Rafael Nadal has kicked-off his Australian Open campaign with a comprehensive straight sets win over Marcos Giron of America.
Playing in what is only his second tournament since August due to injury, he eased his way to a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, win on the Rod Laver Arena. Nadal is the only former champion in this year’s draw following the deportation of Novak Djokovic on Sunday. Against Giron he didn’t drop his serve throughout the match as the Spaniard blasted 34 winners against 26 unforced errors. Nadal also won 84% of his first service points.
“There have been very challenging months. Not only the last six months which has been tough due to being out of competition,” Nadal said during his on-court interview.
“Everybody knows I have had an injury with my foot since the beginning of my career but I have been able to manage it well, morealess. But it is true that (after) being at home (during lockdown) when I came back (to the Tour) it has been very challenging.’
“I have been able to play at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 but honestly it has been very tough. There have been very tough moments with a lot of doubts and there are still doubts, but I am happy to be here at the Australian Open.”
Nadal was tested at times by the world No.66, who is still to clinch a main draw win at the Melbourne major, but they were not consistent enough to cause him any real trouble. He broke Giron five times in total and saved the only break point he faced.
Since making his debut back in 2004, Nadal has progressed to the second round of the tournament in 16 out of 17 attempts. The only time he failed to do so was in 2016 when he lost to Fernando Verdasco. Despite only winning the Australian Open once in 2009, Nadal has now recorded 70 wins in the tournament. In Grand Slam events, he has only won more matches at the French Open (105).
Awaiting the sixth seed in the next round will be either home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis, who won his first ATP title in Adelaide last week, or Yannick Hanfmann.
“He has been unlucky with a lot of injuries. I’m really happy to see him back at a high level and probably playing better than ever. That’s going to be a tough challenge for me but that’s why I’m here,” Nadal replied when asked about the possible prospect of playing Kokkinakis.
Nadal is now on a five-match winning streak after claiming his 89th career title at the Melbourne Summer Set and hasn’t dropped a set in any of those matches. A dream start to the season for the world No.5 who was also ill with COVID-19 last month.
“Last week was important for me. I think I am doing better and better,” he said. “You never know what is going on but If you told me a month ago I was going to be in this position I would have signed the paper without a doubt.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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