Rafael Nadal May Have Luck On His Side This Time Down Under - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal May Have Luck On His Side This Time Down Under

Could 2022 be Nadal’s year at Melbourne Park?

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Rafa Nadal hasn’t always been so lucky, especially at the Australian Open.

 

Melbourne generally has treated the great Spanish left-hander rather harshly. If not injuries, it was bad luck. He easily could have been sitting well ahead of both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in Grand Slam titles, say 23-19 in both cases. The fact Djokovic was not allowed to compete in this Australian Open wouldn’t even be an issue.

But anyway, here’s Rafa back in the Australian semifinals. Federer and Djokovic aren’t anywhere in sight.

BEST TWO-SET PLAYER IN THE GAME?

Nadal may be 35 years old, but he still may be the best two-set player in the game. He looked like his old self the first two sets of his five-set (6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3) quarterfinal win over talented, but bad-mouthing 22–year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

Then, there was another significant quarterfinal just a year ago in Melbourne that almost made this Nadal-Shapovalov meeting look like a replay of Nadal’s five-set loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year’s Australian Open.

Nadal didn’t waste his 2-0 set lead against Shapovalov, although all Nadal fans watching Tuesday’s Nadal-Shapovalov match must have had an errie feeling that it could be 2021 all over again.

NADAL PLAYED IT SMARTER THIS TIME

Yes, Nadal appeared to play it smarter this time. He went after the third set until he missed what should have been an easy passing shot down the line to get to double break point at 3-3 in the set. After 4-4, Nadal won only two more points in the set, one on a Shapovalov double fault and the other one a Naval love-40 ace.

Finally, after dropping three straight games to fall behind 4-1 in the fourth set while looking very un-Nadalish, the Spaniard called for medical help while holding his stomach. That didn’t make Shapovalov happy.

RAFA CAME ALIVE IN FIFTH SET

Afterward the medical visit that Shapovalov seemed to be upset about, Nadal appeared to slowly respond to the medication while closing to 5-3 and holding a double break point in the ninth game before Shapovalov evened the match at two sets each.

In that stretch of four games and then the seven-minute break for Nadal between sets, it became obvious that the medication had worked as Nadal jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set. 

Earlier, Shapovalov reportedly called chair umpire Carlos Bernardes “corrupt” for not calling out Nadal for taking too much time between points and thus giving Nadal special treatment. And the seven-minute break before the start of the final set upset the Canadian left-hander even more.

LUCK OF THE DRAW ON NADAL’S SIDE

This time, Nadal’s luck comes from the fact Djokovic is absent as well as the draw that pits Nos. 2 and 4 seeds Daniil Medvedev and Tsitsipas against each other in Friday’s semifinals while sixth-seed Nadal will go against hard-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini, the seventh seed.

Berrettini is a strong player, but realistically he isn’t in the class of Medvedev or Tsitsipas.

Berrettini isn’t the most consistent player around. Very erratic at times, repeatedly going all-out on the forehand side, while his backhand is a glaring weakness,

Of course, Medvedev turned back Djokovic’s bid to break the 20-20-20 Grand Slam title deadlock between Nadal, Federer and Djokovic. That says enough about Medvedev’s ability to live up to the task in Grand Slams.

And then there’s Tsitsipas with his enormous talent and desire to win a Grand Slam title.

Maybe Medvedev and Tsitsipas will push each other to physical extremes in the semifinals, while Nadal breezes past Berrettini.

IS NADAL’S BAD LUCK IN MELBORNE OVER?

Nadal’s bad luck Down Under where his lone title came with his 2009 five-set victory over Federer in the Aussie final that brought Federer to tears receiving the runner-up trophy for the third straight time after major finals against Nadal.

Eight years later in 2017, Federer got Nadal back by upsetting the Spaniard in another five-set Aussie final in which Nadal was a heavy favorite.

Another misfortune for Nadal was his five-set loss to Djokovic in the five hours and 15 minutes long Australian Open final in 2012. Nadal owned a 4-2 lead in the fifth set before missing an open line on an easy-looking backhand passing shot down the line with both players at the net. A winner would have put Nadal within one game and one point of a second Australian Open title

BACK INJURY GOT IN WAY AGAINST STAN

Of course, there have been a line of injuries for Nadal in Melbourne, including the 2014 final against Stan Wawrinka in which early in the second set a near-incapacitating back injury got in Rafa’s way of completing a career double Grand Slam.

But Nadal didn’t throw in the towel, except maybe the rest of the second set.

Wawrinka complained heavily to the chair umpire and tournament supervisor for almost the entire seven minutes and 15 seconds Nadal was gone from the court to receive treatment for his back. Although in obvious pain, Nadal came back to win the fourth set before losing the decisive fourth set.

OTHER 3 HAVE AGE AND SIZE ON THEIR SIDES?

Nadal is the small one of the semifinalists. He’s only 6-1. The other three climb the stairs in height, 6-4 Tsitsipas, 6-5 Berrettini and 6-6 Medvedev.

And, of course, Nadal is the old-timer at age 35, while two of the other three are 25 years old and Tsitsipas is only 23.

 Nevertheless, Nadal looked like a 20-year-old in those first two sets against Shapovalov. Now with fresh confidence that he can survive in the heat, even another five-setter, Nadal has maybe his last shot at a second career Grand Slam. Win or lose Down Under, Nadal should still have a great shot at another Grand Slam title at the French Open.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers.  A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Roger Federer’s Team8 Considering Bid To Buy Cincinnati Masters Rights From USTA

The potential move has gained support from one former world No.1 player who says ‘it is nice to see responsible names’ in the mix to buy the prestigious event.

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Roger Federer Wimbledon 2021
Roger Federer (SUI) playing against Adrian Mannarino (FRA) in the first round of the Gentlemen's Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 2 Tuesday 29/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

It is understood that sports and entertainment company Team8 which was co-founded by Roger Federer is looking into potentially submitting an application for ownership of the Cincinnati Masters, according to two sources.

 

Sports business publication Sportico and Steve Weissman from The Tennis Channel have both reported that the business is among a number of interested parties who want to buy the event that is best known as the Western and Southern Open. In February this year it was confirmed that the USTA is selling their 93.8% stake in the tournament for a ‘nine-figure sum.’ It is understood that the organization doesn’t want the event to be relocated from Cincinnati in part of any deal.

“The USTA’s Board of Directors believes now is the right time to explore potential strategic options and alternatives in order to optimize the long-term growth of the tournament and take the tournament to the next level,” the USTA said in a statement published by tennis.com.

The USTA brought the rights to the men’s event back in 2009 for $12.5M and has since spent an additional $65M. Whilst Cincinnati is a combined tournament, the ongoing negotiations only apply to the men’s section. The women’s tournament is overseen by Octagon management.

Neither Federer or a member of Team8 have commented on the reported plans. The company was founded by the 20-time Grand Slam champion and his agent Tony Godsick back in 2013. Since then they have been involved in the creation of the Laver Cup, became a ‘major investor’ in the Universal Tennis system and are a ‘strategic investor and partner’ to On Running.

Should Team8 become the new owners, questions may arise about conflicts of interest with Federer still being an active player on Tour. The 40-year-old is currently sidelined from action due to a knee injury but is aiming to stage a comeback at the Swiss Open later this year. However, former world No.1 Andy Roddick has given his full backing to the possible takeover.

“In the world of tennis, where conflicts of interest know no bounds at all, Roger can do this. He has, obviously, been a great steward for the game and has created an incredible relationship with the fans in the city of Cincinnati. You’d like to see it stay in the tennis family with someone who actually knows and loves our sport.” Roddick told The Tennis Channel.

Federer has won the Cincinnati Masters a record seven times in his career.

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Daniil Medvedev ‘Happy To Play Wimbledon’ If Ban Is Lifted

The world No.2 says he is willing to speak with other players about the situation ahead of his return to action following surgery.

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Daniil Medvedev (RUS) in action against Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) in the first round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 2 Tuesday 29/06/2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

Daniil Medvedev says he is still hopeful that he might be able to play at this year’s Wimbledon Championships should officials at The All England Club decide to change their stance.

 

At present the reigning US Open champion will not be allowed to play at the grass court major due to his nationality. Officials at the Grand Slam have confirmed that Russian and Belarussian players have been banned from the event due to the war in Ukraine. Ian Hewitt, who is the chairman of The AELTC, said the action was taken in order to prevent ‘the propaganda machine of the Russian regime’ from potentially benefiting from their players’ success.

The ban is a controversial move for the sport which until now had a united approach when it came to allowing those players participate in tournaments but only as neutral athletes. Former Wimbledon champions Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokopvic and Andy Murray have all expressed some degree of opposition to the decision. Meanwhile, the ATP and WTA are considering the possibility of removing the allocation of ranking points at the event.

Speaking about the ban ahead of this week’s Geneva Open, Medvedev acknowledges that it is a ‘tricky situation’ but is still hopeful that a u-turn could occur which would allow him to play. The 26-year-old has made four main draw appearances at Wimbledon with his best result being a run to the fourth round last year.

“There has been a lot of talk around it. I just tried to follow what’s happening because I don’t have any decisions to make. It’s right now about Wimbledon itself, the ATP, maybe the British government is involved,” news agency AFP quoted Medvedev as telling reporters in Switzerland.
“It’s a tricky situation and like every situation in life, you ask 100 players, everybody’s going to give a different opinion.
“I can play: I’m going to be happy to play in Wimbledon. I love this tournament.
“I cannot play: well, I’m going to try to play other tournaments and prepare well for next year if I have the chance to play.”

The former world No.1 has been among a group of Russian players who have previously called for peace in the region. Although none of them have gone as far as publicly condemning the actions of their government. Something which has drawn criticism from Ukraine’s Elina Svitoliva.

“I had some time to follow what is happening, yeah, it’s very upsetting,” Medvedev commented on the war.

Geneva will be the first event Medvedev has played in since reaching the quarter-finals of the Miami Open. He took time away from the Tour to undergo hernia surgery but has confirmed he intends to play at next week’s French Open despite his lack of match play on the clay.

During his time at those events, the tennis star says he is more than happy to speak with other players about the Wimbledon ban should they want to.

“Since I haven’t been on the tour, I haven’t talked to any of them face to face. It was the first time when I came here on Saturday when I can talk to players, and if they start talking about this, we can discuss,” he said.
“I don’t know exactly what’s happening, what’s going to happen, if there are going to be more decisions made.
“Same about Wimbledon. I don’t know if this decision is 100 percent, and it’s over.”

Granted a bye in the first round, Medvedev will start his Geneva campaign against either Richard Gasquet or John Millman.

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Conquering the world: Carlos Alcaraz beats Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic to cement Barcelona-Madrid titles (Part Two)

Carlos Alcaraz will now look to translate his success from the ATP Tour to Roland Garros.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@MutuaMadridOpen)

In part one, I assessed how Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz continues to take the tennis world by storm after his victory in Barcelona.

 

Now I turn my attentions to his success in another famous Spanish city.

Madrid Masters victory

Alcaraz again began his Madrid Masters campaign in style, beating the dangerous Georgian Nicoloz Basilashvili in straight sets.

A stern test came in the form of Britain’s Cameron Norrie, who pushed the birthday boy that day to three sets.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdMSI6uKJZB/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Alcaraz moving through 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 to set up a blockbuster quarter-final clash with his idol Rafa Nadal.

Now, some context is needed that the 21-time Grand Slam was appearing in his first tournament back since recovering from a rib injury.

An opening round win against Serbian Miomir Kecmanović was backed up with a tight three-set triumph over Belgian David Goffin, with the veteran Spaniard saving four match points.

To his credit, Nadal pushed his young apprentice all the way, before going down 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, with the second set showing his obvious quality, despite being partially fit.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdOP5Jtg2Pn/

If this moment was a changing of the guard in Spanish tennis, then Alcaraz’s impressive win over Novak Djokovic could point to the man who may dominant the future of tennis.

The world number one was fortunate to play a match less, after the shock withdrawal of old rival Murray in the third-round.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CdRFDuFgIHv/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

But he was no match for the imperious Alcaraz who triumphed at front of the delighted home support, 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5).

The first player ever to beat Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back on a clay court in the history of tennis.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

And Alcaraz made it a highly commendable 5-0 in finals, destroying Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-1, with little challenge unlike the previous encounters with Norrie, Nadal and Djokovic.

James Spencer (Twitter: @jspencer28) – Alcaraz Verdict

In truth, I had a sneaky feeling that Alcaraz would triumph in Barcelona.

The way he is playing with such finesse and confidence, particularly against the Monte Carlo Masters champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas, was incredible to see.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdQ4yADqinS/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Saving match points against Alex de Minaur, also showed his mettle.

He also has an unbelievable shot selection and fitness levels.

Beating Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back is no easy feat.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRGhGyq64J/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

Often just one win knocks the stuffing out of you, mentally and physically, but not for this kid.

Alcaraz doesn’t get carried away. And this has been shown consistently this season.

Winning the Miami Masters could have led to a drop in motivation, yet he has looked even more motivated if anything.

He’s performed on hard-court and clay court surfaces with an assuring dominance.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdRDN0Hq_zY/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

In fact, he is unbeaten on clay this season, losing three times in total all season.

Matteo Berrettini in five at the Australian Open.

Nadal in the semis of Indian Wells in a tight three sets, that ultimately injured the elder Spaniard, which could have ramifications on his entire fitness this season, and the destination of the French Open trophy.

And a close three-set defeat to up and coming youngster Sebastian Korda in Monte Carlo.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CdTpZI6o1kX/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=

The new world number six must surely be the new favourite to WIN the French Open later this month.

Skipping the Italian Open should help the 19-year-old heal any niggling injuries.

If he does win in Paris, he will be the youngest Grand Slam champion since you guessed it, Nadal.

Only time will tell.

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