Nadal Out Of Top Three As Sinner Climbs ATP Rankings

Spain’s Rafael Nadal attends a training session in Melbourne on January 31, 2021, ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament starting on February 8. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) / — IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE —

 

Rafael Nadal slipped out of the top three in the new ATP rankings released on Monday while Jannik Sinner, who won the Washington tournament at the weekend, jumped nine places to 15.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner Nadal lost to Lloyd Harris in the round of 16 in Washington to find himself dropping one place to number four with the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas replacing him at three.

Italian teenager Sinner, who beat the American Mackenzie McDonald in three sets in Washington, climbs from 24th into the higher realms of the game’s elite.

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Sinner, who only turns 20 on August 16, is the youngest player to win an ATP 500 tournament since the category was created in 2009.

By reaching the final, McDonald also enjoyed a dramatic leap from 107th to 64th.

Novak Djokovic, who has won all three majors this year and has his eyes firmly set on completing the sweep with another success at the US Open, remains comfortably at number one.

The Serb has now spent a record 333 weeks in top spot, well ahead of next-best Roger Federer, who managed 310 and is now down at number nine.

ATP rankings as of August 9

1. Novak Djokovic (SRB) 12,113 pts

2. Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 9,643

3. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 8,115 (+1)

4. Rafael Nadal (ESP) 7,315 (-1)

5. Alexander Zverev (GER) 7,183

6. Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6,915

7. Andrey Rublev (RUS) 6,005

8. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 5,533

9. Roger Federer (SUI) 4,215

10. Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 3,625

11. Pablo Carreño (ESP) 3,260

12. Casper Ruud (NOR) 3,205

13. Hubert Hurkacz (POL) 3,118

14. Diego Schwartzman (ARG) 2,913

15. Jannik Sinner (ITA) 2,745 (+9)

16. Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 2,693 (-1)

17. Alex De Minaur (AUS) 2,600 (+1)

18. Roberto Bautista (ESP) 2,585 (-2)

19. David Goffin (BEL) 2,513 (+1)

20. Christian Garín (CHI) 2,475 (-1)

Djokovic Eyes Third Round As Wimbledon Courts Spark Concern

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic serves the ball to Italy’s Matteo Berrettini during their men’s singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 11 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 9, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

Five-time champion Novak Djokovic renews his long-standing Wimbledon rivalry with Kevin Anderson on Wednesday as serious questions are asked over the quality of the fabled Centre Court where Serena Williams suffered her tournament-ending injury.

World number one Djokovic, looking to move alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as a 20-time Grand Slam winner, has a 9-2 record over the big South African.

That includes three wins at Wimbledon in 2011, 2015 and in the 2018 final.

Anderson was beaten in straight sets in that championship match three years ago, exhausted by back-to-back five-setters in the last-eight and semi-finals.

He defeated Federer 13-11 in the final set of their quarter-final clash and then John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set of the semi-final.

Since that time, Anderson, now ranked 102 in the world, has undergone two surgeries on his right knee in 2019 and 2020.

“I never really thought of quitting,” said 35-year-old Anderson.

Djokovic opens play on Centre Court, a day after seven-time champion Serena Williams retired with a right leg injury after twice falling over in the first set of her opener against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

The 39-year-old American left the arena in tears as her dream of equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 majors was again thwarted.

– ‘Meticulous standard’ –

“I was heartbroken to have to withdraw,” she said.

Her fall came not long after French player Adrian Mannarino had slipped and hurt himself on the same part of Centre Court.

He too had to retire with his match against Roger Federer level at two sets apiece.

“I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof,” said Federer.

Despite the criticism, the All England Club insisted that the courts are up to standard.

“The preparation of the grass courts has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years,” the club said in a statement.

“The weather conditions on the opening two days have been the wettest we have experienced in almost a decade, which has required the roof to be closed on Centre Court and No.1 Court for long periods.”

Djokovic had also struggled to keep his feet on Centre Court on Monday when he faced Jack Draper in his first round tie.

The tournament has been hit by heavy rain over the the first two days.

As a result 50 first round matches remained unfinished at the start of Wednesday’s schedule.

Fifth seeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada was knocked out 6-2, 6-1 by France’s Alize Cornet who famously defeated Serena Williams on her way to the last 16 in 2014.

Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, is still to win a main draw match at Wimbledon having lost in the first round as a qualifier in 2017.

– 100 wins for Nishikori –

Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, the champion at Queen’s and tipped to go deep at Wimbledon, edged Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a two-time quarter-finalist, claimed his 100th Grand Slam match win by seeing off Australia’s Alexei Popyrin 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Britain’s Andy Murray won his first singles match at the tournament in four years when he saw off 24th seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili two days ago.

The three-time champion and former world number one, now down at 118 in the rankings, tackles qualifier Oscar Otte of Germany for a last-32 place later Wednesday.

Murray, 34, has overcome a career-threatening hip injury to still be playing at the highest level.

Both Djokovic and Murray would have been buoyed by seeing world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas removed from their half of the draw in the first round.

In the women’s tournament, Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka, yet to make the last-eight of a Slam, faces British wild card Katie Boulter, the world 219.

Sabalenka won their only previous meeting at the Australian Open in 2019.

Venus Williams, the 41-year-old five-time champion who made her tournament debut in 1997, takes on Ons Jabeur who is hoping to become the first Tunisian to make the third round.

Frances Tiafoe, who knocked out Tsitsipas, plays Vasek Pospisil of Canada.

AFP

Serena Williams Joins Nadal In Missing Tokyo Olympics

US player Serena Williams wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, leaves after a practice session at the Aorangi Practice Courts at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, south-west London, on June 27, 2021, ahead of the start of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships tennis tournament. AELTC / Edward Whitaker / POOL / AFP

 

Serena Williams said Sunday that she will not compete at the Tokyo Olympics next month, joining fellow Grand Slam legend Rafael Nadal in withdrawing from the Games.

The 39-year-old American revealed her decision at her pre-Wimbledon press conference.

“I’m actually not on the Olympic list, so… Not that I’m aware of. If so, then I shouldn’t be on it,” she said.

She refused to divulge the reasons for her decision.

However, a ban on foreign fans as well as family members at the Olympics would have meant Williams being separated from her daughter Alexis Olympia.

The Olympics have already been delayed by a year and organisers have been forced to introduce strict measures to fight COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of reasons that I made my Olympic decision,” she said.

“I don’t feel like going into them today. Maybe another day. Sorry.”

Williams is the joint-most successful Olympian in tennis history in terms of gold medals alongside sister Venus having won one gold medal each in singles and three in doubles.

Venus edges the medal count slightly as she also won a silver in mixed doubles in 2016 in Rio.

Serena, who is bidding to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon, added she had not really thought about what it would mean to miss the Games.

She won the 2012 Olympic singles title in London on the same Centre Court where she has won seven Wimbledon singles titles.

She also won doubles gold with sister Venus in Sydney (2000), Beijing (2008) and London.

“I have not thought about it (missing the Games),” said Williams, who plays world number 100 Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in the first round at Wimbledon.

“In the past it’s been a wonderful place for me. I really haven’t thought about it, so I’m going to keep not thinking about it.”

Nadal announced earlier this month he would be missing Wimbledon and the Olympics so as to look after his body and prolong his career.

His great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have yet to decide whether they will go to Tokyo.

Federer, who like Serena is 39, said Saturday it will depend on how he fares at Wimbledon.

Two-time defending Olympic singles champion Andy Murray will be going, fitness permitting, as he has been selected in the Team GB squad.

Austrian Dominic Thiem will be another absentee.

The 27-year-old 2020 US Open champion announced his decision on the same day as Nadal and just before he withdrew from Wimbledon due to a wrist injury.

Rafael Nadal Pulls Out Of Wimbledon And Olympics

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 12, 2019 Spain’s Rafael Nadal closes reacts on day 11 of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon. – Rafael Nadal said on June 17, 2021 he was withdrawing from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics “after listening to my body”. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

 

 

 

Rafael Nadal said Thursday he was withdrawing from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics in a bid “to prolong my career”.

The 35-year-old, who won the second of his two titles at the All England Club in 2010 and landed the Olympic singles title in 2008, revealed his decision on his Twitter feed.

“I have decided not to participate at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” he tweeted. “It’s never an easy decision to take but after listening to my body and discuss(ing) it with my team I understand that it is the right decision.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was last week beaten in the semi-finals of the French Open by Novak Djokovic.

“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition,” added Nadal.

Djokovic Conquers ‘Everest’, Eyes 52-Year Landmark At French Open

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain's Rafael Nadal at the end of their men's singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the end of their men’s singles semi-final tennis match on Day 13 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 11, 2021. MARTIN BUREAU / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic can become the first man in 52 years to win all four Grand Slam titles twice in the French Open final on Sunday after conquering Rafael Nadal, the ‘Mount Everest’ of Roland Garros.

World number one Djokovic takes on Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas for the title with tennis history on the line.

Victory for the Serb will take him alongside Roy Emerson and Rod Laver as the only men to capture the four majors more than once.

It’s an achievement that has proved even beyond the capabilities of Nadal and Roger Federer.

It is so rare an accomplishment that it hasn’t happened since 1969 when Laver completed his second calendar Grand Slam.

Djokovic can pocket a 19th Slam with victory and move just one behind the record of 20 jointly held by Nadal and Federer.

Djokovic insists there will be no letdown physically or emotionally after reaching the final in Paris for a sixth time with an epic triumph over 13-time champion Nadal.

“It’s not the first time that I play an epic semi-final in a Grand Slam and then I have to come back in less than 48 hours and play finals,” said the 34-year-old.

“My recovery abilities have been pretty good throughout my career.”

His four-hour, four-set battle with Nadal is already jostling for a prime spot in the list of “greatest ever matches” at the Slams.

– ‘Never believed’ –

It featured a lung-busting 92-minute third set and required government intervention to allow the 5,000 fans inside Court Philippe Chatrier to watch the match’s conclusion despite it extending beyond the 11pm Covid-19 curfew.

The 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 triumph gave Djokovic the honour of being the only man to have beaten Nadal in Paris more than once, having first achieved it in the 2015 quarter-finals.

Nadal has only lost three times in 108 matches since his title-winning debut in 2005.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion, said it was his best win in Paris and ranked it among his “three greatest” ever performances.

“It’s hard to find words bigger than all the superlatives you can think of for Rafa’s achievements at Roland Garros,” said Djokovic who now leads their series 30-28 and had lost three finals in the French capital to Nadal.

“Each time you step on the court with him, you know that you have to kind of climb Mount Everest to win against this guy here.”

Djokovic has already admitted he’s a fan of Tsitsipas, proclaiming him as a Grand Slam champion in the making.

“He is a hard worker, dedicated, nice guy,” said Djokovic.

“He’s very smart and wise. I love the fact that he is more than just a tennis player and he’s always looking to learn from experience and to understand something new about himself.

“That’s the trait of a champion.”

Djokovic will be playing in his 29th Slam final on Sunday.

He holds a 5-2 record over Tsitsipas, a run which includes all three meetings on clay.

At last year’s Roland Garros, Djokovic won their semi-final over five sets.

“We played an epic five-setter last year in the semis here. I know it’s going to be another tough one,” added Djokovic who also defeated Tsitsipas in Rome on the eve of the French Open.

“I’m hoping I can recharge my batteries as much as I can because I’m going to need some power and energy for that one.”

Tsitsipas, 22, and 12 years younger than the Serb, is in his first Slam final having ended a run of three semi-final losses by defeating Alexander Zverev over five sets on Friday.

Victory on Sunday would make him the first Greek player to win a Slam title.

He would also become the youngest champion in Paris since Nadal in 2008 and overall at the Slams since Juan Martin del Potro at the 2009 US Open.

“I’ve never believed, have never really thought at what age this achievement might come,” said Tsitsipas.

“But I’m really happy with myself. I think I’ve shown good discipline so far. I’ve been progressive.”

Tsitsipas is the hottest player on tour in 2021 with a season-leading 39 wins.

Twenty-two of those have come on clay and have reaped a Masters title in Monte Carlo as well as Lyon.

Tsitsipas also had a match point in the Barcelona final against eventual champion Nadal.

“There is the final on Sunday, which is exciting. I’m looking forward to leaving my entire body on the court,” said the Greek who knocked out second seed Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals.

Chapter 58 Of ‘Historic Rivalry’ For Djokovic, Nadal At French Open

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) greets Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after defeating him in the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy.
Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

 

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal clash for the 58th time in their “historic rivalry” on Friday on the same court where they first met 15 years ago with a place in the French Open final at stake.

It is tennis’s greatest modern match-up between two men who have harvested 38 Grand Slam titles and 72 Masters between them.

Djokovic has spent more weeks at world number one than any other player while 13-time French Open winner Nadal has not been out of the top 10 in 16 years.

Nadal will start Friday’s semi-final as favourite, buoyed by his record of 105 wins and just two losses in his Roland Garros career.

The 35-year-old also has the edge over Djokovic on clay with a 19-7 career lead and 7-1 in Paris.

Djokovic hasn’t beaten Nadal on the surface since Rome in 2016.

He can, however, boast being one of only two men to have defeated Nadal in Paris, in the quarter-finals in 2015.

“It’s a well-anticipated semi-final and here we are,” said Djokovic of a rivalry which started on Court Philippe Chatrier in 2006.

“We had some battles over the years on this court.”

Nadal defeated 2016 champion Djokovic in straight sets in last year’s final, the Serb’s third loss in the championship match in Paris to the Spaniard.

There is plenty at stake on Friday as the two rivals close in on Sunday’s final.

Djokovic can win a 19th Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 — and only the third in history — to win all four Slams twice.

Victory for Nadal would give him a record-setting 21st major, breaking a tie with Roger Federer.

“The vibes are different walking on the court with him,” added Djokovic, who is in his 40th Grand Slam semi-final. “But that’s why our rivalry has been historic.”

It’s been a topsy-turvy tournament for Djokovic.

After racing through the first three rounds, he had to come back from two sets down to defeat Italian 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti.

In the quarter-finals, he dropped the third set against Matteo Berrettini.

With the exception of a second-set blip in the quarter-finals against Diego Schwartzman, Nadal has reached his 14th semi-final relatively unscathed.

But despite his clay court stranglehold on Djokovic, Nadal isn’t getting too far ahead of himself.

– ‘Ego tells me more’ –
“It is a semi-final, not a final. That’s a big difference,” said the Spanish star who could become the oldest man to make the final in Paris.

The latest chapter of Djokovic v Nadal has overshadowed Friday’s other semi-final between Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and sixth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.

They have met seven times but just once on clay in Madrid in 2019 when Tsitsipas triumphed.

The 22-year-old Tsitsipas is in his third successive semi-final at the Slams and took Djokovic to five sets in the last four at Roland Garros in 2020.

He arrived in Paris with clay court titles this year in Monte Carlo and Lyon and had a match point to beat Nadal in the Barcelona final.

“I feel privileged that I’m in this position (of reaching three Slam semis). I’ve put in a lot of daily hard work and that has been a key element of me being here,” said Tsitsipas.

“But you know, my ego tells me I want more.”

Zverev is in his first semi-final at Roland Garros having almost fallen at the first hurdle against 152nd-ranked compatriot Oscar Otte.

“It’s nice that I didn’t play Rafa or Novak in the quarter-finals,” admitted Zverev.

“I think playing Rafa here in the finals, for example, is even worse. It’s even more difficult. But I also got to get there first.”

Whoever makes it to Sunday’s final will have their work cut out.

Tsitsipas is 2-7 against Nadal and 2-5 playing Djokovic.

Zverev is 3-6 when taking on Nadal and 2-6 facing Djokovic.

Nadal Loses A Set But Reaches 14th French Open Semi-Final

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman during their men’s singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 11 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 9, 2021. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

 

 

 

Rafael Nadal reached a record-extending 14th French Open semi-final on Wednesday with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 win over Diego Schwartzman, setting up a potential last-four showdown with world number one Novak Djokovic.

Nadal, bidding for a 14th Roland Garros title and record 21st major triumph, dropped his first set at the tournament since 2019 — ending a run of 36 consecutive sets won in Paris by the Spanish third seed.

The 35-year-old Nadal improved his incredible French Open record to 105 wins and two losses as he advanced to his 35th Grand Slam semi-final. He beat Argentine 10th seed Schwartzman in the last four of the 2020 edition.

“It’s always incredible for me to return to the semi-finals for another time,” said Nadal.

“Diego is such an amazing player with so much talent, today was a very difficult challenge.”

 

Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman returns the ball to Spain’s Rafael Nadal during their men’s singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 11 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 9, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

Nadal and Schwartzman had both progressed to the last eight without dropping a set.

After Nadal took the opener he faltered while serving to stay in the second set, shanking long to concede his first set at Roland Garros since beating Dominic Thiem in four sets in the 2019 final.

“I started bad the second set and then was able to come back, but then the game at 4-4, returning with the wind helping, I played a bad game and had a tricky situation serving to not lose the set. Well done to him, he played well,” said Nadal.

The Spaniard regrouped and grabbed a decisive break in the ninth game of the third set, winning the final nine games against a weary Schwartzman to close out victory.

“I needed to play a little bit more aggressive and I think I did later, so I am very happy for that,” added Nadal.

 

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman during their men’s singles quarter-final tennis match on Day 11 of The Roland Garros 2021 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 9, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

 

He awaits the winner of Wednesday’s nighttime quarter-final between Djokovic and Italian ninth seed Matteo Berrettini.

Nadal, Djokovic Eye History At Roland Garros

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) greets Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after defeating him in the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy.
Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will set their sights on more Grand Slam history at Roland Garros as the French Open embraces a new and eerily empty era of nighttime tennis.

A 14th title in Paris for Nadal would take him to a record-setting 21st major, surpassing the mark he shares with Roger Federer who has already written off his hopes of adding to his lone success in the French capital back in 2009.

Djokovic, the champion in 2016, can move to 19 Grand Slam titles with victory.

That would make the world number one the first man in over half a century to win all four majors on multiple occasions.

Nadal arrives in Paris buoyed by having defeated Djokovic in the Rome Masters final in what was the pair’s 57th meeting.

It was Nadal’s 10th title in the Italian capital.

Not that he was reading too much into the statistics as far as Roland Garros is concerned.

“I think I can work on a couple of things that I can do a little bit better,” he insisted.

 ‘Work right way’

“I just need to keep going. I know what I need to work on and I’m going to do it. Work, relax mentally, and work the right way.”

At last year’s delayed Roland Garros, Nadal swept past Djokovic in straight sets in the final.

It was Nadal’s 100th win at the tournament against just two losses since his 2005 title-winning debut.

Giving Djokovic hope, however, is the knowledge that he was responsible for one of those losses, in the 2015 quarter-finals.

He is also a four-time runner-up although three of those defeats in the championship match came against the Spaniard.

Only two men have previously managed to win all four of the Slams on more than one occasion — Roy Emerson and Rod Laver of Australia.

Laver’s achievement came back in 1969.

“I think I have a good chance to go all the way in Paris, but of course it’s a long shot,” said Djokovic who captured the season’s first Grand Slam title in Australia for a ninth time in February.

Federer, with his 40th birthday fast approaching, remains the sentimental favourite but his priority will be an assault on Wimbledon where he has been champion eight times.

-Chasing pack

“I’m not so sure in the last 50 years of the French Open, somebody just rocks up at nearly 40 years old, being out for a year and a half, and wins everything straight,” said Federer after losing his only clay-court match this year in Geneva last week.

Of the chasing pack, two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem is low on form and confidence.

A run to the Madrid semi-finals was followed by a straight sets defeat to Cameron Norrie in his Lyon opener.

World number two Daniil Medvedev has yet to win a match at Roland Garros in four attempts.

In Rome, he fell at the first hurdle and half-jokingly pleaded with the referee to disqualify him such is his dislike for clay.

World number five Stefanos Tsitsipas is the most likely man to upset the odds of Nadal and Djokovic again making the final.

The 22-year-old Greek won the prestigious Monte Carlo clay-court title in April, had match point before losing the Barcelona final to Nadal, and then lifted the Lyon trophy.

He has beaten Nadal on clay in Madrid in 2019 and stretched Djokovic to five sets at the 2020 French Open semi-finals.

This year’s Roland Garros will be the second taking place under the shadow of the coronavirus.

Just over 5,000 fans a day will be allowed on site until June 9 when that figure rises to 13,000.

For the first time this year, there will be nine evening sessions at the tournament.

However, a Covid-19 curfew from 9 pm means that eight of those sessions will be played out inside an empty Court Philippe Chatrier.

-AFP

Italian Open: Nadal Beats Djokovic To Win 10th Rome Title

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal beat world number one Novak Djokovic to win a 10th Italian Open title on Sunday and set down a key marker two weeks out from the defence of his Roland Garros crown.

Second seed Nadal won through 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 in 2hr 49min against the defending champion in the 57th career showdown between the pair.

“It’s amazing I have this trophy in my hands for a 10th time, something impossible to imagine,” said the world number three who also equalled Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.

“I remember the first final I won here in Rome back in 2005 against (Guillermo) Coria which lasted five hours,” recalled the 34-year-old of his five-set battle past the Argentine.

READ ALSO: Swiatek Crushes Pliskova To Win Italian Open

Djokovic and Nadal were facing each other for the 57th time, having last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won in straight sets.

The pair have won 15 of the last 17 Rome titles between them, while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 4-2.

“I really wanted this title. This had been one of the most important titles in my career. I’d won 10 in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros and really wanted it here too,” added Nadal.

Despite losing his opening service game Nadal broke back in the third game hitting twice as many winners as the Serb with 21 in the set.

A dip in form in the second set allowed Djokovic to break twice and get back into the game.

But Nadal got back on track in the third with Djokovic having played nearly five hours on court on Saturday between his rain-delayed quarter-finals and semi-final matches.

 

Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) greets Serbia’s Novak Djokovic after defeating him in the final of the Men’s Italian Tennis Open at Foro Italico on May 16, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

 

The Spaniard saved two break points on his serve in the fifth game and broke for love for 4-2.

Djokovic saved a first match point in the eighth game but Nadal made no mistake on his second chance in the following to seal his 88th career title after winning in Barcelona earlier this month.

“It doesn’t get a bigger challenge than playing in the final against Rafa,” said five-time Rome winner Djokovic, who leads their overall head-to-head 29-28.

“Overall three hours of high quality tennis. I’m disappointed not to win, but pleased with my level.

“Going into Paris it’s a good sensation. I feel like I want to feel on clay. If I play like I did last night and today I think I have a shot in Paris.

“I’ll play in Belgrade and then go to Paris ready to rock and roll.”

Nadal has now won 10 or more titles at a single event for the fourth time, after Roland Garros (13), Barcelona (12) and Monte Carlo (11).

The French Open gets underway in Paris on May 30 where Nadal will be chasing a record 21st Grand Slam title.

Djokovic, the 2016 champion at Roland Garros, will be hoping to become the first man in over half a century and just the third in history to win all four majors more than once.

AFP

Djokovic To Play Nadal In Italian Open final

A photo combination of Tennis legends, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
A photo combination of Tennis legends, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

 

World number one Novak Djokovic on Saturday battled past Italian Lorenzo Sonego to set up a clash with nine-time winner Rafael Nadal for the sixth time in the Italian Open final.

Defending champion Djokovic won through 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in 2hr 44min against the 33rd-ranked Italian after second seed Nadal earlier swept past American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4.

Djokovic had earlier survived a three-set battle with Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in their rain-delayed quarter-finals.

The five-time Rome winner had been trailing 6-4, 2-1 when the tie was halted overnight.

But he came back to win through 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 after 3hr 16min.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates a point against Italy's Lorenzo Sonego during their semifinal match of the Men's Italian Open at Foro Italico on May 15, 2021 in Rome, Italy. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates a point against Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego during their semifinal match of the Men’s Italian Open at Foro Italico on May 15, 2021 in Rome, Italy.
Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Djokovic and Nadal, who will be facing each other for the 57th time, last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won.

The pair have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 3-2.

Djokovic had two match points in the 12th game of the second set of his semi-final before Sonego forced a third set to the delight of the home crowd in the Foro Italico.

The Serb saved three break points in the first game of the third set, coming back from 0-40 before powering towards his 11th Rome final

“I think I bounced back very well after the second set and 0-40, maybe if he started with a break up in the third it would be different,” said Djokovic.

“I’ve only myself to blame for not closing the match in the second set, I could have and should have.

“First of all I need to recover. I don’t have much time but hopefully I’ll have fresh legs necessary to have against Rafa.”

Djokovic and Nadal have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them with Djokovic leading their overall head-to-head 29-27.

Nadal is looking to equal Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.

Italian Open: Nadal Beats Zverev To Reach Semi-Finals

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his tennis match against Germany’s Alexander Zverev at the Men’s Italian Open at Foro Italico on May 14, 2021 in Rome, Italy. AFP

 

Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal dispatched his Madrid Masters slayer Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 to reach the Italian Open semi-finals on Friday.

Second-seed Nadal lost to Zverev in the Madrid last-eight last week but ended his three-match losing streak against the German in the Foro Italico.

“It was an important victory for me against a great player,” said the Spaniard.

The 34-year-old shook off his marathon 3hr 30min quarter-final battle past Denis Shapovalov on Thursday where he needed to save two match points.

Nadal powered to 4-0 before sixth seed Zverev held serve with the 20-time Grand Slam winner saving breakpoint to take the first set.

The German rallied in the second set but Nadal saved eight break points to seal victory on his first match point after two hours.

Nadal next plays big-serving American Reilly Opelka for a place in the final for an 11th time as he warms up for the French Open starting on May 30.

Opelka, ranked 47, reached his first Masters’ semi-final with a 7-5, 7-6 (7/2) win over Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis.

“It’s a big challenge against a player who’s playing well and has almost an unreturnable serve,” Nadal said of Opelka who has not dropped a set all week.

“I’ve served well especially at big moments, that’s been key, I stayed calm,” said Opelka, who has hit nearly 80 aces this week.

“I’ve made some adjustments on my serve recently and it has paid off.”

Nadal is two wins away from equalling Novak Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles.

He is also attempting to win 10 or more titles at a single event for the fourth time, after Roland Garros (13), Barcelona (12) and Monte Carlo (11).

Zverev, 24, had been on a seven-match winning streak, following his second title run in Madrid last week.

AFP

Nadal Wins Thriller To Join Djokovic In Rome Last Eight As Fans Return

Spain’s Rafael Nadal celebrates winning against Australia’s Alexei Popyrin during their 2021 ATP Tour Madrid Open tennis tournament singles match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 6, 2021. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

 

Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of the Italian Open in contrasting styles on Thursday as spectators returned to the stands for the first time in Italy.

Nadal and Djokovic have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them, playing each other in the final five times.

World number one Djokovic needed just 70 minutes to sweep past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-1.

But nine-time champion Nadal had to save two match points against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) battle over nearly 3hr 30min.

“To be able to win these kind of matches against young players gives me confidence with my body,” said 34-year-old Nadal, who has fallen early in two clay-court Masters tournaments in Monte Carlo and Madrid ahead of Roland Garros.

Nadal will next play either Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the sixth seed, or Japan’s Kei Nishikori for a place in the semi-finals.

Nadal lost to Zverev, 24, in the Madrid Masters quarter-finals last week.

Defending champion Djokovic, a five-time Rome winner, next plays Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s French Open semi-final which the Serbian won.

Fifth seed Tsitsipas ended the run of home hope Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.

“It always feels like home coming back to Rome,” said Djokovic, who has never failed to reach the quarter-finals in his 15 appearances in the clay-court event.

“Each year the love affair grows even more because the bond is stronger and stronger.

“Hopefully I can feel a little bit of that love more tomorrow so I can keep on progressing in the tournament.”

– ‘Establish control’ –

After losing his opening service game, Djokovic powered back with five breaks of serve, outclassing his rival, despite a late fightback, to seal the win on his sixth match point.

“He started well, but I managed to break back straight away and establish the control and consistency,” said the 18-time Grand Slam winner.

“I thought I played at least 20-30 percent better than on Monday. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

Spaniard Nadal will be making his 16th last-eight appearance in Rome. It will also be his 97th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.

Nadal trailed by 0-4 in the opening set, and 0-3 in the second.

Shapovalov also broke for 3-1 in the third set but Nadal broke back immediately and held on despite two match points against him in the 12th game to force a tie-break.

Nadal’s experience in the high-pressure moments paid off against the 22-year-old who had beaten him in their first meeting in Montreal in 2017.

For Shapovalov it was a “tough loss” with only “one or two points” the difference in the clash of left-handers.

“It’s just a tough loss but who’s going to give me crap for losing to Rafa?” said the Canadian who won his only ATP title in Stockholm in 2019.

– ‘Not yet normal’ –

American Reilly Opelka advanced to his second Masters 1000 quarter-final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 victory against in-form Russian Aslan Karatsev.

The 23-year-old hit 18 aces and saved two set points at 4/6 in the first-set tie-break to set up a meeting with Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in the last eight.

Meanwhile, fans were happy to return after more than a year without live sport.

“After all this time it’s good to be able to watch live sport,” said Alessandro Cimini, one of the first to arrive at the Foro Italico with his son to watch Djokovic and Nadal.

“We bought tickets in January 2020 and we can finally come! On the one hand I’m happy it feels good after all we’ve been through even if obviously it’s not yet back to normal on centre court,” added another tennis fan, Rosy De Luigi, who travelled from San Marino.

Football’s Italian Cup final in Reggio Emilio next Wednesday will also have a limited crowd, followed by Euro 2020 matches at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

AFP