Nadal Aims To Be French Open’s Oldest Champion Against Pupil Ruud

Spain’s Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Norway’s Casper Ruud during their men’s simples final match on day fifteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

 

Rafael Nadal will become the oldest man to win the French Open title if he defeats Casper Ruud, the Norwegian whose clay court talents he has personally helped foster.

Nadal will be playing in his 14th Roland Garros final on Sunday and 30th overall at the Grand Slams.

Victory will deliver a record-extending 22nd major and 14th French Open, 17 years after his title winning debut in Paris.

The 36-year-od Nadal is, however, as surprised as anyone to have got this far.

A chronic left foot injury which has plagued him throughout his career flared up again in Rome last month, putting a serious question mark over him even making it to the French capital.

“Without a doubt, I’d prefer to lose the final and have a new foot,” admitted Nadal who has not hidden the brutal reality that every match he plays at Roland Garros may be his last.

Despite his fears, Nadal has impressively battled his way into Sunday’s championship match.

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He needed five sets and more than four hours to see off Felix Auger-Aliassime in the last 16 and another four hours to get past Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

Alexander Zverev then pushed him all the way for three hours in the semi-finals until a sickening ankle injury forced the German world number three to quit on crutches.

Despite the German’s bold all-or-nothing challenge, Nadal still cut an impressive presence on court, at one point coming out on top in a lung-busting 44-shot rally.

“As each round goes by, he is transformed into a new player,” said coach Carlos Moya.

Nadal’s record at the French Open now stands at 111 wins and just three losses. Djokovic was responsible for two of those defeats.

– ‘The greatest’ –

Victory on Sunday will make him the tournament’s oldest champion, eclipsing compatriot Andres Gimeno who was 34 when he took the title 50 years ago.

World number eight Ruud, 23, is the tour’s in-form clay court player.

Not only have seven of his eight career titles come on clay, but he has won 66 matches on the surface since 2020 and played in nine finals.

Ruud is the first Norwegian to reach a Grand Slam final.

Robin Soderling, a fellow Scandinavian, is the only other man apart from Djokovic to have defeated Nadal in Paris back in 2009.

Ruud has been training at Nadal’s academy in Manacor since 2018 alongside his father Christian, a former top 40 player, and Spaniard Pedro Clar.

“I think we found a good balance. From a young age, 13 or 14, he respected that I was a player. He knew what I was talking about,” Christian told AFP on Sunday.

Nadal and Ruud have never met professionally but they are often hitting partners in Spain where the Norwegian admits “he has beaten me pretty much all the times in practice”.

“Casper has a very good character to play tennis. He’s very relaxed, humble. He’s always in a positive mood about learning,” said Nadal.

“I think in the academy we were able to help him a little bit during this period of time.”

Ruud was just six years old when Nadal was first crowned French Open champion and describes the Spaniard as his “idol”.

“I could probably tell you all the finals and who he has played and who he has beaten, because I watched them all on TV,” said the Norwegian.

“He’s the greatest clay court player of all time and one of the greatest all-around players.”

Victory for Nadal will give him the Australian Open-French Open double in the same year for the first time.

That would also put him halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, achieved only three times in history, the last of which was by Rod Laver in 1969.

“I fought, I have done all the things possible to give myself another chance to play in the final of Roland Garros,” said Nadal.

“All the sacrifices and all the things that I need to go through to try to keep playing, really makes sense when you enjoy moments like I’m enjoying in this tournament.”

Meanwhile, Coco Gauff suffered a second heartbreaking French Open final defeat when she and American partner Jessica Pegula were beaten by Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic in the women’s doubles final.

The French pair won 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to add the 2022 title to their 2016 Roland Garros triumph.

On Saturday, 18-year-old Gauff had lost the singles final at Roland Garros in straight sets to Iga Swiatek of Poland.

“Hopefully, we can win one in the future,” Gauff told the crowd and praised the atmosphere.

“The band was pretty cool, I thought I was at an American Football game.”

Nadal Into 14th French Open Final As Zverev Quits With Horror Injury

Germany's Alexander Zverev (C) shakes hands with umpire Renaud Lichtenstein (L) as he walks on crutches after being injured during his men's semi-final singles match against Spain's Rafael Nadal (R) on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
Germany’s Alexander Zverev (C) shakes hands with umpire Renaud Lichtenstein (L) as he walks on crutches after being injured during his men’s semi-final singles match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal (R) on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal reached his 14th French Open final on Friday when Alexander Zverev was forced to quit their semi-final after suffering a sickening right ankle injury.

Zverev had to leave the court in a wheelchair after turning his ankle as he chased down the ball in front of the players’ boxes on Court Philippe Chatrier where his team and family were sitting.

The German was trailing 7-6 (10/8), 6-6 after more than three hours of play at the time of the horror injury.

As his piercing screams of pain echoed around the 15,000-seater court, a tearful Zverev was helped from the court by medics.

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Minutes later, the 25-year-old returned on crutches and conceded the match, with Nadal embracing his heartbroken opponent.

“It’s very tough and very sad for him. He was playing an unbelievable tournament and he’s a very good colleague on the tour,” said Nadal.

“I know how much he’s fighting to win a Grand Slam. For the moment, he was very unlucky. I’m sure he’ll win not one, but much more than one. I wish him all the best.

“It had been a super tough match. Over three hours and we didn’t even finish the second set. It’s one of the biggest challenges on the tour when he’s playing like he did today.”

Germany's Alexander Zverev falls injured on court during his men's semi-final singles match against Spain's Rafael Nadal on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Tomas Stevens / AFP
Germany’s Alexander Zverev falls injured on court during his men’s semi-final singles match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal on day thirteen of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 3, 2022. Tomas Stevens / AFP

 

He added: “For me, to be in the final of Roland Garros is a dream, without a doubt, but at the same time, for it to finish that way… I have been there in the small room with Sascha and to see him crying like that — I wish him all the best.”

Nadal, chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title, will play either Marin Cilic or Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final.

Until the dramatic end of the match, Zverev had been pushing Nadal all the way.

In a rollercoaster, 91-minute first set, Zverev broke in the opening game before Nadal levelled at 4-4.

The Spaniard, dripping with sweat under the closed roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, saw three set points come and go in the 10th game as the German’s all-or-nothing hitting kept him in the match.

Nadal, celebrating his 36th birthday Friday, then saved four set points in a knife-edge tiebreak, one of them off a spectacular running crosscourt forehand.

A blistering forehand pass gave him the opener on a sixth set point.

Zverev, playing in the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the second successive year, hit 25 winners and 26 unforced errors in the set.

The second set was punctuated by eight breaks of serve. When Nadal broke for 2-1, he did so on the back of an exhausting 44-shot rally.

Zverev also collected a warning for bad language as the set headed towards another tiebreak.

However, that became quickly irrelevant when his attempt to reach a second Grand Slam final ended in such dramatic circumstances.

Nadal becomes the second oldest man to make the final in Paris after 37-year-old Bill Tilden who was runner-up in 1930.

Victory gives Nadal, who knocked out world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, a 111-3 record at the French Open.

 

AFP

Nadal Eyes 14th French Open Final Despite Future Fears

File photo: 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 looks to celebrate his 36th birthday on Friday by reaching a 14th French Open final which by his own admission could be the last of his record-breaking career.

Nadal, the 13-time champion, faces Germany’s Alexander Zverev but is clear his chronic, long-term foot injury has put him on borrowed time.

“The last three months and a half for me, the only thing that I can say is haven’t been easy,” said the Spaniard after his epic four-set win over old rival Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals.

“But I have to keep going.”

Nadal, chasing a record-extending 22nd Grand Slam title to move two in front of Djokovic and Roger Federer, is working constantly to find a cure for the foot issue.

“If we are not able to find an improvement or a small solution, then it’s becoming super difficult for me.

“I am just enjoying every day that I have the chance to be here, and without thinking much about what can happen in the future.

– Find solution –

“I’m going to keep fighting to find a solution, but for the moment, we haven’t.”

Nadal’s win over defending champion and world number one Djokovic was the 110th of his 17-year Roland Garros career.

He has had to dig deep into his resources to reach his 15th semi-final in the French capital

It took him four hours and 21 minutes to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round in a tie which saw him stretched to five sets for only the third time at the tournament.

Against Djokovic, he needed four hours and 12 minutes, saving two set points in the fourth set to avoid another five-setter.

Djokovic is the man responsible for two of Nadal’s three losses at the French Open.

With his career-long rival out of the way, and world number two Daniil Medvedev and fourth-ranked 2021 runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas eliminated, Nadal remains favourite to lift the trophy on Sunday.

Against Zverev, he boasts a 6-3 winning record, capturing four of the pair’s five clay court meetings.

Zverev, 11 years younger than Nadal, is still searching for a maiden Slam title. He is into a second successive French Open semi-final.

– ‘Supposed to win’ –

He defeated teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz in the quarter-finals but had to save a match point in a five-set win over Argentina’s Sebastian Baez in the second round.

He has also never defeated Nadal or Djokovic at the majors.

“I’m not 20 or 21 years old anymore; I’m 25. I am at the stage where I want to win, I’m at the stage where I’m supposed to win,” admitted the third seed.

In Friday’s other semi-final, Marin Cilic takes on Casper Ruud with both men having made the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the first time.

Cilic, 33, and the 2014 US Open champion, is only the fifth active player along with Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to have reached the semi-finals of all four Slams.

Cilic, ranked 23 in the world, is in his first semi-final at the majors since 2018 when he was runner-up to Federer at the Australian Open.

Ruud is the first Norwegian man ever to make the last four of a Slam with the eighth-ranked 23-year-old one of the form players on clay.

His testy quarter-final win over 19-year-old Holger Rune was his 65th on clay since the 2020 season. Seven of his eight titles have come on clay.

Ruud has a 2-0 edge over Cilic, including their only meeting on the surface in Rome.

Former world number three Cilic knocked out Medvedev in straight sets in the fourth round, without facing a break point, and seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals on the back of 33 aces and 88 winners.

Only two of his 20 career titles have come on clay courts, the most recent of which was at Istanbul in 2017.

Despite his surprise run to the last-four, where he is comfortably the lowest seed left, Cilic is content to maintain a low profile.

“I really don’t mind being under the highlights. I’m just trying to use my opportunities as much as I can during my career every day, every match to give my best,” he said.

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.

Ailing Nadal Falls In Italian Open Third Round To Shapovalov

Spain’s Rafael Nadal arrives for his third round match against Canada’s Denis Shapovalov at the ATP Rome Open tennis tournament on May 12, 2022 at Foro Italico in Rome. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

 

 

Defending champion Rafael Nadal crashed out of the Italian Open in the third round on Thursday with the record 10-time Rome winner complaining of a recurring foot problem after a shock 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 defeat by Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

Defeat in Rome for ‘King of Clay’ Nadal casts doubt over his prospects at the upcoming French Open, where he has been crowned champion 13 times but faces a threat from teenage phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz.

The 35-year-old, who had reached at least the quarter-finals every year in Rome since 2008, had been out for six weeks with a rib injury before returning for last week’s tournament in Madrid.

Nadal began limping in the third set, later telling reporters that a foot problem had flared up during the second set but couldn’t say whether he would be able to take part at Roland Garros.

“I’m not injured, I am a player living with an injury. That’s it,” Nadal told reporters.

“It’s something that is there unfortunately and my day by day is difficult. I am trying hard but of course it is difficult for me. A lot of days I can’t practice.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Denis… today is for him so well done to him.”

Nadal has won an all-time record 21 Grand Slam titles in a glittering two-decade career which may now finally be reaching its downturn.

World number 16 Shapovalov, who had pushed Nadal all the way when knocked out at this stage of the tournament last year, will now face Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals.

“It definitely sucked to see him in pain at the end… He brings so much to our sport so hopefully he’s fit and ready to go for the French,” said Shapovalov.

“It’s super satisfying to beat the best player on clay of all time.”

– Djokovic strolls through –
Last year’s Rome runner-up Novak Djokovic swept past Swiss veteran Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2 in one hour, 16 minutes to reach the quarter-finals as he bids for a sixth Italian Open title.

Djokovic is in his record-extending 369th week as the world number one and must reach at least the semis to avoid losing his top ranking spot to Daniil Medvedev.

Wawrinka, whose first-round victory over Reilly Opelka was his first win in 15 months, was no match for top seed Djokovic and beyond a few classic passing shots he offered little resistance.

“It’s great to see Stan back… You can see that physically he’s still not there where he wants to be but nevertheless he’s Stan Wawrinka. He can hurt you if you give time,” Djokovic said after the match.

World number three Alexander Zverev saw off Alex de Minaur 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) in the early match on centre court to set up a last-eight clash with Cristian Garin, who beat Marin Cilic 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Monte Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas was forced to work harder for his 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over former Paris Masters winner Karen Khachanov which sets him up with home hope Jannick Sinner.

– Swiatek ‘wins ugly’ –
Women’s world number one Iga Swiatek claimed her 25th straight victory, defeating Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-1 despite a rocky start.

Swiatek, 20, is the favourite for the French Open which starts later this month and showed why in an impressive performance against Azarenka, herself a former top-ranked player and the two-time Australian Open winner.

However she had to come back from losing the first three games of the match and then battled through a series of long games before finally breaking Azarenka’s resolve early in the decisive second set.

“I’m happy that I could kind of win ugly in the first set, then improve in the second,” Swiatek told reporters.

“It gives me confidence that even when my game is not hundred percent good, I can still win matches. So it works both ways.”

Swiatek will be expected to beat her quarter-final opponent Bianca Andreescu after the world number 90 came through against Petra Martic 6-4, 6-4.

Nadal Back In Training After Four-Week Rib Injury Layoff

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 19, 2022 Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a backhand to compatriot Carlos Alcaraz in their ATP semifinal match at the Indian Wells tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California.  Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal returned to training on Monday following a four-week rib injury layoff, with just over a month to go before the French Open in Roland Garros.

“Today’s first gentle workout after four weeks without stepping on a tennis court. What excitement to step onto clay again!” world number four wrote on Twitter alongside two photos showing him training indoors on clay.

Nadal picked up the injury in his loss to American Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final on March 22, announcing at the time he expected to be out for between four and six weeks.

That defeat ended his perfect 20-0 run to start 2022 which had included winning the Australian Open title.

The 35-year-old missed last week’s Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open, currently underway, but could potentially return for the Madrid Masters on May 1-8.

His main focus will be on being fit for the French Open which begins on May 22. Nadal has won the title at Roland Garros 13 times.

Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev in an epic final in Melbourne after Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia over his Covid vaccination status.

That victory gave him a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title, moving him out of a tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.

During the Spaniard’s absence, teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz emerged with a Miami Open triumph while Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas claimed a second consecutive Monte Carlo title.

AFP

Nadal Thwarts Kyrgios To Reach Indian Wells Semi-Finals

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 17 Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand against Nick Kyrgios of Australia in their quarterfinal match on Day 11 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2022 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by CLIVE BRUNSKILL / AFP)

 

 

Rafael Nadal left Nick Kyrgios frustrated and fuming with a 7-6 (7/0), 4-7, 6-4 victory in the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters on Thursday.

The unflappable Spaniard, who claimed a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, improved to 19-0 in 2022 and notched his sixth win in nine career meetings against the mercurial Aussie, who surrendered the first set on a point penalty, raged at the chair umpire over the disruptive crowd and even had a testy exchange with actor Ben Stiller.

When it was all over Kyrgios flung his racquet once more in disgust, and it bounced toward a ballboy who had to dodge out of the way.

Kyrgios was irked that the unintentional incident garnered as much attention as his sometimes sparkling performance against Nadal, who admitted himself that he was lucky to pocket a first set that Kyrgios was two points away from winning.

Serving for the set at 5-4, Kyrgios climbed to 30-15 only to wind up broken by Nadal.

Nadal said there was luck involved — guessing right, for one, on a mighty Kyrgios serve up the T.

“I put the racquet there, and then I played a good point, and then he make mistake on the break point,” Nadal said.

“I feel lucky to win that set because returning with 5-4 against Nick, the chances to win that set are, let’s say, 10%, maybe less. But it happened. I played some good points there.”

The tiebreaker was all Nadal, and Kyrgios, who had already been warned for racquet abuse, gave it up when he was docked a point when a fan’s shout as he prepared to serve provoked a profanity-laced response.

Kyrgios was able to get back on terms, gaining the only break of the second set in the final game with a stylish backhand volley.

Unable to convert two break points in the second game of the third set, Kyrgios gave up a break with a double fault that saw Nadal seize a 4-3 lead.

It proved the only opening the Spaniard would need as he stepped up the pressure on Kyrgios’s serve and held his own with ease.

“That one hit pretty hard,” Kyrgios said. “I felt like, honestly, I was the one to end the streak. I felt like I was playing well. I felt like I did everything right in the first set that I planned to do.

“I mean, he’s too good, I guess. He played a few points well and he got out of it and that’s what he does. That’s what makes him great.”

 

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 17 Nick Kyrgios of Australia serves against Rafael Nadal of Spain in their quarterfinal match on Day 11 of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 17, 2022 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by CLIVE BRUNSKILL /AFP)

 

Kyrgios insisted that he wasn’t hindered by his emotional response to the crowd — and his perception that umpire Carlos Bernardes wasn’t doing enough to control the disruptive spectators.

“It was an amazing atmosphere,” said Kyrgios. “I was focused. Just because I have an outburst doesn’t mean I’m not focused.”

Nadal, who hasn’t been shy about criticizing Kyrgios in the past, agreed.

“Nick is one of the most talented players on the tour without a doubt,” Nadal said. “When he’s playing with motivation and passion he’s one of the players that can damage your game and win against anyone.”

But Kyrgios was belligerent when pressed about the post-match racquet smash, saying it was unfair that the fact that he inadvertently sent it flying toward the ballboy would be remembered more than his quarter-final run.

“It was an accident,” he said. “I played three bloody good matches … and everyone will just remember that time where Kyrgios lost to Rafa at Indian Wells or the time that he threw the racquet.”

Nadal booked an intriguing semi-final showdown against 18-year-old compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who beat defending champion Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-4, 6-3.

Alcaraz, who won the Rio de Janeiro title in February, is the second-youngest Indian Wells ATP semi-finalist ever after 17-year-old Andre Agassi in 1988.

The Spanish flag was still flying in the women’s draw as well after defending champion Paula Badosa beat Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 6-2 to set up a semi-final clash with Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

Sakkari, coming off a run to the final in Saint Petersburg that helped propel her past Badosa into sixth in the world rankings, beat Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-4.

Badosa had lost all three of her prior meetings with Kudermetova, but she was in control throughout on a sunsplashed Stadium Court.

“I think it’s the court, it does magic with me,” Badosa said of the venue where she lifted the trophy in October, when the tournament was moved from its usual March slot because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nadal Beats Cameron Norrie To Win Mexican Open Title

Spain’s Rafael Nadal wears a headband during a break at the Mexico ATP Open 500 men’s singles final tennis match against Britain’s Cameron Norrie at the Arena GNP, in Acapulco, Mexico, on February 26, 2022. PEDRO PARDO / AFP

 

Rafael Nadal continued his perfect start to 2022, beating Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 to lift the Acapulco ATP title in his first tournament since winning the Australian Open.

Nadal needed one hour and 54 minutes to beat Britain’s 12th-ranked Norrie for the fourth time in as many career meetings.

“Cameron is a very solid player, he’s a tricky player, he makes you feel that you cannot play comfortably against him at all,” Nadal said. “I had been going through some very difficult moments in the match.”

But the world number five wasn’t too unsettled to claim a 91st career victory, and his fourth in Acapulco after wins in 2005, 2013 and 2020.

READ ALSO: Man City Survive Everton Scare To Go Six Points Clear

As he did in 2020, Nadal won this week without dropping a set.

Nadal is undefeated since losing to Lloyd Harris in the third round at Washington on August 5, 2021. He ended his 2021 season after that because of a left foot injury.

He returned to win the Melbourne Summer Set Australian Open warm-up, then won the Australian Open for a second time to break out of a tie with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for most men’s Grand Slam singles titles.

His victory over Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final was a classic, the Spaniard rallying from two sets down to triumph.

He beat the Russian again in the semi-finals on Friday, just a day after Medvedev was assured of rising to number one in the world thanks to Djokovic’s early exit at Dubai.

“I’m very pleased,” Nadal said of his week’s work. “It was a very important title for me, so I can’t be happier.”

He started strongly against Norrie, putting 89 percent of his first serves in play in the first set and winning 79 percent of those points.

Nadal pounced on his first break point in the fifth game of the first set, firing a forehand winner.

The Spaniard looked as if he could run away with the match when he broke Norrie in the opening game of the second set.

But Norrie — who was riding an eight-match winning streak that included a run to the title in Delray Beach last week — hit back to level at 1-1, though he needed four break points to do it.

Down 0-40, Nadal saved three break points before Norrie came out on top in a 20-ball rally.

After Norrie held for 2-1, Nadal reeled off the next four games only for Norrie to strike back again as Nadal served for the match at 5-3, the 21-time Grand Slam champion surrendering a break with two forehand errors.

Nadal made no mistake on his second attempt to serve out, reaching match point with a volley winner before Norrie belted a forehand long.

AFP

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)

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).”