Tennis - ATP World Tour
Headline News - powered by FeedBurner
Few players are able to match the physicality Rafael Nadal brings to the court, forget about exceeding it. But, when Dominic Thiem is at his best, the Austrian has been able to do just that, creating a captivating ATP Head2Head rivalry.
“A player like Dominic has a lot of potential,” Nadal said after losing against Thiem at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open. “Whenever he plays really well, it's very difficult to stop him.”
When both men's games are clicking simultaneously, fans are in for jaw-dropping tennis, as the stars unleash massive groundstrokes at one another without hesitation. Nadal leads Thiem 9-5 in their series.
“If you want to have a chance against him, one of the all-time greats, everything needs to work in your game,” Thiem said after beating Nadal in this year’s Australian Open quarter-finals.
Thiem has impressed with his performance against Nadal on clay over the years. The Austrian beat the Spaniard once a year from 2016-19.
Watch Highlights: Thiem's Last Clay Win vs. Nadal
“I'm always super proud if I beat him, because he's the best player ever on this surface,” Thiem said. “It's always very special to beat him... on clay.”
Nadal, however, has maintained his throne at Roland Garros. The 19-time Grand Slam champion has beaten Thiem in the Paris final in each of the past two years, doing so in straight sets in 2018 and four sets in 2019. Nadal has admitted it hasn’t been easy against the Austrian, against whom he feels under pressure when Thiem is able to take control of rallies early.
“He [was] the most difficult opponent,” Nadal said after last year’s championship. “[This] has been the most difficult match.”
The most memorable clash of the pair’s 14 previous meetings came in the quarter-finals of the 2018 US Open. Nadal battled past Thiem 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(5) in an epic four-hour, 49-minute marathon that ended at 2:04 a.m.
Thiem delivered an onslaught of 74 winners and won the first 6-0 set against Nadal at the US Open in 14 years (Andy Roddick, 2004). But Nadal scratched and clawed, triumphing despite winning six fewer points. Thiem was close that evening in Flushing Meadows, but not close enough.
“It’s going to be stuck in my mind forever,” Thiem said. “I'm going to remember this match, for sure. Tennis is cruel sometimes, because I think this match didn't really deserve a loser. But there has to be one.
Nadal is more than seven years older than Thiem, so they are from different generations. But the Spaniard has great respect for how the 26-year-old carries himself on and off the court.
“He played great matches against me in the past, too. He played great-quality tennis. I think we like each other in terms of character. I like his attitude,” Nadal said in Melbourne this year, before cracking a smile. “Probably he likes mine, too.”
Rafael Nadal has had Roger Federer's number on clay throughout their legendary ATP Head2Head series, winning 14 of their 16 meetings on the surface. Nowhere has the Spaniard been more superior on clay than at Roland Garros, where the lefty has won all six of their clashes.
Nadal has won 18 of his 22 sets at the clay-court major against one of his greatest rivals. Despite the record, Federer never shied away from the challenge, saying before the 2019 semi-finals: "I'm very happy to play Rafa... Because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he's that strong and he will be there."
ATPTour.com relives all six of their meetings at Roland Garros:
2019 Roland Garros semi-finals, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 63 64 62
Nadal and Federer met at a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open final, in which Federer rallied from down a break in the fifth set to triumph. Nadal, at this point an 11-time Roland Garros champion, was once again the tournament favourite leading into their semi-final showdown, which was their first meeting at the clay-court Slam in eight years.
Federer was competing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, and he had done well in his return to the tournament. The Swiss won his first four matches in straight sets before dismissing 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in four. He had nothing to lose against Nadal.
But the second seed was ruthless in tough weather conditions, dismissing Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes to move to 6-0 in their Roland Garros series. The 2009 champion struggled to find his range from the baseline, frequently mis-hitting balls early in the match to set the tone. Nadal did well to keep Federer pushed back, landing his heavy topspin strokes close to the baseline to prevent the Swiss from stepping into the court and finding his timing.
“The conditions out there today [were] so hard, so [it was] difficult to manage,” said Nadal, who went on to beat Dominic Thiem for his 12th Roland Garros title. “It was a day to just focus, accept all the adversity, and just be focused on [being] positive all the time. That's what I tried to do.”
2011 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 75 76(3) 57 61
Nadal and Federer contested a Grand Slam final for the eighth time when they met in the Roland Garros final, and it was Nadal who prevailed as he finished strongly to end Federer’s bid for a second title at the clay-court major in three hours and 40 minutes. The Spaniard had also beaten Federer in the Roland Garros final from 2006-2008.
Having ended Novak Djokovic’s 41-match unbeaten run in 2011 in the semi-finals, Federer hoped his top form would be enough to dethrone Nadal in Paris and made a strong start as he raced to a 5-2 lead. The Swiss squandered a set point chance in the eighth game, though, and it sparked the Nadal comeback as the Spaniard reeled off five straight games to take the opener.
Nadal capitalised on his momentum to break early in the second set, and was serving for the set at 5-4, deuce, when a heavy shower suspended play for 10 minutes. Upon resumption Federer broke back, but Nadal regained his composure in the tie-break to take a commanding two-set lead.
The top-seeded Nadal broke through in the sixth game of the third set, but had no chance to build on his lead as the resilient Federer immediately struck back with a service break to love. The Swiss then delighted the Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd, and stunned Nadal, as he won four of the next five games to claw his way back into the match.
The key stage in the fourth set came in the opening game as Federer squandered a 0/40 opportunity on Nadal’s serve. From there the tide swiftly turned in Nadal’s favour as he broke serve twice, dominating the baseline rallies as he raced through to claim victory.
2008 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 61 63 60
After contesting closely fought battles in the finals of Monte-Carlo and Hamburg in the lead up to Roland Garros, much was expected when Roger Federer stepped up to face Rafael Nadal in their 17th career meeting. However the match proved to be the most one-sided encounter between the pair.
Nadal enjoyed the better start in the match, breaking Federer's serve in the first game courtesy of one of an eventual 49 unforced errors from the Swiss’ racquet. From there, Nadal did not look back and went on to break the Federer serve twice more to seal the set 6-1 as Federer drifted a forehand volley long.
After fighting back from an early break down in the second set, Federer had the chance to gain a key break though when presented with a break point chance in the seventh game. However, he was denied and, after failing to take his opportunities, the Swiss No. 1 was immediately under pressure and conceded his own serve as another backhand pass from Nadal was just out of his reach. Nadal was quick to extend his lead, closing out the set 6-3 as Federer returned serve long.
The third set lasted just 27 minutes as Nadal broke serve three times to secure the match victory after just one hour and 48 minutes, and hand Federer his first bagel set since June 1999, as the Swiss fired a forehand long, prompting muted celebrations from Nadal after the comfortable win.
2007 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d Federer 63 46 63 64
The stakes were higher than ever when Federer and Nadal clashed in the 2007 Roland Garros final. For the second consecutive year Federer was attempting to become just the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles and to be just the third man to hold all four majors at the same time. Nadal was looking to join Bjorn Borg as the only player to win three consecutive Roland Garros crowns.
Earlier in the clay swing, Nadal had beaten Federer in the Monte-Carlo final but Federer avenged that defeat with his first clay court victory over Nadal in the Hamburg final.
Federer took the fight to Nadal early, earning 10 break point chances over three consecutive Nadal service games in the first set. But the tough Spaniard refused to buckle and scrapped to win the first set. Although Federer rebounded to win the second set, Nadal's ability to fight off 16 of 17 break point opportunities in the match proved the telling factor.
Federer returned more aggressively - particularly on the backhand - to try to stop Nadal from controlling points, but, as in past meetings, the Spaniard's high kicking left-handed forehands into his backhand were too much for Federer to handle.
2006 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 16 61 64 76(4)
Playing in his first Roland Garros title match, Federer was attempting to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four straight Grand Slam events, and just the third player in history to achieve the feat.
Nadal was looking to become the youngest player to defend the Roland Garros title since Bjorn Borg in 1974-75. The Spaniard also was trying to improve his perfect record at Roland Garros to 14-0, his clay court winning streak to 60 matches and to notch his 100th career clay court win.
Federer broke Nadal twice in the first set to race to a 5-0 lead. But then Nadal began to dominate the match with his crushing forehand and Federer struggled with many unforced backhand errors.
Nadal did not drop serve again until he tried to close out the match at 5-4 in the fourth set. But he clinched the match soon after in the tie-break. Nadal won his 14th consecutive final (second only in the Open Era to Federer's mark of 24 straight finals won).
2005 Roland Garros semi-final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 63 46 64 63
Theirs was the most eagerly awaited match of the tournament. Federer was already No. 1 in the world and fast-rising Nadal was at No. 5.
Nadal came to Roland Garros on the heels of clay-court titles in Monte-Carlo in April (d. Coria) and in Rome in May (d. Coria again). Federer, meanwhile, was fresh off of his second straight clay-court crown in Hamburg in May (d. Gasquet).
Federer evened the score by winning the second set, but after that his form fell as the wet and dark conditions set in. Nadal kept the pressure on, ousting Federer in four sets on the way to winning the Roland Garros title on debut (d. Puerta in the final).
Matteo Berrettini is a three-time ATP Tour titlist and one of only four Italian men to have cracked the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
ATPTour.com looks at five things you should know about the 24-year-old.
1) His Breakthrough Came In Gstaad
Berrettini entered the 2018 J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad aiming to reach his first tour-level quarter-final with no doubles victories on the ATP Tour to his name.
Ranked No. 84 in the ATP Rankings, the Italian defeated three consecutive seeded players to take the singles trophy, before adding the doubles title to his collection later in the day.
“[Gstaad was an] unbelievable week. I won singles and doubles there and I had never won an ATP Tour doubles match, so it was all in a rush. I will never forget that week,” said Berrettini.
2) He Elevated His Game In 2019
Berrettini began the 2019 ATP Tour season at No. 52 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and had reached the semi-finals or better at just one ATP Tour event. But the Italian put together an impressive set of results to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time and finish the year at No. 8.
Berrettini reached the semi-finals or better at eight tour-level events, winning ATP Tour crowns in Budapest and Stuttgart and finishing as runner-up in Munich. The 6’5” right-hander finished the year with 43 tour-level victories, including six against Top 10 opponents.
After reaching the Erste Bank Open semi-finals in Vienna, Berrettini became only the fourth Italian to crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The three-time ATP Tour titlist was also selected by his peers as the Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2019 ATP Awards.
[TENNIS AT HOME]
3) His Forehand Is Massive
During the fourth episode of Tennis United, Berrettini’s girlfriend and WTA World No. 56 Ajla Tomljanovic discussed the problems she encounters when training with the Italian No. 1.
“He wants to get better too and my arm is hurting by like the 40th minute because his forehand is massive,” said Tomljanovic.
The Aussie has also proven to be a helpful workout partner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We work out together and it’s really helpful that she’s there. She pushes me to run more and do more,” said Berrettini. "I used to work out with my brother and it helped me a lot, so I’m really happy when I can train with someone.”
4) He Made Italian History At The 2019 US Open
At last year’s US Open, Berrettini became only the second Italian man to reach the US Open semi-finals after Corrado Barazzutti in 1977.
Building on his run to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, the Italian beat Andrey Rublev and Gael Monfils in back-to-back matches to reach the last four in New York. Berrettini’s win against Monfils will be remembered as one of the matches of the tournament, with the Rome-born star eventually overcoming the 2016 semi-finalist 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5) after three hours and 56 minutes. Berrettini’s run was ended by eventual champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
5) He's Improving His Stamina
During his breakthrough 2019 season, Berrettini contested 73 matches across 26 tournaments.
The three-time ATP Tour titlist reached three semi-finals late in the year at the US Open, Rolex Shanghai Masters and Erste Bank Open, which led to struggles with fatigue during his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals. As a result of that experience, Berrettini decided to make off-court training a priority during his pre-season training block in Monte Carlo.
“We were all tired playing at the end of the year, but all the guys [in London] had more energy. They were better than me physically,” said Berrettini. “When the tournament finished, I told my team that I wanted to improve this for the next year. I wanted to arrive in better condition if I qualified again.”