This week is the start of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament in Madrid but there will be a few familiar faces missing from the line-up.
Held at the Caja Magica, the 10-day event is categorized as a Masters 1000 for men and as a WTA 1000 for women. This year’s singles champions will each take home €1,105,265 in prize money, as well as 1000 ranking points. The majority of the world’s best tennis players are in attendance but some are absent for various reasons.
So who isn’t playing this year and why? Here is everything you need to know.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Things haven’t gone to plan for the 22-time Grand Slam champion so far this season on the clay. After missing two Masters events in America due to his vaccination status, Djokovic returned to action in Monte Carlo where he suffered a shock loss to Lorenzo Musetti in the third round. Then last week at the Srpska Open in Bosnia, he was stunned in the quarter-finals by Dusan Lajovic who went on to win the title.
Djokovic’s recent blips coincide with an ongoing issue concerning his elbow which has forced him to pull out of Madrid. Neither he nor his team has commented on the issue in recent days with his latest withdrawal being announced by the tournament organizers. However on April 18th Djokovic said to reporters ‘”The elbow is not in an ideal condition, but let’s say it’s good enough.’
He is still down on the entry list for Rome.
JANNIK SINNER: The past few weeks have seen a lot of encouraging results from the Italian who has reached the semi-final stage or better at three consecutive Masters 1000 events. However, doubts over his fitness started to emerge last week in Barcelona where he admitted to reporters that his recovery between matches took longer than he expected.
Sinner then pulled out of his quarter-final match due to illness which is also the same reason why he is not playing in the Spanish capital. He is yet to go beyond the third round of the tournament in his career.
RAFAEL NADAL: Nadal’s injury struggles have been well documented. He has been absent from the Tour since January due to a hip injury that his team initially thought would sideline him for only eight weeks. However, the recovery hasn’t gone to plan and he faces a race against time to be fit for his title defence at the French Open.
“I have followed the medical advice but the progress has not been as they told us at the beginning. We find ourselves in a difficult situation, the weeks are passing by,” Nadal said in a video published on April 20th.
“I was training, but a few days ago we decided to change course, try another treatment, and see if things improve to try and be ready for what is to come. I can’t specify time periods because if I knew them I would tell you, but I don’t know.” He added.
Nadal has won the Madrid Open five times in his career which is more than any other player.
MATTEO BERRETTINI: For the second year running the Italian has had to contend with injury issues during the European clay swing. Berrettini recently pulled out of Monte Carlo due to abdominal pain before later being diagnosed with a team in an oblique muscle tear which has sidelined him from the action.
“The intense rehab program has begun with my medical team in Barcelona,” Berrettini wrote on Instagram.“I will do everything I can to be back competing as soon as possible. Unfortunately I will not be able to compete in Madrid. I will keep you all updated when I have more news.”
OTHER MEN’S WITHDRAWALS: Marin Cilic remains out of action for the foreseeable future due to a knee injury. Nick Kyrgios has also cited a left knee issue as the reason for his absence. Coincidentally, 2022 ATP Next Gen champion Brandon Nakashima is also out due to a knee problem.
British rising star Jack Draper has pulled out after struggling with an issue with his abdominal area in recent weeks and Australian Open quarter-finalist Jenson Brooksby is still out of action following wrist surgery.
ONS JABEUR: It was 12 months ago at the Caja Magica when Jabeur won the biggest title of her career to date by defeating Jessica Pegula in the final. However, she has been forced to pull out of this year’s draw with a calf injury. The problem started to arise in Stuttgart where the Tunisian was forced to retire hurt from her semi-final match against Iga Swiatek.
“Further to many medical exams done, it shows that I have a small tear in my calf and I will need more time to recover,” Jabeur wrote on social media.
“I am sad to announce that I won’t be able to compete and defend my title this year [in Madrid].
“I would like to wish to everyone and the tournament a great event and looking forward to coming back next year.”
It is the second injury blow for the 28-year-old this season after she missed a couple of Middle Eastern events following minor surgery.
KAROLINA PLISKOVA: Like Jabeur, the former world No.1 is absent from Madrid after suffering an injury whilst playing in Stuttgart. Pliskova said in a statement that she has injured her knee but didn’t go into the severity of the matter.
Pliskova has only won back-to-back matches in Madrid once out of eight attempts, which was in 2018 when she reached the semi-finals.
BELINDA BENCIC: Switzerland’s Bencic, who has won two Tour titles so far this year, has decided to take a brief break to rest her body. The world No.11 confirmed on Instagram that she has been suffering from a hip issue in recent weeks. She will also miss Rome which immediately follows Madrid.
“I have some discomfort on my hip, which I struggled with during the US swing as well, and need to take a little rest, and recover to be back at 100% for Roland Garros,” Bencic said on Instagram. “I will miss both tournaments dearly but will be back in a few weeks and can’t wait to be back competing soon and continuing in great form.”
Bencic has won nine out of 14 matches played in Madrid so far in her career.
OTHER WITHDRAWALS: Both Danielle Collins and Madison Keys have pulled out but neither of them have commented. Meanwhile, Katerina Siniakova is out with a wrist injury.
‘Super happy’ Holger Rune Reacts To Winning First Match Since Wimbledon In Beijing
Holger Rune says he is pain-free and has gained confidence since reuniting with his former coach after ending his seven-match losing streak at the China Open.
Rune, who is the third seed in Beijing this week, beat former top 10 player Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-4, in his opening match on Friday. The Dane fired 15 winners compared to only three unforced errors during the 85-minute encounter. It is the first time he has won a match on the Tour since Wimbledon in July.
“It feels very good. I had a tough period both with my body and with matches,” said Rune. “I’m happy to be back feeling good and feeling mentally well off the court. I’m super happy with my level today.”
The 20-year-old is experiencing a roller-coaster season where he reached the final of two Masters 1000 events and won a title in Germany during the first six months. However, recently he has struggled for wins on the Tour and ended his collaboration with Patrick Mouratoglou.
On top of that, Rune has also been hampered by a back injury which he recently underwent treatment on before coming to China. He previously told Danish TV that he had a pinched nerve in the fifth lumbar vertebra in his spine since the clay-court season. As a result, he has had to make adjustments to his service motion to overcome this problem.
“I didn’t feel any pain in my body,” he stated following his latest match.
“I’m feeling healthy and taking care of my body. Mostly I’m happy to play without pain and enjoy myself.”
Guiding the world No.4 now is Lars Christensen who he has previously worked with since childhood.
“It has helped my confidence. After some tough periods, he knows me so well,” Rune commented. “He knows when I’m back at my best level so it is easy for us to communicate and find the best version of Holger. That we did today.”
Rune will next play Grigor Dimitrov who staged an epic comeback to defeat Mackenzie McDonald. The Bulgarian was a set and 5-2 down before fighting back to prevail 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-1, over the American who was experiencing problems with his shoulder.
Medvedev, Sinner though in contrasting matchesEmbed from Getty Images
In other matches at the tournament, second seed Daniil Medvedev stormed to a 6-2, 6-1, win over Tommy Paul. He has now recorded 39 hardcourt wins on the Tour so far this season which is more than any other player.
“It’s not easy for both of us. Both of us a little jet lagged. Him maybe more, coming from Vancouver,” Medvedev said afterward. “Maybe that made the difference, but if I think only about myself, I’m happy with my level.
“I played great. The start of the match was not easy, but it’s never easy first round, especially in another part of the world. Then I was playing better and better during the match, so I’m happy about my level.”
This week is the first time Medvedev has played since losing to Novak Djokovic in the US Open final. He is seeking to win his fifth title of 2023.
Also through to the next round is Italy’s Jannik Sinner who struggled at times with his fitness during his troublesome 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-3, win over Dan Evans. The world No.7 served for the match at 5-4 in the second set but failed to capitalize on the opportunity, lost a 3-0 lead in the decider and then started limping on the court. During the closing stages, he also fell when trying to return a ball and appeared to hurt himself. Despite all the drama, Sinner still managed to seal the win.
Sinner is now 16-1 in opening matches this season. He is bidding to reach his 12th tournament quarter-final in Beijing.
Roger Federer Targets Djokovic And Alcaraz For Laver Cup 2024 After Team World Thrashes Europe
Roger Federer says he would love to see the two highest-ranked players on the men’s Tour play in the next Laver Cup after this year’s tie ended in a crushing defeat for Europe.
Team World, which is captained by John McEnroe, dominated the clash in Vancouver after surging to a 10-2 lead heading into the final day of competition. On Sunday they were required to win only one match to claim the overall title which they did in the opening doubles match. Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe ousted the European duo of Andrey Rublev and Hubert hurkacz 7-6(4), 7-6(5).
“I am proud of these guys. We brought together a great group of some youth and experience, guys that have been here before. Everybody played well,” McEnroe said of his team’s 13-2 victory.
“It was an awesome week. We kicked some ass.”
“Winning is a whole lot better than losing. We struggled the first couple of years, and now we have tasted winning and it feels good.”
In contrast, Europe didn’t have much joy at the event with their only victory being from Casper Ruud who defeated Tommy Paul on the second day of the tie. Since the start of the competition in 2017, Europe won four consecutive titles but 2023 is the second year in a row that they have been defeated.
Hoping that this losing streak will come to an end next year when the event is held in Berlin, Federer says he wishes Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz will play. Djokovic has played in the Laver Cup twice before but Alcaraz is yet to make his debut.
“They destroyed Team Europe. Team World played fantastic, they really brought the energy. Everybody brought a point, they were stronger in the doubles. In the singles too, they were moving fast, they were ready to go. They thoroughly deserved victory,” said Federer.
“I would like to see Novak again, Alcaraz and Novak on the same team. Sascha Zverev would be great for the German market. Someone like [Holger] Rune, that really hurt Team Europe. Rune and [Stefanos] Tsitsipas pulling out. [Daniil] Medvedev would be great. I like watching [Andrey] Rublev, and maybe someone will come through,” he added.
Federer is a co-founder of the Laver Cup with his management company Team 8 partnering up with Tennis Australia and Jorge Paulo Lemann to create the event. In 2019 the team competition was awarded ATP Tour status with a spot on the official calendar and access to marketing facilities under an agreement. However, ranking points are not awarded to players.
Due to the nature of the format, only one match was played on Sunday with fans not getting the chance of watching any singles. Something two-time French Open champion Ruud admits is a problem.
“Two of the times that I have played was maybe in a way a little bit unfortunate with only one deciding doubles (match) on Sunday,” Ruud commented.
“The crowd didn’t get to see a singles (match) after or whatever. That’s not in my hands to decide what the format looks like.’
“But last year in London was great in many ways because you had so many great players and it came down to almost the last match. When I watched on TV the first series, it was so exciting because Roger played a couple of times, the final match of the Sunday and clutched it for Team Europe. It’s been a couple of years without playing that last singles match. But it’s a great initiative. Me, as a golf fan, watching the Ryder Cup all my life in my childhood, it’s great for tennis to have this event.”
The 2024 Laver Cup will be held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin between September 20-22.
India’s Sumit Nagal Receives Sponsorship Boost After Revelling Financial Struggles
A leading food and drink company has pledged to support India’s highest-ranked men’s player who was unable to train at his usual facility in Germany earlier this year due to a lack of money.
Earlier this week world No.159 Sumit Nagal made a public plea for financial support to help him continue his career as a tennis player. In recent years he has been based at the Nansel Tennis Academy in Germany but was unable to train there during the first three months of the 2023 season due to a lack of funds. During this period he relied on his friends, including former player Somdev Devvarman, to help maintain his fitness.
“If I look at my bank balance, I have what I had at the beginning of the year. It is 900 euros. I did get a bit of help. Mr Prashant Sutar is helping me with MAHA Tennis Foundation and I also get monthly (salary) from IOCL but I don’t have any big sponsor,” Nagal told the Press Trust of India.
“I am investing whatever I am making. The yearly cost where I travel with one coach is costing me around Rs 8 million to Rs 10 million (90,000-113,000 euros) and that is just with one travelling coach (no physio). Whatever I have made I have already invested,” he added.
Nagal, who is 26 years old, has reached the semi-finals of better at five tournaments on the lower-level Challenger Tour so far this season. His only Grand Slam result was at the US Open where he lost in the first round of qualifying to Taro Daniel. It was at the US Open where he took a set off Roger Federer before losing in 2019.
Despite being the only player from his country to be ranked in the top 400, Nagal is currently not part of the Target Olympics Podium Scheme. An initiative set up by the Indian government to provide support to their top athletes.
After learning about Nagal’s ongoing struggles on the Tour, a leading company has decided to support the tennis player by signing a three-year deal with him. Gatorade specializes in sports drinks and is manufactured by PepsiCo. Under the deal, Nagal will receive support with his recovery and nutrition from experts at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI).
“I am deeply moved and grateful to join hands with Gatorade. This association comes to me at a pivotal time, and I am thankful my hard work and passion is getting recognized and appreciated. With Gatorade by my side, I am sure I will reach new heights and give it my all both on and off the court,” the Indo-Asian News Service quoted Nagal as saying on Thursday.
Speaking about the new partnership, Ankit Agarwal from PepsiCo India has hailed the collaboration. Agarwal is the company’s Associate Director of Energy & Hydration.
“Sumit is a role model for the new-gen athletes of India with his career being a true example of hard work and sweat that makes talent shine,” he said.
“As a brand that is dedicated to supporting athletes in removing barriers to sporting success, we are delighted to welcome Sumit to the Gatorade squad.”
Nagal has been ranked as high as No.122 in the world. So far in his career, he has won four Challenger titles with two of those occurring this year in Italy and Finland.
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