Rafael Nadal Bows Out Of Possibly Final French Open To In-Form Zverev - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Bows Out Of Possibly Final French Open To In-Form Zverev

A trio of multiple Grand Slam champions were among those who watched the blockbuster encounter in what might have been Nadal’s last-ever match at the tournament.

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image via https://x.com/ATPTour_ES

In one of the most eagerly awaited first round matches in recent history at the French Open, 14-time champion Rafael Nadal has been beaten in straight sets by Alexander Zverev. 

Nadal, who was unseeded in the tournament for the first time in his career, put up a courageous fight before falling 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3, to world No.4 Zverev. The encounter saw both players produce some of their best tennis but it was the in-form German who came out on top with the help of some thunderous serving, as well as his ability to turn defensive play into attack during rallies. 

“Thank you Rafa from all of the tennis world,” Zverev said in a tribute afterwards. “It is such a great honour. I have watched him all my childhood I have been lucky enough to play him, and twice on this beautiful court. Today is not my moment it is Rafa’s moment and I am not going to speak much.”

For weeks there has been speculation that this year could be Nadal’s last appearance in Paris before stepping away from the sport for good. Even though the Spaniard, who turns 38 next month, recently stated he is not ruling out a return. The uncertainty resulted in a sell-out stadium of almost 15,000 spectators with the majority of those attending choosing to do so in case it was his final appearance. Among those watching in the stands were major champions Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek. 

Image via x.com/rolandgarros

Stepping onto his beloved Court Philippe Chatrier, the king of clay was greeted with an almighty eruption of cheers from the Parisian crowd which reverberated throughout the entire Roland Garros venue. He has won the clay court major more times than any other player in history and before this week only been beaten three times at the tournament out of 115 matches played. Losing twice to Novak Djokovic (2015 and 2021), as well as once to Robin Soderling in 2009. 

Despite the occasion, a focused Zverev refused to be intimidated as he had his own motivation to win. Two years ago in the semi-finals of the same tournament, he was involved in a tightly contested battle with Nadal before sustaining a serious ankle injury which forced him to retire and sidelined him from the Tour for months. 

With a lot at stake for both men, Nadal got off to a slow start by getting broken to love in the first game. Paving the way for recent Italian Open champion Zverev to dictate proceedings as he worked his way to a 5-3 lead. Three set point chances then came and went for him before he prevailed on his fourth after a forehand shot from his rival crashed into the net. 

It looked as if the tides were turning in the second set when a resilient Nadal saved a duo of break points before dismantling the Zverev serve for the first time in the following game for a 3-2 lead. Producing some of his best shot-making, the Spaniard had the chance to serve the second frame out but was unable to do so as his on-court nemeses elevated his level in a mighty fight back to draw level.  

Continuing to tame the animated crowd, Zverev went on to extend his stronghold by squeezing through a tense 11-minute tiebreaker which featured some gut-busting rallies.

The cat-and-mouse chase continued with Zverev yet again finding himself falling behind against a gutsy Nadal in the third set before slowly clawing his way back. He dealt his final blow midway through by hitting a blistering passing shot to break and move to the brink of victory which he finally secured after more than three hours of pulsating tennis. 

“It is incredible, I want to say thank you. It is difficult for me to talk,” said Nadal.
“I am not 100% sure if this is going to be the last time I am in front of you. The feelings I have today are hard to describe. To feel the love in the place I love the most. I have to congratulate Sascha for this great match. I know 2022 has been a super tough moment for you and so I wish you the best.”
“I have been going through a tough moment, so many injuries but I went through it to get back here. I had my chances but it was not enough against a great player.”

Zverev’s triumph underscores his title credentials as he chases after his maiden major trophy at the age of 27. He is now on a seven-match winning streak. 

As for Nadal, it is the first time in his entire career that he has suffered back-to-back losses on the clay. Regardless of whether he plays again or not, he can take comfort in knowing that his name has been permanently written in the record books. 

“There is a big chance I won’t be back but I can’t say 100%,” he admits. “My body is feeling better than two months ago. Maybe in two months I say it is enough but I don’t feel it yet.
“I hope to be back on this court for the Olympics. I have amazing feelings on this court, I never dreamed as a kid I would be here 38. All the memories have been different, so special. Support has been unforgettable. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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