Category Archives: Tennis

Zverev defeats error-prone Nadal at ATP Finals

After being thoroughly outplayed by defending champion Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals, Rafael Nadal declined to make any excuses.

The top-ranked Spaniard wouldn’t blame the abdominal issue that forced him to pull out of the Paris Masters semifinals just nine days earlier, or a hand injury that kept him sidelined before that. And he bristled at the notion that his recent marriage could be a factor in a sub-par performance.

Something was clearly off for Nadal, though, who lost 6-2, 6-4 to a player he had a perfect 5-0 record versus before Monday’s match at the O2 Arena.

Nadal dropped his serve three straight times, didn’t force a single break point, and his normally powerful forehand was responsible for more than four times as many unforced errors (13) as winners (3). Still, Nadal insisted there was nothing wrong with him physically.

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”I did not feel pain in the abdominal at all”, he said. ”So the physical issue was not an excuse at all. The only excuse is I was not good enough tonight”.

Nadal hasn’t finished a tournament since winning the U.S. Open in August, also pulling out of Shanghai because of a hand injury.

That lack of playing time certainly isn’t helpful coming into an event featuring only the top eight players in the world, rather than lower-ranked early opponents.

He still has to face Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev in round-robin play, and probably has to defeat both in order to reach the semifinals.

For Zverev, this latest victory means he has defeated each of tennis’ Big Three in his last three matches at the O2.

The German defeated six-time champion Roger Federer in last year’s semifinals and then five-time winner Novak Djokovic in the final. “It’s definitely a place and a court that I love, and that brings maybe the best out of me,” the seventh-seeded German said.

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World No.2 Pliskova splits with coach Conchita Martinez

World No.2 Karolina Pliskova has confirmed she has split from her coach Conchita Martinez.

Former Wimbledon champion Martinez, who was second in the world herself during her playing career, began working with Pliskova on a full-time basis 10 months ago.

The Czech acquired four WTA titles in 2019 – the joint-most on the tour – but failed to make it beyond the fourth round of a grand slam after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals in January.

Last week, Pliskova was defeated in the last four of the season-ending WTA Finals by Ashleigh Barty.

“I decided I will no longer work with Conchita,” Pliskova wrote on her social media accounts.

“It was tough decision, as the season was great. Thank you for all this year, and wish you only the best. Life is a change!” Martinez, who coached Garbine Muguruza when she won Wimbledon in 2017, also posted a message on social media.

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“Just a little note to inform you that Karolina and I have decided to take different paths next year,” she said.

“It has been an incredible year full of great moments and emotions. I wish Kaja and her team the best for the future.”

Pliskova lifted trophies in Brisbane, Eastbourne and Zhengzhou this year, as well as at the Italian Open.

She was runner-up at the 2016 US Open and held the World No. 1 ranking in 2017 before Martinez joined her team.

Martinez  worked with Garbine Muguruza, another former World No. 1, and helped her fellow Spaniard to the Wimbledon title in 2017.

However, after finishing their partnership following the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen 2019, the 27-year-old has not yet announced the name of her new coach. Earlier, before hiring Martinez as a full-time coach in February, Pliskova was mentored by Rennae Stubs for one year. 

Martinez and Stubbs had been sharing coaching duties in Pliskova’s team after the Czech parted ways with Tomas Krupa in 2018.

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Federer withdraws from Paris Masters

World number three Roger Federer has withdrawn from this week’s Paris Masters on Monday as he fine tunes his schedule heading into the season-ending ATP Finals.

The 38-year-old Swiss lifted a record-extending 10th Swiss Indoors championship title in his hometown of Basel on Sunday and has decided not to play back-to-back weeks at this stage of the season.

The world No 3 did not drop a set on his way to victory on home soil, sweeping aside Peter Gojowczyk, Radu Albot and Stefanos Tsitsipas before destroying in-form De Minaur in the final.

An emotional Federer wept on court in Basel and conceded that the victory had ‘hit him hard’, perhaps contributing to the decision on Monday morning to pull out of the last Masters event of the year in Paris.

“I am extremely disappointed to have to pull out of the Paris Masters,” Federer said.

“I have to pace myself since I want to play as long as possible on the ATP Tour. “I am sorry for my French fans who I will see next year at Roland Garros.”

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The 20-time Grand Slam champion has been a regular at France’s only 1000-level event outside of Roland Garros, winning it back in 2011 and reaching the semi-finals last year before losing in three sets to Novak Djokovic.

But Federer has stripped back his schedule since coming back from injury in 2016 to prioritize his family life and cited that in his winner’s speech on Sunday, before his Paris message.

“I think it might be partially reminiscing back at everything that went on this week.

“Definitely the family, the thought of the team aspect, the family aspect, everything that goes into me still being able to do it today.

“People think I just go out there and just do it and have these types of weeks or these types of matches at will.

“But there’s so much more that goes into it, let alone managing four children, [which] is a challenge, but a good one.”

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Zverev stunned at Basel, ATP Finals spot at risk

Second-seeded Alexander Zverev was eliminated in the first round of the Swiss Indoors on Tuesday, losing 7-6 (7), 6-4 to Taylor Fritz.

Zverev led 4-0 in the first-set tiebreaker and later held a set point before Fritz took his opportunity to clinch it with an ace.

The 31st-ranked American got the only service break of the match in the third game of the second set and converted his first match point with a two-handed backhand winner.

The defeat rules out a possible final against top-seeded Roger Federer, who part owns the agency which manages the sixth-ranked German’s career.

The loss also harms Zverev’s chances of defending his ATP Finals title next month.

He is seventh in the season-long standings to progress to the eight-man event in London.

The German’s defeat to the 21-year-old American came barely a week after defeat in the Shanghai Masters final to Daniil Medvedev and puts his chance of defending his ATP Finals title in London at risk. “I was completely flat for some reason,” he said. “I was tired and not focused at all. It was a weird feeling.”

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Zverev conquered the season-ending tournament last November, beating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic back-to-back.

The season points race will be determined next week at the Paris Masters as the last two of the eight spots are decided.

“The way I played today, in my current mental stage, I’m not going to beat anybody,” Zverev, ranked seventh in the world, said.

“I’m very disappointed but it’s more about myself than the result.”

Zverev, a semi-finalist last year in Basel, fought hard to take the opening set into a tiebreaker, but was overwhelmed in the second by his American adversary in 86 minutes.

“Normally I really enjoy it on court, the tough moments, the fighting,” Zverev said. “But today I was completely out of it. I may go home for a few days and clear my mind. I’ll try to do well in Paris and hopefully make it to London.”

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Nishikori to have season-ending elbow surgery

Kei Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open runner-up, will have season-ending surgery on his right elbow and is pointing to be ready to go for the start of 2020.

Nishikori’s manager, Olivier van Lindonk, wrote in an email Monday that the right-hander from Japan will have a “small procedure removing two small bone spurs” in the elbow.

The procedure is programmed for Tuesday. That means Nishikori will miss the Paris Masters indoor hard-court tournament next week and the Davis Cup Finals that begin in Madrid on Nov. 18.

Van Lindonk said the goal is for Nishikori to be able to begin his offseason training for 2020 at the start of December. The next Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, starts Jan. 20.

Nishikori has not competed since a third-round loss at the U.S. Open in September.

According to van Lindonk, Nishikori has struggled with irritation in his elbow since the French Open in May. Despite that, Nishikori reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros before losing to 12-time champion Rafael Nadal, then followed that up by also reaching the round of eight at Wimbledon in July before losing there to eight-time champion Roger Federer.

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“He has tried to heal this with rest,” van Lindonk wrote, mentioning five tournaments that Nishikori pulled out of because of the problematic elbow, and added: “But time has proven that rest & rehab was not enough.”

The 29-year-old Nishikori has been ranked as high as No. 4 and is presently No. 8. He closes 2019 with a 29-14 record and one title.

Nishikori and two-time Grand Slam title winner Naomi Osaka, who also plays for Japan, are projected to be two of the biggest stars at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

He was the first man born in Asia to reach a major championship final when he was the runner-up to Marin Cilic at Flushing Meadows five years ago. And at the U.S. Open a year ago, Nishikori and Osaka gave Japan a men’s semifinalist and a women’s semifinalist at the same Grand Slam tournament for the first time.

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Osaka wants to represent Japan at Tokyo Games

Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka says she plans to represent Japan at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, told NHK she has concluded an administrative step to obtain Japanese citizenship ahead of her birthday next week.

Japanese law stipulates that a Japanese with more than one nationality must choose one before turning 22 years old.

“It gives me a special feeling to try to go to the Olympics to represent Japan,” the two-time Grand Slam champion told the broadcaster in an interview in Tokyo.

“I think I will be able to put more of my emotion into it by playing for the pride of the country,” she said, according to the article published in Japanese on the NHK website.

Osaka added she wants to aim for the gold although she is also worried as hopes will be high.

The young tennis sensation is a household name in Japan, where her every move is followed feverishly by local media, particularly when she is in the country of her mother’s birth.

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She is the face of several leading Japanese brands, including the carrier ANA, and she was the main attraction at last month’s Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, which she won.

But she has faced polemics over her dual heritage in a nation that is fairly racially homogeneous, as well as scrutiny for her imperfect Japanese language skills — though others insist they add to her charm.

Multiracial children can often face prejudice in Japan, although attitudes among younger generations are changing.

Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam last year after beating Serena Williams at the U.S. Open. She turns 22 on Wednesday. Under Japanese law, that’s the age at which she must give up any dual citizenship.

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Nadal out of Shangahai Masters with hand injury

The ATP said Friday that Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from next week’s Shanghai Masters due to a left hand injury.

Nadal is a two-time finalist in Shanghai — 2009 and 2017 — and was looking to extend an 11-match winning streak. He pulled out of his final match at the Laver Cup with a left wrist injury two weeks ago.

He has also won 28 of his last 29 matches, a run that contains his fourth U.S. Open title and 12th Roland Garros championship in addition to Masters 1000 crowns in Montreal and Rome.

Defending Shanghai champion Novak Djokovic will have a chance to close the gap on Nadal in the battle to finish as the year-end No. 1.

Djokovic trails Nadal by 1,960 points in the ATP Race to London. Djokovic could earn 500 points if he wins the Tokyo title this weekend and another 1,000 points by winning Shanghai.

Nadal said on shanghairolexmasters.com: ‘I am very sad to announce that I won’t be able to play in Shanghai this year.

‘As you all probably know, I had an inflammation on my left wrist during the Laver Cup and I haven’t had the time to recover and practice to be ready for this amazing event.  ‘I hope to be back in Shanghai for the 2020 tournament.’

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The injury is in many ways timely given Nadal’s wedding to his long-time girlfriend Maria Francisca Perello is later this month.

And at the time he said: ““It is not my wrist by the way, it is my hand.

“My hand is a little bit inflamed. After New York I had a little bit of an issue probably after the final.

“I felt a little bit, the first day here, then a little bit more every day.”

However it is not all doom and gloom for the Spaniard as he can still return to the top of the world rankings next week.

Nadal is 640 points behind Djokovic in the standings but the world No 1 is the defending champion in Shanghai.

That means the Serbian needs to win the title again to retain 1000 points so an early loss could see him drop to second.

He is scheduled to return to action at the Paris Masters beginning on October 28.

The Spaniard has never won the Shanghai Masters but reached the final twice, in 2009 and 2017. 

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