Seven-Time Major Champion Names Carlos Alcaraz 'Most Inspirational’ Player In Men’s Tennis  - UBITENNIS
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Seven-Time Major Champion Names Carlos Alcaraz ‘Most Inspirational’ Player In Men’s Tennis 

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Image via US Open Twitter

Carlos Alcaraz shouldn’t be compared to the prestigious Big Three but there is one thing that sets him apart, according to tennis great Mats Wilander. 

19-year-old Alcaraz has burst onto the scene during a season where he has finished as the youngest-ever year-end No.1 in ATP history. Within the past 12 months, he has won two ATP 500 titles and two Masters 1000 tournaments. Then at the US Open, he claimed his first Grand Slam title after defeating Norway’s Casper Ruud in the final. Overall, he has won 57 out of 70 matches played in 2022, scoring nine wins over top-10 opposition.

Alcaraz’s rapid rise has generated a surge in praise towards him, as well as a comparison to the three heavyweights of men’s tennis. Especially compatriot Rafael Nadal who he idolized growing up. 

“He doesn’t have to be considered the greatest player, but one thing is for sure: it is fun as hell to watch him play tennis when he’s that good and he’s laughing at the same time,” Wilander said of Alcaraz during an interview with Eurosport.
“He’s the most inspirational tennis player that we have because of what he did in 2022 and most of all because of the way he did it.
“Never compare him to Rafa, Roger and Novak, the way he did it I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Unfortunately for Alcaraz his fairytale year didn’t have a happy ending after an abdominal injury forced him to miss the prestigious ATP Finals which Novak Djokovic won for a record-equalling sixth time without losing a match.

Wilander believes the most crucial thing for the world No.1 now is learning to adapt to his new status as a top player in the men’s game. It was only at the start of last year when Alcaraz played in the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time. 19 months ago he was yet to crack the top 100. 

“I think it will be really hard to digest 2022 for Alcaraz,” he commented. “But I also think [coach] Juan Carlos Ferrero is going to know exactly what they need to do.
“I think that there’s a validation process that has to happen for Carlos. ‘Am I really No. 1 in the world?’ That was an unbelievable year. But hold on. There’s Holger Rune. There’s Djokovic. There is Daniil Medvedev.
“I mean, ‘what you’re putting me as No. 1 as a 19-year-old?’. So I think there’s going to be a bit of doubt there, and I think that you have to take care of that doubt by working really hard physically and mentally and really finding how he needs to play tennis when he is not feeling good.”

Warning sent to another rising star

Besides Alcaraz, Danish tennis sensation Holger Rune has also caught the attention of many on the Tour following his shock run to the Paris Masters title where he scored five consecutive wins over top-10 players. Now at a ranking high of No.11, the 19-year-old recently said during an interview with TV2 Sport that he believes reaching No.1 by the end of 2023 is a realistic goal. 

However, Wilander believes Rune’s big aspirations for the new season could potentially be counterproductive if things don’t go his way.  

“Rune said he’s going to be No. 1 in the world and this might generate disappointment, if it does not happen right away,” he said.
“Imagine if Casper [Ruud] would have gone out and said that last year. Then had this year where he made three finals. People would say ‘whoa, yeah, he can never, ever win a big tournament. There’s no chance, he’s lost three finals in one year.’
“So my first reaction would be to say it’s wrong and it’s dangerous [to say you will be No. 1], but if it motivates you as a player, then go ahead.”

As for improvements, the Swede believes Rune needs to work on how he conducts himself on the court. He can be at times very animated on the court which is a characteristic many players his age also have. 

“He must probably have to clean up his body language slightly on court, which he will, because he’s only 19 and he’s an unbelievably quick learner, for sure,” he continued.
“I think it will help his tennis to be a little bit more settled and maybe neutral in terms of showing good vibes and bad vibes because other guys are going to start picking up on it and there’s going to be people in the crowd that some people are going to say ‘whoa, this is a bit unusual in a way’. But at the same time, the fight that he puts up is incredible. So we don’t really know.”

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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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Andrey Rublev Reflects On Recent Struggles Ahead Of Monte Carlo Title Defence

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Andrey Rublev admits he continues to struggle to maintain his emotions on the court after his disqualification from a tournament earlier this year.

The Russian world No.6 hopes to get back on track after a disappointing American swing where he won just one out of three matches played. In Indian Wells, Rublev beat ex-No.1 Andy Murray before falling in straight sets to Jiri Lehecka. Then in Miami, he lost his opening match against Tomas Machac. 

“At Indian Wells, I was so focused on trying to control my movements that I was completely stuck,” the 26-year-old recently commented
“I had no energy left, I had no strength. And in Miami, I exploded. I could no longer control myself, my actions, my nerves. I felt paralyzed, I couldn’t move.”

As to why Rublev felt so paralyzed, he acknowledges it could be linked to an incident that happened earlier in the season. At the Dubai Tennis Championships he was defaulted from his semi-final clash against Alexander Bublik for unsportsmanlike conduct after he was accused of saying an obscenity in his native language at an official. He then successfully appealed against the penalty and retained the ranking points and prize money he earned, barring a fine of $36,400 for a code violation.

“Maybe what happened in Dubai remains in my mind,” said Rublev. 

Rublev’s focus now switches to his title defence at the Monte Carlo Masters. It is the only Masters 1000 event he has won so far in his career. 

“I feel better. These last two weeks I have been training a lot. But it’s one thing to train well, it’s another to play well in a match.” He evaluated of his current form. 

Rublev has yet to defend a Tour-level title so far in his career. Should he do so, he will become only the fifth player in the Open Era to win multiple Monte Carlo trophies. 

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