Rafael Nadal Ousts Reigning Champion Tsitsipas To Reach ATP Finals Semis - UBITENNIS
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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.

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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.

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Alexander Zverev Powers Past Erratic Nadal To Set Thiem Showdown

Alexander Zverev secured his best win of his career on a clay court by beating Rafael Nadal in Madrid.

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Alexander Zverev (@ATPTour_ES - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev powered past an erratic Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-3 to reach the semi-finals in Madrid.

 

After a slow start Zverev produced some stunning tennis to knock out the five-time champion Nadal, who had an error-prone day at the office.

The German will now play Dominic Thiem in the last four in a rematch from the 2018 final.

It was the 20-time grand slam champion who started off the fastest as he looked to target the Zverev forehand early with uncomfortable spins and heights.

Eventually Nadal would get his rewards for an accurate tactical game-plan as a Zverev double fault handed him the break.

However that advantage was to be short-lived as the first point of the seventh game would change the momentum of the match with Nadal putting in simple unforced errors especially on the forehand side.

The German took advantage as he used his backhand to dictate points from the baseline. Furthermore, Zverev used his superior net play to his advantage by shortening the points and creating a faster tempo.

An unusual first set from Nadal’s perspective was complete as the fifth seed reeled off four games in a row to seal the opening set 6-4.

At the start of the second set, the Spaniard tried to up his level and intensity as he used some drop-shots at unexpected moments and attempted to bring the crowd into the match.

Despite this Nadal’s return game was lacking its usual ferocity as he couldn’t capitalise on Zverev’s second serves.

There was a lack of confidence in the Spaniard when implementing effective patterns of play as Zverev had a lot of success dictating play and winning the baseline and net rallies.

Another break in the fifth game ensured that Zverev’s dominance was being rewarded.

Although a double break advantage was denied, Nadal couldn’t deny victory for Zverev as the German sealed his first clay court victory over the ‘King of Clay.’

After the match Zverev admitted it was one of the biggest wins of his career, “Definitely one of the biggest wins of my career so far, especially on clay against Rafa. It is the toughest thing to do in our sport,” Zverev said in an on-court interview.

“Beating him in his house, in Spain, is incredible but the tournament is not over yet.”

Lots to ponder for Nadal as an error-prone performance sees him looking to improve in Rome next week.

As for the German, he sets up a 2018 final rematch with Dominic Thiem in the last four as he secured his best victory on this surface of his career.

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Dominic Them reaches semifinal in Madrid after three-set battle with Isner

Dominic Thiem is into the Madrid semi-finals after an impressive three set win over John Isner.

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Dominic Thiem (@atptour - Twitter)

The Austrian booked his spot in the semifinals after coming back to beat the American in three sets.

 

Dominic Thiem needed one hour and 55 minutes to beat the world number 39 John Isner in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 hitting 20 winners in the win while his opponent hit 26 unforced errors.

“We all know that he is one of the best servers in history and this altitude in Madrid makes it even tougher to return his serve but I was a little bit surprised by his return games, I think he attacked both my first and second serves and it took me a while to get used to it and I think the match changed when I saved those three breakpoints in the second set”.

It was the American who got off to the faster start holding his opening service game and then going on the offensive earning a breakpoint the following game and taking an early 2-0 lead.

The Greensboro, North Carolina native had a chance to go up a double break but the world number four saved both breakpoints he faced and managed to hold his first service game of the match.

That break was enough for the American to serve out the first set and he was one set away from the semifinals.

The second set stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Dallas, Texas resident had four breakpoints but failed to convert and the match was starting to turn with the American looking gassed.

In the next game the Austrian had three breakpoint and converted for his first break of the match as he served out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

Isner was put under pressure early in the third set facing a breakpoint in the first game of the set but managed to save it and hold serve and it stayed on serve until 4-4.

That’s when the world number four earned two chances to break and on the second time of asking he would break and served out the match to book a date with either Alexander Zverev or Rafael Nadal.

After his match in an on court interview he gave this thoughts on a potential matchup with either Nadal or Zverev.

“It’s going to be a good one, I’ve played two big matches here against Rafa ( Nadal) and one big match against Sascha ( Zverev), and against either one of them it’s going to be an incredible challenge and it’s going to be exciting tomorrow”.

With the loss today by Isner when the new rankings come out on Monday it will be the first time in the open era and since the rankings came out that an American will not feature in the top 30 players in the world.

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Past Cancellation Of Clay Events ‘Double Motivation’ For Norway’s Casper Ruud

The 22-year-old is on a roll after scoring his biggest win yet over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Madrid Open.

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Last year’s decision to scrap a series of clay events due to the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge blow to the world of tennis but at the same time a blessing in disguise for Casper Ruud.

 

The world No.22 is enjoying a surge in his form on the Tour after reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters and Munich Open. Furthermore, this week at the Madrid Open Ruud achieved the biggest win of his career on Thursday after stunning Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6(4), 6-4. Registering his first ever win over a top five player on the Tour. He is yet to drop a set in the tournament.

Ruud partly credits his success on the clay to events that happened 12 months ago when he was unable to play on his favourite surface due to the pandemic. The French Open did take place but later in the year where he reached the third round.

“It was a part of the season last year that I was looking extremely forward to. I felt it was taken a bit away from not me but all the players when everything got postponed, some of the tournaments were cancelled,” Ruud said after his win over Tsitsipas.
“I think I just kept my motivation for a year and have double the motivation to be here this year luckily.’
“This (Madrid) was one of the tournaments that we didn’t get to play last year. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and take care of the chances that I get.”

Growing up, the youngster trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy and says his time there has shaped how he plays today. Toni Nadal, who is the former mentor of Rafael Nadal, remains ‘involved’ in his tennis. Although the 60-year-old is now switching his focus to working with Felix Auger-Aliassime. Pedro Clar, who he met at the academy, is still a member of his team.

“Pedro Clar is the one that travels more often with me. We have a very good relationship. He’s here (in Madrid) this week,” said Ruud.
“He’s been with me at some of my biggest tournaments and wins. When I won my first tournament in Buenos Aires, my first semifinal in Rome last year, Pedro was with me. I think it’s helped me a lot.’
“Also getting help from Toni. Now Toni is helping Felix more personally. But he’s always involved with my tennis at some point in my career. Also Rafa, of course, he helped me a lot the last years.”

The next test for Ruud in Madrid will be Alexander Bublik who he beat in three sets in their only previous meeting back in 2019. Should he win again, the world No.22 would be through to his third consecutive Masters semi-final on the clay after Rome (2020) and Monte Carlo.

At the age of 22, Ruud has already become the highest ranked Norwegian player in ATP Tour history. Coincidentally the record was previously held by his father Christian who now his head coach. Following his latest win, he is set to break into the world’s top 20 for the first time on Monday.

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