'A Positive Start' - Rafael Nadal Reacts To Opening Win ATP Finals - UBITENNIS
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‘A Positive Start’ – Rafael Nadal Reacts To Opening Win ATP Finals

The 20-time Grand Slam winner provides an assessment of his performance at the season-ending tournament.

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Rafael Nadal’s quest for a maiden ATP Finals title has got off to a dream start after he eased to a straight sets win in his opening match on Sunday.

 

The world No.2 swept aside Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4, in what was the first meeting between the two since 2017. Once described by his opponent as ‘the best athlete in history,’ Nadal lived up to that praise by answering all the questions that were asked of him throughout the 76-minute encounter at The O2 Arena. Remaining unbroken throughout his latest match, he hit 16 winners and two aces past Rublev en route to victory.

“I think it was a positive start for me. The first match is always very tricky. Here (at The O2) it is always tricky because you play the best of the best. I’m very happy,” said Nadal.

Heading into the match Nadal knew he potentially had a stern challenge in front of him. Tournament debutante Rublev has already won five titles and 40 matches on the ATP Tour this year which is more than any other player. Nevertheless, the former world No.1 glided his way through what was largely a straightforward opening set. Six games into the match he launched his first strike by breaking the Russian, who hit a shot that touched the net before landing out on break point. Prompting Rublev to slam his racket on the ground out of anger after falling behind 2-4. Meanwhile, a composed Nadal stuck to his game plan as he clinched the set three games later with the help of a love service game.

Continuing with his high intensity, Nadal wore down his 23-year-old rival by breaking once again at the start of the second frame. Prompting Rublev to drop his head out of frustration. The problems continued for the world No.8 whose inconsistency on court prevented him from bouncing back.

“In general I was not serving good at all because I was a little bit nervous which is normal. Then when he broke me in the second set I relaxed and I started to serve much better and it was a difficult game but it was too late,” Rublev reflected.
“This was only my second time against Rafa and I have played Roger (Federer) once before. I have only played three times against top three players so I don’t have much experience so the more I play against them the better I think I will perform.”

Closing in on his 19th win at an ATP Finals tournament, Nadal continued to dictate play. Serving for the victory, he worked to three match points with the help of a winning smash at the net. He prevailed on his second opportunity with a serve down the centre of the court which Rublev returned out.

“I went on court with a determination to try to play my game. I think my serve worked very well tonight which is always a big help on these surfaces,” Nadal commented.
“I’m pleased with my victory and it changes my perspective of the tournament a bit.

Nadal will continue his ATP Finals title bid on Tuesday afternoon when he takes on Dominic Thiem. He currently leads their head-to-head 9-5.

“For me it is going to be a tough one and hopefully it will be the same for him too. I’m going to try and be ready for it. I know it will be a tough challenge but I believe today has helped me for that match. Tomorrow I have the day off to practice, work on what I need to do and I hope to be ready,” Nadal concluded.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas ‘Happy’ To Follow In Grandfather’s Footsteps At Olympics

The Greek speaks out about carrying his family’s legacy at the Games.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas never met his grandfather but the two of them do have something in common – they are both Olympians.

 

The world No.4 has already created history in Tokyo by winning his first round match against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber on Sunday to become the first male player from his country to win a singles match since 1924. Greece has won two medals at the Games but both of them were during its inaugural edition back in 1896.

Tsitsipas’ debut in Tokyo enables him to continue his family legacy of playing in the sporting extravaganza. His grandfather was Sergei Salnikov who played football for the Soviet Union during the 1950s. In 1956 Salnikov was part of the team who won Olympic gold in Melbourne. After retiring from the sport, he went on to manage the FC Spartak Moscow and the Afghanistan national team before passing away in 1984 aged 58.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him. But my mom told me stories of his career and how he got it…. He kind of inspires me in a way,” said Tsitsipas. “I know what kind of athlete he was, with all the achievements and all the trophies. I’m proud of him.
“It’s something good, a legacy that is being carried on in the family. I’m happy to be the next in the family to be competing at the Olympics.”

It isn’t just a medal in the singles Tsitsipas has his eyes on, he will also be bidding for success in the mixed doubles alongside Maria Sakkari. The two previously paired up at the 2019 Hopman Cup where they finished second in their group.

“We have already played once (together), and we had great success,” Sakkari told reporters on Monday. “We know each other really well, and we are much better players two-and-a-half years later, and we are both really pumped to play together. Of course, I cannot predict that we will get a medal. We will try our best and I think we give ourselves the best chance we can.”

Tsitsipas will return to action tomorrow in the men’s singles where he will play Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

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Carlos Alcaraz reaches his first ATP Tour final in Umag

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Spanish Next Gen star Carlos Alcaraz secured a spot in his first ATP tour-level final with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) at the Plava Laguna Croatia Open in Umag. 

 

Alcaraz has become the youngest ATP Tour finalist since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori won the Delray Beach title in 2008. 

Alcaraz broke twice to open up a 4-0 lead and held his next service games to close out the first set 6-2. 

Ramos Vinolas came back from a break down three times in the second set, when Alcaraz served for the match. Alcaraz battled through the second-set tie-break to clinch the win after two hours. 

Alcaraz set up a final against Richard Gasquet, who battled past German qualifier Daniel Altmeier 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 after three hours and 11 minutes. 

Gasquet has become the second oldest finalist in tournament history. The 35-year-old saved seven of hi sten break points, but he converted just just 3 of his 17 break points.  

Gasquet rallied from a break down twice to draw level to 4-4 before winning the tie-break 7-2. Altmeier converted his third break point in the eighth game to win the second set 6-3. Altmeier saved three break points in the second game, before Gasquet converted his second break point in the sixth game to win the second set 6-3. 

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Novak Djokovic Cruises Past Dellien In Olympics Opener

Novak Djokovic’s bid for a historic golden slam continued in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic cruised past Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 to open his bid for a gold medal at the Olympics.

 

The world number one’s bid to achieve the golden slam is on after thrashing the Bolivian in humid conditions.

A perfect start for the Serbian who is looking to achieve the one thing he is yet to achieve and that’s win a gold medal.

Next for Djokovic will be Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.

In 32C temperatures, Djokovic was looking to start his campaign off against Bolivian veteran Hugo Dellien.

The slow paced courts would suit Dellien as he engaged in some long rallies with the world number one early on.

Despite creating three break points in the fourth game, Djokovic would fail to break early on.

However Djokovic increased his level mixing up the pace and depth of his shots to create angles for simple winners.

On his fifth break point Djokovic would break for a 4-2 lead and the top seed would break for a second time as Dellien had no answers for the Serb’s defensive skills. First set to Djokovic in 33 minutes.

A similar pattern evolved in the second set only this time Djokovic did get a break in the fourth game, breaking to love.

Accurate serving and construction of points gave Djokovic an easy first round match as another break secured the match and sealed his spot into the second round.

A fine performance in tough conditions gave Djokovic’s bid for history the best possible start.

Next for Djokovic will be Jan-Lennard Struff who beat Thiago Monteiro 6-3 6-4.

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