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Nadal On First Roland Garros Title: 'Peace Of Mind Was Fleeting'

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Nadal On First Roland Garros Title: ‘Peace Of Mind Was Fleeting’

Spaniard reflects on his maiden Grand Slam triumph

Two days after celebrating his 19th birthday, Rafael Nadal defeated Mariano Puerta 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5 in his first Grand Slam final to become the first player to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires on his tournament debut since Mats Wilander in 1982.

Despite his youth and inexperience at the clay-court Grand Slam championship, it was clear he was a title contender after winning in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome in the preceding weeks.

“When I arrived at Roland Garros for the first time in 2005, as always, I took it match-by-match, but I was aware that if I could play as well as I had played in the previous tournaments I had a chance,” said Nadal.

“I was brimming with energy, the lack of awareness of someone so young and clearly I was capable of reaching important balls, that were very difficult, returning them with power, with intensity and playing with enormous passion.”

Tennis At Home | How ATP Players Make The Most Of Stay At Home

To reach the championship match in Paris, Nadal overcame World No. 1 Roger Federer in the semi-finals. The Spaniard, who suffered a five-set final defeat to the Swiss earlier that year in Miami, converted nine of 13 break points to secure a four-set victory.

“I think it was a good match. The final was a difficult match, but physically I felt amazing and I was very confident with my game because I’d won all those previous tournaments. That gave me peace of mind and confidence,” said Nadal.

Nadal started the 2005 ATP Tour season at No. 51 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, but he soon made it clear that he was destined to achieve great things. So much so, that between February and May he accumulated five titles on clay before reaching the French capital.

“Everything happened very quickly,” said Nadal. “I went from being No. 50 in the world to fighting to win Roland Garros. I think in my head I assimilated that well, calmly. I think I had been adequately educated to be prepared in case something like that happened. I accepted everything as if it were normal and I think that that was one of the keys to being able to continue with the same intensity of work, passion and motivation.”

On 5 June, after Zinedine Zidane presented him with the trophy in Paris, the Spaniard breathed a sigh of relief.

“When I won my first Roland Garros in 2005, I thought at that time that it was the biggest thing I would achieve in my career. Now, I’m going to play with peace of mind, I’m going to play more relaxed for the rest of my career,” said Nadal.

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“But I was completely mistaken. The years go by and you’re nervous for all of them, in all of them you want to play well, you want to have a chance to keep on winning and, honestly, the peace of mind that I thought winning Roland Garros would give me was fleeting.”

Although he was unaware of it at the time, he would go on to lift 12 titles at the event. Nadal is the only man in history to win a single Grand Slam tournament on 12 occasions.

“When you win, it’s easy to keep winning, because it gives you peace of mind, the confidence and energy,” said Nadal. “Roland Garros has been important for everything throughout my career, to win on fast courts, on grass, anywhere.”

And it was in Paris that Nadal built the confidence to become a legendary player.

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Brian Vahaly: ‘I Don’t Want Kids To Fear’

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Brian Vahaly: ‘I Don’t Want Kids To Fear’

Former ATP pro talks to ATPTour.com during Pride Month

Brian Vahaly has been a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ tennis community, leading the way as a former player who came out after his career. The former World No. 64, who is a member of the USTA’s Board of Directors, is doing everything possible to make more comfortable those potentially struggling with their identity.

“I really want to make it easier for somebody who potentially has my background, who could also be struggling. Maybe [it’s] not someone [who] talks about it, doesn’t understand themselves well enough. I need them to know that it’s going to be okay,” Vahaly said. “I need them to see that there’s a great life on the other end of it because, I don’t know, but I believe had I known that, my approach could have been different and I actually believe I potentially could have achieved more in tennis. That’s hard to sit with, but I don’t want any more kids to sit with that same potential fear [or] concern.”

Vahaly enjoyed plenty of success on court, beating stars including Juan Carlos Ferrero and Fernando Gonzalez. But in his final two seasons on Tour, he began to have thoughts about his sexuality. The American admitted it was “massively terrifying” to acknowledge those thoughts.

“I grew up in a pretty Christian home, so number one, it wasn’t going to be talked about in the early days. Then you think about going on Tour, my entire life was about being the best tennis player I could be, and that was really where my focus was. I knew I wasn’t the same as a lot of my peers and guys that I was competing against, but I didn’t really want to ask myself a lot of those questions,” Vahaly said. “At that point I was dating a girl for a couple of years. It was great. I sort of felt like, ‘Alright, I’m the pro athlete.’ She was an actress at the time, and I was like, ‘This is great. I’m living the dream and I’ve actually built the life that people want, and I’m crushing it.’”

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Vahaly believed in order to fully explore that side of himself, he had to completely pull away from the sport. In tennis, he learned to manage his emotions and stress, which presented an opportunity to push his thoughts away while he was a player.

“Unfortunately it took about four or five years to really understand myself better and realise this is the truth and this is who I am and I need to accept it and own it a little bit,” said Vahaly, who played his last match in 2006 due to a shoulder injury. “But it was tough, and I’d never felt there were people in sports I could talk about it with because I just knew it was such a hyper-masculine and intense environment and I knew they weren’t really going to understand.

“Frankly, it’s also tough to be vulnerable with players you’re competing against because we’re out there fighting for the same paycheque. It was something I inevitably came to terms with.”

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

It was tough for Vahaly to also consider his identity while trying to accomplish his goals on court.

“I didn’t have the height, I didn’t have the background. My serve was terrible, my forehand was terrible, but I knew how to compete really well. I was fortunate to build a career out of it and I was unwilling to risk anything for it,” Vahaly said. “I think afterwards as I started to understand myself a little better and started dating, I don’t know if I really wanted to be the tennis player that was ‘the gay tennis player’.

Since his career, Vahaly has married his husband, Bill Jones, and they are the parents of two twin boys. While his full-time job is outside tennis, he takes seriously his role on the USTA Board of Directors, directly working with the association’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Vahaly was instrumental in the introduction of a Pride event at the US Open. He also makes sure the USTA and its events partner with the right organisations to further LGBTQ+ causes.

“People just want to know that they’re welcomed. How can we continue to build those partnerships at the local level and the national level so for us at the USTA, tennis looks like the United States?” Vahaly said. “It’s a diverse place, it’s a lot of different types of people and we want to make sure that they all feel welcome.”

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Becoming A Father: The New Role In Radu Albot’s Life

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Becoming A Father: The New Role In Radu Albot’s Life

Moldovan welcomed baby girl in April

Since the suspension of the ATP Tour in March, Radu Albot has experienced a significant change in his life.

Just over a month after flying back to his home country, the Moldovan No. 1 welcomed the birth of his first child on 19 April. Due to tightened COVID-19 security measures, the Chisinau native could not join his girlfriend, Doina, in hospital for the birth of his daughter. Instead, Albot discovered the exciting news during a phone call.

“I was at home. The birth was at 7:03am and Doina was not answering my messages or phone calls, so I didn’t know,” said Albot. “I started calling [from 10pm to 3am] but there was no answer. I went to bed and wrote her a message so, when she could, she could read. I put the phone on full volume next to my bed and she called at 8 or 9am, that was when I learned for the first time that she was born.”

One of the first decisions that faced Albot and his girlfriend was the naming of their daughter. The pair had created a shortlist of options prior to the birth and soon selected the name, Adeline.

“We just liked the name. We didn’t decide before, we gave it after the birth,” said Albot. “We had a list of four or five names and we decided to use this one. I think it is a very beautiful name. It sounds very nice and when I say the name, everybody likes it.”

Radu Albot and his girlfriend, Doina, named their first child Adeline.

While the pandemic stopped Albot attending Adeline’s birth, it has gifted the 30-year-old extra time to enjoy his new role as a father. During this period of the year, the Moldovan would usually be competing at clay-court events across Europe.

“It is a good time for me [to become a father], because I can be home full-time with the family,” said Albot. “I can help and I can see how the baby is growing. She is doing some new stuff every day.

“She is starting to laugh back and kind of talk to you, so this is an interesting experience. I would not experience this if I were travelling at this moment. This is very good timing, in a way, for me.”

Tennis At Home | How ATP Players Make The Most Of Stay At Home

Despite suffering from a lack of sleep, Albot is enjoying the responsibility that comes with his duties as a father. The World No. 67 has learned to take each day in his stride, as he adapts to his new role.

“You have to take care, full-time, of another little person. You want to give the best for that person because they are a part of you. It is your baby,” said Albot. “It is a new life. Every day we are learning something new. We are exploring how it is to be with a baby and we both like it. We are doing a pretty good job.”

Albot may have been ready to compete in Indian Wells in March, but the current ATP Tour suspension has given last year’s Delray Beach champion some added time to fully recover from a pectoral muscle tear he sustained at the start of this year. Now playing pain-free, Albot appears to have already struck a healthy balance between his roles as both an ATP Tour player and a father.

“[Just before the birth], I was doing fitness and tennis. I was practising three or four hours a day,” said Albot. “I didn’t want to break the rhythm of what I was doing before… I still do my routines, my practices and, when I am at home, I can be full-time with the baby.”

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Khachanov Hits The Court: Social Media Roundup

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Khachanov Hits The Court: Social Media Roundup

ATPTour.com looks at what your favourite players have been up to 

Your favourite players are finding plenty of ways to keep busy this week. From Karen Khachanov resuming his training, to Stefanos Tsitsipas working on his trick shots, find out how the world’s best players have been spending their days.

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Karen Khachanov was overjoyed at getting clearance to begin practising again.

 

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Finally back on the court! 🎾🎾🎾 Вернулся на корт. Наконец-то!

A post shared by Karen Khachanov |Карен Хачанов (@karenkhachanov) on

Rafael Nadal dug into a birthday cake to celebrate turning 34 on 3 June.

 

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🎂 + @rafaelnadal = 😍 The players of the #RafaNadalAcademy gave Rafa a special (and sweet🎂) surprise! 🗯 HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 🗯

A post shared by Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar (@rafanadalacademy) on

Novak Djokovic enjoyed an afternoon of picking cherries.

 

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“Трешња” изазов са Вигором у његовом дворишту. Млад је,шармантан али мало кратак у скоку 😜. Cherry picking challenge with Vigor in his backyard. He is young and charming but just a little short with his jump 🙂 more cherries for me! @vigor_9

A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on

Stefanos Tsitsipas mastered the trick shot that Pablo Cuevas used against him last year in Estoril.

Felix Auger-Aliassime called for equality throughout the world.

 

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I truly hope recent events will lead us steps closer to equal treatment around the world 🙏🏽 . Je m’excuse d’avance que ce message soit seulement en anglais mais c’est dans le but de toucher un plus grand nombre de personnes. Bon dimanche à tous 😌

A post shared by Félix Auger-Aliassime (@felixaliassime) on

Reilly Opelka shared a throwback photo with close friend and fellow American Taylor Fritz.

 

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My bruddas

A post shared by Reilly Opelka (@reillyopelka) on

Benoit Paire poked fun at himself with his Throwback Thursday post.

 

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🤯

A post shared by Benoit Paire (@benpaire) on

Leander Paes celebrated World Environment Day

Rohan Bopanna continued to inspire children at his academy.

 

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Humbling moments like this remind me why I do what I do ❤❤❤. #vidhigupta @rohanbopannatennisacademy #love #tennislove #tennis #academy #bengaluru #bangalore #india

A post shared by Rohan Bopanna (@rohanbopanna0403) on

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Fan Essay: The One That Got Away

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Fan Essay: The One That Got Away

Which loss cuts deepest?

For all their triumphs, even the game’s greatest champions have endured their share of heartache from high-stakes defeats. 

With that in mind, here is our topic for the third Fan Essay Contest, part of the Emirates ATP Kids Hub: If you could re-write history and turn one defeat of your favourite player into a win, what match would that be and why?

Write about your memories of watching the match and how you felt after the defeat. Consider writing an alternative ending, in which your favorite player comes out on top. And perhaps write about how that alternative outcome might have changed the course of your favourite player’s career?

You have until Friday 26 June at 12 noon ET to submit your essay of no more than 500 words to [email protected]. The best three entries will be featured on ATPTour.com.

Fans must be 18 and under to enter. Winning entries will be determined by the ATPTour.com editorial team.

Read the winners from the first essay contest and the second essay contest. 

Entrants are limited to one entry per essay topic, but may submit entries for each new question in the competition. There will be a new topic every three weeks. Essays must be written in English and submitted to [email protected]. Please do not send essays as attachments. Paste the text into the body of an email.

Click here for full terms and conditions.

Check out more great activities in the Emirates ATP Kids Hub.

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Emirates ATP Kids Hub: Word Search

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Emirates ATP Kids Hub: Word Search

Hey Kids!

On the tennis court you have to move backwards, forwards, laterally and diagonally to emerge a winner. It also helps to have good eyesight.

You’ll need to combine those traits to succeed in the latest activity to drop in the Emirates ATP Kids Hub. Download the Word Search worksheet below and then highlight 18 hidden words. Play with a friend and time yourself. The person who finds the words first wins!

Download Word Search Worksheet (PDF)

Download Answer Sheet (PDF)

Don’t forget to check out all the great activities in the Emirates ATP Kids Hub

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Roland Garros Flashback: The Day Federer Ended Djokovic's Perfect Season

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Roland Garros Flashback: The Day Federer Ended Djokovic’s Perfect Season

Relive Federer’s 2011 Paris semi-final win against Djokovic

Roger Federer has made plenty of history in his career. But one of the most memorable matches of the past decade was one in which the Swiss star prevented history.

Entering the 2011 Roland Garros semi-finals, Novak Djokovic was flying higher than any player in recent memory. The Serbian had won his first 41 matches of the season, putting him one victory from tying John McEnroe’s 1984 record for most consecutive wins to start a year.

High on confidence, Djokovic was pushing for his first Roland Garros title. Seven of the Serbian’s wins that season came against Federer or Rafael Nadal. But Federer was not intimidated.

“I’ve trained a lot during my whole life for these kinds of matches,” Federer said. “There was an enormous amount of pressure on Novak, and he really played well.”

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

Djokovic’s problem was that Federer played better. The Swiss snapped a three-match losing skid against Djokovic with a stunning 7-6(5), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) victory to reach the final in Paris.

Immediately after the match, commentators wondered whether it was the best match of the season. The quality was high from the early going, with few blips. Federer was far more dominant behind his first serve, winning 77 per cent of those points compared to 60 per cent for Djokovic, and he showed patience in longer rallies, not allowing the Serbian’s defence to force him to go for too much early in rallies.

Federer saved two set points in the 70-minute opening set, eventually taking it in a tie-break. The Swiss then swiftly opened up a 4-1 advantage in the second set as he took a commanding lead against the Serbian, whose perfect season was slipping away.

Djokovic faced the daunting task of trying to become the first player in 175 attempts to rally from two sets down against Federer. But the World No. 2 made a good start in that direction, immediately breaking in the third set and cruising through the rest of the set. After Federer framed a ball into the stands while facing break point at 4-4 in the fourth set, Djokovic was a hold away from sending the match to a decider.

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Federer, the 2009 champion, battled hard to avoid losing his lead, breaking back with an inside-in forehand winner. Although Djokovic has proven himself one of the best returners of all-time, Federer’s serve was too strong under pressure in the ensuing tie-break, and he hit his 18th ace to clinch his third Top 10 win of the year.

“I was just trying to put in a good match and get to the French Open final, which I’m obviously happy I was able to do,” Federer said. “It almost feels like I’ve won the tournament, which is not the case.”

There was plenty of anticipation for a potential Djokovic-Nadal showdown for the Coupe des Mousquetaires, especially considering the Serbian had beaten the Spaniard twice during that clay-court season alone. Djokovic was poised to try to add another blemish to Nadal’s sterling 44-1 record at the Slam. But instead it was Federer who earned a shot at the Spaniard.

”It was a great tournament. It was the best five months of my life, my tennis career,” said Djokovic, who went on to win the next three Grand Slams. ”I cannot complain. It was definitely an incredible period. It had to end somewhere. I knew it [was] coming.”

Federer had a chance to win his second Roland Garros trophy in three years. Nadal, however, stopped him in four sets. 

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Quiz: Name the year of these Rafael Nadal French Open triumphs

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Remember Rafael Nadal’s capris? Or the year his French Open final victory was played across two days?

The Spaniard has set records, beat great rivals and worn some memorable outfits on his way to 12 French Open men’s singles titles.

This week he should have been aiming for a 13th but with the Roland Garros showpiece postponed until September because of the coronavirus pandemic, the King of Clay will have to wait.

But you don’t have to wait for our quiz! Use the picture or clue to simply name the year of each of Nadal’s victories.

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Heavy-Hitting Respect: The Nadal-Thiem Rivalry

  • Posted: Jun 05, 2020

Heavy-Hitting Respect: The Nadal-Thiem Rivalry

Take a closer look at the rivalry between two of the Top 5 players in the world

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.

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

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.”

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