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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Alexander Zverev Confident ATP Finals Will Be Safe To Attend

The US Open finalist speaks out about travelling to the British capital during the pandemic.

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Alexander Zverev at the US Open 2020 (photo Twitter @usopen)

Germany’s Alexander Zverev believes the ATP Finals will be one of the safest places to be amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The world No.7 will head to London next month to play in the season-ending event which features the eight best players in the world of men’s tennis. London has recently been moved from level one to level two on the British Government’s COVID-19 tier system following a rise in cases of the virus towards 100 per 100,000. People from different households are now no longer allowed to mix inside under the new rules. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, recently said that the number of infection cases is doubling every 10 days.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Zverev says he is confident that the event will be safe to attend. For the first time this year it is taking place behind closed doors in accordance with government rules. In 2019 242,883 fans attended the tournament over an eight-day period.

“We will stay in a hotel next to the stadium, which will be bolted. I think this will be the last place, where people are vulnerable to the coronavirus disease,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.

US Open runner-up Zverev is hoping for a strong end to what has been a testing season for the sport which was halted for five months due to the pandemic. On Sunday he added to his title collection by defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets to win the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne. The tournament was also held without fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Although we didn’t have any fans inside the arena, I felt the support from home. I had the feeling playing on home soil and I hope that many fans watched the final on TV,” Zverev commented.
“It is different and more difficult this year, as we played less tournaments than usual. I hope that I can keep it up like this.” He added.

At present six players have already qualified for the ATP Finals. Besides Zverev, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev are all set to play. World No.4 Roger Federer has also qualified but will not be playing after deciding to pull the plug on his season due to a knee injury.

The O2 Arena has been home to The ATP Finals since 2009 and has welcomed more than 2.8 million fans to the event over that period. However, the event will be moved to Italy from next year.

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Andy Murray Outlines Next Steps Following Cologne Defeat

The Brit says he has lost his way on the court following another early exit in a tournament.

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Former world No.1 Andy Murry has admitted he is losing his way on the court following his first round exit from the Bett1HULKS Indoors event in Cologne on Tuesday.

 

The three-time Grand Slam champion was knocked out 6-4, 6-4, by Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco in a late-night encounter that took exactly 100 minutes. Making it the second tournament in a row he has lost his opening match following the French Open. Against Verdasco, Murray struggled with his first serve throughout as he could only win 37% of points and failed to convert nine out of his 11 break point opportunities.

“I need to get back to playing my game on the court, I’ve kind of gone away from that a little bit,” Murray told reporters after.
“I’m maybe making a few more mistakes than usual because of that.”

Currently ranked outside the top 100, Murray is still on the comeback from injury. In January 2019 he underwent hip resurfacing surgery which involved inserting a metal rod into his joint. In a recent interview the Brit said the procedure would take his body an estimated 18 months to get used to. On top of that issue, at the start of this season he was sidelined with pelvic bruising.

Injury woes aside, Murray admits that there are ‘a lot of things’ he still needs to improve on as he describes his performance as only a marginal improvement on what he produced at Roland Garros. On that occasion he could only win six matches against Stan Wawrinka before crashing out.

“I need to practice, I need to play matches and physically I need to get better,” he said.
“Some things I did a little bit better but overall it was not that much better than that match (against Wawrinka in Paris).
“It’s a surface that I’m a little bit more comfortable on, so that probably helped me. But in terms of my game, it was not much better.”

Cologne is Murray’s fourth tournament of the season due to the five-month break related to COVID-19 and his injury setback. His win-loss record currently stands at 3-4 with his best run being to the third round of the Western and Southern Open. It was at that event where he defeated Alexander Zverev whom he would have played again this week if he had defeated Verdasco.

Organisers of the Bett1HULKS Indoors have confirmed that from Wednesday no spectators will be allowed to attend the event amid a rise of COVID-19 cases in the region. Tennis Net has reported that the 250 fans are still allowed to attend under local regulations but tournament director Edwin Weindorfer has decided for it to be held behind closed doors.

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Andy Murray Eyeing Revival In Form Following French Open Misery

The injury-stricken Brit outlines his goals for the remainder of the 2020 season.

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Former world No.1 Andy Murray is hoping to get back on track over the coming weeks as he targets a rise to the world rankings before the season concludes.

 

The three-time Grand Slam winner is returning to action this week at the Bett1Hulks Indoors in what will be his first match since his one-sided defeat at the French Open. In Paris Murray could only win six games in his first round match against Stan Wawrinka as he recorded just 36% of his first serves in. The performance drew criticism from former tennis player Mats Wilander who questioned if it was right to hand the Brit a wildcard to play in the Grand Slam to begin with. A view that was branded as ‘pathetic’ by Murray’s former training partner Daniel Vallverdú.

With the Paris disappointment behind him, Murray is eager to make up for his loss on the European indoor circuit. He has been handed a tough draw in Germany this week where he will start against Spain’s Fernando Verdasco. The winner of that clash will then take on top seed Alexander Zverev. A player who Murray has already beaten this year.

“It will be good to get a few matches in over these next few weeks – I hope to perform better than I did in Paris,” said Murray.
“I want to win tournaments and move up the rankings.
“Physically, my body tends to feel better the more I play.
“Hopefully, I will play a lot over the next two weeks, perform well and see how it goes after that.”

Murray is currently ranked 115th on the ATP Tour and has only managed to play six matches this year. At the start of the season he was sidelined from action due to pelvic bruising. He is seeking a return back inside the world’s top 100 for the first time since May 2018.

In recent years Murray’s progression on the Tour has been hindered by various injury setbacks with the most serious concerning his hip. The 33-year-old has already undergone two hip surgeries with the last taking place in January 2019.

“It has gone well at times and sometimes been a struggle,” Murray reflected.
“I was told it would be an 18-month process for my body to get used to it.
“It changes the way your pelvis moves and your body needs to adjust.
“Hopefully with a few matches this autumn and some good training, next year will be a good one.”

Murray will start his campaign at the Bett1Hulks Indoors against Verdasco on Tuesday afternoon.

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