Rafael Nadal Says Goodbye To Madrid But Vows To Continue Farewell Tour - UBITENNIS
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Rafael Nadal Says Goodbye To Madrid But Vows To Continue Farewell Tour

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Image via https://twitter.com/MutuaMadridOpen/

For weeks there has been speculation surrounding the future of Rafael Nadal but Tuesday evening in Madrid was the strongest sign yet that the end of his career is near. 

Walking onto the court at the Caja Magica, Nadal was greeted by a packed crowd at the Madrid Open despite the time of night. Proceedings didn’t get underway until 10pm with the match finishing just after midnight. In his fourth round match, he faced a highly impressive Jiri Lehecka who never appeared to be intimidated by the circumstances he was playing in as the Czech worked his way to a 6-4, 7-5, victory. In doing so he knocked Nadal out of the tournament and most likely became the last person to ever play the king of clay at an ATP event on Spanish soil.

Despite world No.31 Lehcka being the victor, it was Nadal’s moment. Immediately after their clash ended, a presentation took place in tribute to the 22-time Grand Slam champion. 

“This is a difficult day when it arrives, but it’s a reality. My body and my life had been sending me signs for some time,” he said. “I was able to say goodbye playing on this court, one of the most emotional ones for me. Madrid at times has been more important to me than a Grand Slam. The memories here will stay with me forever.”

After his match, five banners were displayed in the stadium with each of them showing a year Nadal won the event. He claimed the trophy in 2005, ‘10, ’13, ‘14 and ’17. Overall, he has won 59 matches in Madrid which is more than any other player in the tournament’s history.  

“It’s been a gift what you’ve done for me during the 21 years that I’ve played here,” Nadal said in tribute to his supporters. 
“All I can say is ‘thank you.’

Nadal’s dominance on the clay is illustrated by the fact that Lehecka is the lowest-ranked player to have ever beaten him at a Masters 1000 or Grand Slam event held on the surface. It was the first time he had been beaten by a player ranked outside the top 20 on clay since 2016 when he lost to Pablo Cuevas in Rio. 

The latest loss is also a victory for him given the recent uncertainty about if he would be fit enough to play in Madrid due to injury problems. Despite those concerns, he produced three consecutive wins over Darwin Blanch, Alex de Minaur and Pedro Cachin. 

“Just two days before I left for Barcelona I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to play again in an official match and in the end I’ve played two weeks.” He commented.

As for what is next, Nadal hopes to take his farewell Tour to Rome which is another tournament he has dominated throughout his career. At the Foro Italico, he has won the tournament a record 10 times and was runner-up on two other occasions. 

“I don’t know how long (he will keep playing) but I gonna try to play in Rome. That’s another very special tournament in my career,” he explained during his press conference.
“My dream is to play all these tournaments that I had success one more time. I missed Monte-Carlo unfortunately, that is one of the most special for me, but Rome is one I enjoyed a lot playing there.
“I want to play well. I want to be competitive. I want to give myself a chance to play good tennis, and I gonna keep working hard to try to make that happen.
Today is an unforgettable day in terms of saying, goodbye, Madrid. But my career keeps going, and I have personal goals that I have got in the next couple of weeks, and I want to explore if I have any chance to achieve that.”

Undoubtedly one of these goals will be the French Open which begins on May 26th. 14 out of his 22 major triumphs has been at Roland Garros which will also be the venue of this year’s Olympic tennis tournament. Another event Nadal has his eyes on. 

The optimistic 37-year-old now hopes he can capitalise on what has been in his eyes a ‘positive week’ in Madrid. 

“I was able to play four matches, a couple of tough matches,” he said. “So very positive, winning three matches, playing four matches at the high level of tennis. I enjoyed a lot playing at home. I leave here with very positive energy.”

Nadal has won 1074 matches so far in his career with 409 of those victories being at a Masters event. In the Open Era, only three other male players have won more matches than him.

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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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