Rafael Nadal Pauses His Career With The Hope Of Ending It On His Own Terms - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Pauses His Career With The Hope Of Ending It On His Own Terms



Nadal RG 2022 by Night (foto @RolandGarros)

The world of tennis knew what was coming on Thursday afternoon when 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal held a press conference at his academy. 


Four months have passed since the Spaniard last played a competitive match due to a hip injury that originally had a prognosis of 6-8 weeks of recovery. However, the weeks turned into months and still, he is nowhere near to returning to the Tour. Resulting in his withdrawal from the French Open this year after 18 consecutive appearances. 

“It is not a decision that I make, but a decision that my body makes,” Nadal told reporters on Thursday. 
“I have no intention of continuing to play for the next few months. In recent years, although the results have been of my first level, my day-to-day life has been at a very low level. Although victories remain abroad At the level of daily work, the years after the pandemic have been very difficult.”
“They have been difficult years although the victories mask it. I make a point and part. At this point, without being prepared to be able to compete at the level I need. I have to put a point and aside to my sports career. I am going to try to regenerate my body. I’m not going to set a return date. When I’m ready, I’ll try to be there.

The most sobering thing about Nadal’s latest press conference wasn’t anything to do with the upcoming major tournament at Roland Garros. It was the first time he has spoken so candidly about ending his record-breaking career for good with 2024 likely to be when he does so. Another reminder that even the immortals of tennis have an expiration date. 

“I don’t like to predict the future so I’m going to follow my feelings and what I think I should do for my body and my own happiness,” Nadal explains. “Next year will probably be my last year on the pro tour. It’s the idea though I can’t say 100 per cent because you never know what can happen but my idea is to try to try and say goodbye to all the important tournaments for me in my career.”

Introduced to tennis by his uncle Toni as a child, Nadal blossomed and excelled at a young age. He was just 15 when he made his ATP debut at the 2002 Mallorca Open. The following year he cracked the top 100 for the first time before claiming his maiden Tour trophy at the 2004 Orange Prokom Open in Poland.  

The early success paved the way for Nadal to establish himself as statistically one of the most successful players in the history of the sport. His current ATP title tally of 92 is a benchmark that has only been surpassed by four other players in the Open Era. He has spent 910 consecutive weeks in the world’s top 10 which is a record and earned more than $134M in prize money. 

Undoubtedly it is the clay of Roland Garros where Nadal is known for his greatest achievement. Out of 115 matches played, he has only been beaten twice by Novak Djokovic in 2015 and 2021, as well as once by Robin Soderling in 2009. He has won the La Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy an incredible 14 times. His dominance was recognised by officials in 2021 when a statue was built in his honour which is a rare achievement for an active player. 

“Without a doubt the tournament is going to keep being the best event in the world of clay,” Nadal commented on his beloved French Open. “And there’s going to be one Roland Garros champion, it’s not going to me, it’s going to be another one. And that’s life.
“The tournament is going to be for sure a big success without me. Players stay for a while and they leave, tournaments stay forever.”

Alongside the success, there have also been challenges for the 36-year-old who has contended with various injury setbacks. During his 20-year career, he has missed 11 Grand Slam events and withdrew from another five due to a physical issue. He has suffered from issues related to his back, wrist, abdominal, and hamstring. He also lives with a long-term foot condition called Mueller-Weiss syndrome. According to the sports newspaper Marca, since 2003 he has experienced some form of injury issue during 14 separate seasons. 

Yet like others such as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, such adversity only spurred Nadal on to work harder and improve his game further. However, it was never going to last forever, just ask Federer who played the Spaniard 40 times on the Tour. With the Swiss maestro, it was a knee injury that closed the curtain on his career and prevented him from ending it how he wanted to. Something Nadal hopes will not be the case for him.

“I would like to give myself the option of competing on a tennis court, feeling like a good-level player and fighting to win matches. I would like to fight to win the big tournaments. Whether that is a viable reality or not we will see.” Nadal replied when asked how he hopes to end his career. 

Now it is just a waiting game to see when Nadal will return to the Tour with his eyes set on a possible return to action later this year at the Davis Cup. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding him at present but one certain thing is that his career is coming to an end and so is an era of men’s tennis. 


Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Women’s Semifinals



Iga Swiatek doing her best Hulk Hogan impression on Wednesday (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Are we just one round away from World No.1 Iga Swiatek facing World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in a humungous women’s final?


On Thursday in Paris, Swiatek and Sabalenka are both favorites to win their semifinals.  But Beatriz Haddad Maia and Karolina Muchova both provide challenging styles of play, and their chances should not be overlooked.

Also, the mixed doubles championship match will be staged, featuring an inspiring redemption story, and the 2019 US Open women’s singles champion.

Karolina Muchova vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – Not Before 3:00pm on Court Philippe-Chatrier

Sabalenka is 34-5 this season, and is vying for her sixth final of the year, and her 13th consecutive win at a Major.  After losing her first three Slam semifinals, all by the score of 6-4 in the third, she broke through this past January in Melbourne with a straight-set victory over Magda Linette.  Aryna has claimed all 10 sets she’s played this fortnight.

Muchova is 22-7 on the year, and is into the second Major semifinal of her career.  She first achieved this feat two years ago at the Australian Open, when she lost a three-set semifinal to Jennifer Brady.  Karolina has dropped one set to this stage, and notably upset another Roland Garros semifinalist, Maria Sakkari, in the first round.

They’ve only played once before, four years ago on a hard court in Zhuhai, with Sabalenka prevailing in a tight two-setter.  Muchova’s variety is often quite effective in disrupting her opponents.  But based on the confidence Aryna has been playing with, her huge game makes her the favorite to reach a second consecutive Major final.

Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia (14) – Last on Court Philippe Chatrier

Swiatek is 33-6 in 2023, and is looking for her fifth final of the season.  She is 17-2 on clay this year, and 26-2 lifetime at Roland Garros.  And Iga has been completely dominant this fortnight, losing only 17 games across nine sets.  She holds a 3-1 record in Major semifinals.

This is entirely new territory for Haddad Maia.  Prior to this tournament, she was 0-7 in the second round of Slams.  But she’s now 22-11 this year, after winning four consecutive three-setters at this event, and upsetting Ons Jabeur on Wednesday.

Beatriz is actually 1-0 against Iga, having defeated her 7-5 in the third last summer in Toronto.  She utilizes her lefty-ness well, and was intelligently aggressive during pivotal times of her match against Jabeur.  But on this surface, and in a match of this magnitude, Swiatek is a considerable favorite to reach her third Roland Garros final.

Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Miyu Kato and Tim Puetz vs. Bianca Andreescu and Michael Venus – Kato was defaulted from the women’s doubles draw after hitting a ball girl with a ball, but has owned that error and earned a lot of goodwill in the process.  This is a first Major final in any discipline for Kati and Puetz, while Venus won the men’s doubles title at this event six years ago, and Andreescu’s resume is well-documented.

Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Ons Jabeur Admits Rushing Back From Injury After Roland Garros Exit

Ons Jabeur has admitted she rushed back from injury just to play Roland Garros as she exited the tournament in the quarter-finals.



Ons Jabeur (@rolandgarros - Twitter)

Ons Jabeur admitted to rushing back from injury during the clay court season after exiting Roland Garros.


The Tunisian is out of the second Grand Slam of the season after a three set defeat to Beatriz Haddad Maia.

Jabeur had control of the majority of the first two sets but a third set capitulation saw her clay court season end in disappointing fashion.

After the match Jabeur admitted it was disappointing to lose but is proud of her tournament in Paris, “We always want to do better, unless we win the title, you know,” Jabeur said in her post-match press conference.

“Yeah, I mean, I think it is a great tournament. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be in the quarterfinals. Especially this is kind of my first tournament after being injured.

“I think it was good. I was trying to push myself until the end, but I think pretty satisfied with the results. You always want to push for more, but I mean hopefully next time will be better, and no more quarterfinal here at the French Open.”

Despite the result Jabeur can be proud of her efforts as she looks to build on a positive week and a half in Paris ahead of the grass court season.

Jabeur also commented on her physical state after a gruelling tournament in Paris.

The Tunisian said nothing is hurting but admitted she wanted to rush back from her injury in order to be back for Roland Garros, “Yeah, thank God, there is nothing hurting. I didn’t have much time to prepare for especially clay season because it’s more physical than any other surface,” Jabeur admitted.

“I’m feeling okay. I think I rushed my way back on tour, but that’s because I wanted to be ready for the French Open. You know, like all the training and the physical training, maybe I didn’t have enough time to prepare for that, but I did my maximum. I did what I could do in a short time period.

“But, yeah, she probably played longer than me, but she’s a beast, and I wish her all the best. I mean, honestly, what she’s doing for — I feel like my story and her story are a little bit similar. I’m very happy for her and for Brazil, and hopefully she can do much more for her country.

“But, yeah, for me now I’m going to try to rest a little bit and be ready, but I’m good for now.”

Jabeur will look to be physically fit ready for the grass court season where she looks to defend her performance from last year where she reached the final.

The Tunisian outlined her grass court season towards the end of the press conference and admitted she’s hoping to play doubles with Venus Williams having played with Serena Williams last year, “Yeah, for now I think I’m going to have the same schedule. Berlin, Eastbourne,” Jabeur said.

“Maybe Venus wants to play doubles there. I’m not sure. She didn’t ask me yet. Then Wimbledon. Just trying to play as much matches as I can. To be honest with you, I want to enjoy playing on grass because I do enjoy a lot. I have my brother’s wedding before, so I’m going to party for a bit and just be ready.

“I’m hoping to go and get the title really in Wimbledon. I’m dreaming about it. It’s something that I always wanted. Last year was unfortunate because I was very close. When I put something in my mind, I know I can do it, so it’s definitely here.”

Jabeur will look to achieve her dream when Wimbledon takes place on the 3rd of July.

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EXCLUSIVE: Aryna Sabalenka And Those Who Dare To Challenge Her Country’s Government



Dzmitry Navosha is a well-known journalist in Eastern Europe who founded the Belarussian sports publication Tribuna and co-founded the popular Russian website sports.ru. He is also viewed as a security threat by his government and has been sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison. 


According to The Russian Free Press, Navosha was deemed to be guilty of inciting social hatred and illegal disclosure of personal data regarding his alleged connection with the Black Book of Belarus Telegram account. The social media channel published information about security forces who violated the law and used violence against protesters during the controversial re-election of Alexander Lukashenko in 2020 which many have described as a sham. A report published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said voting was ‘not transparent, free or fair’ and said human rights abuses “were found to be massive and systematic and proven beyond doubt”.

Those at the time who tried to criticize the Lukashenko regime faced a huge crackdown by authorities. One organization created at the time of the unrest was the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Fund (BSSF) which includes Navosha among its members. It aims to give financial and legal support to athletes who oppose or are under threat from the Belarusian government. Their most high-profile case involved sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who travelled to the Tokyo Olympics and was set to take part in the women’s 200M heats but was taken to the airport against her will after criticizing her national coaches. She subsequently went into exile and the BSSF found themselves to be deemed as an enemy of its homeland. Both of its founders, three-time Olympic medalist Aliaksandra Herasimenia and Aliaksandr Apei, have also been sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison for the alleged crime of ‘actions aimed at harming Belarus’ national security.’

In the world of tennis, Lukashenko’s name has been brought up a few times in recent months due to Aryna Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion who could potentially become world No.1 in the coming months. It was after her second round match at the French Open that she was quizzed about her support for her country’s president amid the war in Ukraine. Lukashenko is an ally of Russia and is accused of supporting the conflict. At the time she declined to speak about the topic and subsequently decided to make her subsequent two press conferences behind closed doors due to ‘mental health reasons.’ Then following her quarter-final win over Elina Svitolina, she finally gave her answer. 

I’m not supporting the war. I don’t want my country to be involved in any conflict.” She said.
It’s a tough question. I mean, I don’t support the war, meaning I don’t support Lukashenko right now.”

But why is it this year that Sabalenka has come under such scrutiny for her ties to the president? It was back in 2020 when her name appeared on a pro-government letter critical of athletes who protested the election. At the time high-profile names such as WNBA finalist Elena Levchenko, decathlete Andrei Kravchenko and Herasimenya were among those who were detained by authorities. 

“More than 40,000 Belarusians (including a dozen athletes) have gone through arrests and, in many cases, beatings in 2020. More than a dozen of those died whilst in the suppression or in prison,” Navosha tells Ubitennis.
There are over 1,500 political prisoners in Lukashenka’s prisons now – politicians, journalists, human rights activists, businessmen, athletes, and Nobel laureates. Often they are in a critical condition. Lawyers and relatives can’t get access to them for months, and we don’t even know if some of them are still alive.”

Sabalenka has repeatedly said that she doesn’t want to get involved in politics and that her principal focus is on being a tennis player. Some have to wonder if her reluctance to speak out is linked to what others have had to endure in recent times. Although Navosha doesn’t see it this way. 

“We do not know what Sabalenka is afraid of. She is living in Miami and is the richest athlete in Belarus. She has the means and the opportunity to live anywhere in the world.” He said. 
“What we do know is the appalling conditions, comparable to Nazi concentration camps, thousands of Belarusians who have been jailed for political reasons are living in. And what a barbaric war Russia is continuing in Ukraine, with the support of the Belarusian dictator.”

Due to her sporting achievements, Sabalenka is one of her country’s most prestigious athletes. So far in her career, she has won 13 WTA titles and was runner-up at 10 other events. She has won more than 300 matches on the Tour and earned over $16M in prize money alone. 

Whether she wanted to or not, it was always an inevitability that the 25-year-old would get caught out in politics due to her status. In April she told reporters in Stuttgart that remarks from Lukashenko about her in his speeches were ‘not helping.’ 

“We regularly see this in Belarus. The government’s narrative is: ‘The whole world is against Belarus and Russia, but we are strong and we are winning. So let’s rally around our leader Alexander Lukashenko and even more actively deal with the enemies of the state.’ Sabalenka’s victories are actively used by the Belarusian dictator to legitimize himself and justify his heavy repressions.” Navosha commented. 
Can Sabalenka stop herself from being used in government propaganda? I would say that yes, of course, she can. She can do so by condemning either the dictatorship of Lukashenka or the war he supports in Ukraine. As the experience of other numerous Belarusian sports stars who opposed the war and dictatorship shows, this instantly deprives the opportunity to use such an athlete as propaganda.”

Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, it is easy to forget that Sabalenka’s relationship with her country is far more complex. This has unfortunately affected her mental health due to the questions she has faced from journalists. However, she will not always be able to avoid such scrutiny. 

“Any person, in general, should be allowed to not have a public opinion about the war or a specific dictator,” Navosha said.
“But Sabalenka never used this right – and has regularly, repeatedly participated in propaganda events with Lukashenko, meeting with him, including, allegedly, on her own initiative. Or signing the letter in support of Lukashenko during the 2020 protests.”
“We understand that all this is not on the agenda in the Western world, especially with the start of a big war in Ukraine. Those tennis journalists who are satisfied with Sabalenka’s indirect answers at a press conference, do not know or have forgotten about this (the current political climate in Belarus). But this determines the attitude towards Sabalenka of the majority of Belarusians who are still against the dictatorship.”

In March this year, the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights called for Belarus to stop theirsystematic repression of perceived critics and immediately release all detainees held on political grounds.’ A report based on interviews with 207 victims and witnesses, as well as 2500 additional items of evidence, concluded that the beatings of those protesting the 2020 elections were approved by the government. Up to February 2023, 797 non-government organisations were shut down and another 432 chose to close amid fear of persecution. Most independent media outlets have also had to shut down.

On the court, Sabalenka will return to action at the French Open on Thursday when she will play Czech Republic’s Karolína Muchová in the semi-finals.

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