Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided suffering his first loss of the season after outlasting Nick Kyrgios in a marathon quarter-final encounter at the BNP Paribas Open.
The 21-time Grand Slam champion was forced to save a series of break points early in the decider before going on to win the match 7-6(0), 5-7, 6-4, after almost three hours of play. Extending his perfect start to the season to 19-0. Against Kyrgios, Nadal won 77% of his first serves and hit a total of 10 aces. He improves his head-to-head record against the Australian to 6-3.
“It was a good tennis match, I think,” said Nadal. “I’m happy to win, of course. Being in the semifinals is great news for me again. I’m happy about that third set because it wasn’t easy after the end of the second. It was terrible for me.”
“But I held it emotionally, and mentally, I think I was ready to keep fighting. So (I’m) happy with the victory and of course happy with the level of the set.”
The rollercoaster encounter saw continuous changes of momentum. After coming through a tough opener where he had to claw his way back from a 1-3 deficit, Nadal was pushed to his limits by his rival. In the second set 11 games in a row were played without a break point opportunity occurring. However, as the Spaniard served at 5-6, Kyrgios seized the moment and was able to level the match. Then in the decider Nadal managed to break midway through which gave him enough of a margin to seal the win.
As it usually is with matches involving Kyrgios there was also plenty of drama involved. During the third set a fan called out which bemused the Australian who shouted back at the fan, who was sitting near to actor Ben Stiller. He had earlier complained about the noise of the crowd.
Kyrgios: ‘Are you good at tennis?’
Kyrgios: ‘Exactly, so don’t tell me how to play. [Pointing at Stiller and his wife who were sitting nearby] Do I tell him how to act? No.’
Kyrgios also received a point penalty at the end of the first set for swearing at a member of the crowd. He also entered into an argument with the umpire over the crowd behavior and was heard saying ‘’Look at the f***ing score … it’s your job to control [heckling fans], no one else’s.’
“I think Nick had a great attitude during the whole match in terms of fighting spirit, and of course he has his personality, his character. Sometimes he does things that from my personal understanding, I don’t like, but I respect (that) because of different characters,” Nadal said of his opponent.
“Different kinds of points of view, and different kinds of education sometimes. I’m not saying that in a negative way at all, just different kinds of points of view.” He added.
The drama continued after the last point was played. Frustrated with his defeat, Kyrgios slammed his racket on to the ground which rebounded and ended up almost hitting a ball kid who had to duck away.
“I just want to apologise to that ball kid at the end of the match,” Kyrgios later wrote on Instagram. “It was a complete accident and was frustrated at the end of the match.
“My racquet took a crazy bounce and was never my intention. If anyone knows who that ball kid is, send me a message and I will send a racket to him. I’m glad he’s OK!”
Since the incident, Kyrgios has managed to track down the ball kid and personally apologize.
Awaiting Nadal in the semi-finals will be rising star Carlos Alcaraz who continues to blossom on the Tour. The 18-year-old knocked out defending champion Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-3, to become the second-youngest male semi-finalist in Indian Wells history. The youngest was Andre Agassi who achieved the milestone at the age of 17 in 1988.
“I think he’s unstoppable in terms of his career. He has all the ingredients. He has the passion. He’s humble enough to work hard,” Nadal said of Alcaraz.
“He reminds me of a lot of things from when I was a 17- or 18-years-old kid. I think he has passion. He has the talent and the physical component that it’s great.”
Nadal is just two victories away from winning his fourth Indian Wells title and first since 2013.
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Alcaraz Fell Victim To Unbeatable Medvedev
Carlos Alcaraz was no match for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open semi-finals.
A star had to fall. There was no other way.
This time, Carlos Alcaraz was the victim. Daniil Medvedev was unbeatable.
The 6-6 Russian was everywhere, playing almost perfect tennis in a 7-6 (3), 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alcaraz.
So, one former champion went down while one advanced to Sunday’s final at the U.S. Open.
And then there was Novak Djokovic, another former champion headed for the title match.
U.S. OPEN WAS THE BIG WINNER FRIDAY
The U.S. Open couldn’t lose once Djokovic dominated young American Ben Shelton, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Djokovic appeared to be content with just winning while getting the preliminaries over with. He seemed to be a little miffed by Shelton’s cockiness. There were no hugs or embraces when the match ended. Just a handshake.
Shelton has huge potential, but it’s going to take some time before he’s ready to join the likes of Djokovic, Medvedev and Alcaraz. He’s a better athlete than he is tennis player.
Novak is ready to go for a record 24th Grand Slam title.
Believe it or not, Medvedev will be playing in his fifth Grand Slam final.
Sunday should be a great day in Arthur Ashe Stadium, with two former champs, Djokovic and Medvedev, going against each other.
CAN COCO HIT WITH SABALENKA
The women’s final will be interesting. Can Coco Gauff compete with Aryna Sabalenka?
Sabalenka looked helpless against Madison Keys’ big strokes and serves in the first set of their semifinal on Thursday.
Sabalenka couldn’t win even one game in that set. She looked helpless.
But she obviously felt all along that she could beat Keys anytime she wanted. Or why else would the powerful Sabalenka go for broke on almost every shot? And it almost cost her.
Amazingly, Sabalenka waited almost to the final moments to decide to play within her game and stop the wildness.
Once Sabalenka decided to settle down and play to win, Keys went just the opposite way, similarly to her one-sided loss to Sloane Stephens in the 2017 U.S. Open final.
Keys appeared ready to win this time as she held a 6-0, 5-4 advantage over new world’s No. 1 Sabalenka, who seemed to be stumbling all over the court as she repeatedly hit wild shots in every direction.
Just like that, everything changed. Sabalenka started hitting winners everywhere as Keys reversed roles with Sabalenka. Not only did Sabalenka win the second set while dropping just one point in a tiebreaker, she stormed through a decisive 10-point third-set tiebreaker to win the match.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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