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- Mannarino Earns Nadal Showdown... But He Doesn't Know Iton January 21, 2022 at 9:06 pm
Adrian Mannarino will face a stiff challenge on Sunday when he plays Rafael Nadal for a spot in the Australian Open quarter-finals. The thing is, the Frenchman has no idea he is facing Nadal. The lefty, who had just won a marathon four-setter against 2021 semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, sat down to speak to the media at about 3:20 a.m. Saturday morning in Melbourne. “I don't know who I'm going to play against next. I don't like to watch [the draw] and I don't want to know,” Mannarino said. “It's 3 a.m. Just finished my match. I don't really care about who I'm playing next. It’s the last thing I'm going to think about. “I just want to enjoy the moment right now. We’ve got time to see for the next one.” This was not something he said just because it was past 3 a.m. following a gruelling match. Mannarino generally does not look at draws. Nadal, however, was aware he might play Mannarino. The 20-time major champion, who defeated Karen Khachanov in the third round, noticed Mannarino’s play earlier in the event when the Frenchman upset 2021 Nitto ATP Finals competitor Hubert Hurkacz. “Mannarino is playing great,” Nadal said. “I think the match against Hubert [was] a surprise. He was playing at I think a very high level. To win against a player like Hubert in straight sets with that result is because you did a lot of things well. I saw a little bit of that match, he was playing well.” Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour The World No. 69 has proven a menace for opponents this week with his flat groundstrokes and consistency. Mannarino made just 22 unforced errors against Karatsev and lost just nine games in three sets against Hurkacz. He also defeated home favourite James Duckworth in five sets in the first round. “I just won three matches. I don't think you can say I'm bothering so many guys. The matchup was pretty good tonight. I think that Aslan is the kind of player who makes me play well. So was Hurkacz in the second round,” Mannarino said. “I think I'm moving pretty well on court. I'm just trying to be consistent. I'm keeping a good attitude on court and just trying to fight the most I can, not thinking about what's going to happen or what's happening on the court at the moment. Mannarino added: “With my type of game, this is what I can do. I'm not going to serve, like, 220 kilometres or make lots of winners. I'm just the kind of player who is grinding and put one more time the ball in the court. This is what I'm doing.” This is the first time the 33-year-old is into the fourth round at a major outside of Wimbledon. Mannarino is 0-2 in his ATP Head2Head series against Nadal, but if he could turn that around, he will reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final. “Of course I'm kind of exhausted right now. It's been long. It's like 3 a.m.,” Mannarino said. “That was a good battle on court, lots of rallies. He was hitting hard. I think that was a good match, good fight, and happy I got through. Even if I'm tired now, I don't really think about it. I'm just happy that I won.”
- Alcaraz: 'I’m Close To The Top Players'on January 21, 2022 at 7:39 pm
Carlos Alcaraz is ready to go again against the top talent on the ATP Tour. The Spaniard was naturally disappointed after narrowly failing to complete a stunning comeback against World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini in the Australian Open third round on Friday, but the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion doesn’t think he is far away from winning similar matches in future. “I feel I’m close to the top players,” said Alcaraz in his post-match press conference after his five-set defeat. “Berrettini is World No. 7 as of today, and I almost defeated him. I’ve already beaten some Top 10 players. With the level I showed today and the feelings I have, I think that I’m ready to be among those kinds of players. “When I've played against the top players, apart from against Rafa [at the 2021 Madrid Masters 1000 tournament], I was close. I think I have the level to play against the top players. I'm getting closer every tournament that I'm playing.” Alcaraz cited seventh-seeded Berrettini’s performance as a good example of the sort of level he needs to maintain to push on from his current career-high ATP Ranking of No. 31. “Berrettini played an amazing match,” said the 18-year-old. “You have to recognise what your opponents do well. He showed a huge level during the whole match, that’s why I congratulated him at the net. He went for it and deserved the victory.” Alcaraz had an unbeaten record in fifth sets until the Berrettini defeat. He successfully went the distance with Yasutaka Uchiyama at Wimbledon in 2021, and then beat both Stefanos Tsitsipas and Peter Gojowczyk in deciding sets on his way to a first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open in September. However, this was the first time he found himself two-sets-to-love down in his young career, and the Spaniard was delighted with the way he reacted to this novel situation. “I'm very proud of the performance today,” said Alcaraz. “To be able to come back the way I did, I gave everything on the court. That's the thing that I want to do, give everything on the court and I'm very proud of the way that I did. “Juan Carlos [Ferrero, Alcaraz’s coach] congratulated me for the fight. It is not easy to come back from two sets to love, be toe-to-toe with your opponent and try to win the match. He told me I gave everything, and that was the goal. Give your best and leave the court with no regrets. You give everything and fight until the end.” Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour The pain of defeat still stings, but Alcaraz’s performances at the US Open and in Melbourne confirm he is now a bona fide threat on all surfaces, not just his beloved clay. “I'm feeling comfortable playing on hard courts, as well as clay courts. It's really important to have a really good game on hard courts, most tournaments are on hard courts,” Alcaraz said. “You have to be ready to play really well on that surface, and I think I adapt my game really well.” Alcaraz will next turn his attention back to clay at the Rio Open presented by Claro in mid-February, before returning to test his hard-court prowess once again at the ATP 500 tournament in Acapulco.
- Preview: Medvedev Continues Australian Open Title Push Against Boticon January 21, 2022 at 6:51 pm
After putting on a show against “entertainer” Nick Kyrgios, Daniil Medvedev is ready for his encore in Melbourne. The World No. 2 cemented his status as the Australian Open favourite with his 7-6(1), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over the dangerous Aussie, who fed and fed off the partisan crowd in equal measures. “These kind of matches… it’s like a big challenge where if you make it, you feel like, ‘OK, if I can continue playing like this, I can go far,’” Medvedev said, noting the high-level match could have gone either way. The Russian was happy to play his part in what he called a “big show”, but was even happier to exit the stage with a victory to set up a fourth-round matchup against Botic van de Zandschulp on Saturday. The pair met for the first time at the US Open, where Medvedev ended the Dutchman’s breakout run in four quarter-final sets. But van de Zandschulp, who qualified for the New York main event, was the only man to take a set off the eventual champion on the fortnight as he put a scare into the Russian, 6-3, 6-0, 4-6, 7-5. “If he keeps playing like this,” Medvedev said, “he’s going to be, let’s say, Top 30, Top 50.” On track to prove that prediction right, the 26-year-old backed up his US Open run with a semi-final in St. Petersburg and a quarter-final at a Melbourne warm-up event, reaching a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 56 earlier this month. He’ll move even higher following the AO fortnight after picking up his first career wins at the Happy Slam—an accomplishment that gives him at least one victory at each of the majors. The winner of that third-round match will be the favourite by both ranking and experience in the fourth round against American Maxime Cressy or Aussie wild card Christopher O’Connell. Both surprise packages will be competing in a Slam third round for the first time, and both knocked off seeds along the way, with Cressy outserving countryman John Isner in the opening round and O’Connell knocking off Diego Schwartzman in the second round. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour Fifth seed Andrey Rublev is also lurking in that bottom quarter, having made near-flawless progress into the last 32. Seeking his first major semi-final, the Russian will take on 2018 Aussie Open finalist Marin Cilic, the 27th seed. We could see the tournament’s first Top 10 matchup in the fourth round should both Rublev and ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime advance on Saturday. The Canadian will face 24th seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain. Stefanos Tsitsipas coped with his first signs of trouble to edge Sebastian Baez in the third round, 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. He took some time to read the #NextGenATP Argentine’s game, but closed well after some tense early moments. Despite dropping his first set of the tournament, the Greek is pleased with his return from an elbow injury that forced his mid-event withdrawal at the Nitto ATP Finals. “I feel like I’m getting physically better in every single one of my matches,” he assessed. “My elbow hasn’t been bothering me since Sydney [at the ATP Cup]. I see a very good progression since then, and I’m happy to play that way.” There will be no need for a feeling-out period in his fifth meeting with Benoit Paire on Saturday. Tsitsipas holds a 3-1 ATP Head2Head record against the Frenchman, who upset 26th seed Grigor Dimitrov in the second round. Paire scored the first win in 2017 (Metz) before Tsitsipas won three straight, including two in 2021 (Acapulco, Madrid). The winner there will face either Roberto Bautista Agut or Taylor Fritz in the fourth round. The 15th seed, RBA entered this fortnight after posting a 4-1 record at the ATP Cup, losing only to Auger-Aliassime as Spain finished runners-up. Fritz posted a 2-1 ATP Cup record in both singles and doubles (with Isner) for Team USA and has not dropped a set in Melbourne. Playing a Slam as the American No. 1 for the first time, Fritz beat coountryman Frances Tiafoe, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5) on Thursday, then collapsed to the court with a calf cramp after match point. He appeared to walk it off after Tiafoe showed good sportsmanship to help him up, but the 24-year-old will need to be at full strength to beat Bautista Agut. The Spaniard holds a 5-1 ATP Head2Head record over Fritz, with all five wins coming in straight sets. Pablo Andujar makes it four Spanish men still alive in Melbourne, in addition to Bautista Agut, Rafael Nadal and Pablo Carreno Busta, who are both through to the fourth round in the top half. Looking to reach a Slam fourth round for the second time (2019 US Open), Andujar faces 32nd seed Alex de Minaur on Saturday. The 22-year-old Aussie has been knocked out in the third round in each of his past two AO appearances. Rounding out the Day 6 men’s singles action is a matchup between Jannik Sinner and Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel. The 11th-seeded Italian, who has quietly cruised into the Melbourne third round for the first time, is the youngest man remaining in the draw at age 20, following the five-set loss of 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz against Matteo Berrettini on Friday. Neither Sinner nor Daniel have dropped a set in Melbourne, with the Japanese a perfect 12-for-12, including qualifying. After the eight matches on the Saturday slate, we’ll be down to the last 16 Down Under.
- Lopez Feeling Lucky & Excited About New Role Coaching Nadalon January 21, 2022 at 6:00 pm
Late in September, Carlos Moyà called Marc López to enquire about his situation. The Catalonian, who peaked at World No. 3 in doubles and won 14 tour-level titles in the discipline, used his protected ranking to enter 12 tournaments in 2021, although it was not as successful as he may have liked. In August, he became a father for the first time and gradually began to step back from competition. López was frank with Moyà: he was not sure if he would continue playing. “I thought you’d be a good fit for Rafa’s team,” Moya told him. “If you’re on board, I’ll mention it to him. I imagine he’d be delighted, but I’m asking you first in case you’re not up for it or don’t want to travel.” Indeed, as a new parent, the Catalonian had been planning not to travel. “Let me think about it,” Lopez replied. He hung up the phone, looked at his partner with a smile and said: “What is there to think about?!” He rang Moyà back immediately. “That was some quick thinking,” Moya said. “I don’t know why I didn’t tell you straight away. It sounds amazing and I feel very fortunate. Thank you for the opportunity,” Lopez said. “Of course, I’d love to if Rafa likes the idea.” “Great,” Moya replied. “I’ll mention it to him tomorrow morning and let you know.” The next day, Moyà rang López again to welcome him to Team Nadal. At the Australian Open, the Catalonian sat down with ATPTour.com to reflect on the new professional journey he has embarked on alongside one of the best players of all time. Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour So, have you retired for good? I’d like to play my final tournament in Barcelona, at my club. It’s something we still need to finalise but my idea is to end at home, in front of my people. Despite being one of Nadal’s best friends, wasn’t it difficult to get used to telling him what to do as a member of his coaching staff? I’ve shared many moments with Rafa, but as a friend. Now it’s different. At first, I was kind of observing what he likes. For example, whether or not he likes people to talk a lot when he’s on court. I found it a bit difficult to give instructions to a player who is close to perfection, although I always say that, from the outside there are things that can be improved. I know Rafa very well. I’ve been watching his matches for many years and I know what he’s thinking when he plays. I feel obliged to tell him things because I want the best for him. How would you define yourself as a coach? I love watching and analysing opponents above all if I’m unfamiliar with them. It’s been some time since I was on the singles tour, but I have many years of experience and I know most of the players. In this case, it’s also true that Rafa focusses on himself, on working on his strengths. If he does things well, I’m not so worried about what the opponent does. When such a good player has a clear way of playing, there’s little you can say. I’m talking about intermediate opponents, not Top 10 players. How did you fit in to the team at first? I don’t want to sound like I’m brown-nosing, but I love it. Every day, when I get up and go and have breakfast... everyone is so nice. It’s the dream job at the moment. I get on very well with Titín [Rafael Maymò], with Benito [Pérez-Barbadillo], with Carlos [Costa] and with his father. And working in the same group with Carlos Moyà and Francis Roig will be good for me in this new phase of my career. They’ve been doing it for many years and I’ve only been doing it for a short while, so I’m delighted to learn and help with everything I can. You’ve often said that Nadal has helped you many times in your career. Is there one time that stands out above the rest? The key moment when he helped me was in 2009, when we started to play doubles together. In 2008, when that season was over, I was going through a difficult time in my career. I considered stopping. I had lost any hope of entering the Top 100 in singles after coming close in 2004. I didn’t know what to do, and that’s when the opportunity to play doubles with Rafa in Doha came up. Tomeu [Salvà] had just retired and Nadal gave me the opportunity. That’s when I realised that I was good at doubles. With Rafa, everything is very easy, but we won the tournament, beating the World No. 1 pair on the way. Then, even when we weren’t playing together, Rafa was always keeping an eye on my results, helping me and giving me advice before big games, such as the French Open final I played with Feli [López]. And your favourite memory? The Olympic gold medal. We were playing together again. Rafa made a huge effort to play in both disciplines, and he put his trust in me. The experience was very good, not only on court. We slept in the same room. People don’t realise, but all the tennis players were in one apartment. I slept in a room with Rafa with two small beds. We even put a little table in the middle with an iPad to watch something before bed every night. It was really amazing, two intense weeks that ended perfectly with that gold medal. Do you think your positive character will bring something to the team? Both aspects are very important, not just the tennis side. I’m very familiar with how he plays, but off court he’s a person, he has his thoughts and his doubts. Having a person who’s close [to him] is very important. My role is to try and give him a hand with as much as possible. On court I change my mindset and tell him what I’m seeing, and off court we have the same relationship as before. His surroundings are very important to him. I’m one of his best friends and we joke around and have a good time. It’s important that he feels comfortable at all times. You’ve just become a father, is it difficult to combine the two? At first. It’s been 14 weeks. It’s tough, the worst part of this job. I’m lucky that technology helps me a lot. As well as FaceTime, I have an app on my phone that allows me to see the [crib] all the time, even when I’m on the other side of the world. That’s the hard part, but it’s worth it to be with Rafa and so that he does well.
- Nadal Stays Perfect At Aussie Openon January 21, 2022 at 11:32 am
Rafael Nadal survived a third-set bombardment from Karen Khachanov Friday to maintain his ruthless start to the season, overcoming the 28th seed 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open for a staggering 15th time. Prior to January, Nadal had not competed in a tour-level event since Washington in August due to a foot injury. But the sixth seed is playing as if he has never been away, with his victory over Khachanov extending his perfect 2022 record to 6-0. “It is a very special week for me, coming back,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “Every single time I am able to play here is very special. Tonight I played against a great player and a good friend on Tour. It was my best match since I have come back without a doubt.” The Spaniard, who captured his 89th tour-level title at the Melbourne Summer Set earlier this month, dropped only one point on serve in the opening set against Khachanov and recovered from losing just his second ever set against the Russian to eventually advance after two hours and 50 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Nadal is aiming to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, having lifted the Australian Open trophy in 2009. He fired 39 winners and committed 30 unforced errors to improve to 8-0 in his ATPHead2Head series against Khachanov. “I have gone through some very tough times over the past year,” Nadal added. “But nights like tonight mean everything. I keep fighting and going every day. I put a lot of effort in to be back with where I am today, so I am happy.” In a brutal heavy-hitting performance, Nadal took time away from the Russian with his aggressive topspin ball striking in the first two sets, pulling Khachanov one way and then the other as he pinned the 25-year-old behind the baseline. A fist bump to remember 🤜🤛@RafaelNadal • #AusOpen • #AO2022 pic.twitter.com/lkigOCEeNA — #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 21, 2022 The 13-time Roland Garros champion, who broke Khachanov five times, looked on course for a routine win as they moved into the third set. But from 1-2, 40/0 in the set, Nadal lost serve for the first time in the match as Khachanov started to close the net to great effect. The Russian continued to unsettle the sixth seed with his powerful hitting and he gained a foothold in the clash by holding to love to seal the set. All this did was fire up the Spaniard though, with Nadal breaking in stunning fashion at the start of the fourth set with a backhand pass down the line. The former World No. 1 let out a roar and punched the air in delight, before he raced to finish the line to advance. Only Roger Federer (18) has advanced to the fourth round at Melbourne Park more than Nadal. The World No. 5 will next play Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the last 16. Mannarino eliminated surprise 2021 semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, this year's 18th seed 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4 after four hours and 38 minutes in the match, which ended at 2:33 a.m. The lefty made just 22 unforced errors compared to 86 for Karatsev. Mannarino trails Nadal 0-2 in their ATP Head2Head series (0-4 in sets). Did You Know? Nadal is attempting to become just the second man behind Novak Djokovic to win all four majors at least twice.
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- Champion's Reel: How Paula Badosa won Sydney 2022on January 16, 2022 at 7:43 am
No.5 seed Paula Badosa captured her third WTA title, and second in her past four tournaments, at the Sydney Tennis Classic. The Spaniard preserved her unbeaten record in WTA finals in a classic title match over No.3 seed Barbora Krejcikova.
- Champion's Reel: How Madison Keys won Adelaide 250 2022on January 16, 2022 at 7:43 am
Former World No.7 Madison Keys entered the Adelaide International 250 unseeded and ranked No.87, her lowest ranking since Jan. 2013, and walked away with her sixth career title and first since 2019. Keys defeated Alison Riske in the first all-American WTA final since Auckland 2020, where Serena Williams beat Jessica Pegula.
- Sydney: Badosa staves off Krejcikova in thriller to claim 3rd career titleon January 15, 2022 at 10:22 am
- Adelaide 250: Keys wins all-American final over Riskeon January 15, 2022 at 9:17 am
- WTA x TopCourt Tutorial: Ajla Tomljanovic on how to hit the perfect backhandon January 15, 2022 at 2:37 am