Rafael Nadal Says Nothing Has Changed For Him Since Historic Grand Slam Triumph - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Says Nothing Has Changed For Him Since Historic Grand Slam Triumph

The world No.5 looks ahead to his next challenge on the Tour this week in Mexico and weighs in on Djokovic’s decision to not get vaccinated against COVID-19.



Image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen

Almost a month after breaking the all-time record for most major titles won by a male tennis player, Rafael Nadal is set to return to action this week at the Mexican Open in Acapulco.

The former world No.1 came back from two sets down to defeat Daniil Medvedev in the final of the Australian Open to claim his 21st Grand Slam title. Moving him ahead of rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic who are both on 20. Nadal’s win occurred in what was only his second tournament since returning to the Tour following a foot injury which had sidelined him for four months.

After his Melbourne triumph, the 35-year-old returned to his native Spain to prepare for the season ahead. Now he has had time to reflect on the latest achievement of his career, he admits it has had little impact on his life.

“Absolutely nothing with 21, I’m not going to lie to you. From 20 to 21 there is not a very large percentage (of change). Life goes on exactly the same,” Nadal told reporters on Sunday.
“The only thing that has changed is that now I play tennis, which a few months ago I couldn’t. I am very happy about everything that happened in Australia, it was very unexpected, especially before the tournament started.’
“In my life, nothing has changed. No title is going to change what is important in my life, which are other things.”

Whilst nothing may have changed for Nadal, he describes the past few weeks as some of the ‘most exciting’ of his entire career. He is yet to lose a match on the Tour this season after also winning the Melbourne Summer Set at the start of the year.

The next challenge for the Spaniard will be Acapulco this week, which will feature a total of five top 10 players in the draw. Nadal is a three-time champion of the tournament but two of those titles were won when the event was held on the clay. He says there are two principal reasons as to why he wants to play this week.

“I have played very little in the last two years and because I feel like playing tennis,” he explained.
“After Australia, I had to analyze how my body would respond because historically after Australia I notice a physical downturn. This year was similar.’
“I did not notice the downturn right away, but it came a little later. At the pain level, my body was responding relatively well, after what happened and that led me to make the decision to come. My start to the year has been infinitely better than I could imagine.”

Nadal faces a tough task ahead of him if he wishes to add to his trophy collection in Mexico. He will begin his campaign against Reilly Opelka who is known for his blistering serve and has won seven out of his past eight matches played since the Australian Open. Opelka lost in the final of the Delray Beach Open on Sunday to top seed Cameron Norrie.

“It is a very difficult first round against a rival who has just won a tournament and made the final in another. He is one of the most difficult players to play on this type of court because of the type of game he has,” Nadal analyzed.
“I will take everything game by game and from there, if I advance, we will see how everything progresses. I know it’s a very difficult premiere.”

Later on in the draw he could face either Grigor Dimitrov or Maxime Cressy in the second round. Then he could have to take on Matteo Berrettini followed by Medvedev if he wishes to make it to the final.

One notable absence from Mexico is world No.1 Novak Djokovic who is competing at the Dubai Tennis Championships. The event will be the first Djokovic has played this season after he was deported from Australia following a legal battle with officials over the validity of his visa. The Serbian star is the only player in the top 100 on the men’s Tour not to be vaccinated and currently has no plan to do so. The stance risks the prospect of him not being allowed to play some tournaments in the future.

“It will affect his legacy if he can play or not,” Nadal said of his rival. “I don’t know if it will affect the Grand Slam.
“Everyone makes their own decisions and must live with them. In this sense, hopefully the pandemic improves in every way and there are no more deaths.
“Whether he is vaccinated or not, the good thing would be for Novak to play again. If Djokovic can play the Grand Slams without being vaccinated, he is welcome.”

Nadal is due to play his first round match on Tuesday.


Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment



Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries



Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident



Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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