Rafael Nadal Excels Once Again At His Beloved French Open - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Excels Once Again At His Beloved French Open

The king of clay dominated his match against world No.1 Djokovic to continue what will perhaps be the most dominant run at a Grand Slam tournament in history.

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Rafael Nadal (image via https://twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Records are meant to be broken, and almost all existing ones will indeed be broken over the next century.

All but one, though, because no one will ever win the French Open 13 times or amass 100 victories with just a pair of defeats over a 15-year span like Rafa Nadal has done. The Spaniard thoroughly and utterly dominated Djokovic, even from a tactical perspective, a feat that could be hardly predicted. As a matter of fact, the Eurosport crew, made of full-on or borderline Hall-of-Famers like McEnroe, Wilander, Courier and Henman, foresaw that the Serbian, who has a more complete and varied repertoire of shots, would have finally dethroned Nadal in Paris, aided by the perks of a heavy court to counter his opponent’s vaunted-and-yet-blunted topspin groundstrokes. Moreover, the final was played under the roof of the Philip Chatrier stadium, another element that was thought to work in the world number one’s favour, since he usually annihilates the competition when playing indoors. 

 

Well, they were all wrong, we were all wrong, especially vis-à-vis the proportions of the scoreline. Djokovic had never been beaten so harshly in a Major final; what’s more is that Nadal could have actually trundled his way to an even bigger triumph, since he was leading 3-2 with a break in the third set before losing his serve for the sole time – he also had a break point at 4-4 to serve the match out a few minutes earlier than he ended up doing, when Djokovic double faulted at 5-5 to concede for good. Up 6-5 40-0, the King of Clay aced out the tournament in style with a typical southpaw slice serve, leaving Djokovic agape once more before falling to his knees – he would later give way to tears during the Spanish national anthem.

What are the reasons behind such a blowout, aside from journalistic clichés such as “Rafa was at his best, and it just wasn’t Novak’s day”?

  1. Djokovic’s serve was appalling. He seldom put a first serve in play. The first two times he got broken, he was 2 out of 8 and 1 out of 6, respectively. He fought valiantly for 33 minutes, but after falling 4-0 behind he managed to lose his serve again after springing to a 40-0 lead…
  2. He got a little too enamoured of the drop shot (he hit 35 against Tsitsipas, about 30 against Nadal), failing to realise that the quick nature of those points doesn’t give him enough rhythm and control with his groundstrokes. If a player like him, who thrives in long and asphyxiating exchanges based on moving the opponent, loses the habit to go over nine shots, he will end up suffering against Nadal, a player who pretty much never misses – just three unforced errors in the opening two sets.
  3. While the Spaniard’s signature shot is his forehand, during the final he wreaked havoc with the slice backhand as well. The shot landed low and short, forcing Djokovic to take a few steps forward in no-man’s land (the area between the service line and the baseline), offering him an uncomfortable look on which it was very difficult to inject pace. 

The outcome was that Rafa won his favourite tournament without dropping a set for the fourth time after already doing so in 2008, 2010, and 2017. Jannik Sinner was the only one who got to at least try serve out a set against him – if the Italian was able to do that at 19, who knows how good he’ll become in the next few years, since his performance didn’t happen by chance.

Roger Federer, who was in Milan during the weekend when his frenemy equaled his record tally of 20 Majors (Djokovic is at 17), immediately took to social media to comment on Nadal’s win: “I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion. As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players […]. I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it.”

Nadal replied during his press conference: I think, as everybody know, we have a very, very good relationship. We respect each other a lot. At the same time in some way I think he’s happy when I’m winning and I’m happy when he’s doing the things well. I never hide that for me, I always say the same, that I would love to finish my career being the player with more Grand Slams. But in the other hand I say, okay, I have to do it my way. I did my way during all my career. In terms of these records, of course that I care. I am a big fan of the history of sport in general. I respect a lot that. For me means a lot to share this number with Roger, no? But let’s see what’s going on when we finish our careers.”

In 1930, Italian cyclist Alfredo Binda was offered a huge sum to withdraw from the Giro d’Italia after winning it for five years in a row. Will it happen to Rafa Nadal in Paris too? It looks like the only way to stop him.

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John Isner upsets Andrey Rublev to reach quarterfinals in Madrid

John Isner is into the Madrid quarter-finals after a last set tiebreak win over Andrey Rublev.

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John Isner (@atptour - Twitter)

The American once again needed three sets and two tiebreakers to earn a top 10 scalp.

 

John Isner booked his spot in the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open by upsetting the number six seed Andrey Rublev 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and five minutes hitting 43 winners and 29 aces in the win.

“I’ve always served well, the conditions for the server are fantastic, physically I was heavy-legged today, I finished late last night, the good thing is I finished a bit earlier today and I should be ready to go tomorrow, I’m going to need all of my legs tomorrow against Dominic (Thiem) and I’m looking forward to it for sure”.

The first set was pretty routine and we didn’t see a single break of serve the entire set as the first set would be decided by a tiebreaker. That’s where the American ran away with it jumping out to a 4-0 lead playing some great tennis and he would take it 7-4 to win the first set 7-6.

The Russian was keen to get back in the match in the second set and earned the first two breakpoints of the match at 1-1 and broke to take an early 2-1 lead. That break was all the number six seed needed to serve out the second set taking it 6-3 and setting up a deciding third set.

The number six seed once again had the first break opportunity of the third set but it was immediately saved with the big booming serve from the Greensboro, North Carolina native. That was the only breakpoint of the set and once again the match would be decided by a tiebreaker.

This one was much more closer and we didn’t see a break of serve until 4-3 when the American returned the Russian serve with a powerful forehand to take a 5-3 lead.

He would go on to serve it out to win the match and set up a quarterfinal encounter with the Austrian Domenic Them and he spoke about the matchup in his post-match press conference.

“He’s fresh, he’s won two matches and I think he is the second-best clay courter right now so it’s going to be a very tough task for me tomorrow especially on this court because he hits the ball so big and pretty fast and he does so many things well and I am going to have to play extremely well if I want any chance to beat him”

Theim currently holds a 2-1 lead in the head to head and their most recent meeting was back in 2017 in Laver Cup on an indoor hardcourt when the Austrian won in three sets.

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Christian Garin reaches his second career Masters 1000 quarter final in Madrid

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Chile’s Christian Garin has reached his second Masters 1000 quarter final with a 6-4 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 win over world number 3 Danil Medvedev at the Madrid Mutua Open. 

 

Garin earned an early break after a loose service game from Medvedev at 1-1. The second set went on serve with no breaks of serve en route to the tie-break. Medvedev cruised through to a 7-3 win with two mini-breaks. Garin broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to claim the third set 6-1. 

Garin will face either this year’s Serbian Open champion Matteo Berrettini or Federico Delbonis. The Chilean player is tied at 1-1 in his two head-to-head matches against Berrettini and won his only previous match against Delbonis en route to last year’s title at the Rio Open. Garin won all his five titles on clay in Houston and Munich in 2019, Rio de Janeiro and Cordoba in 2020 and Santiago de Chile in 2021.

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Jannik Sinner Vows To ‘Come Back Stronger’ After Madrid Misfortune

The 19-year-old believes his latest loss will help him grow as a player.

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Italian rising star Jannik Sinner has revealed that he was suffering from an allergy during his latest match at the Madrid Open but has insisted it wasn’t the reason for his loss.

 

The world No.18 crashed out of the tournament in straight sets on Wednesday to Australia’s Alexi Popyrin. A player ranked 57 places lower than him who has reached the third round of a Masters tournament for only the second time in his career. The Italian struggled behind his second serve where he won just 41% of the points. A frustrating outcome for Sinner who led the match 5-3 before losing 6-7(5), 2-6.

“I suffer from allergy and here there is a lot of pollen, I also play with contact lenses and everything. This bothered me a lot,” said Sinner who was coughing throughout the match.
I suffered more because there was more sun and in that field (court) he entered easily, but I did not lose for this (reason). He played better than me.”

The 19-year-old has recently broken into the world’s top 20 following what has been a solid start to the season. At the Miami Open he became only the fourth teenager in history to reach the final after Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. On the clay he recently reached the semi-finals of the Barcelona Open before losing to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Despite his disappointment in Madrid, Sinner is hoping that it will help him become an even better playing in the coming weeks heading into the French Open. A Grand Slam which he reached the quarter-finals at on his debut last year.

“This defeat helps me to grow, now I go to the court to work to be at the top for the next match. I’ll come back stronger than before,” he stated.

Sinner will be hoping to get back on track next week when plays his home tournament at the Italian Open. He made his Rome debut back in 2019 where he defeated Steve Johnson in the first round before going out. A year later he reached the third round before losing to Grigor Dimitrov in three sets.

As for Popyrin, he will face a showdown against top seed Rafael Nadal in Thursday.

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