas Pouille To Undergo Surgery

The 26-year-old has suffered another setback to his plans for a return to the Tour.

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Lucas Pouille (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

Two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Lucas Pouille says he is hopeful that he will be able to play tennis again this season after announcing plans to undergo surgery.

 

The world No.58 confirmed on Tuesday morning that he will be having an operation on his right elbow later this month in Paris. Pouille has only managed to play one match this year on the ATP Tour due to the injury, which was at the Indian Wells Challenger tournament where he lost in straight sets to Noah Rubin.  The issue has been bothering the Frenchman since last October when he shut down his season early after the Shanghai Masters.

“It’s never an easy decision to take, but I will get surgery on my right elbow this month in Paris. After new medical exams, it appeared it was the best solution in order to finally be able to play pain-free. I still hope to play before the end of the season.” Pouille said in a statement.

Pouille initially looked to be on track to making a return to action after participating in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown in June. An exhibition tournament created by Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou. However, he lost two matches to Feliciano Lopez and Elliot Benchetrit before being forced to withdraw from the competition due to his elbow.

In recent days the coach of the former world No.10,  Loic Courteau, said they will not be travelling to the US Open next month. Although it is unclear if Courteau’s comments were made before or after the decision to undergo surgery was made.

“I will not be in New York, for the good reason that Lucas… is not going to play the tournament,” he told French television.

Pouille has won five ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $7 million in prize money. He is currently the eighth highest ranked French player on the ATP Tour.

Pouille’s ATP titles breakdown

2018 1 Montpellier (Indoor/Hard)
2017 3 Vienna (Indoor/Hard)
Stuttgart (Outdoor/Grass)
Budapest (Outdoor/Clay)
2016 1 Metz (Indoor/Hard)

 

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US Open Must Allow Entourages Of Three Or Four People, Says Thiem

The world No.3 says he is feeling good ahead of the return of professional tennis next month.

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Dominic Thiem has come out against proposals to restrict the number of coaching staff that can travel to this year’s US Open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

This year’s New York major will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history and will be implementing a series of measures to help minimise the threat posed by the virus. Part of their plan is to limit how many people a player can bring with them to the tournament. It was originally reported that only one team member per player would be allowed to travel, but it has emerged that the limit has since been extended to three.

Speaking about the limits, three-time Grand Slam finalist Thiem said the idea of only allowing one member of his team to travel with him would be a risk for some players on the Tour.

*”I do not think so. Three or four people must be allowed. It would be extremely risky to travel without your own physio. You need a local coach for this,’ Thiem told The Kronen Zeitung newspaper on Sunday.

Thiem last played a match on the ATP Tour at the Rio Open in February where he lost in the quarter-finals. However, throughout the lockdown he has still managed to maintain his match fitness by participating in numerous tournaments. In total he has played 24 matches across three different countries, including one named after him called Thiems 7.

“Right now I feel very good,” he said. “I have played a lot of exhibition games in the last two months and I am not tired at all. I really wanted to play tennis again, since my start of the year was very good.’
“During This period of confinement at home I have been crushing myself a lot in the physical aspect and already when I returned to training. I have decided to improve the backhand and the serve a little more.”

The ATP Tour will resume next month with Thiem hoping that he can continue his form generated from earlier this year. At the Australian Open he reached the final for the first time in his career before getting edged out by Novak Djokovic. Although when he returns, tournaments will not be the same as before due to the ongoing pandemic with strict safety measures and reduced crowds in place.

“When the circuit returns, the matches will be exactly the same as we had previously, but the atmosphere will be different,” he said.
“All tennis players will miss playing tournaments where many people travelled to see us every day. In New York, Paris or Melbourne there are between 60,000 and 70,000 people every day in the facilities. That previous life we ​​had will not be the same and we may have to get used to this new normal for a few years.”

Thiem is one of only four men to have already made more than $1 million in prize money so far this year on the ATP Tour.

*NOTE: Since the publication of this article quotes have been edited following a translation mix-up.

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Nick Kyrgios Slams Thiem Over Defence Of Controversy-Stricken Adria Tour

The world No.40 has accused the Austrian of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to understand his view.

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Australian star Nick Kyrgios has continued his public criticism of the Adria Tour by taking aim at two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

 

The 25-year-old has repeatedly hit out at the exhibition event, which Thiem participated in. Organised by world No.1 Novak Djokovic, the event took place in Belgrade and Zadar before it was scrapped following an outbreak of COVID-19 among both players and coaching staff. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric all got infected. The outbreak came after the Adria Tour was criticised for a lack of social distancing and players attended various public events together. Although at the time, all of their actions were done in accordance with local regulations. Something the Serbian Prime Minister now admits was a mistake.

However, Thiem has called out Kyrgios over his vocal criticism of fellow Adria Tour competitor Alexander Zverev. The German attended a party in southern France less than a week after the COVID-19 outbreak despite issuing a statement saying he would go into self-isolation.

“It was his mistake, but I don’t why a lot of people want to interfere. Kyrgios has done a lot of mistakes. It would be better for him to come clear instead of criticising others,” Thiem told Tiroler Tageszeitung.

Continuing to defend the actions of his fellow players, Thiem also jumped to the defence of Djokovic. Who has been under heavy criticism over the event with some going as far as questioning his position as president of the ATP Players Council.

“He didn’t commit a crime. We all make mistakes, but I don’t understand all the criticism. I’ve been to Nice and also saw pictures from other cities. It’s no different from Belgrade during the tournament. It’s too cheap to shoot at Djokovic.”

The comments have now been blasted by Kyrgios, who stands by his previous criticism of players. Accusing Thiem of lacking an ‘intellectual level’ to see his point of view.

“What are you talking about @ThiemDomi? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does?” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
“None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable.”
“People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake,'” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 500,000 people worldwide and some players have voiced concerns over travelling to America which has recently seen a rise in cases. On Wednesday Alexi Popyrin became the first player to say he won’t play the US Open due to health concerns.

The ATP Tour is set to resume next month but it is unclear as to what events Thiem and Kyrgios will be playing in.

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