Nadal Loses Out As Djokovic French Open Clash Gets Night Session

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after the match point against Marcos Giron of the US during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 17, 2022. (Photo by Brandon MALONE / AFP)

 

Rafael Nadal’s French Open quarter-final against long-time rival Novak Djokovic will take place in Tuesday’s night session at Roland Garros despite the 13-time champion’s desire to play in the day.

Officials confirmed Monday that the pair’s 59th career meeting will be the late match under the lights of Court Philippe Chatrier with the day’s other quarter-final between Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev set for the afternoon.

“I don’t like to play on clay during the night, because the humidity is higher, the ball is slower, and there can be very heavy conditions especially when it’s cold,” said Nadal last week.

“I think that makes a big difference between the way tennis is played on clay during the night and during the day.”

Djokovic had hinted he would prefer to face Nadal as late as possible.

“All I will say is Rafa and I would make different requests,” said the world number one and defending champion.

Alcaraz said it would have been “unfair” if he was ordered to play after 9pm for the third time. Nadal and Djokovic have played one match each so far after dark.

Zverev was also dismissive of night-time conditions.

“I don’t mind the evening sessions when it’s 30 degrees during the day,” said the 25-year-old.

“When it’s 14 degrees, then in the night it’s going to be what, 8, 9, something like that, it gets difficult.”

Organisers faced a dilemma over scheduling with host broadcaster Prime Video having the rights to the tournament’s 10 night sessions.

Officials said an agreement had been reached whereby the match — the 10th between Djokovic and Nadal at Roland Garros — would be available free to air.

“The quarter-final match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal scheduled for Tuesday 31 May at 8:45 p.m. will be free to watch as unrestricted content in France across Prime Video mobile and web apps,” said a statement.

However, France’s public service broadcaster, which carries coverage of the tournament on terrestrial channels, hit out.

“France Televisions regrets this decision which deprives French viewers of one of the most beautiful adverts of the tournament,” they said in a statement.

Djokovic And Nadal Bid To Derail Alcaraz Hype At French Open

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

 

 

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, with 41 Grand Slam titles between them, will attempt to derail the growing hype surrounding teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz at the French Open from Sunday.

All three have been placed in the top-half of the draw, meaning only one will make the Roland Garros final.

Defending champion Djokovic is seeded to face 13-time winner Nadal in the quarter-finals. Alcaraz is a potential semi-final opponent.

“I feel I am always in contention to fight for any Grand Slam trophy,” said Djokovic who arrives in Paris fired up by his inability to defend his Australian Open title in January when he was deported over his vaccination status.

“Reliving the memories from last year is something that obviously gives me goose bumps and motivation to try to replicate that.”

Djokovic, who turns 35 on Sunday, captured a second French Open title in 2021.

He did it the hard way, coming from two sets down to beat Lorenzo Musetti in the last-16, winning an epic four-set semi-final against Nadal before needing to overturn another two-set deficit to see off Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.

Djokovic has played only five tournaments in 2022 but arrives in Paris buoyed by a sixth Italian Open title, becoming just the fifth man to win 1,000 career matches in the process.

It was his 38th Masters triumph, two more than Nadal at the top of the all-time list.

– Nadal ‘feels better’ –
Djokovic starts his French Open against 94th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan.

Nadal has played down concerns over the chronic foot issue that resurfaced in Rome last week.

On Wednesday, he practiced in front of thousands of fans at Roland Garros without any obvious discomfort.

“There is nothing to recover,” Nadal told reporters Friday. “What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices.”

“I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better. That’s why I’m here.”

Nadal began the year with a 20-match winning run, capturing a second Australian Open title to claim a record 21st Grand Slam and move ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The 35-year-old’s record at the French Open stands at a staggering 105 wins and just three losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.

Djokovic has been responsible for two of those defeats. One of those came in the bruising semi-final 12 months ago, the most recent clash of the pair’s epic 58-match rivalry.

“I just watched Rafa practice and it’s funny because all of a sudden his forehand is just 20 miles an hour faster. He moves lighter on his feet,” said world number three Alexander Zverevn on Friday.

“There is something about this court that makes him play 30% better, just being on this court.”

Nadal takes on Australia’s Jordan Thompson in the first round.

Alcaraz, just 19, has rocketed to six in the world on the back of four titles — three on clay — in 2022.

– ‘Special’ Alcaraz –
He won a second Masters title in Madrid, sweeping Nadal, Djokovic and Zverev on the way.

“He definitely is special,” admitted Djokovic of Alcaraz who also claimed the prestigious Miami Masters earlier in the year.

Alcaraz was ranked 97 this time last year.

He was only two when Nadal won the first of his 13 French Opens in 2005 but he made his mark at the 2021 tournament where he came through qualifying to reach the third round.

Alcaraz, who has 28 wins and just three defeats this year, opens his campaign on Sunday against Argentine lucky loser Juan Ignacio Londero, ranked at 141 but who made the last 16 in 2019.

Russian world number two Daniil Medvedev, who gave up a two-sets lead to lose to Nadal in the Australian Open final, only returned to action in Geneva this week after undergoing a hernia operation.

The US Open champion has 13 titles to his name but has yet to master the draining demands of clay.

At Roland Garros, he was winless in his first four visits before managing to stop the rot with a quarter-final run in 2021.

Greek world number four Tsitsipas has enjoyed a solid clay season.

He defended his Monte Carlo title before making the last-eight in Barcelona, semi-finals in Madrid and final in Rome.

Fired-Up Djokovic Braced For Alcaraz And Nadal Challenge At French Open

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates winning a game during the final match of the Men’s ATP Rome Open tennis tournament against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas on May 15, 2022 at Foro Italico in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

 

Novak Djokovic admits he will be fired up by the fiasco of his high-profile deportation from Australia when he targets a record-equalling 21st major on his Grand Slam return at the French Open. 

World number one Djokovic captured a second Roland Garros title in 2021 followed by a sixth Wimbledon to move to 20 majors alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

However, his unseemly exit from Melbourne following his refusal to be vaccinated opened the door for Nadal to claim a second Australian Open and 21st Grand Slam crown.

“It’s something that I never faced before,” said Djokovic, who turns 35 on Sunday, the opening day of the French Open.

“The amount of pressure and everything that I was feeling in the first few months of the year, as much as I’ve felt pressure in my life and my career, that was something really on a whole different level.”

Djokovic has played only five tournaments in 2022 but arrives in Paris buoyed by a sixth Italian Open title, becoming just the fifth man to win 1,000 career matches in the process.

It was his 38th Masters triumph, two more than Nadal at the top of the all-time list.

He did not drop a set in Rome as he finished a memorable week with a final victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas, the man he defeated from two sets down in the 2021 French Open title match.

With 13-time French Open champion Nadal suffering a recurrence of a foot injury, another Spaniard is likely to be Djokovic’s biggest headache in Paris.

Carlos Alcaraz, just 19, has rocketed to six in the world on the back of four titles — three on clay — in 2022.

– ‘Special’ Alcaraz-
He won a second Masters title in Madrid, sweeping Nadal, Djokovic and third-ranked Alexander Zverev on the way.

“He definitely is special,” admitted Djokovic of Alcaraz who also claimed the prestigious Miami Masters earlier in the year.

Alcaraz was ranked 97 this time last year. He was only two when Nadal won the first of his 13 French Opens in 2005 but he made his mark at the 2021 tournament where he came through qualifying to reach the third round.

Djokovic has been responsible for two of only three losses suffered by Nadal in Paris.

One of those came in a bruising semi-final 12 months ago, the most recent clash of the pair’s epic 58-match rivalry.

Nadal comes into Paris with major question marks over his ability to lift a 14th title.

A rib injury in March was followed by the re-emergence in Rome of his chronic foot injury where he limped to defeat in the last-16.

The 35-year-old Spaniard is due to practice at Roland Garros for the first time on Wednesday where he will have his own doctor on hand to assess his fitness.

– ‘Living with injury’ -“I am a player living with an injury; it is nothing new,” said Nadal, now ranked fifth in the world.

“Since I came back, the foot has been tough. It’s tough for me to be able to practice the proper way.”

Russian world number two Daniil Medvedev, who gave up a two-sets lead to lose to Nadal in the Australian Open final, only returned to action in Geneva this week after undergoing a hernia operation.

The US Open champion has 13 titles to his name but has yet to master the draining demands of clay.

At Roland Garros, he was winless in his first four visits before managing to stop the rot with a quarter-final run in 2021.

Medvedev is likely to use the ban on Russian players at Wimbledon this year as fuel for a surprise title tilt.

Greek world number four Tsitsipas has enjoyed a solid clay season.

He defended his Monte Carlo title before making the last-eight in Barcelona and semi-finals in Madrid.

Djokovic Makes It 370 Weeks At Number One

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds the winner’s trophy after winning the final match of the Men’s ATP Rome Open tennis tournament against Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas on May 15, 2022 at Foro Italico in Rome. Andreas SOLARO / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic extended his record at the top of the ATP rankings to 370 weeks on Monday while Rafael Nadal drops down a place to number five.

The Spaniard was knocked out of the Italian Open in the last 16 and is leapfrogged by the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas who made it all the way to the final where he was turned over in straight sets by an inspired Djokovic.

The Serb, who claimed his sixth Italian Open title, has now spent 60 weeks more at number one than the next man on the list Roger Federer (310). Nadal is sixth on the all-time list with 209.

With the French Open starting on Sunday, Djokovic is guaranteed top seeding at Roland Garros and will retain the top spot for at least another two weeks.

Norwegian Casper Ruud climbs two places from tenth to eighth after reaching the semi-finals in Rome while Italian Matteo Berrettini, who had an operation on his right hand at the end of March and will miss the French Open, goes the other way.

Rankings (players representing Russia and Belarus are banned from competing under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice):

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 8,660 pts

2. Daniil Medvedev 7,990

3. Alexander Zverev (GER) 7,200

4. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 6,170 (+1)

5. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 5,525 (-1)

6. Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 4,770

7. Andrey Rublev 3,945

8. Casper Ruud (NOR) 3,940 (+2)

9. Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 3,850

10. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 3,805 (-2)

11. Cameron Norrie (GBR) 3,355

12. Jannik Sinner (ITA) 3,195 (+1)

13. Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3,095 (-1)

14. Taylor Fritz (USA) 2,920

15. Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 2,671 (+1)

16. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 2,505 (-1)

17. Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) 2,135 (+1)

18. Reilly Opelka (USA) 2,090 (-1)

19. Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 1,903

20. Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) 1,785

AFP

Spanish Teenager Alcaraz Beats Djokovic To Reach Madrid final

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz reacts as he plays against Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their 2022 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament men's singles semi-final match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 7, 2022. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP
Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz reacts as he plays against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during their 2022 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament men’s singles semi-final match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 7, 2022. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Carlos Alcaraz became the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the same tournament on clay as he stormed into the Madrid Open final on Saturday.

The 19-year-old Spaniard reached his second ATP Masters final in five weeks and claimed his first ever win over a reigning world number one, overcoming Djokovic 6-7 (5/7), 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) in front of a sell-out home crowd at the Caja Magica.

Alcaraz now owns a tour-leading seven top-10 wins this season, and enters Sunday’s final –- against Stefanos Tsitsipas or defending champion Alexander Zverev –- carrying a nine-match winning streak, having triumphed in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.

He is the youngest player to defeat a world number one in 17 years.

READ ALSO: Fraser-Pryce Clocks World-Leading 10.67 To Win 100m In Nairobi

A calm and collected Alcaraz kicked off the match with a service break, thanks to a well-timed cross-court backhand passing shot, and was soon up 3-1 on the top seed.

Djokovic, who turns 35 this month, struck back to draw level for 4-4 as the set fittingly went to a tie-break.

A fired up Djokovic sped to a 5-1 advantage in the breaker and soon got his hands on four set points.

Alcaraz saved the first with an aggressive return and another with an ace. A spot-on drop shot saw the Spaniard save a third set point to narrow his deficit to 5-6 but Djokovic closed out the set on his fourth opportunity after 62 minutes of play.

The players were neck and neck in the second set until Alcaraz upped the ante in game 12, winning key battles at the net and perfectly utilising his drop shot when he needed to.

The Murcia native claimed a break and the set with a sensational get, running down a Djokovic dropper and hitting a winner from outside the doubles alley.

Djokovic cuts hand

Djokovic staved off three break points on his serve in game four of the decider, digging deep for a 2-2 hold.

The world number one fell to the ground during the next game and needed some medical attention for an open wound on his right hand. Two more break points came and went for Alcaraz on his opponent’s serve as Djokovic battled to hold for 3-3.

It was Djokovic’s turn to put pressure on the Alcaraz serve, but the seventh seed successfully side-stepped a break point to hold in game seven.

The crowd went wild as Alcaraz blasted a forehand winner to get his first match point. Djokovic responded with a steely ace and dug deep to level for 5-5.

It all came down to a final-set tie-break and the Caja Magica was shaking with “si se puede” (Yes you can) chants. Alcaraz drew first blood, opening up a 4-2 gap.

Djokovic saved a second match point for 5-6 but Alcaraz was third time lucky, claiming a statement three-hour 35-minute victory with yet another forehand winner — his 35th of the match.

 

AFP

‘Phenomenal Energy’ Drives Djokovic Into Belgrade Final

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory against Russia’s Karen Khachanov at the end of their Serbia Tennis Open ATP 250 tournament semi-final match in Belgrade on April 23, 2022. Pedja MILOSAVLJEVIC / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory against Russia’s Karen Khachanov at the end of their Serbia Tennis Open ATP 250 tournament semi-final match in Belgrade on April 23, 2022.
Pedja MILOSAVLJEVIC / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic reached his first final of the year at the Serbia Open on Saturday after recovering from a set down to beat Karen Khachanov 4-6, 6-1 6-2 and described his home support as “phenomenal”.

The world number one will face another Russian, Andrey Rublev, who defeated Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-2, as he bids for a third Belgrade crown, and the 87th title of his career.

“As soon as the second set started I was just feeling the ball, particularly the backhand which was not working in the first set,” said Djokovic.

“The second and third sets were the best two sets of the season for me. I used the crowd energy which was phenomenal, probably the best atmosphere that I played in my entire life.”

READ ALSO: PSG Wrap Up Record-Equalling 10th Ligue 1 Title Despite Lens Draw

For the third match in a row, Djokovic dropped the first set after losing his serve in the opening game, but the Serb stepped up his level in the second and third sets.

“All three matches were key matches for me, to be honest,” added said Djokovic.

“Again I started not that great, losing the first set. I was a break down today as I was in the first two matches of the tournament.

“I think as soon as the second set started I was just feeling the ball and started swinging through particularly the backhand which wasn’t working in the first set.”

Djokovic beat the 26th-ranked Khachanov for the fifth straight meeting and sixth time in seven matches.

“To be honest with you in the second set, I don’t know how he does it, but sometimes he switches the mode and starts to play like a new match. I tried to have answers to that but today I couldn’t,” said the Russian.

The Belgrade event is only Djokovic’s third of 2022. He was deported from Melbourne — and denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title — after he entered the country unvaccinated.

He was also barred from playing at the Indian Wells and Miami Masters over his controversial Covid-19 stance.

The 34-year-old made the last eight in Dubai in February and then lost his opening match at the Monte Carlo Masters last week.

Rublev will be chasing his third title of 2022 on Sunday after Marseille and Dubai in February.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Rublev on facing Djokovic who won their only previous encounter in straight sets at the 2021 ATP Finals.

“I have nothing to lose, I can go and enjoy it. He will play at home, it will be his moment, so the best I can do is fight and try to do my best.”

AFP

Djokovic Celebrates Second Successive Comeback Win In Belgrade

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic plays a forehand return to Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic during his tennis singles match at the Serbia Tennis Open ATP 250 series tournament in Belgrade on April 21, 2022.
Pedja MILOSAVLJEVIC / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic came back from a set down against a Serbian compatriot for the second successive day to reach the Belgrade semi-finals on Thursday.

The world number one saw off in-form Miomir Kecmanovic, ranked at 38 in the world, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Djokovic, chasing a third title at the Serbia Open and a fourth ATP Tour title overall in his home city, will face either third seed Karen Khachanov or Brazilian qualifier Thiago Monteiro for a place in the final.

Djokovic had also needed three sets to beat Lazlo Djere in his opening round on Wednesday as he gears up towards the defence of his French Open title in Paris next month.

The Belgrade event is only Djokovic’s third of 2022 after he was deported from Melbourne – and denied the chance to defend his Australian Open title – after entering the country unvaccinated.

He was also barred from playing at the Indian Wells and Miami Masters over his controversial Covid-19 stance.

The 34-year-old made the last-eight in Dubai in February and then lost his opening match at the Monte Carlo Masters last week.

AFP

Djokovic Loses World Number One Ranking To Medvedev In Dubai Shock

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely during their quarter-final match at the ATP Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championship, in the Gulf emirate on February 24, 2022.
Karim SAHIB / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic lost his Dubai quarter-final and his world number one ranking in one go on Thursday as he suffered a 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) upset at the hands of Czech world number 123 Jiri Vesely.

Competing in his first tournament of the season, and first, since getting deported from Australia, Djokovic needed to at least reach the semi-finals in the Emirates to try and stop Daniil Medvedev from replacing him at the top of the rankings.

But Vesely had other ideas as the left-handed qualifier improved his career record against Djokovic to 2-0 – a result that will see Medvedev become the first man since 2004 outside the “Big Four” – Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray – to occupy the number one ranking on Monday.

READ ALSO: UEFA May Move Champions League Final From Russia

Djokovic, who has spent a record 361 weeks as the world number one, said at the start of the tournament that he “would be the first to congratulate” Medvedev if the Russian succeeded in his quest for the summit.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely during their quarter-final match at the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, in the Gulf emirate on February 24, 2022.
Karim SAHIB / AFP

 

US Open champion Medvedev, currently involved in the Acapulco tournament, becomes the third Russian man after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin to ascend to the world’s number one spot.

Vesely, a former junior number one, has won five matches in Dubai so far this week, making it through qualifying to reach his first tour-level semi-final since Pune in 2020.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I never thought I would really have a chance against Novak, he’s one of the greatest of all time, if not the best,” he said.

“After the last 12 months, I’ve been going through… it’s unbelievable, I have so many emotions inside, it’s hard to describe, it’s just an amazing feeling,” added Vesely, who next takes on Denis Shapovalov for a place in the final.

The 28-year-old, who survived a serious car crash last year, came out victorious in his only previous meeting with Djokovic, defeating the Serb on the clay courts of Monte Carlo back in 2016.

Vesely started the match by breaking Djokovic on his way to a 2-0 lead.

He lost his advantage as the top seed struck back but some clever drop shots and some tricky lefty serve saw the towering Czech inch ahead once again and he served out the opening set on the 47-minute mark.

A down-the-line backhand drive earned Vesely a break in the seventh game of the second set but he wobbled while serving for the victory as Djokovic pegged him back to level for 5-5.

Vesely raced to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak and soon completed a huge surprise win over the five-time Dubai champion.

 Sinner slumps

Earlier on Centre Court, second seed Andrey Rublev advanced to his third semi-final in as many weeks with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Mackenzie McDonald.

Contesting a 12th consecutive quarter-final at the ATP 500 level, Rublev recovered from a poor first-set performance against McDonald to reach the Dubai semi-finals for the second year in a row.

The 24-year-old Russian will next face off with fifth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, who eased past Italian fourth seed Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-3 in 84 minutes.

“Today I was thinking that for sure it’s over, but somehow I was just trying to tell myself, ‘Just keep fighting and we’ll see what happens,” said an exhausted Rublev, who won both singles and doubles titles in Marseille last weekend.

“I lost twice to Hurkacz. It will be interesting for me. In the situation I am right now, completely tired, the last times I lost against him, I have nothing to lose. I will try to go for it and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

AFP

After Australian Furore, Djokovic Starts His Season In Dubai

A handout picture made available by the press office of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship on February 20, 2022 shows Serbian Tennis player Novak Djokovic holding a press conference ahead of the ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. (Photo by jorge ferrari / Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic’s season, derailed in January when he was deported from Australia, finally starts on Monday in Dubai with the world number one insisting players in the locker room “have been positive and welcoming” on his return.

Djokovic missed the chance to win a 10th Australian Open, and 21st Grand Slam, due to the cancellation of his visa in Melbourne and eventual deportation as a result of not being vaccinated.

He returns to the tour this week in the Emirates, where he will be competing for the first time since the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid last December.

Ahead of his opening round against Italian wildcard Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic spoke to reporters on Sunday night about how it feels to be back on the tennis circuit, and whether there has been any negative reaction from his peers.

“So far here most of the players that I’ve seen have been positive and welcoming. It’s nice to see obviously. I can’t say that was the case in Australia. It was a little bit strange. But here it’s well so far,” the 34-year-old Serb said.

Dubai organisers have dubbed the first day of the ATP event ‘Magnificent Monday’ and a couple of other marquee entrants, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray, will also be in action.

But all eyes will be on Djokovic who last played in Serbia’s Davis Cup semi-final defeat by Croatia.

Djokovic, who saw Rafael Nadal win in Australia to claim a 21st major, is able to play in Dubai as a coronavirus vaccine is not a requirement to enter the United Arab Emirates.

The Serbian is a five-time winner in Dubai and he finally starts his season with a point to prove and his number one ranking under threat.

Even if he wins in Dubai, Djokovic could lose the top spot, which he has held since February 2020, to Daniil Medvedev, who is in action this week almost 15,000km away in Acapulco.

Even if Djokovic defends his status this week, his refusal to get vaccinated could cause problems and cost him ranking points, particularly with two Masters tournaments coming up in the United States.

– ‘Follow the rules’ –

He is on the entry list at Indian Wells from March 7 to 20, even though it is currently restricted to vaccinated players. That is followed by the Miami Open from March 21 to April 3.

“I just have to follow the rules. Whatever tournament that I’m able to play, I’ll be trying to get to that country and play the tournament,” Djokovic said Sunday.

“I really can’t choose right now. It’s really about where I can go and play. Wherever I have an opportunity, I’ll be using probably that opportunity and going to play because this is what I do, it’s what I love to do still.”

There are still three more Grand Slam tournaments to play — French Open,, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Djokovic is the defending champion at Roland Garros and the All England Club.

“We all hope that the health crisis will evolve in a positive direction, but if that does not change, he will need a vaccination pass and therefore Novak Djokovic will not be with us,” at the French Open, French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu told RTL radio on Sunday.

Djokovic and Musetti have history, with the 19-year-old taking the first two sets off the Serb when they met in last year’s French Open.

Musetti eventually retired due to injury with Djokovic leading the last 16 clash 6-7 (7/9), 6-7 (2/7), 6-1, 6-0, 4-0.

Cilic, a former world number three, will open the action on Monday against Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely.

Murray is on court immediately before Djokovic, against Australian Christopher O’Connell.

At 34, former world number one Murray is playing with a metal hip after surgery in 2019, and won just a single game as he was crushed by Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in Qatar last week.

The second seed Andrey Rublev, fresh from a ninth career title in Marseille at the weekend, faces Briton Dan Evans on Tuesday.

Number three Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime has been drawn against Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili and number four Italian Jannik Sinner will play Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Last year’s Dubai winner Aslan Karatsev will face American Mackenzie McDonald.

Djokovic Remains Number One Despite Australian Open Absence

In this file photo, Novak Djokovic of Serbia takes part in a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 13, 2022. Mike FREY / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal’s record-breaking 21st Grand Slam singles title in winning an epic Australian Open final frustrated Novak Djokovic’s hopes of being the first to do so, but the Serb remains world number one in the rankings released Monday.

The 34-year-old was unable to play in the first Grand Slam of the year after being deported from Australia over Covid-19 vaccination issues but he extended his record-breaking run as number one to 358 weeks.

Nadal’s beaten opponent in the Melbourne final, Daniil Medvedev, stays second but the Russian moves to within 1,000 points of Djokovic.

Djokovic will keep the points he earned from winning his ninth Australian Open title last year till February 21 as last year’s tournament was played at the later dates of February 8-21.

READ ALSO: Nadal ‘Doesn’t Care’ If He’s Best Ever After Record 21st Slam

Nadal remains fifth in the rankings despite his record-breaking title and the only movement in the top 10 sees Italy’s Matteo Berrettini — who lost to the Spaniard in the semi-finals in Australia — rise one place to sixth.

Spain’s Pablo Carreno and Taylor Fritz of the United States enter the top 20 in 17th and 20th respectively.

Rankings

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 11015 pts

2. Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 10125

3. Alexander Zverev (GER) 7780

4. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 7170

5. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6875

6. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 5278 (+1)

7. Andrey Rublev (RUS) 4830 (-1)

8. Casper Ruud (NOR) 4065

9. Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 3923

10. Jannik Sinner (ITA) 3705

11. Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3336

12. Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 2930 (+2)

13. Cameron Norrie (GBR) 2865 (-1)

14. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 2640 (-1)

15. Aslan Karatsev (RUS) 2633

16. Gaël Monfils (FRA) 2553 (+4)

17. Pablo Carreño (ESP) 2475 (+4)

18. Christian Garín (CHI) 2420 (+1)

19. Roberto Bautista (ESP) 2385 (-1)

20. Taylor Fritz (USA) 2310 (+2)

Nadal ‘Doesn’t Care’ If He’s Best Ever After Record 21st Slam

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after the match point against Marcos Giron of the US during their men’s singles match on day one of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 17, 2022. (Photo by Brandon MALONE / AFP)

 

Rafael Nadal says he “doesn’t care much” if his record 21st Grand Slam title makes him the best men’s tennis player in history, after edging ahead of great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic with his thrilling Australian Open win.

The 35-year-old Spaniard roared back from two sets down to defeat Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev on Sunday in the final in Melbourne in what he called “the biggest comeback of my career”.

Having suffered a foot injury last year which left him wondering if he would even play again, Nadal’s stunning victory propelled him into the history books and left Federer and Djokovic trailing on 20 major crowns.

Federer was absent from Melbourne because of injury and the unvaccinated Djokovic was deported on the eve of the tournament after Australia cancelled his visa.

But Nadal does not intend to dwell for too long on the wider significance, even though “I know it’s a special number, 21”.

“I feel honoured, I feel lucky to achieve one more very special thing in my tennis career,” Nadal told reporters early on Monday morning, the match having spilled over into the next day.

“I don’t care much if I am the one or not the one, or the best of the history, not the best of the history.

READ ALSO: Brentford Sign Eriksen Months After Euro 2020 Cardiac Arrest

“Honestly today I don’t care much. For me it’s about enjoying nights like today. That means everything for me.”

Nadal, whose second Australian Open title came 13 years after his first one, showed remarkable resilience against the younger Medvedev, who was touted as the favourite in the absence of defending champion Djokovic.

Nadal, whose brilliant career has been punctuated by injures, called the gruelling 2-6, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 win “a very emotional night”.

It was even more so because of his foot injury and having also been “very sick” with Covid after testing positive in December.

“For the last six months, I really fought a lot to try to be back on court,” said Nadal.

“Have been very, very tough moments… conversations, tough ones, because you don’t know if I was going to have the chance to be back on the tour.”

Nadal said he wanted to celebrate more at the end, but just did not have it in him.

“Even now I am destroyed, honestly, physically,” he said.

“I can’t think much, I can’t remember a lot of moments of the match,” added Nadal, who was so exhausted afterwards that he took a seat during the post-match announcements.

“The support of the crowd have been just huge. I got very emotional during the whole match.

“Even if I was super tired, I couldn’t celebrate with them as usual, but I feel it inside, all the support helped me a lot during the whole match.”

Federer And Djokovic Praise ‘Great Champion’ Nadal For Slam Record

Spain’s Rafael Nadal holds the trophy after winning against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in their men’s singles final match on day fourteen of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne early on January 31, 2022. (Photo by Aaron FRANCIS / AFP)

 

Rafael Nadal’s record 21st Grand Slam title, secured in an epic Australian Open final on Sunday was hailed by both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic who had been tied with him on 20.

Nadal, 35, battled back from two sets down to defeat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 2-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in a gruelling 5hr 24min in Melbourne.

It crowned an extraordinary effort from Nadal at the year’s opening major, having to modify his game to compensate for a degenerative bone disease in his left foot that ended his 2021 season last August.

Federer, who came close to becoming the first to 21 when he lost in five sets by Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final, missed the Australian Open recovering from knee surgery.

“To my friend and great rival @rafaelnadal, heartfelt congratulations on becoming the first man to win 21 Grand Slam singles titles,” 40-year-old Federer posted on Instagram.

READ ALSO: Nadal Beats Medvedev To Win Record 21st Grand Slam

“A few months ago we were joking about both being on crutches, amazing. Never underestimate a great champion.

“Your incredible work ethic, dedication and fighting spirit are an inspiration to me and countless others around the world.”

Djokovic’s hopes of being the first to 21 were dashed when he was deported from Australia prior to the Grand Slam over vaccination issues.

However, the 34-year-old Serbian tweeted his congratulations — after he had first saluted Ashleigh Barty on her title win on Saturday.

“Amazing achievement. Always impressive fighting spirit that prevailed another time.

“Enhorabuena (Congratulations — followed by applause, trophy and thumbs up icons).”