Zverev Withdraws After A Catastrophe Tumble As Nadal Reaches His 14th French Open Final - UBITENNIS
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Zverev Withdraws After A Catastrophe Tumble As Nadal Reaches His 14th French Open Final

Zverev withdraws after a catastrophe tumble and Nadal reaches his fourteenth final at French Open

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Nadal RG 2022 by Night (foto @RolandGarros)

By Kingsley Elliot Kaye

The most dreaded ending for a tennis match is a withdrawal owing to injury.  

We watched, heartbroken, aghast, Zverev hopper up in crutches to the umpire and then tearfully embrace Nadal.   

Ten minutes earlier, lugging to hit a forehand winner down the line, Zverev had stumbled and his ankle was anchored in the clay for a fatal instant, and ruinously twisted to follow his falling body. It was the twelfth game of the second set, which seemed to be heading, as the former, towards a tiebreak. 

It had been a spectacular match, crammed with emotions, remarkable shots. One of those matches you wish could go on forever, deserving not to be refrained by any super tiebreak.

It was the match in which Zverev showed the world he had found an inner equilibrium. Not eradicating his doubts, his anxiety, his sudden failings, but able to accept them without falling into despair, to leave them behind and resume his towering game time after time.  

“It’s not easy to talk after what happened. The only thing that I can say is I hope he’s not too bad. Hopefully nothing is broken,” said Nadal. “It has been a very, very tough match. I think he started the match playing amazing. I know how much means to him, fight to win his first Grand Slam. For me it’s a dream to be in the final of Roland Garros, of course that way is not the way that we want it to be.”

THE MATCH

The closed roof resulting in lower bounce was believed to be detrimental to Nadal. His shots would be numbed, and more easily aggressed.    

Indeed Zverev proved, from the very first game, to have the power to hit through Nadal’s defence. He broke immediately, then strode off with excellent serving and winners of both groundstrokes.

In the early stages Zverev was positioned closer to the line than usual, while Nadal seemed to be moving less sharply. Zverev was alternating lifted balls and heavy strikes, whereas Nadal was hitting short and his spin appeared muffled.

Nadal struggled on his second game on serve, his shots landing too short, and was 15-30 after the German drilled a backhand crosscourt. But two netted returns allowed the Spaniard to keep up.

At 4-2 Zverev stats were thriving: 95% of first serves in 6 games and 11 winners. A first lapse occurred in the eighth game at 40-30 Zverev squandered the chance to rise 5-3 by spraying a long forehand, then doublefaulted, hauling a second serve over speed limits, 209 kph, and conceded a breakpoint. He saved it by winning a 20-shot rally in which he was always putting pressure and Nadal finally netted a forehand. Incredibly Zverev mishit an easy forehand on the next point just a couple of feet from the net, so badly that his racquet flew out of his hands. The second break point was fatal: Zverev missed a comfortable crosscourt backhand after an excellent first serve and Nadal caught up and shortly overtook holding serve. 

At 5-4 a netted forehand by Zverev meant set point for Nadal. But the German effaced it with a proficient serve. The game turned into a battle, and Zverev faced two other setpoints before holding with a low dropshot volley.

In the eleventh game Nadal went 0-30 down but surfaced with two dropshots. Zverev still got a breakpoint with an angled crosscourt backhand and Nadal saved with serve and volley, his most celebrated tactic in crucial moments. And he deployed the same scheme to save a second break point. He was clearly flaring up. He eventually held and so did Zverev; 6-6 and tiebreak.

Zverev gifted a minibreak missing an easy open court forehand but Nadal netted his own forehand immediately after and returned the favour.

Zverev got a second minibreak with a forehand passing shot on a slightly tentative foray to the net by the Spaniard, determined to mix it up.

A crosscourt forehand acceleration after a baseline rally and Zverev led 4-2, then 5-2 thanks to an angled crosscourt backhand after a 205 kph first serve.

He earned a second minibreak accelerating with his forehand and had a 4-setpoint portfolio at 6-2.

Nadal erased the first with an ace.  Zverev missed an easy backhand volley on the second.

A crosscourt passing forehand down the line on the run by Nadal elated the crowd and obliterated the third, whereas after running side to side for the whole point he scrambled to save the fourth, forcing Zverev to play and miss a tough high backhand volley on the stretch.

Nadal conquered his first set point with a forehand down the line.

Zverev saved it placing a backhand on the line. But then dumped a backhand in the net. This time Nadal had set point on serve, but his backhand flew out long.

A drop shot brough up a third set point. After a first serve had opened the court up Zverev recklessly hit a forehand again to Nadal’s forehand and was passed. 10-8 and 1 hour and 31 minutes of rollercoaster battle.  

The second set opened up with Nadal enticing Zverev to the net with a dropshot, then passing him. A second dropshot earned him 0-30. Two unforced errors by Zverev offered him an immediate break. 

When his was up 40-15 on serve, the match seemed about to take a crucial and perhaps decisive turn. But surprisingly Nadal tightened up and lost serve. 

Zverev was now struggling to finish off points as effectively as in the first set. And Nadal was constantly thrusting in that extra shot.  Unforced errors by the German yielded two break points and Nadal converted the second when Zverev overhit a crosscourt passing backhand after an extenuating breath-catching 44-shot rally. 

Zverev could have paid toll but Nadal hit three unforced errors and immediately returned the break.

Zverev saved a break point in his next service game with a winning crosscourt backhand. With some struggle he nosed ahead 3-2. His effort was rewarded because a blasting crosscourt forehand won him another break.  

Nadal immediately fought back and grabbed a break point by hitting two lobs over Zverev after trapping him at the net with dropshots. A double fault followed and surrendered the break.

Zverev was unshattered and responded to Nadal’s raid at the net by leaping into the stands to hit a lob. Nadal missed the smash and conceded a break point. He ended up losing service a second tima

Zverev served for the set at 5-3 up but was grounded by three double faults and lost his lead.

Nadal was getting more and more aggressive, also because Zverev was striking with less power. In the tenth game when Nadal soared to 0-30 hitting a crosscourt forehand winner on the run, sprinting down the whole baseline, it could have been the final blow. Zverev responded again by firing a backhand down the line. And followed it up to hold.

Nadal served to reach a second tiebreak. He climbed to 40-15. He came to the net but was passed by a crosscourt forehand. The score was 40-30. The clock read 3 hours and 3 minutes. 

Then it happened.  

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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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