Rafael Nadal

Nadal Continues Capturing Slams

Rafael Nadal won his 16th Grand Slam singles title, and third US Open, in today’s well-fought but straight-sets win over first-time Slam finalist Kevin Anderson, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

Nadal’s long career shows no signs of slowing down. He won two major titles this year (including his 10th Roland-Garros championship). “I wake up every morning with the passion to go on court and to try to improve things. That’s why I still have chances to compete in this sport,” he says. “I still feel the nerves every time that I go on court. When some day arrives that I don’t feel those nerves or that extra passion for the game that I feel, it will be the day to say, ‘OK, I’ll do another thing.’ ”

Photo by Chris Nicholson, author of ‘Photographing Tennis.’ Follow Chris’ US Open photos on Instagram (@ShootingTennis).

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal Favorites For The US Open

by Michael Lemort

The US Open starts in late August and the favorites are Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal without a doubt. Not really a surprise as we know how huge those two champions are, but more than a year ago, who would have thought that the balance inside the Big Four would be so different than it is today!

Novak Djokovic was the invincible number one for several years and he had just won majors in a row in between two years after winning the French Open. But five months later, he gave up his throne to Andy Murray. The British player won Wimbledon, the Olympics and the Masters Cup in London and became the last member of the Big Four to be number one at the ATP rankings. Nadal and Federer, injured and obviously getting older, had withdrawn for the end of the season.

Today the Serbian has lost his four majors crowns, he hasn’t won a Masters 1000 this year and he is ranked number 4. Moreover he has just announced this week that he will withdraw for the rest of the season to heal an elbow injury and get some time off to take care of his family and get ready for next year!

Andy Murray, like Djokovic, hasn’t won a Major neither a Masters 1000 in 2017. Exhausted by his achievements of last year and also weakened (hip injury), he is about to lose his supremacy. Federer and Nadal, fresher than ever, are just behind him and have almost no ATP points to defend until the end of the season. Aged 36, the Swiss is more aggressive than he has ever been. He looks more impressive than he was back 10 years ago when he was at his top. He won the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Halle and Wimbledon (without dropping a set!) and he beat Nadal three times in a row for the first time of his career. The Spaniard won his tenth French Open (a record) after triumphing in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. Both of them have shared the big trophies this year and they will probably race against each other for the number one ATP ranking until the end of the season. Who would have thought about that a year ago?

Everybody also thought that, besides Murray or Djokovic, a new member of the next generation would hold some big trophies in 2017. But except Alexander Zverev in Roma (the only big tournament that Nadal and Federer haven’t won so far this year), they will have to wait some more as «  the old Roger and Rafa » still hunger for success and are not retired yet. Dominic Thiem, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov represent the best chances but after Nadal crushed the Austrian at Roland Garros and Federer did the same with the Canadian and the Bulgarian in London, on their favorite surface, the way to the top doesn’t seem that close. Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios have been injured too much and their body seems fragile. Also Borna Coric, Frances Tiafoe and Andrey Rublev, all members of the teen « Next Gen », are getting better and tougher each year but they will probably need some more time to compete with the Top 10.

So Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal seem to have the best chances to hold the trophy at Flushing Meadows. But as we saw the turnover that happened between last year and this year, some more surprises, comebacks and upsets can happen very soon. And don’t forget that the defending champion hasn’t been mentioned yet ! Only player to have won several Majors besides the Big Four in the last 15 years, the other Swiss player, Stanislas Wawrinka, even though he is quite inconstant, could perfectly win two US Open back to back!

 

Who Has Most Motivation To Win Wimbledon Among The Big Four?

Most observers will conclude that, in all likelihood, the men’s singles champion at Wimbledon in 2017 will come from “The Big Four” – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

There isn’t much that separates these four titans of tennis, but the slimiest of margins separates victory from defeat. It could be a moment of hesitation, a slight lack of confidence in executing a shot in a crucial stage. Extra desire, belief, confidence and having that extra step could decide the championship.

Let’s look at each of “The Big Four” and discuss their motivations and intangibles that could help them and hurt them as they approach the final weekend. If you are looking for Wimbledon betting tips, these insights will prove helpful.

Roger Federer – The Swiss maestro may be believing that this could be his last shot to win what would be a record eighth men’s singles title at the All England Club. Striving for that record is a major goal of Federer’s that would further his legacy in the sport, if that is even possible for a player who has won a record 18 major singles titles. He has taken the entire clay-court season off – ceding that ground to Nadal – but this has kept Federer fresh and hungry which can serve him well in the later rounds.

Rafael Nadal – The Spaniards is a competitor full stop all the time and one of the most physically fit players in the history of tennis. Could a slight bit of energy drain from the long-drawn out clay-court season be the difference between winning and losing for the Spaniard. For the last three years, Nadal has been primarily focused on winning his unprecedented 10th French Open men’s singles titles. Having achieved that goal last month, is a title on the Wimbledon grass too much too soon for the Nadal to refocus on entirely in every corner of his mind? The grass courts at Wimbledon are playing slower than usual, which helps him, and, like any other Spaniard, he relishes in “suffering” on a tennis court.

Novak Djokovic – The Serbian has been out-of-sorts in the last 12 months since he entered Wimbledon last year having won the previous four major championships. He seems the most vulnerable of “The Big Four” but the “X” factor with Djokovic is his new relationship with new coach Andre Agassi. The new voice from the Hall of Famer, who also turned around a much more steep career nose-dive in his career, could resurrect Djokovic. Playing for Agassi and wanting the validate the relationship and “please” the all-time great could provide extra motivation and intangibles that could help Djokovic return to the Grand Slam winner’s circle.

Andy Murray – Wimbledon is just the place for Murray to recalibrate after his sensational 2016 season where he won his second title at Wimbledon and the Olympics. His year was capped with an exhaustive effort to win the year-end ATP World Tour Championships in London to finish as the year-end No. 1. The end-of-the-year push hurt Murray at the start of the 2017 season and he started to find his top form again at the French Open, where he was a tie-breaker away from reaching the singles final. Now on the comfortable environs on the hometown courts at Wimbledon, with his adoring fans supporting him full-tilt, the top-seed will be tough to beat.  However, Murray hasn’t won a tournament since the year-end event in London last year and he has suffered many early-round upset losses this year, which could hurt his inner confidence in the big points with the title on the line.

Stars Old And New Decorate Roland Garros In 2017

by Rob Hemingway

 

Perhaps it is fitting that a tournament named after a trailblazing fighter pilot who vanquished his many adversaries should become so synonymous with Rafael Nadal, who administers the same fate to his opponents as Roland Garros did during the First World War.

After putting away Stan Wawrinka on Sunday in Paris, the Majorcan notched up yet another French Open title and achieved La Decima, his tenth grand slam victory in one event, a feat that transcends sport and is surely comparable with any other individual achievement in the modern age.

Such unparalleled dominance, the result of a unique combination of extraordinary talent, world-class coaching and insatiable drive, has been supplemented in the 2017 edition of his reign by the presence in his camp of long-time friend and influence, Carlos Moya. Analysis of Nadal’s matches during these two weeks – and indeed earlier in the year – is clear evidence of subtle tweaks that have allowed him to be so successful since returning to the tour after injury. These changes, including an improved backhand and greater consistency and variety on the serve, should allow him to remain competitive even as age and physical decline gradually take their toll over the coming years.

There was enough evidence in Paris this year to suggest that the men’s game will be well served even when Nadal and his “Big 5” rivals have moved on. Dominic Thiem, the 23 year-old Austrian, broke through emphatically in getting through to the semifinals, and Karen Khachanov, the 21-year old from Moscow, displayed all his emerging skills during a run to the fourth round. Further down the age range, the next big thing from the junior ranks could be Alexei Popyrin, who triumphed in the Boys Singles, becoming the first Australian to take home the title since Phil Dent in 1968.  His game, modeled on Juan Martin del Potro’s, could become equally as effective, given his powerful serve and varied forehand.

On the other side of the locker room, the women’s event revealed a new superstar. Jelena Ostapenko, the unseeded 20-year-old Latvian, defeated the experienced Simona Halep in three sets, sparking wild celebrations at Riga’s iconic Freedom Monument as the country celebrated its first ever Grand Slam champion. This was a remarkable triumph given that she went the distance in every match from the fourth round onwards, that she was a set and a break down in the final, and particularly as clay is her least favourite surface. This breakthrough should equip her with the necessary confidence to build on this win which, incredibly, was also her first ever on the women’s tour.

Tournament Director Guy Forget fortunately had far fewer scheduling headaches this year than in 2016, as the weather remained dry enough to catch up on matches delayed from the first week’s showers. The modernisation project at Roland Garros – provisionally approved earlier this year – cannot come soon enough however. Capacity issues still affect the site, particularly when compared to the other three Grand Slams, and the roof that will be present for this year’s US Open will once again throw into focus the glacial pace of change in French Tennis’ administrative corridors.

As the last of the players now start dusting down their socks, the grass of Wimbledon looms large on the horizon. All eyes will be on the returning, rejuvenated Roger Federer, whose decision to rest during the clay court swing could bear fruit as he seeks his eighth crown in south-west London. It promises to be another unmissable event in this already extraordinary 2017 season.

How Will Rafael Nadal Now Fare On British Grass?

Rafael Nadal proved to be invincible on the French clay but how will he fare on the British grass?

The freshly-crowned 10-time Roland Garros champion was to get his first taste of grass at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club in London. The event, which runs June 19-26, is one of the most prestigious events in tennis, and the most regarded grass-court title other than Wimbledon. However, Nadal withdrew from the event two days after his win at Roland Garros, stating, “After speaking to my team and doctor, I have decided my body needs to rest if I am going to be ready to play Wimbledon.”

Nadal will now have a three weeks off to rest after his ferocious run through seven straight-set wins en route to the title in Paris. The Spaniard has traditionally placed the bulk of his efforts into the clay court season, from April until June, where his productivity declines in the last six months of the year, when play is on faster services.

However, Nadal has won four career titles on grass – two at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, the Queen’s title in 2008 and also in Stuttgart in 2015.

Success at Queens has translated into success at Wimbledon as seven different players have completed The Queen’s Club-Wimbledon title double in the same year, including Nadal in 2008, and also John McEnroe (1981, ’84), Jimmy Connors (’82), Boris Becker (’85), Pete Sampras (’95, ’99), Lleyton Hewitt (2002) and Andy Murray (2013).

The top-ranked Murray, the defending Queens and Wimbledon champions, will be the favorite to win the title again. Last year, Murray became the first player to win five Queen’s Club titles when he defeated Milos Raonic in the final.

Murray has struggled of late, but left the French Open in a positive frame of mind with a semifinal finish, falling to Stan Wawrinka in five sets, failing to put away the Swiss in a fourth-set tiebreaker that would have put him into the final in Paris for the second-straight year.

Murray will be tested by an extremely talented field that also includes Wawrinka, who has enlisted former Pete Sampras and Roger Federer coach Paul Annacone to help him with his grass-court preparations for Wimbledon, the only major tournament he hasn’t won. Remember that both Federer and Sampras have won Wimbledon seven times each!

The hard-serving Raonic, who also lost in last year’s Wimbledon final to Murray, will also be a contender in the Queens field as well as the talented and hot-headed Nick Kyrgios and Grigor Dimitrov, a former Wimbledon semifinalist.

Rafael Nadal – A Perfect “10” French Open Victory With No Sets Lost

by Randy Walker

@TennisPublisher

 

It was “Perfect 10.”

Rafael Nadal won his incredible 10th men’s singles title at Roland Garros, without losing a set, capped with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Stan Wawrinka in the final.

The win marked Nadal’s 15th major title, moving him out of a second-place tie with Pete Sampras for most major singles titles won in a career.

Nadal lost only 35 games en route to the title – his best run to the championship in his 10 victory laps – and the fewest games lost by a major champion since Bjorn Borg lost only 32 en route to winning the 1978 French Open.

No man in the history of tennis has won more titles at a single major championship, Margaret Court being the only player to win double-digit titles at a major when she won 11 Australian singles titles.

It is interesting to note and remember that Nadal led Roger Federer by a service break in the fifth set of their Australian Open final earlier this year. Had Nadal held on to win that match and win the title Down Under, coupled with his win at Roland Garros, he would have only trailed Federer by one major singles title in the career haul 17-16. However, Federer’s comeback win gave him his 18th major singles win and he now leads Nadal 18-15 as the resting Federer prepares to make an assault on an eighth Wimbledon title – and a 19th major – on the grass.

Nadal’s win came 39 years to the day when Borg completed his devastating run to the French title in 1978, with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Guillermo Vilas, according to the book, ebook, audio book and mobile app “This Day In Tennis History.”

It is interesting to read the words of Vilas after being pummeled by Borg and it sounds like Wawrinka talking about Nadal. “He played so well, he didn’t give me any chances at all,” said Vilas. “I knew if I was going to play from the baseline all the time, I was going to win more games but not the match. So I tried different tactics, but it did not work. Nothing worked.”

The Greatest Forehands In Tennis History – Ranked!

The forehand is perhaps the most the most destructive weapon in the sport of tennis. Who in the history of the game had – or has – the best forehand of all time? Steve Flink, newly-nominated International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, tennis historian, journalist and author of the book THE GREATEST TENNIS MATCHES OF ALL TIME (available here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Greatest-Tennis-Matches-Time/dp/0942257936/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346763283&sr=8-1&keywords=Greatest+tennis+matches+of+all+time) ranks the top five forehands of all time as part of his book. The list is found below.

Top Five Forehands of All Time – Men

1.ROGER FEDERER Some hit the ball more mightily off the forehand side, and others were flashier, but Federer’s forehand is the best I have ever seen. His capacity to station himself inside the baseline and shorten the court for his opponent has surpassed all others. Once he is inside the court, he can go either way—inside-in or inside-out—and hit winners at will. In top form, he clips more lines with his majestic forehand than anyone and yet he makes very few mistakes for someone so adventuresome.

2. RAFAEL NADAL The Spaniard’s forehand has always been his trademark shot. Nadal tortures his rivals with his rhythmic precision off the forehand. The hop he gets on the forehand with the heaviest and most penetrating topspin of all time is almost mind boggling. He can go full tilt for hours on end and hardly miss a forehand, but it is not as if he is pushing his shots back into play; he is pulverizing the ball and weakening his opponent’s will simultaneously. He sends his adversaries into submission with a barrage of heavy forehands, weakening their resolve in the process. His ball control off the forehand is amazing. I give Federer the edge over Nadal for the best forehand ever, but it is a very close call.

3. IVAN LENDL The former Czech who became an American citizen transformed the world of tennis with his playing style, most importantly with his signature inside-out forehand. There were an abundance of serve-and-volley competitors along with more conventional baseline practitioners during his era, but Lendl changed it all, serving with impressive power to set up his magnificent semi-western, inside-out forehand—the shot that carried him to eight major titles. Lendl’s power and accuracy with that forehand had never been witnessed before.

4. BILL TILDEN Over the course of the 1920’s, when Tilden ruled tennis and studied the technique of the sport with all-consuming interest, the American influenced the sport immensely. He had an estimable first serve and he improved his backhand markedly, but the forehand was Tilden’s finest shot. He drove through the ball classically and confidently and it was a stroke that would not break down under pressure. The Tilden forehand was a shot made for the ages.

5. BJORN BORG, PETE SAMPRAS and JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO Although many observers took more notice of the Swede’s two-handed backhand because he joined Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert to popularize that shot in the 1970’s, his forehand was in many ways superior. Borg ushered in a brand of heavy topspin that was unprecedented and the forehand took him to the top of the sport. He passed particularly well off the backhand and disguised his two-hander adeptly, but the Borg forehand defined his greatness more than anything else. Sampras had the most explosive running forehand of all time and he could do quite a bit of damage from the middle of the court off that side as well. His magnificent forehand was relatively flat and it was awesome when he was on. Del Potro is changing the face of the modern game with his explosive flat forehand, the biggest in the sport today. It is a prodigious weapon, released with blinding speed. More than anything else, his sizzling forehand was the reason he halted Federer in a five-set final at the 2009 U.S. Open.

 

Top Five Forehands of All Time – Women

1 . STEFFI GRAF This was among the easiest selections to make among the best strokes ever produced. Considering how much pace she got on this explosive shot, it was made all the more remarkable by her grip—essentially a continental, on the border of an eastern. She would get into position early and with supreme racket head acceleration she would sweep through the ball and strike countless outright winners with her flat stroke. She had little margin for error, yet the forehand seldom let her down. In my view, it stands in a class by itself as the best ever.

2. MAUREEN CONNOLLY A natural left-hander who played tennis right-handed, Connolly had a beautifully produced one-handed backhand that was a shot which came more easily to her. The fact remains that Connolly’s forehand paved the way for her to win the Grand Slam in 1953. She placed the same value on fast footwork as Graf. Her inexhaustible attention to detail and sound mechanics gave Connolly a magnificent forehand.

3. HELEN WILLS MOODY Brought up on the hard courts of California, taught to play the game from the baseline with steadfast conviction, realizing the importance of controlling the climate of her matches, Wills Moody was not called “Little Miss Poker Face” without good reason. She was relentlessly disciplined in her court craft, making the backcourt her home, refusing to make mistakes yet hitting her ground strokes hard. Her flat forehand—hit unfailingly deep and close to the lines—was far and away the best of her era and one of the finest ever.

4. MONICA SELES Authorities often debated whether Seles was better off the forehand or the backhand. Both were left-handed, two-fisted strokes. Each was taken early. She could explore the most acute crosscourt angles or direct her shots within inches of the baseline off either side. Unlike most of her peers, Seles’s forehand was not one dimensional.

5. SERENA WILLIAMS On her finest afternoons, when her timing is on and her concentration is sharp, Williams can be uncontainable off the forehand. She covers the ball with just enough topspin and takes it early, often from an open stance. It is the shot she uses to open up the court, to either release winners or advance to the net. She can be breathtaking off that side at her best, but her ranking is not higher because her brilliance off that side can be sporadic.

“The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” book features profiles and rankings of the greatest matches of all time dating from the 1920s featuring Bill Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen up through the modern era of tennis featuring contemporary stars Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Flink breaks down, analyzes and puts into historical context the sport’s most memorable matches, providing readers with a courtside seat at these most celebrated and significant duels. Flink also includes a fascinating “greatest strokes of all time” section where he ranks and describes the players who best executed all the important shots in the game through the years. Other champions featured in the book include Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf among many others.

“The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time,” a hard-cover book that retails for $28.95, can be purchased via this link http://m1e.net/c?110071729-mFSTVX3uyJ5zw%407612075-hqIGItXY8SJAw at www.NewChapterMedia.com and where ever books are sold.

Flink, one of the most respected writers and observers in the game, is currently a columnist for TennisChannel.com. A resident of Katonah, N.Y., he is the former editor of World Tennis magazine and a former senior columnist at Tennis Week.

The book has received high praise from some of the most respected names in the sport, including Chris Evert, a winner of 18 major singles titles, who wrote the foreword to the book.

Said seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras, “Steve Flink was there reporting on almost every big match I played in my career. He has seen all of the great players for the last 45 years. I encourage you to read this book because Steve is one of the most insightful writers on the game that I have known and he really knows his tennis.”

Said former U.S. Davis Cup captain and player Patrick McEnroe, “As a writer and a fan, Steve Flink’s knowledge of tennis history and his love of the sport are second to none, which is why you should read his new book.”

Said ESPN’s Cliff Drysdale, “To see tennis through the eyes of Steve Flink is to wander through a wonderland. These are not fantasies because Steve captures the essence of tennis matches in graphic detail. There is no one more passionate or caring about his subject. In this absorbing book, I can relive matches that I have called on television.”

Said CBS, NBC and Tennis Channel commentator Mary Carillo, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time is a masterful tennis epic. Its pages are brimming with insight, hindsight. And as always with Steve Flink, the 20/20 vision of the subtleties and complexities of a match. From Budge to Nadal and “Little Mo” to Serena Williams, Steve will guide you through the greatest matches you ever saw, or never saw. The game’s finest players and brightest moments will come alive and play again, right before your eyes. This book is a tennis treasure.”

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players of All Time” by Sand Harwitt, “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” by Chris Lewit, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “The Days of Roger Federer” by Randy Walker, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com) “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), “The Lennon Prophecy” by Joe Niezgoda (www.TheLennonProphecy.com), “Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Susan Anson, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According To Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin, “How To Permanently Erase Negative Self Talk” by Emily Filloramo, “Lessons from the Wild” by Shayamal Vallabhjee among others.

Roger Federer Claims “Milestone” Victory At 2017 Australian Open

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Roger Federer claimed his 18th major title on Sunday at the Australian Open as he and Rafael Nadal turned back the clock. Federer grabbed the win in an intense five-setter, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

“This one is definitely a milestone in my career, there’s no doubt about it,” Federer said. “Rafa definitely has been very particular in my career. I think he made me a better player. It remains for me the ultimate challenge to play against him.”

With the two men alternating sets, it was never really clear who was going to come out on top until the last point of the match. In the fifth set alone, Nadal was up a break at 3-1 and looked poised to finish the deal, but Federer rattled off the last five games of the match to steal the title from his long-time friend and opponent, earning his fifth Australian Open title.

“I’d like to congratulate Rafa on an amazing comeback,” said Federer, who made an incredible comeback of his own at this year’s Australian Open. “I don’t think either of us believed we’d be in the final of the Australian Open when we were at your academy four or five months ago. But here we stand.”

A straightforward first set saw zero break points in nine out of the 10 games. The one exception to that came in the 3-3 game, as Federer opened up a 15-40 lead on Nadal’s serve and took advantage of his first break point. From there, the Suisse would drop just one break point in his last two service games to take the lead.

In the second set, both players started to get more comfortable in the match. Nadal was able to go up a double break lead early in the set, but Federer fought back to get one of the breaks back, making the score 4-2. Nadal locked it down on his serve after that break, though, holding at love twice to close out the set and even up the match.

Federer bounced back very strongly in the third as he was the one taking a double break lead this time, and he even had chances to win the set 6-0. Nadal did create his opportunities as well, seeing five break points total in the first and last games of the set, but he was unable to convert on any of them, allowing the Suisse to regain the lead.

In the fourth, Nadal settled down and really found his rhythm. He broke early for a 4-1 lead, and didn’t face a break point in the entire set. Just like in the second set, Nadal held at love twice to close out the set and even up the match, forcing a decisive fifth set.

That fifth set saw Nadal jump out to an early 3-1 lead, fighting off four break points in his first two service games. Federer wouldn’t go down that easily, though, as he was finally able to break Nadal and get back on serve at 4-3. In the eighth game of the set, Federer opened up a 0-40 lead with three break points to set himself up to serve for the title.

Nadal incredibly won three points in a row to get back to deuce before Federer would create two more break chances. On the second one, Federer was finally able to convert for the 5-3 lead. There, he fell into a 15-40 hole and it looked like Nadal was going to make a run of his own. That wasn’t the case, though, as Federer won five of the last six points, including the final one on a challenge which gave him the title.

“Tennis is a tough sport. There are no draws. But if there was one, I would have been happy to accept a draw with Rafa tonight,” Federer said during the trophy presentation.

The title for Federer extends his record of major title to 18 over Nadal’s and Pete Sampras’ count of 14, with Novak Djokovic lingering behind at 12. Federer came into the year hoping to win just one more major title, but now he’ll have the confidence to win one or two more throughout the rest of 2017.

Rafael Nadal Edges Grigor Dimitrov In Five-Set Epic, Roger Federer Next In Australian Open Final

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Rafael Nadal beat Grigor Dimitrov in an epic five-setter on Friday at the Australian Open to reach the final, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-7(4), 6-4. Nadal’s win sets up a matchup between two of the greatest athletes tennis has ever seen, the 14-time major champion Nadal and the 17-time major champion Roger Federer.

“It is amazing to be through to a final of a Grand Slam again here in Australia at the start of the year. Means a lot to me,” Nadal said. “It’s special to play with Roger again in a final of a Grand Slam.”

The final on Sunday will be the first time Nadal and Federer have faced off in a major final since the French Open in 2011, which Nadal won with ease.

The semifinal match between Nadal and Dimitrov was an instant classic as the two battled for almost five hours. Nadal came into the match as the heavy favorite, and eventually was able to reach in first major final in almost three years. Dimitrov, playing in just his second major semifinal, was almost able to withstand the constant high-energy style of play from Nadal, but just fell short in the end.

“It was a fantastic match. Very emotional. Grigor played great. I played great. So it was a great quality of tennis tonight,” Nadal said. “Both of us deserved to be in that final. It was a great fight.”

In a straight forward first set, Nadal fought off three break points in the opening game before settling down and breaking Dimitrov to take a 4-1 lead. Dominant on serve, Nadal dropped just two points in his last four service games to easily take the first set.

The second set was much crazier, as there were five breaks in total. Dimitrov got it started with a break to take a 4-1 lead, but Nadal was up to the task, breaking back a couple games later. The two exchanged breaks once more and it looked like we were headed for a tiebreak, but Dimitrov found some extra level late in the set, opening up a 15-40 lead on Nadal’s serve in the 12th game, breaking to take the set 7-5.

Once again, the two warriors exchanged breaks in the third set, but neither was able to find a late break to take the set. A tiebreak was needed to separate the two, and that was just as tight as the rest of the match had been. Nadal held leads at 3-1, 4-2, and 5-3, but Dimitrov was able to fight back each time. At 5-5, though, Nadal was able to reel off the last two points to take the tiebreak and a two sets to one lead.

Neither man faced a break point in the entire fourth set, as Dimitrov refused to back down. Another tiebreak was needed, and this time it was the Bulgarian who was taking the leads. After holding a lead at 4-2 at the change of ends, Dimitrov looked confident and stretched his lead to 6-3, holding three set points. On the second chance, Dimitrov was able to close out the set and force a deciding fifth set.

Dimitrov looked like he didn’t have the energy to pull out the win in the final set, as he four break points and was taken to deuce in three of his first four service games. With Dimitrov up 4-3, though, he had his chance. Up 15-40, the Bulgarian had two chances to break for a 5-3 lead to set himself up to serve out the match.

Nadal came up clutch, however, and impressively fought off both break points to hold for 4-4. That seemed to have finally killed off the effort from Dimitrov, as Nadal broke in the next game before holding in a 10-point game to close out the five-set win.

Nadal leads the overall head to head with Federer 23-11 overall, and 6-2 in major finals. He’ll hope to keep those trends alive as the two will battle on Sunday night in Melbourne, or very early Sunday morning on the east coast.

“For me, it’s a privilege and I think it’s a very special thing for both of us to be in the final,” Nadal said. “We are still there and we are still fighting for important events. That’s very special.”

 

Rafael Nadal Fights Off Next Generation In Five-Set Australian Open Win Over Alexander Zverev

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Rafael Nadal withstood the effort from young German star Alex Zverev in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday, winning in five sets by a score of 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(5) 6-3, 6-2.

Nadal, the No. 9 seed in this year’s Australian Open, has been out to prove a message to the ATP World Tour early in the season as he already claimed an exhibition title in Abu Dhabi before reaching the quarterfinals in Brisbane. Now, the 14-time major champion has continued an impressive run to the fourth round in Melbourne after another tough win over Zverev.

“It’s obviously an important result for me. I lost the last couple of ones, matches in the fifth. So it’s important for me to win a match like this,” Nadal said.

The two met last year in Indian Wells, and the German blew an easy volley on match point before eventually squandering the loss to Nadal. That result surely would’ve given Zverev some extra motivation to get revenge on Nadal on Saturday, but in the end, the experienced veteran was just too good, but remained humble as always.

“Everyone knows how good Alexander is. He is the future of our sport, and the present too, now,” Nadal said.

Zverev, who hit 58 winners in the match, got off to a hot start, breaking Nadal in the first game of the match. After saving a break point three games later, Zverev was able to cruise through the rest of the set to jump out to an early lead.

It was Nadal who got off to the hot start in the second set, though, as he held his first two service games at love before breaking the 19-year old easily for a 3-1 lead. Nadal never looked back from that point, as he only dropped three points on serve in the second set to level the match.

Breaks continued to be scarce into the third set as neither man was able to create even a single break point in the set. Zverev was forced to play a 12-point service game early in the set, but other than that, neither player had much trouble on serve. The tiebreak was neck and neck, just like the rest of the set, but it was Zverev who created a set point at 6-5 and didn’t miss out on the opportunity, taking a two sets to one lead.

Being just one set away from the win, Zverev’s mind may have flashed back to Indian Wells last year when he missed out on a great opportunity to upset one of the greatest players of all time. In his first service game of the set, Zverev was broken, allowing Nadal to take an early break lead. Serving at 3-1, Nadal fought off one break point in a 12-point game before settling down in the latter stages of the set, closing it out and forcing a decider.

“Fighting and running a lot,” Nadal said when asked what the key was to his comeback. “I enjoyed a lot this great battle.”

While the fifth set score line will read 6-2 in favor of Nadal, the set was much tighter than you would expect. After Nadal broke in the first game, Zverev was able to break back and get back on serve at 2-2. Nadal did break in the next game, but not before the German fought off two break points in a 16-point game. Zverev’s next service game also resulted in a break, but once again he fought hard, saving two more break points, this time in an 18-point game.

“For the confidence, for lots of things, it’s very important to win these kinds of matches,” Nadal said. “I think I finished the match playing much better than what I started the match.”

Next up for Nadal will be the 6th-seeded Gael Monfils. The eclectic Frenchman has been very impressive in the Australian Open so far, only dropping one set in his first three matches.