Rafael Nadal Ousts Medvedev In Epic To Win 21st Grand Slam Title At Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Ousts Medvedev In Epic To Win 21st Grand Slam Title At Australian Open

The 35-year-old Spaniard staged one of the most dramatic comebacks of his career to set a new record at Melbourne Park.

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Image via twitter.com/australianopen

Rafael Nadal produced an audacious comeback to win his first Australian Open title in 13 years after outlasting Daniil Medvedev in a five-set thriller at Melbourne Park.

 

The world No.5 was trailing the final by two sets and was two games away from defeat before fighting back to prevail 2-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, after more than five hours of pulsating play. It is the first time he has won a match from two sets down since 2007. Nadal’s latest victory has made him the most successful male player in Grand Slam history with a total of 21 titles. He is also only the second player in the Open Era to have won each of the four major events at least twice after Novak Djokovic.

It’s just amazing. One-and-a-half months ago I didn’t know if I would be able to be back on the Tour playing tennis again,” said Nadal.
“Today I am in front of all of you with this trophy with me and you really don’t know how much I fought to be here (in Melbourne).’
“I can’t thank enough all of the support I have received.” He added.

Nadal’s rollercoaster win over Medvedev featured more twists and turns than the infamous Lombard Street in San Francisco. In total there were a staggering 44 break points with 31 of those being converted. Nadal produced a total of 69 winners against 68 unforced errors, as well as winning 67% of his first service points.

“Daniil you’re an amazing champion. I have been in this position (runner-up) a couple of times in this tournament. Having chances to have the trophy with me but I don’t have any doubt that you will have this trophy a couple of times in your career because you are amazing,” Nadal said to Medvedev.
“It has been one of the most emotional matches of my tennis career. To share the court with you is just an honour.”

Taking to the court both men had a shot of making history in the sport. Nadal was seeking to become the first male player to win a 21st Grand Slam title, which would have moved him past rivals Roger Federer and Djokovic. Meanwhile, Medvedev was aiming to become the first male player in the Open Era to win their second major title immediately after claiming their first.

With so much at stake, the final started with a fierce tussle between the two on what was a hot and humid evening in Melbourne Park. Best illustrated by Nadal who was sweating profusely after just three games played. Medvedev was relentless throughout the opener as he continuously applied pressure onto the Nadal serve as he claimed five games in a row. The Russian struck his first blow in the fifth game after a backhand error from his rival granted him his first break of the match to move ahead 3-2. Gaining in momentum Medvedev went on to seal a double break with relative ease due to a surge in unforced errors from Nadal who hit two double faults and a forehand unforced error during his third service game where he got broken to love. The world No.2 sealed the opener after just 42 minutes of play when a serve out wide was returned into the net by his rival.

Nadal, who had beaten Medvedev in three out of their four previous meetings, managed to regain his rhythm in the second frame. A gut-busting 40-shot rally concluded with a flawless slice winner which rewarded the Spaniard his first break points of the match. He went on to convert thanks to a mistake coming from across the court to move ahead 3-1. Triggering an eruption of cheers on the Rod Laver Arena.

Nadal then moved to four points away from leveling the match but failed to serve the second set out during what was a dramatic game which was briefly halted due to a security scare. A member of the crowd went on the court when the Spaniard was facing a break point before being detained. The individual was carrying a banner protesting against refugee detention in Australia.

The drama continued into the tiebreaker with both players demonstrating some electrifying tennis. Twice the Spaniard managed to get a mini-break before being pegged back by a resilient Medvedev who never looked intimidated by the pro-Nadal crowd. A carefully placed drop shot followed by a backhand volley moved him to set point which he converted with the help of a winning backhand passing shot.

The comeback

Playing in only his second tournament since returning from a foot injury and having the odds stacked firmly against him, Nadal refused to go down without a fight as he staged a blockbuster comeback which electrified the Melbourne crowd. The momentum change started at 4-4 in the third set after a blistering backhand winner granted him a break and the opportunity to serve out the match to revive his title hopes which he did with relative ease.

Continuing to weather the storm, Nadal attacked Medvedev’s serve throughout the fourth frame. It was becoming evident that the Russian was tiring and at times he struggled to push off from his leg to return shots. Nadal broke twice in a row as he took proceedings into a decider. Doing so with a love service game that concluded with the help of an unreturned serve from Medvedev.

Incredibly, it wasn’t until four hours and 40 minutes into the match when Nadal had an overall lead after hitting a forehand winner which painted the sidelines to break early on in the fifth set. Admirbally, Medvedev continued to fight on court but it was not enough to deny his opponent.

Nadal failed to serve the match out on his first attempt when leaving 5-4 before managing to work his way to another opportunity two games later. An ace, which was only his third in the match, earned him three championship points. He triumphed on the first of those with the help of a backhand volley at the net. Prompting the tennis giant to drop his racket out of delight.

“This has probably been one of the most emotional (tournaments) in my tennis career. Having the huge support during the past few weeks is going to stay in my heart for the rest of my life,” said the 21-time Grand Slam winner.
‘One-and-a-half months ago I was saying maybe this would be my last Australian Open but now this is plenty of energy to keep going.’
“I really can’t explain the feelings that I have right now but I’m going to keep trying my best and keep coming.”

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Gael Monfils Targets Spot At Home Olympics Before Retirement 

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Image via ATP Twitter

Gael Monfils may be starting his 2023 season later than usual but he isn’t contemplating stepping away from the sport anytime soon. 

 

The former top 10 star has been absent from the Tour since August due to a foot problem during what has been an injury-stricken year for the Frenchman. Monfils also missed the French Open and Wimbledon due to a heel injury which required surgery. Overall, he has won 14 out of 21 matches played on the Tour in 2022. 

Providing an update on his current fitness during an interview with Canal+, Monfils confirmed that he will not be playing at the Australian Open in January which will be the fourth major tournament in a row he has missed. Whilst his recovery is progressing well, he is targeting a return during the clay season which concludes at the French Open. He is also unable to access his protected ranking at Melbourne Park because the rulebook states that a player must be absent for at least six months to be eligible. 

“I know that there is a protected ranking, when you don’t play for a certain amount of months. I know that if I take it, I have to not play the Australian Open to reach the six months needed and that will be my decision,” Tennis Head quotes Monfils as saying.

However, the 36-year-old isn’t planning to stop playing just yet with aspirations to play at his home Olympic Games, which will be held in Paris in 2024. Monfils is already a three-time Olympian and has reached the quarter-finals of the singles tournament twice before. 

Despite some speculation over his retirement, Monfils hopes to continue playing until the age of 40. Although he admits this depends on his family after he and his wife Elina Svitolina welcomed their first child earlier this year.

“2023 is an important year for me, a year of transition, transition between my injuries and the fact to be competitive to try to qualify for Paris 2024. I would not like to miss the Olympics, it would be my last one,” he added.
“I hope that 2024 would not be my last year but maybe the one after that. Before, I said that I wanted to play until I’m 40 but the more time I spend with my daughter, the more time I’m thinking maybe I’ll play a bit less.”

Monfils has won 11 Tour titles so far in his career, including this year’s Adelaide International. He has reached at least one final every year since 2005. 

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The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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