Rafael Nadal Unfazed By Lack Of Match Play Or New Coaching Role For Uncle Heading Into Monte Carlo - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Unfazed By Lack Of Match Play Or New Coaching Role For Uncle Heading Into Monte Carlo

The world No.3 has only played one tournament so far this season but that hasn’t stopped him from issuing warnings to his rivals heading into the clay swing.

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Rafael Nadal (image via twitter.com)

Spain’s Rafael Nadal has previously won tournaments without playing many matches prior and he is confident of repeating this heading into his beloved clay swing.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion is set to return to action at the Monte Carlo Masters where he is seeking to win the title for a record 12th time. It will be the first time the 34-year-old has played a competitive match on the Tour since his quarter-final loss at the Australian Open on February 17th. Since then, he has been sidelined from action due to a back problem that has been troubling him since the start of the season.

“I am confident. I am playing well I think. I’ve been practicing well these (past) couple of days in Monte-Carlo before the tournament started. So I feel ready,” Nadal told reporters on Sunday.
“It’s true that I haven’t played much. At the same time it is true that I have had good success in the past without playing matches (prior). My mindset is the same as always. Just try to be ready for Wednesday.”

In total the world No.3 has played just five matches heading into the Masters tournament. This is the smallest amount he has played within a season heading into Monte Carlo in his entire career. In Melbourne, which is the only tournament he has played this year so far, his biggest scalp was over Fabio Fognini who was ranked 17th at the time.

However, Nadal is a player who can never be ruled out on the clay whatever the circumstance given his resume. He has won more titles on the surface than any other player in the Open Era. Last year he dismantled Novak Djokovic in straight sets to win his 13th French Open, which took place later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Arriving is an important part of the season for me. I think I have done the right work to be ready. So let’s see,” he said.
“For the moment my body is in good shape. I am excited about playing in Monaco again, Monte-Carlo. As everybody knows, it is one of my favourite tournaments without a doubt. I love being here.”

Of course, there will be one notable absence from Monte Carlo – the crowd. Like various other tournaments around the world the event is taking place behind closed doors due to the pandemic. Its show court, Court Rainier III, has a capacity of 10,200.

“We’re going to miss the crowd, the normal tournament,” Nadal admits. “I am happy that we are still able to play. Being here is always good news for me. I hope to be ready to give my best.”

‘I want the best for Toni’

https://twitter.com/rnadalacademy/status/1380840607753572354

Recently there was a big announcement about another member of the Nadal family, who are based in the Spanish island of Mallorca. Uncle Toni, who is a former long-time coach of Nadal and was the person who introduced him to the sport, is making a return to the Tour. Although this time will be overseeing the development of Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime.

“I am happy for him. Happy for at the same time the (Rafa Nadal) academy has somebody with such a great player like Felix is a positive thing. Toni has a lot of experience. He knows a lot about this sport. He has all the knowledge that somebody needs. I am sure that’s going to be an important help for Felix,” Nadal commented.

Toni serves as the head of his nephew’s academy. It is not believed his new collaboration will have an impact on his current role with the facility. As for Nadal, he sees the new development as a win-win who insists that his uncle doesn’t need to consult with him about his plans.

“He doesn’t have to ask me anything. He’s my uncle. I am very grateful for all the things that he did for me. I am happy that he’s on the tour for a couple of weeks,” he commented.
“At the same time I am happy for Felix. I mean, it is going to be a good support, having a great coach like Toni next to him.’
“I am happy to see my uncle here and spend time with him here on the tour again. That’s a positive thing.”

Granted a bye in the first round, Nadal will start his Monte Carlo campaign against either Adrian Mannarino or qualifier Federico Delbonis.

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Rafael Nadal To Play Laver Cup In Berlin

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Rafael Nadal has eased speculation that he might be retiring from the sport soon after signing on to play in the Laver Cup later this year. 

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is the latest player to join the line-up for this year’s team competition which features Europe taking on the rest of the world over three days. It will be Nadal’s fourth appearance in the competition and his first since 2022. He competed in the inaugural edition of the event back in 2017 alongside co-founder Roger Federer. 

“I am very happy to be playing Laver Cup in Berlin for Team Europe,” Nadal said in a press release. “I have some really special memories from my Laver Cup experiences, including all the emotions from London two years ago playing alongside Roger for the last time.”

Nadal’s decision to play comes amid questions about his future in the sport. The former world No.1 has previously indicated that this year could be his last on the Tour but he has stated that no decision has been made. In recent months he has been sidelined from action due to injury setbacks and has only been able to play in two tournaments so far this year. 

“At this stage in my career I really want to go out there and make the most of every opportunity I am given,” he explains.
“Teaming up is always an incredible experience and I have always enjoyed it, the competition is different and exciting. I’m looking forward to going to Berlin and helping Team Europe win back the Laver Cup.”

Other European players confirmed to be playing are Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. Meanwhile, Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul have agreed to play for Team World. This year’s event will be held in Belin at the Uber Arena between September 20-22. 

The Laver Cup was inspired by golf’s Ryder Cup. It was co-founded by Federer’s Team8 management company (which he formed with agent Tony Godsick), businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann and Tennis Australia. In 2019 it became an official ATP sanction event and now has a place on the official calendar. 

Nadal is set to return to competitive action at the Madrid Masters which he has won on five previous occasions. He has been drawn to play teenage wild card Darwin Blanch in the first round. If he wins, Nadal will then play Alex de Minaur who knocked him out of the Barcelona Open last week. 

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Carlos Alcaraz In Doubt For Madrid Open Title Defence

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Carlos Alcaraz admits that he is not certain if he will be ready in time to play at next week’s Madrid Masters.

The 20-year-old is yet to play a clay tournament in Europe due to a forearm injury which ruled him out of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona. He hurt his right arm whilst training shortly before the Monte Carlo event began. 

It is the latest in a series of injury issues that has affected Alcaraz throughout his young career. Since the start of 2023, he has also been derailed by issues with his abdominal, hamstring, post-traumatic arthritis in his left hand and muscular discomfort in his spine. 

“My feeling isn’t right, but it is what it is. Now I’m fully focused on recovery and I have a little more time,” Alcaraz told reporters in Barcelona on Monday.
“My goal is to try and go to the Madrid Open, but at the moment nothing is certain. I was given specific recovery times and I’ve respected them, but I haven’t felt good. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
“I can’t say I’ll be 100% in Madrid, but that’s my intention. We’ll train and do everything we can so that the feelings improve so I can play a match … It’s also a very special tournament for me.”

Alcaraz has won the past two editions of the Madrid Open, which is classed as a Masters 1000 event. In 2022 he defeated Alexander Zverev in the final and then 12 months later he beat Jan-Lennard Struff in the title match.

The setback comes after what has been a steady start to the year for Alcaraz who has reached the quarter-finals or better in four out of five tournaments played. He successfully defended his title in Indian Wells and then reached the semi-finals in Miami. 

Should he not play in Madrid, it is likely that the Spaniard will lose his No.2 spot to Jannik Sinner who is just over 100 points behind him in the standings. He will still have the chance to play a clay-court event before the French Open with Rome taking place early next month. 

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Olympic Qualification Is Not the Only Goal For French Veteran Gael Monfils

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Gael Monfils (image via https://twitter.com/atptour)

Gael Monfils admits he doesn’t have too many years left on the Tour but this doesn’t mean his targets are any less ambitious. 

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings over the past 12 months following battles with injury. At his lowest, he was ranked 394th last May but is now in 40th position. As a result, he is closing on securing a place in the Olympic Games which is being held in his home country of France for the first time since 1924. The tennis event will be staged at Roland Garros. 

“When I was 400, I was thinking the Olympics would be great, but it’s going to be tough,” Monfils told reporters on Tuesday. 
“There are younger players playing well. If I don’t qualify, I don’t mind. It will just mean I’m very close to the ranking I want to be. That ranking will allow me to find another goal.”

Monfils is already a three-time Olympian but has never won a medal at the event. He reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice in 2008 and 2016. 

Another goal of Frenchmen is the Wimbledon championships which concludes just three weeks before the Olympics begin. The proximity of these tournaments will be a challenge to all players who will be going from playing on clay to grass and then back to clay again. 

“I really want to go and play Wimbledon. I don’t have so many Wimbledons to play in the future. The Olympics is one goal, not the only goal.” Monfils states.
“My dream is of course to be part of the Olympics. I played three times at the Olympics. I’d like to be there again. But I also really want to do well in Wimbledon this year. To reach my goal, it has to be including Wimbledon.” He added. 

Monfils is currently playing at the Monte Carlo Masters where he beat Aleksandar Vukic in his opening match. In the next round, he will take on Daniil Medvedev in what will be their first meeting since 2022. He leads their head-to-head 2-1. 

Medvedev has openly spoken about his roller-coaster relationship with playing on the clay. He admits it is not his favourite surface but how much of a factor could this be in his upcoming clash with Monfils?

“Of course, it’s not his favourite one, but he’s still Daniil Medvedev, and whatever the surface, it’s always very complicated to play him,” Monfils concludes. 

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