Rafael Nadal Still Looking To Evolve As A Player At 35, Says Coach Moya - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Still Looking To Evolve As A Player At 35, Says Coach Moya

Moya sheds light on his work with Nadal who has started 2022 by winning 10 matches in a row.

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Image via https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen

Rafael Nadal may no longer be a spring chicken on the Tour but he has no intention of walking away from the sport just yet, according to one of his coaches.

Carlos Moya admits that age is not on the right side of Nadal, who is currently the oldest player in the top 20 on the ATP Tour. However, he says the Spaniard is able to make up for this by his ‘intelligence’ of the game which he uses during matches. Using Nadal’s historic triumph at the Australian Open as an example where he came back from two sets down to win a record 21st Grand Slam title. That was also the first time he had won a best-of-five match after losing the first two sets since 2007.

What Rafa is looking for is to be competitive and continue to evolve. It is true that over time you lose physique, speed or explosiveness, but you are smarter and handle situations better,Moya told Punto de Break. “I always said that Rafa is one of the most intelligent players on the court, one of those who read the games best, the one who is most suited to having a Plan B, a Plan C… “
“I would tell you that he has the whole alphabet. If he sees that the rival has a crack or the smallest gap through which he can enter, he sees it, reads it and gets it. The (Australian Open) final is a clear example: it starts badly but then it changes, little by little. That is the adrenaline that he has inside, to see that he can still fight with the best in the world.”

Moya is a former world No.1 player himself who won the 1998 French Open. He officially joined Nadal’s team at the end of 2016 and has remained a member ever since. Also guiding the king of clay on the Tour are Francisco Roig and Marc Lopez who are also ex-professional players.

“When I arrived in 2016 he was 30-and-a-half years old, but I have a medium-long-term vision. He trusted that he would evolve in a number of ways so that he would still have a long way to go,” Moya reflected. “We had a talk and I saw him very motivated, wanting to win Grand Slams again, there I was convinced that anything could happen. I have known him for many years, I knew where there was room for improvement, so I thought it was time to change certain aspects and from the first tournament (Australian Open 2017) things went well for us.’
“There was no other, if he wanted to extend his career, he had to take risks, so the credit goes to him for always being open to change. People are not aware of the quality that he has, whatever you propose to him, he does it”.

In recent months Nadal has been sidelined from the Tour due to a flare up of a long-term foot condition he suffers from. He has Mueller-Weiss syndrome which is a degenerative disease that causes a deformity of one of the bones in the central part of the foot. At one stage last year he contemplated stepping away from the sport permanently if his issue hadn’t improved.

Fortunately for Nadal his recovery exceeded expectations with a fairytale start to the season where he has won 10 matches in a row. He also triumphed at the Melbourne Summer Set at the start of the year.

As for the future, Moya insists that the important approach is staying in the present and not getting too carried away as he brushes aside the ongoing GOAT debate between the Big Three.

“What I can assure you is that in Australia we never talked about #21,” he said in reference to the Grand Slam tally count.
“Although it was on the horizon, you knew it could happen. Talking about it would have meant more pressure than he already had. We do not feed that debate, we leave it to the press and the tennis fans. Rafa is happy with what he has, he will be just as happy if he finishes with 21 and Djokovic with 25. It’s not good to obsess; yes get motivated Obviously, he is not going to give up on 22, if the opportunity arises he will fight for him, but it is a debate that, with all of them still active, does not make much sense.”

Nadal is set to return to action next week at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco.

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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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Matteo Berrettini wins in Marrakech displaying quality tennis

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Matteo Berrettini - Marrakech 2024 (photo X @ATPTour_ES)

Matteo Berrettini defeats Roberto Carballes Baena in straight sets, 75 62, and proves that his comeback is well grounded  

If life is often considered a continuous narrative, it may be no coincidence that today Matteo Berrettini’s comeback journey intersescted Carballes Baena, a player he had faced twice in straight tournaments, Florence and Naples in October 2022, shortly before plunging into his annus horribilis, an injury-plagued 2023.

Just like resuming the story from where it was left.

Carballes Baena, the defending champion, got off to a sharper start, holding serve with ease and earning a first break point in the second game. Berrettini averted the threat by hammering down three serves but lost his service two games later.

Doubts on the Italian’s recovery from his energy-draining semifinal may have been starting to come afloat. However Berrettini broke back immediately, unsettling the Spaniard’s consistency with changes of pace and alternating lifted and sliced backhands.

The next six games neatly followed serve. Figures witness how close the match was. After 45 minutes the scoreboard read 5 games all, and stats reported 27 points apiece.

The eleventh game was to be crucial. Carballes Baena netted two forehands, while trying to hit through the Italian’s skidding spins and conceded a break point. Berrettini followed up two massive forehands with a delicate, unreachable drop shot and secured the break.

Carballes Baena was far from discouraged, and fired two forehand winners dashing to 0 40  with the Italian serving for the set.

Berrettini was lucky to save the first break point with a forehand that pinched the top of the net, and trickled over. Then he hit two winning first serves to draw even. Then again two first serves paired with their loyal forehand winner: Berrettini’s copyright gamepattern sealed a 59 minute first set.

The match seemed about to swing round at the very start of the second set when Carballes Baena had three break points and was winning all the longer rallies. Once more Berrettini got out of trouble thanks to his serve. Carballes Baena’s disappointment turned into frustration after he failed to put away two quite comfortable smashes and lost his service immediately after.  

Unforced errors were seeping into the Spaniard’s game and when Berrettini won a 16-shot rally with a stunning crosscourt forehand on the stretch and went on to grab a two-break lead, the match appeared to have taken its final twist.

Berrettini did not falter when serving for the match at 5 2, despite an unforced error on the first point. Three first serves chauffeured him to two match points.

Carballes Baena only succeeded in bravely saving the first, well steering the rally. But the 2021 Wimbledon finalist produced a massive serve out wide and joyfully lifted his arms to the sky, for a most emotional victory. It means so much to a player whose talent and career have been incessantly diminished by injuries.

It’s been a tough last couple of years” Matteo Berrettini said, holding the trophy. “Thanks to my team I was able to overcome all the tough moments my body didn’t allow me to play. I thank you and all the people that made my comeback possible: all my friends and my family, the people that were with me all the time when I was sad, injured and I didn’t think I could make it.”

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