Rafael Nadal Hails Australia's 'Amazing' COVID-19 Response After Toppling Thiem In Adelaide - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Hails Australia’s ‘Amazing’ COVID-19 Response After Toppling Thiem In Adelaide

The world No.2 spoke out about his quarantine, the pandemic and his longevity in the sport following his latest victory.

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Rafael Nadal (image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen)

World No.2 Rafael Nadal has kicked-off his Australian summer campaign with a straight sets win over Dominic Thiem at the Day at a Drive exhibition in Adelaide on Friday.

 

After a slight rusty start the 20-time Grand Slam champion roared his way to a 7-5, 6-4, win over Thiem at the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre. The one-day event serves as a last-minute tune up for the players who have been quarantined in the region ahead of the resumption of the Tour next week in Melbourne.

Playing inside a packed stadium in what is a rare sight during an era dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, fans in Adelaide got their money’s worth. From the onset Nadal and Thiem matched each other game-by-game with little disparity between their level of play. World No.3 Thiem produced an impressive performance behind his serve, as well as his backhand. Meanwhile, Nadal’s fierce defence and fiery forehand was out in full force.

Throughout the opening set both players had a duo of break point chances but Nadal was the only one who managed to convert. With the score level at 5-5, a wild forehand mistake from Thiem rewarded his rival the game and a chance to serve the set out. An opportunity Nadal passed with flying colours after hitting a forehand cross-court winner on set point.

The cat and mouse chase between the reigning Grand Slam champions continued into the second frame with a series of heavy-hitting shot making from both sides of the court. However, the exhibition showdown came to an anti-climatic ending due to a lacklustre Thiem service game. At 4-4, the Austrian hit two double faults followed by a poor volley into the net which granted Nadal two break points. The Spaniard failed to convert his first but prevailed on his second attempt thanks to another Thiem error. That breakthrough was all Nadal required to seal victory as he closed the match out with a forehand volley at the net.

It has been a very hard year for all of the world in general. In Spain we were hit very hard by the virus and we are still in a tough situation. I think Australia is an amazing positive example of how to make things the right way with the pandemic,” Nadal said after the match.

Thiem, who won his maiden major title in New York last year, echoes Nadal’s praise of Australia as he describes playing in front of fans as ‘special.’

“It’s (2020) been a very tough year for everybody. There was great success for me but I think now it’s time to be really thankful and grateful for everything you guys (the Australian authorities) did for us,” he said.
“I’m playing in front of my first almost full crowd in a year so it’s special for us.”

Friday saw those in Adelaide release from Quarantine and do as they wish. Serena Williams took a trip to the Zoo and Novak Djokovic went for a walk in the city. A complete contrast to last year at the US Open where players were required to stay within a designated bubble at all times.

For Nadal, he admits that it wasn’t ideal preparation for him ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season but hails those involved in making the tournament happen in the first place.

“The last two weeks have been honestly great. Of course it is not ideal to stay 14 days under quarantine but that’s the way we need to do things today. We can’t thank South Australia and Tennis Australia,” he said.
“I hope to have the right preparation for the Australian Open. I won there in 2009 which I think almost everybody forgot about. I will keep playing hard this year. It is a special one. I will keep trying my best.”

As the third oldest player in the top 20 after Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer, Nadal says he is still loving life as a pro with no intention of stepping away anytime soon.

“I never dreamed to be where I am at 34. If you told me this 10 years ago I would have said ‘forget it’. But here I am. I am super happy and enjoying every single moment that I am able to keep competing,” he concluded.

Both Nadal and Thiem will return to action next week in the ATP Cup. They will play their first matches on the opening day of the tournament which will be February 2nd.

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Nadal survives three-set marathon with Shapovalov in Rome

Rafael Nadal saved match points to edge out Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The King of Clay needed three sets and over three hours to claim the win and avoid an upset.

 

Rafael Nadal needed three hours and 27 minutes to beat the Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the Italian Open in Rome hitting 29 winners while his counterpart hit 46 unforced errors in the loss.

To everyone’s surprise it was the world number 14 who came out with the faster start earning two breakpoints in the first service game of the match with a stunning forehand winner.

He would break to take an early 1-0 lead and continued to have momentum earning another break and the Spaniard found himself staring at 3-0 defecit.

At 4-1 the world number three would get one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the Toronto native would break one more time at 5-3 on his fourth breakpoint of the game to take the first set.

Once again we saw some really strong play from the Canadian in the beginning of the second set we saw history repeat itself when the world number 14 held serve and get the early break this time with his powerful forehand.

Nadal was fighting to stay in the set and the match and managed to earn a breakpoint but it was quickly saved with a big ace from Shapovalov. The very next game the Canadian had a chance to get another break but this time the Spaniard would deny him the opportunity.

After the world number three held serve he went on the attack looking to go back on serve and after three chances would get the break back. He would end up winning five games in a row and would take the second set to send it to a decider.

The third set remained on serve until 2-1 when the Canadian had a chance to break and he would take to jump out to a 3-1 lead. The break didn’t hold as Nadal came storming back the very next game breaking the world number 14 to love and equaling the set at 3-3.

The set and the match would ultimately be decided by a tiebreaker and in that breaker is when the Spaniard would take over winning it 7-3 to book his spot in the quarterfinals.

He will next face either Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.

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Novak Djokovic Moving Into A ‘Good Trajectory’ After Reaching Rome Quarter-Finals

Novak Djokovic admitted that he is on a good trajectory after reaching the last eight in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic has said that he is on a ‘good trajectory’ after moving into the Rome Quarter-Finals.

 

The world number one moved into the last eight in the Italian capital with a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Despite being broken in the first game, Djokovic rallied back to break on five occasions as he cruised past the Erratic Spaniard.

After 1 hour and 11 minutes, Djokovic’s overall game was too much for Davidovich Fokina as the Serb progressed to his 15th quarter-final in Rome.

After the match in his on-court interview the top seed admitted he is on a good trajectory as he builds momentum towards Roland Garros, “I thought I played well,” Djokovic told the ATP website.

“He started well and broke my serve in the first game. I made some errors, but I managed to break back right away and establish the control and consistency on the court. I think from the back of the court I was just a bit more solid than him.

“He made some unforced errors and double faults in key moments, which obviously helped me get that necessary break forward. I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against Fritz a few days ago. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

The real test for Djokovic will come tomorrow when he faces top 10 opposition in the last eight.

It will either be Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas or Madrid finalist and home favourite Matteo Berrettini next up for the world number one.

Djokovic was well aware of the form either of his possible opponents are in heading into tomorrow’s showdown, “My next match will be against a Top 10 player, so it is going to be a battle,” Djokovic explained.

“Both of these guys are in great form. Tsitsipas won Monte-Carlo and Berrettini is just coming off the final in Madrid. I am obviously going to do my best to win that match, whoever I play against.”

In the other result in Rome today, Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Aslan Karatsev.

The American hit 18 aces as he will now face Felix Auger-Aliassime or Federico Delbonis on Friday.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas sets up blockbuster third round match against Matteo Berrettini in Rome

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Stefanos Tsitsipas edged past Marin Cilic 7-5 6-2 to advance to third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Tsitsipas has improved his win-loss record to 28-7 this season, equalling Andrey Rublev for most match wins after Rublev beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7 (7-9) 6-1 6-4 earlier today. 

Tsitsipas had to save two break points in the ninth game to hold serve after four deuces. The 2021 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters winner earned his crucial break in the 12th game to win a hard-fought first set 7-5. 

Tsitsipas was in control of the match and cruised to a 6-2 win in the second set with two breaks in the second and eighth games. 

“Sometimes I need to adjust my game and Marin is someone I respect a lot. I knew he was going to come out here and play his best tennis. He made move a lot. It was quite tricky to adjust to that at the beginning, but towards the very end of the first set I stayed calm and stayed calm and resilient. I had to play deep on the returns and find solutions from the baseline rallies. That worked well for me from 6-5”, said Tsitsipas. 

Tsitsipas set up a blockbuster third round match against last week’s Madrid Mutua Open finalist Matteo Berrettini, who beat John Millman 6-4 6-2 in front of fans, who will return on Thursday. Tsitsipas enjoyed the atmosphere on the Pietrangeli Stadium. 

“The Pietrangeli Stadium is very beautiful. It’s one of the best courts on tour. I feel like the Pietrangeli here is great. We are surrounded by trees in the city and it’s very quiet which is very important for tennis. Honestly, I can’t wait for the fans to come and fill in the stadium”, said Tsitsipas. 

Berrettini missed three consecutive break points in the third game of the opening set and earned his first break in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead. The Rome-native star served out the first set at 15. Berrettini earned two consecutive breaks to race out to 4-0 lead. Millman saved a break point to hold serve in the fifth game, but Berrettini never looked back in his next two service games to claim the second set 6-2. 

Berrettini has improved with his each appearance in the Rome tournament, reaching the second round in 2018, the third round in 2019 and the quarter final in 2020. 

Tsitsipas beat Berrettini in their only head-to-head match at the 2019 Australian Open. 

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