Thiem edges Nadal in classic match, leads London 2020 group - UBITENNIS
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Thiem edges Nadal in classic match, leads London 2020 group

Dominic Thiems defeated Rafael Nadal for the second time this season in a two tie-break epic. Thiem now favourite to advance to the semifinals

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Dominic Thiem at the 2020 ATP Finals in London (Photo Twitter @atptour)

D. Thiem b. R. Nadal 7-6(7) 7-6(4)

 

Most likely the best match so far in these 2020 ATP Finals, and possibly one of the best matches of this indoor season, has opened Day 3 of the men’s year-end championships at the O2 Arena in London. Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem put up a great show for tennis fans gathered in front of screens around the world, as the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping the stands of the Greenwich Arena empty.

Nadal missed his chance to take a lead in the match during the first tie-break, when he was leading 5-2 and was serving to end the hard-fought set. But Thiem played well, won three points with winners from the baseline and eventually won the tie-break by 9 points to 7. Then in the second set Nadal managed to take a break to serve at 4-3, but his opponent raised his level to break back immediately and was the better player at the end of the second tie-break after having seen three consecutive match points pass by at 5-4.

THE MATCH

Not much to distance the two in the first set: no break points in the first six games, with Nadal having to come back from 15-30 at 2-3 and from 0-30 at 4-5, when Thiem helped him missing three returns in a row, but no real danger for neither contender on their respective serves.

Funnily enough, as it often happens in these cases, the tie-breaker opened with four mini-breaks in the first four points. Then at 2-3 Thiem put an easy drop shot wide on a very short return by the Spaniard, and could not fend off Nadal’s passing shots on the point after the change of end. Serving for the set at 5-2, the world no. 2 was however ineffective at wrapping up the set, losing three points in a row on some very good progressions from the baseline by his opponent.

Nadal was however the first to get to set-point, following a disastrous double fault by Thiem at 5-5, but he squandered it putting a backhand in the net. The Austrian held his two serves at 6-7 canceling Nadal’s second set point, and at 8-7, he thundered an inside-out forehand to clinch the first set after 72 minutes of battle.

The first game of the second set saw the first break point of the match, which Thiem quickly dismissed with a similar forehand progression that gave him the second set. After a first set full of net approaches and serve and volley dashes by two players who normally play from well behind the baseline, both competitors went back to schemes more usual to them trading shots from the baseline and returning from very close to the advertising backboard.

It was Nadal who finally obtained the first break, edging to 4-3 in the second set, but that turned out to be a short-term advantage as the match seemed to take a quick turn for the Austrian when Thiem broke back, held for 5-4 and was gifted three match point by three unusual unforced errors by Nadal.

After putting a backhand volley wide and missing a smash in rapid sequence, the Spaniard, as clutch as ever, pulled out of his hat a string of five consecutive points to level the set at 5-5.

It came down to another tie-break, where at 3-3 Thiem threaded a powerful backhand passing down the line and then held two serves for three more consecutive match points at 6-3. A cross-court backhand by Nadal landing wide after 2 hours, 25 minutes of play gave the match to Dominic Thiem, finishing the match with 37 winners and only 22 unforced errors.

WORDS FROM THE PLAYERS

“It’s one of the best matches I have played so far in my career – said Dominic Thiem immediately after the match – close to the second groups match last year against Nole. Probably he was the better player in the first set breaker, but I still won. Although Rafa is 100% from first to last point, but it is very important to win the first set, because he has an incredible percentage after he wins the first set. The second set had everything; I played the best game of the match to get the rebreak – it’s a match I will remember for a very long time”.

With this match Thiem boosts his chances to qualify to the semifinals, and will be sure of being part of the top 4 of the tournament in case of a win by Rublev over Tsitsipas, but above all he obtains a prestigious win after a bleak period: “Today probably I played a bit better than at the US Open, maybe the best match since the restart. It was hard to come back after US Open and Paris, then the home tournament in Vienna with a little injury, I am really happy to have come back this way”.

As for Nadal, he was obviously disappointed for the result, but still happy about his level: “A great match of tennis, decided by a few details. Well done to him, he played an amazing match, I played well, too. I had chances in the first, being 5-2 and two serves in the tie-break, I was a break up in the second. My chances to have a big result are bigger than they were five days ago, my level of tennis is higher now”.

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The ATP announces the nominees for the 2020 ATP Awards

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Nominees have been announced for the ATP Awards for all player-voted categories (Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the year, Stefan Edberg Sportmanship Award) and Coach of the Year. 

 

The Fans’s Favourite Award and and the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award Award will be announced later this month. Fans can vote for their favourite singles player and doubles team through 11 December. 

Three-time winner and 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will be up against 2020 Rome finalist and Roland Garros semifinalist Diego Schwartzman, US Open champion Dominic Thiem and John Millman in the Sportsmanship category. 

Schwartzman is among the nominees in the Most Improved player category and will be against Ugo Humbert, five-time ATP Tour titlist Andrey Rublev and 2020 Sofia ATP Tour champion and 2019 Next Gen ATP Tour champion Jannik Sinner. The Most Improved player of the Year reached a higher ATP Ranking by year’s end and showed an increasingly improved level of performance through the year. 

The nominees for the Comeback Player of the Year are Kevin Anderson, Andrey Kuznetsov, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic. The Compeback Player of the Year has overcome a serious injury in re-establishing as one of the top players on the ATP Tour. 

The contenders for the Newcomer of the Year Award are Carlos Alcaraz (winner in three Challenger tournaments in Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante), Sebastian Korda (winner of his first Challenger title in Eckental), Lorenzo Musetti (title in Parma and third-round in Rome Masters 1000), Jurij Rodionov (first Challenger titles in Dallas and Morelos) , Emil Ruusuvuori (semifinalist in Nur Sultan) and Thiago Seyboth Wild (first title in Santiago de Chlle)

The Coach of the Year Award contenders are Juan Ignacio Chela (Diego Schwartzman), Gilles Cervara (Danil Medvedev), Nicolas Massu (Dominic Thiem), Riccardo Piatti (Jannik Sinner) and Fernando Vicente (Andrey Rublev). 

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French Legend Leconte Speaks Out On Upcoming Return Of Roger Federer

The Grand Slam finalist gives his view on Federer’s chances for 2021.

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A former star of French tennis says he is hopeful but wary that Roger Federer will be able to return to the pinnacle of sport next year.

 

Henri Leconte, who is a former French Open finalist that achieved a ranking high of No.5, admits that the Swiss Maestro may find it tough on the Tour given the rise of what he describes as the ‘younger generation.’ This season Dominic Thiem won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open at the age of 27. More recently Daniil Medvedev defeated both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to the ATP Finals title.

We want to believe it. We all want to believe it! It’s been a long and difficult year. Will the motivation still be there? Will this break, the fact of having been able to enjoy his family, have changed something or will he still have that renewed motivation that has always fascinated us?” Leconte told TennisActu.

Federer hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss at the Australian Open in January. Since then, he has been sidelined from action due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures. The second took place after the first failed to produce the desired results.

Despite the setbacks, 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer is eyeing a return to the Tour in 2021. He is currently the oldest player in the world’s top 100 and one of two to be aged 39. The other is Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

No one can say it. We all wish him, we would like him to stop on a Grand Slam title but the train (momentum) is gone with this younger generation which has put in an extra speed,” said Leconte.
“I would like to believe it. Roger has done so many things, that’s why he makes us dream, we would like to see him at the top. It will be very, very hard. ..”

It is not the first time Federer has taken a lengthy break due to injury. He missed six months of the 2017 season due to another knee issue before returning to action the following year when he won the Australian Open.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that Federer will head into the new season being able to use his iconic ‘RF’ logo. He hasn’t been able to use the logo for the past two years after switching from Nike, which held the rights, to UNIQLO. However, he has managed to regain control of ownership which means he will be allowed to use it on his apparel once again.

“The RF cap is back,” Federer said in a video message to fans on Twitter.
“After a long wait and extensive fine-tuning, UNIQLO and I are extremely excited to announce the return of the RF hat in 8 fresh colours starting December 8th, 2020,” he also wrote.
“This hat has meant so much to me and to my fans over the years.
“It has given us a way to visibly connect, and I have appreciated the opportunity to thrive off this supportive energy.”

As it currently stands Federer’s first tournament is set to be the Australian Open. The tournament had been scheduled to start on January 18th but it is believed that the date has been delayed until February 8th due to travel and quarantine arrangements.

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Casper Ruud Opens Up About What It Is Like Playing Roger Federer

The 21-year-old explains what it is like to face somebody who is considered by some as the ‘greatest legend’ in tennis.

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Norway’s top tennis player admitted that he had difficulty sleeping the night before he was set to play Roger Federer for the first time in his career.

 

Casper Ruud has shed light on what it was like for him playing the Swiss Maestro during an interview with TV 2. The 21-year-old took on Federer in the third round of the French Open last year which he ended up losing 6-3, 6-1, 7-6. At the time it was only Ruud’s fourth appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

“When you meet the man who is considered the greatest legend in your sport in history, it is clear that then you were a little extra nervous,” he said of 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer.
“I remember before I was going to play against Federer, it was a bit difficult to sleep the night before. When you lie with your head on the pillow, your thoughts come.”

Ruud says Federer’s achievements in the sport made him feel more nervous about playing him. Overall, the 39-year-old has won 103 ATP titles and currently holds the record for most time spent holding the world No.1 ranking at 310 weeks. He played his first ATP event at the 1998 Gstaad Open, which was a year before Ruud was born.

Although the Next Gen star says he has admiration for all members of the Big Three, which also include Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The two highest ranked players currently on the men’s tour.

“It was in Melbourne a few years ago, and then I remember that we sat in a large cafe where all the players sit to eat. When Federer came in, it was completely quiet and everyone turned around. Now the legend is here,” he said.
“These three legends, they look taller than they might be. They are probably around 1.85 meters, but it may seem that they are two meters because of the respect you have for them.”

Since his meeting with Federer in Paris, Ruud has managed to make a name for himself as he gradually climbs up the world rankings. In February he won the Argentina Open to become the first Norwegian player in history to have won a title on the ATP Tour. He also reached the final of another tournament in Santiago. In September he defeated Matteo Berrettini in the Italian Open to record his first and so far only win over a top 10 player in his career.

“I do not remember everyone in my career. But there are some matches that stand out a bit, and that you remember extra well. Some ball exchanges, some punches here and there that you get, which you usually do not do. It is something that stands out a bit,” Ruud explains.

Unusually Ruud confirmed that both of his parents are now classed as his employees. He is coached by his father Christian who is a former player himself. Christian is a former world No.39 who was his country’s highest ranked male player in history until his son.

“The ultimate boss is probably (my) mother. She rules over both of us. In between at least,” he jokes.

After ending his season with three consecutive Tour losses, Ruud closes out 2020 with a win-loss record of 22-13 and has won $965,653 in prize money. He is currently ranked 27th in the world.
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