Rafael Nadal Ousts Reigning Champion Tsitsipas To Reach ATP Finals Semis - UBITENNIS
Connect with us

ATP

Rafael Nadal Ousts Reigning Champion Tsitsipas To Reach ATP Finals Semis

The 20-time Grand Slam winner has moved to just two wins away from his maiden title at the championships.

Published

on

Spanish king of clay Rafael Nadal has extended his stay at this year’s ATP Finals after outlasting Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in a must win showdown on Thursday. 

The world No.2 headed into the match knowing the loser of the encounter would also be eliminated from the round-robin competition. Nadal has also beaten Andrey Rublev but lost to Dominic Thiem earlier in the week. In his latest match against Tsitsipas, he remained largely dominant behind serve as he won 81% of his first serves throughout the 126-minute showdown. Furthermore, Nadal also produced eight aces and 32 winners to seal a spot in the semi-finals.

“I think I played quite well for such a long time,” Nadal said afterwards. “That game at 5-4 in the second affected me a little bit… I think I was winning my serves quite comfortably until that moment. After that, everything changed a little bit. I think I started to serve a little bit worse.’
“But in general terms have been a very positive match for me, to be in the semi-finals here at the last tournament of the year is an important thing.”

Seeking his first ever ATP Finals title at the age of 34, Nadal entered the match with a dominant record against his Greek opponent. Not only did he lead their head-to-head 5-1, the Spaniard had only been broken by Tsitsipas once in their three previous meetings on a hard court.

Continuing that trend in their clash at The O2 Arena, both players went toe-by-toe early on. Nadal had two opportunities to break in the seventh game but was unable to convert thanks to some spirited play from across the court. However, two games later he secured the breakthrough after a Tsitsipas double fault net gifted him the break for 5-4. Gaining in momentum Nadal went on to clinch the opener with ease after producing back-to-back aces, which registered at 123mph and 126 mph.

In a match of fine margins even the slightest of blips could prove critical which was the case during the second frame. Both players looked solid behind serve with Nadal dropping just five points overall. Unfortunately for the Spaniard he faltered at the worst possible moment. Trailing 4-5, he came under intense pressure from Tsitsipas. A smash at the net by the world No.6 elevated him to set point, which he converted after a Nadal double fault.

Turning into a mental and physical test for both players, they traded blows at the start of the decider before Nadal edged ahead 3-1 to restore his lead once again. Turning up the heat on a fading Tsitsipas, he extended his stronghold to 5-2 by clinching a double break after a wild forehand from his opponent. Tasked with serving the roller-coaster clash out, he prevailed on his second match point after hitting a clean backhand winner. Making it the 71st match in a row Nadal has won after winning the first set.

“It’s always difficult to play here (at the ATP Finals) against the best players in the world every single day at the end of the season. Most of the time when you get here you’re a little bit tired but this year is a little bit different,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion explained.
“I’m sad about the situation (of no fans attending). Normally after a good match the atmosphere should be fantastic as always but it is a different story (this year).’
“I’m exited to be in the semi-finals and I hope to be ready to play my best. “

Thursday’s win brings an end to Tsitsipas’ 2020 season. Overall, he has achieved a win-loss record of 29-14 with the only title he won being at the Open 13 in Marseille. Although he has reached the final of two ATP 500 events in Dubai and Hamburg, as well as the semi-finals of the French Open.

“I fought very hard during the second set and played with the right intentions which gave me a lot of opportunities. I am quite disappointed with the third (set). It didn’t go as planned. I was rushing and I don’t even know what I was trying to do,” a critical Tsitsipas said during his press conference.

Nadal is through to the semi-final stage for the first time since 2015 and sixth overall. This year marks his 10th appearance at the event. He will next take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be a repeat of the 2019 US Open final. Medvedev has already beaten Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic in straight sets this week. Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 3-0.

ATP

Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

Published

on

Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

Continue Reading

ATP

Injured Alcaraz Pulls Out of Rio Open After Two Games

A sprained ankle a couple of minutes into his debut at the Rio Open forced top seed Carlos Alcaraz to abandon his match against Thiago Monteiro

Published

on

Carlos Alcaraz after the injury - Rio 2024 (photo Tennis TV)

For world no. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, this year’s Rio Open lasted two games: the Spanish champion had to retire on the score of 1-1 in the first set during his first-round match against Brazilian Thiago Monteiro due to a sprained right ankle suffered in the second point of the match.

In an accident somewhat reminiscent of the terrible one suffered by Zverev in the semi-final of Roland Garros 2022, Alcaraz’s right foot “got stuck”  in the clay as he returned towards the center of the court after returning from the left, and he immediately flew to the ground dropping his racket. The Spaniard immediately asked for a medical time-out, but as soon as he took off his shoe it was immediately clear that his ankle had already swollen.

After having a tight bandage applied, Alcaraz tried to continue the match, but just two games later he understood that it was not possible to continue so he shook hands with his opponent, abandoning the Brazilian tournament.

The match was played on a very heavy court due to the rain that had fallen heavily during the day. The organizers had been forced to cancel the daytime session and play could only begin around 7.30 pm local time, after the courts had remained under pouring water all day.

Alcaraz told the press present in Rio: “I think these things happen, especially on clay. It wasn’t a problem with the court, I hurt myself in a change of direction and this happens on this type of surface. I went back into the match to see if I could continue or not. I spoke to the physiotherapist on the court and we decided, together, that I would continue to see if the ankle would improve. It didn’t happen, so we preferred to be cautious and withdraw as a precaution.”

Considering that Alcaraz left the court on his own two feet and managed to wobble through a couple of games after the injury, it is quite likely that the injury he suffered is much less serious than the one that kept Alexander Zverev away from tournaments for over seven months. However, it will be necessary to verify whether it is just a sprain or whether tendons or ligaments have been involved. If this were to be the case, the prognosis could turn out to be longer, and this is happening less than two weeks before the start of the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami.

The Spaniard is scheduled to play an exhibition in Las Vegas on 3rd March against Rafael Nadal: it will be decided in the next few days whether to withdraw as a precaution for the first Masters 1000 of the season in Indian Wells.

Continue Reading

ATP

Can Jannik Sinner dodge the morning-after syndrome?

Very few players have managed to follow up their first triumph in a Major. Hewitt is the last new Grand Slam champion to immediately win an ATP title. Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all misfired, can Jannik Sinner do better?

Published

on

Jannik Sinner - Australian Open 2024 (photo: X @federtennis)

By Roman Bongiorno

“The morning-after syndrome,” as they call it. The list of great champions who have suffered from it – Carlos Alcaraz, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray, is impressive.  Some of the most illustrious names in our sport, the most successful ever. Yet, even for those who are legends, the match immediately after their first Grand Slam triumph is often an insurmountable hurdle.

The very young Spanish phenomenon, born in 2003, was the latest striking example. After winning the 2022 US Open and becoming the new world No. 1, Alcaraz managed to win just one set in his next two matches: he lost 6-7 6-4 6-2 in the Davis Cup against Felix Auger Aliassime, who was definitely on fire in that period, and was inflicted a 7-5 6-3 defeat by veteran David Goffin in his first match at the ATP 500 in Astana.

Mentally, it’ not easy. The most important triumph of one’s life, immediately to be put aside.  And go back to work. The media are quick to pounce on any slip, headlines hinting at signs of a career already over: “it’s gone to his head”, “he has made his money” etc.

Less than a year later, Carlos Alcaraz was once more a Grand Slam champion, beating Novak Djokovic in the final at Wimbledon.

Just think of tennis legends such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who fell victims to this serious syndrome. The former, after his triumph at Roland Garros 2005, stepped back on court on the green grass of Halle, losing in 3 sets to the world number 147 German Alexander Waske: 4-6 7-5 6-3. For many, that was a disastrous defeat foreshadowing a future that would not be as bright as it had seemed. Rafa told another story, by winning another 21 Grand Slam titles, on every surface.

The Serbian, on the other hand, thrived on the hard courts of Melbourne, just like Jannik Sinner. In 2008, after winning the title, he was engaged in Davis Cup against Russia. He did not finish his rubber against Nikolay Davydenko and retired at the beginning of the fourth set while trailing 2 sets to 1. In his first ATP tour appearance, in Marseille, after brushing aside Ivan Dodig, he was ousted in three sets by Gilles Simon. Over the following 15 years Novak Djokovic went on to become the has become the most successful player ever.

What about Roger Federer? After lifting the trophy won at Wimbledon in 2003, he moved to the home clay of Gstaad.  He survived the morning-after syndrome  after a fierce but victorious struggle in the first round with the Spaniard Marc Lopez, ranked No.190. Then he cruised till the final, but was defeated in a five set hustle 5-7 6-3 6-3 1-6 6-3 by Jiri Novak.

The morning-after did not spare Juan Martin del Potro. After his stunning victory over Federer at the 2009 US Open, he set foot on an ATP tennis court three weeks later in Tokyo. It was Edouard Roger Vassellin, 189th in the world, who spoiled the party, neatly defeating the Argentinian in two sets, 64 64.

Even “Ice man” Bjorn Borg, the man without (apparent) emotions, focused only on tennis and winning, lost the first match after his success at Roland Garros 1974. He was defeated in the first round in Nottingham by world No. 71 Milan Holecek from Czechoslovakia. Over the next years he definitely made up for that impasse on English lawns.

A rare bird at last, and not by chance does it come from Australia, a land which is ever so rich in unique species. Lleyton Hewitt, who in 2001 after steamrolling Pete Sampras in the US Open final, immediately won his next matches, two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup against Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, and then went on to win in Tokyo by beating Michel Kratochvil in the final.

Jannik Sinner has been building up his success on gruelling feats. Sure he’s eager to be back on the Dutch indoor courts of Rotterdam where he enjoyed a brilliant run last year, only surrendering to Danil Medvedev in the final. Just one year ago the Russian seemed an impossible opponent to defeat. Now, in the last 4 challenges, Jannik has beaten him 4 times. The last one, in the final of the Australian Open.

Rotterdam could have been the stage for a rematch, but Medvedev has pulled out of the tournament. Jannik Sinner appears as a favourite, and is vying to close in on that third place of the rankings currently held by Daniil.

Jannik has set out on his mission. But even if he were to be defeated in the first round by an opponent ranked beyond the top 200, no one should dare cry failure. Italy at last has a Grand Slam winner, and he is not to be downplay him in case of first defeats.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending