Rafael Nadal

ATP Tour Finals Is Missing Link For Rafael Nadal

by Bob Stockton

The year-end Nitto ATP World Tour Finals is the missing link on the career resume of Rafael Nadal. It is the biggest tournament in tennis that the Spaniard has not won, going 0-8 in the eight times he has qualified and been healthy enough to play in the elite eight-player year-end event.

Nadal – whose favourite surface is clay – has challenged the leaders of the ATP through the years to make the event – at least in some years – be played on clay (his favourite surface). He has said in the past, “A good player has a chance to qualify for the Tour Finals four or five times in his career. If during this four years you have a different surface every year, a minimum one time he will have the chance to play on his favourite surface”.

However, there are clear drawbacks to moving the event to clay. Players would have to immediately acclimatise to clay after months of playing on a hard court and there are challenges with the climate, but it would probably be fairer for everybody. However, if the event moved to South America, for example, there could be a chance for the event to be played on clay with it being warmer in the Southern Hemisphere during this time in the calendar and there could be a clay-court circuit leading into the finals, like there is a clay-court circuit there after the Australian Open a few months later.

Federer – an indoor, hard-court specialist – went the other way, stating that there should be more of an indoor season and that having a big event on a faster indoor surface is important for the balance of the sports.
“I just feel indoors doesn’t have enough play,” he said. “The indoor season is small. I believe indoors deserves a huge event, which this one is.”

Interestingly, the only time the year-end championships were not played on an indoor court came in 1974 when Guillermo Vilas won the title in Melbourne, Australia on grass courts at Kooyong Tennis Club.

This infographic was originally found on the The Insider, a blog by Betway

Top 5 All-Time Male Clay Court Tennis Players

There is no denying to the fact that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novac Djokovic are the three greatest male players in the current tennis arena. The discussion to who ranks no.1 can drive lots of judgements there exists few court surfaces that bring the best in tennis players. Clay court and grass court offers incomparable convenience to the players and they win the title on the court that supports their gameplay.

If we take a look at the history of tennis tournaments, Pete Sampras won several titles on a grass court and shown unbelievable poor performance on the clay courts. Out of his 14 grand slam title not a single court way clay and this means that court surface has a very significant role in deriving the best player performance. The difference exists due to the bounce of the ball in various court surfaces.

Well, the top 5 male tennis players who master the art of playing at clay courts are:

Ivan Lendl – He was quite a dominant player of his time and won 28 titles on clay court including three French Open titles. He played the aggressive game from start to finish showing his prowess and strength on the court.
Roger Federer – The name itself says all about his success and achievements with more than 1000s of winning history and remarkable 20 Grand Slam titles. He aces the clay court with great ease and success. When he is on the court, the best odds cross all the limits. People across the world have a deep faith in his style and confidence and bet on his name online through Unibet.
Guillermo Vilas – When it comes to winning the title on the clay court, this legend player drives great attention. With 49 titles win and 1 French Open title, he conquered the clay-court marking great success stories and setting an example for coming players.
Björn Borg– The most interesting fact about this great tennis player is that he retired at a very young age of 26 and thus his achievements were acquired in a very short time. He won 6 French Open Titles out of 8 he participated in and together won 30 clay titles, making him the master of clay court.
Rafael Nadal – This name needs no special mention as he has already claimed 59 clay court titles and still heading towards the path of success with more power and strength. He is truly the master of clay court and seems unstoppable in the current time. This 37-year-old tennis player never fails to surprise the viewers with his game ad what else one can say in his praise.

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The Debate: Djokovic, Federer and Nadal

Tennis players like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafa Nadal usually only come along once every generation. However, we’ve been blessed to watch these three world-beaters compete against each other for more than a decade. They have changed tennis forever and broken most of the records associated with the sport.

Whether you’re a punter looking for top tennis betting offers or a general fan of the game, you’ll have encountered these players at some stage. They are involved at the business end of most tournaments and usually beat whoever is put in front of them with ease. They are masters of their craft who will be truly missed whenever they decide to hang up their rackets for good.

Today, we want to pay homage to Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal. We’ll analyze their career highlights and discuss some of their finest moments on the court. There have been many over the years. We’ll do our best to pick out the key moments.

Novak Djokovic

The sensational Serb arrived on the scene a little later than Federer and Nadal, but when he reached his peak, nobody could touch him. The Serbian has won 16 Grand Slam titles to date including seven Australian Opens, one French Open, five Wimbledons, and four US Opens. Novak also won the Davis Cup with Serbia in 2010.

Furthermore, his talent with the racket also earned him a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Djokovic dabbled in doubles for a short time during 06/07, but he quickly realized that he could achieve much more playing singles. The current world number 1 has had some epic battles with Federer and Nadal in the past. Hopefully, we’ll witness a few more before it’s all said and done.

Roger Federer

The Swiss superstar made most of us fall in love with tennis. The way he moves around the court is a joy to behold. What’s more, his ability to produce sensational shots at the most unpredictable moments is incredible. The 38-year-old has shattered several records during his career. He won five consecutive US Opens between 2004 and 2008. However, his biggest achievement is his eight Wimbledon titles.

Roger Federer is considered to be the best grass-court player of all time. We agree. Federer also reached the final of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. However, he was beaten by Andy Murray in front of a home crowd. There isn’t much that this genius hasn’t accomplished.

Rafa Nadal

The spectacular Spaniard is the undisputed king of clay. Rafa has won 12 French Open titles since he turned pro in 2001. However, he’s won several other Grand Slam events including the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open. Nadal also won the Davis Cup four times with Spain.

As if that wasn’t enough, he picked up two gold medals at the 2008 and 2016 Olympic Games. Rafa is still only 33, so there’s plenty of time for him to add more titles to his incredible record. What’s more, we’ve been fortunate enough to witness some phenomenal finals between Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic at Wimbledon over the years.

Rafael Nadal, Bianca Andreescu Win Rogers Cup Titles

The continuing dominance of a tennis legend and the further emergence of a hometown star were the Sunday themes in Canada, as Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu took home Rogers Cup singles titles in Montreal and Toronto, respectively.

Nadal defeated 23-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev, 6-3, 6-0, in Montreal to win his fifth Rogers Cup and record 35th ATP Masters 1000 title, which is two more than Novak Djokovic’s 33. The match was the Spaniard’s 51st ATP Masters 1000 final appearance — also a record, leading Roger Federer’s 50 — while it was the first for Medvedev, who trails only Nadal in wins on tour this season (41 to 38).

Andreescu, playing in her first event since suffering a shoulder injury at the French Open, became the first Canadian woman to win the Rogers Cup singles title in 50 years after Serena Williams, bidding to win her fourth Rogers Cup title and first since 2013, had to retire at 3-1 down in the first set with an upper back injury. That gave Andreescu a second Premier-level title of 2019 to pair with her Indian Wells crown and will elevate the 19-year old to a new career-high ranking, projected at No. 14.

The US Open Series makes its penultimate stop in Cincinnati this coming week with no shortage of storylines. Andy Murray will return to singles play for the first time since the Australian Open, after which he underwent hip surgery and eased back into competition by playing doubles this summer. Murray’s return reunites the “Big Four” of the ATP, as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer lead a men’s field featuring nine of the Top 10. The Cincinnati women’s draw features all of the Top 10, as well as wild-card entries Maria Sharapova — drawn against Wimbledon quarterfinalist Alison Riske in the first round — and 17-year old Citi Open semifinalist Caty McNally, a Cincinnati native.

Tennis Channel and ESPN2 will each televise ATP and WTA matches from Cincinnati. Tennis Channel will feature early-round coverage through Thursday, while ESPN2 picks up its coverage on Thursday and will carry next weekend’s matches from the quarterfinals on. View the full television schedule here.

A Look At The “King of Clay” Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal is one of the greatest tennis players of the current generation, but his best performances have always been on the clay court, with the French Open at Roland Garros being his tournament.

With a record 11 French Open titles to his name, Nadal is undoubtedly the “King of Clay”, and he could potentially add to his record this year when the French Open returns.

Nadal has been named as the favourite for this year’s title, with the odds being found here – https://www.betfair.com/exchange/plus/tennis/competition/11948682 – but could this just be start of a great season for the Spaniard?

His first Grand Slam title came in 2005 at the French Open, where Nadal didn’t drop a single set until his fourth-round match against Sébastien Grosjean. He eventually defeated his French opponent 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 to claim a place in the quarter-finals of the competition.

At the quarter-final stage, he met fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, but returned to his dominant form, winning in straight sets 7-5, 6-2, 6-0 to set up a tantalising semi-final match against an already-established Roger Federer.
His Swiss rival was always likely to prove to be his toughest test, and so it proved, as Nadal wasn’t quite so dominant in the match. Regardless, he managed to win in four sets, defeating Federer 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. 6-3, to reach the first singles final of his professional career.

He met Argentine Mariano Puerta in the final, and lost the first set via a tie break. He hit back to comfortably win the second and third sets 6-3 and 6-1 respectively before Puerta put in an attempt at a comeback and forced Nadal to win by seven games to five in the fourth set.

Victory in the final not only gave Nadal his first taste of success, but also showed the world that he was one to watch out for. Not once during the tournament was he taken to five sets, and ever since then, he has only been taken to five sets twice at the French Open – in 2011 against John Isner and 2013 against Novak Djokovic.

Until 2012, the record for the most French Open titles belonged to Björn Borg, one of the greatest players to have ever played in the Open Era. Between 1974 and 1981, Borg won six French Open titles, which Nadal surpassed in 2012 with his seventh.

During his historic 2012 victory, he lost just one set in the seven matches he played. From the first round until victory in the semi-final, he defeated every opponent in straight sets. It was only in the final that he final dropped a set. Novak Djokovic was the man to prevent him from having a clean sweep in the French Open, winning the third set 6-2.

Two years later and Nadal won his ninth French Open, which meant that he broke the record which included the French Championships, which were part of the Amateur Era. Max Decugis won eight French Championships prior to 1968 and looking at Nadal’s current record of 11, it’s hard to see anyone surpassing that number any time soon.

Wobbly Nadal, Resurgent Djokovic, Stranger Federer Ready For Intriguing Italian Championships

The Internazionali BNL d’Italia, or the Italian Championships in Rome, is the fifth ATP Masters 1000 event of the year and the last big test before the start of the French Open, the second major championship of the year. This year’s tournament is full of intrigue that will provide for many dramatic moments.

Perhaps the biggest surprise and question mark leading into the event is the form of Rafael Nadal. The “King of Clay” and eight-time tournament winner is in the worst clay-court slump of his career, winning only nine matches on his favorite dirt surface so for this season and had not even reached a final in his three previous clay-court events. He lost to Fabio Fognini handily in the semifinals of Monte Carlo, in straight sets again in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open and to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Is this spurt of mediocre play an indication that the soon-to-be 33-year-old Nadal is finally starting to wear down and perhaps may be closer to retirement than we think or will the Mallorcan channel his frustration and anger at poor results by his lofty standards that will he win for a ninth time in Rome and again later in Paris for a 12th time?
Last year, Nadal also wobbled into Rome, following a quarterfinal loss to Thiem in Madrid, but recovered to win his eighth title in Rome, beating defending champion Alexander Zverev in the final.

This will be his 15th consecutive appearance in Rome and he comes in with a 56-6 career record (8-2 in finals). He has advanced to the quarterfinals or better in 13 of his previous 14 visits to the Italian capital. Nadal will attempt to become the first player on the ATP Tour this year to defend a title from last season.

The Rome field features 17 of the top 20 players including former champions Nadal, an eight-time winner, Novak Djokovic, a four-time champion, and 2017 winner Alexander Zverev. These three account for 13 of the past 14 titles. Djokovic, fresh off his important win in Madrid, is aiming to hoist the Rome trophy for the first time since 2015, after losses in the final in 2016 (to Andy Murray) and 2017 (to Zverev), and a semifinal loss to Nadal last year. Last Monday started the 250th week the Serb was at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

The most intriguing entry in the Rome field this year is Roger Federer, who is making his first appearance at the event since 2016. It is one of the very few events in his career that he has not won. His last showing in Rome was a third-round loss to Dominic Thiem on May 12, 2016. That loss to Thiem was the Swiss star’s last clay-court match at any event until he played in Madrid this past week, where he reached the quarterfinals before falling to Thiem once again.

After his win on Monte Carlo, top Italian Fognini is on the verge of cracking the top 10 and is a legitimate contender for his home nation’s title. Fognini, however, is only 10-11 lifetime in Rome, with last year’s quarterfinal as his best result. The last Italian in the ATP Rankings Top 10 was Corrado Barrazzutti on January 22 1979 and Fognini would have to likely better his quarterfinal result to jump into the top 10. The last home country player to win the most prestigious title in Italy was Adriano Panatta in 1976.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece comes into Rome as the ATP Tour match wins leader, earning his 27th win of the season with his semifinal victory over Nadal at Madrid. Tsitsipas was ranked No. 43 at Rome in 2018, and had to qualify for last year’s main draw. His win in Portugal on the clay earlier this season and his final-round effort in Madrid make him a tennis betting contender for the title in Rome and later this year in Paris.

Nadal vs. Djokovic – Arguably The Greatest Rivalry In Tennis History

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have, arguably, the greatest rivalry in the history of tennis.

No two men have faced each other more in pro tennis than these two tennis titans.

Their meeting in the final of the 2019 Australian Open was their 53rd career professional match, with Djokovic holding the slight lead 28-25 in the head-to-head. These two legends have played in Grand Slam quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, at ATP Masters 1000 Series events, ATP 500 level events, the Olympics and in Davis Cup. Look at their complete head-to-head analysis, it’s amazing.

In Grand Slam events, the biggest stage in the tennis betting world, Nadal holds the head-to-head edge nine wins against six losses to Djokovic. Nadal won six of these Grand Slam confrontations on the clay at the French Open, although Djokovic did hand Nadal one of his two career Roland Garros losses in the quarterfinals of the event in 2015. Their first career meeting came at the 2006 French Open in the quarterfinals, Nadal winning by a 6-4, 6-4, retire scoreline as Djokovic was forced to quit with a back injury.

On hard courts at Grand Slams, Djokovic’s decisive 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win in the 2019 Australian Open final gave him a 3-2 head-to-head advantage. Nadal won his two Grand Slam hard court matches with Djokovic at the US Open – in the 2013 final by a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 margin and also in the 2010 final by a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 margin. Djokovic won the 2011 U.S. Open final over Nadal 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 and also in the epic 2013 Australian Open final by a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 in what tennis historian and “Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” book author Steve Flink named the No. 7 match in the history of the sport.

The Nick Kyrgios-Popularized Underhand Serve Is Trail Blazing

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

It is said that rules are meant to be broken. In sports, however, there are a few rules that can seem like they have been broken, especially when followed to a T. Like employing an underarm serve and receiving flak for it even though it is permissible under the sport’s regulations.

Nick Kyrgios’ irreverent usage of the underarm serve in his matches – against Rafael Nadal at the Mexican Open in Acapulco, and against Dusan Lajovic at the Miami Open – raised a furore even to the extent of fingers being pointed at him for not respecting his opponent. This, despite Nadal pointedly clarifying that he was not referring to Kyrgios hitting an underarm serve against him.

Borrowing from an oft-used cricketing adage, Kyrgios’ actions, then, seem to be contravening the so-called ‘spirit of the game.’

To elaborate, in the cricketing parlance, nothing brings out the utilisation of this term more than the action of ‘Mankading.’ The term refers to a method of run-out by the bowler of the batter at the non-striker’s end while the batter is positioned out of the crease at the time of the ball being bowled. Former Indian allrounder Vinoo Mankad, who was the first to employ this tactic in a Test series against Australia back in 1947, went on to give it its name which has since come to be used in a denigrating manner in contemporary times.

Like the underarm serve, Mankading, too, is permissible within cricket’s laws and bye-laws except for provisions underlining its prescribed usage. But invariably, like in tennis, in the heat of the moment, using it as a means to score an advantage for the bowling team is construed as an attempt to subvert the ethics of sportsmanship or the aforementioned ‘spirit of the game’, creating an ironic redundancy.

Addressing the subject by dwelling on it, instead of casting it aside, is necessary to curb this existence of irony, especially in tennis.

While in cricket, the code of the sport being a ‘gentleman’s game’ curbs the need to use Mankading time and again, in matches, tennis for its own reasons, too, does not see much of its players take the underarm-serve route (at least in the highest rungs of the professional Tour). Excluding Kyrgios’ ingenuity in his timing of using an underarm serve, it has been seen as a ‘Hail Mary’ with its immediate purpose to help the server recover lost ground – mentally just as much as physically – in a match. Case in point: Michael Chang’s now-famous win over Ivan Lendl in the 1989 French Open final.

That the game is struck on whether the methodology should be applied after nearly three decades of it being the pivot in an all-important match, then, lays emphasis about the sport’s evolution. That regardless of the possibility of an underarm serve coming into play mid-match, it continues to be relegated to mental outposts when it comes to determining tactical unique selling propositions (USPs) merits introspection from the game’s stakeholders. Rather than it being an aspersion on a player choosing to exercise it as a viable option.

In this context, the potentiality of a player serving underarm closely resembles the SABR – the much-lauded and the equally-disparaged Sneak Attack By Roger – pioneered by Roger Federer back in 2015. The Swiss’ manoeuvre of coming to the net even as his opponent was preparing to serve with the ball toss meant that he put the other player on the backfoot even before the ball had been directed from his racquet. Federer’s inventiveness fell in line with the game’s rules but ruffled many feathers, including that of Boris Becker who was then coaching Novak Djokovic.
In these following years, Federer has made use of the strategy frugally partly thanks to his rivals have also become conscious that it could be greeting them in a literal, sneaky manner. This has also led to a lessening of the frenzy surrounding the shot such as it was back when it first came to be a part of tennis’ lexicon. In other words, people got used to it.

So, if tennis’ widespread audiences could adapt to seeing a style of play that was admittedly trail-blazing, rightfully the underarm serve by virtue of being around longer should have seen a similar flexibility. Perhaps, the only way to get it done now is by making it more common, more visible thereby normalising a facet that ought to have always been thus deemed.

Indian Wells Kicks Off 30th Year of ATP Masters 1000 Tennis

The 2019 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California ushers in the 30th year of the ATP Tour branding these elite events as “Masters 1000” events. Remember when they were called “The Super Nine?”
Indian Wells is one of seven of these such events that have been part of this elite status since the start of the modern-day ATP Tour in 1990, along with Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati and Paris.

Both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are vying for a record-breaking sixth Indian Wells title and Djokovic will also be looking to equal Rafael Nadal’s record of 33 ATP Masters 1000 titles. Nadal also seeks a sixth trophy overall in the desert, but he has only won three singles at Indian Wells to go with two doubles titles.

Last March in Indian Wells, Novak Djokovic lost his opener to 109th-ranked qualifier Taro Daniel of Japan. Djokovic returns in 2019 as the world No. 1 and champion of the last three major tournaments and two of the last three ATP Masters 1000 events. Djokovic has not played since winning his seventh Australian Open title on January 27.

Federer held three championship points to make it six titles in Indian Wells before losing to Juan Martin del Potro in 2018. Federer enters the event on a hot streak after winning the 100th title of his career in Dubai on March 2 defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. Federer has defeated 50 different opponents for his 100 titles — 25 of whom are now retired. A fascinating stat regarding Federer and his chief rival Nadal – this marks the first time these two are playing at the same ATP Tour event (non Grand Slam event) for the first time since the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals. Federer is on a five-match win streak against Nadal, including a 6-2, 6-3 victory at 2017 Indian Wells. The two rivals could meet in the semi-finals on 16 March.

Australian Open Proves There Is Still A Ways To Go For The “Changing Of The Guard”

by Rajagopalan Rohinee

As the 2019 Australian Open concludes, one of the biggest upsets of the tournament was that of Roger Federer. The two-time defending champion’s fourth-round defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas set the ball rolling anew about changing of the guard and how Federer’s – and his other peers’ – time had come to an end.

Yet, as it turned out in the days after Federer’s upset, the old guard remained as they were – with Novak Djokovic defeating Rafael Nadal for the men’s title – even as the youngsters kept dropping off, one-by-one as the draw narrowed further. Until eventually, the two others who reached the penultimate stage of the tournament – Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lucas Pouille – got quite a lesson as to how they were expected to play at that point.

The concept of changing of the guard, too, has taken a lunging step backwards at this point. To that end, it is following the usual chain of events that usually transpire in an event. Each time that one among Federer, Nadal and Djokovic loses – and a Next Gen player wins – in a tournament, or a tournament; the narrative repeats itself. But, the moment any of them wins an event, the younger players get relegated to the backburner even as the legendary status of these players is cemented further. As such, suffice to say, the idea that there is a change of guard happening in the upper echelons of the game will soon reappear as the season progresses from beyond the Australian swing. And, at this point, it has honestly begun to get slightly tiresome.

All this, however, is not to say that the youngsters are not making their way through. But that there is an attempt to conflate expectations and reality, without considering the time factor needed to merge the two into a single entity. For example: in the last few years, Alexander Zverev has been a steady presence in the top ATP rankings with a slew of titles backing his credentials. Yet, his results in the majors have been disappointing – although not for want of trying.

Much as Zverev himself ponders about the dichotomy of his results otherwise in the ATP events and at the majors, for the numerous others who have directed their scrutiny at him, the takeaway ought to be that not keep harping on it and rather, let him figure it out for himself with his team. The same case can be made for Hyeon Chung – who after a surprisingly great run at the 2018 Australian Open has been laid low with injuries and inconsistent performances – and more recently, for Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In case of the Greek, the highs after his win over Federer – and Roberto Bautista Agut in the quarter-final – came cascading down in his lopsided 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 semi-final loss to Nadal. In a curious admission about the result, Tsitsipas observed in the post-match press conference, “I don’t know, I feel very strange. I feel happy with my performance in this tournament, but at the same time I feel disappointed. I feel like I could do a bit better today. I don’t know. That’s how I felt. But it’s a very, very weird feeling. Almost felt like just couldn’t play better. I don’t know.”

The rest of his press conference followed along the same lines with Tsitsipas outlining Nadal’s game-plan during the match and his inability to deal with the tactics employed. As far as analysis went, it was needed. But considering that Tsitsipas had faced Nadal twice before – as recently as in 2018 – and had lost both matches to him, he needed to have a strategy worked out to cover all his problematic areas against the Spaniard. Most importantly, as befitting the ranks of a player ushering in a new era, he needed to adjust his strategy right there, on the court, when the ones he had been employing were not working effectively against Nadal.

At the moment, this is the biggest differentiator between these multiple-time champions and the new players. The older players’ acumen in manipulating their tactics to put their opponents on the back-foot, then, is not something that can be gained in a match or two. It takes years to put together and even then, it is not perfect at all times.
But, in case of losses, it is the experience-wrought capability to reset their games that has made them so dominant, year-on-year and season-after-season. Even for Federer, despite his loss which has not been his first, and which will not be his last either.