Casper Ruud Reflects On Turbulent Start To 2023 - UBITENNIS
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Casper Ruud Reflects On Turbulent Start To 2023

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Casper Ruud admits that his approach to the off-season at the end of last year is something he is unlikely to repeat following a series of disappointing results on the Tour. 

The world No.4 ended his 2022 campaign at the ATP Finals last November where he reached the final before losing to Novak Djokovic. Shortly afterwards, he embarked upon a Tour of South America where he played a series of exhibition matches against Rafael Nadal before travelling to the Middle East for further events. Instead of having a solid training block at the end of last year, Ruud opted to do so during February after the Australian Open.

However, things haven’t gone to plan for the Norwegian who is yet to win back-to-back matches this season. Including the ATP Cup, he has won just four out of nine matches played with his biggest win being over world No.38 Diego Schwartzman in Indian Wells. To put this into perspective, during the first three months of 2022 he produced a total of 12 wins against just three losses.

“My season is not naturally going as I would like,” Ruud admitted during media day at the Estoril Open“If that was because of my second pre-season in February and the fact that I played all those exhibitions with Nadal, I can’t say for sure. We will never know.’
“I don’t think I’ll do what I did in 2022 again in 2023 but it hasn’t been easy to manage my schedule because I’ve been playing the ATP Finals and then the United Cup, it starts too soon for me. It’s less than a month (between those events) and I can’t miss that competition (United Cup). My other teammates depend on me and if I don’t go, they can’t play.”

The 24-year-old is hoping to regain his momentum on the clay which is a surface he has achieved numerous successes on. Eight out of his nine Tour titles won have been on the dirt with the only exception being the 2021 San Diego Open. He has also registered more wins at the French Open (13) than any other Grand Slam event and was runner-up to Nadal last year. 

“I hope to have a good tournament and good weeks on clay,” he said. “It wasn’t the ideal start to the year, so I have to level up if I want to stay where I am in the rankings. I hope this tournament is part of the success.”

Ruud is the top seed at the Estoril Open which will officially get underway on Monday. Also featured in this year’s tournament are Hubert Hurkacz, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Roberto Bautista Agut and reigning champion Sebastian Baez. 

Granted a bye in the first round, Ruud will start his campaign against veteran player Joao Sousa or Giulio Zeppieri. He could then face Baez in the quarter-finals followed by either Agut or Ben Shelton. 

“The conditions are more similar to what we see in Rome, Madrid and southern Europe. The courts are similar and I always wanted to play here,” Ruud commented on the ATP 250 event. 
“For me, it was great that they switched it to the week before Monte Carlo because it’s nice to have a week of matches before that big event.’
“I’m very motivated and happy to be here. It’s my favourite part of the season. I haven’t played like this (on the clay) since July. I must be rusty but I have a few days to prepare and I’m excited.”

In the ATP race to Turin, Ruud is currently in 83rd position. 

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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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