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Nadal Earns 300th Grand Slam Match Win

  • Posted: May 25, 2022

Nadal Earns 300th Grand Slam Match Win

Spaniard faces Van de Zandschulp next

Rafael Nadal reached the latest milestone in his legendary career on Wednesday by earning his 300th Grand Slam victory. The Spaniard faced a worthy opponent in fellow lefty Corentin Moutet, but had an answer for everything the Frenchman threw his way on Court Philippe Chatrier.

With his 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory, Nadal became just the third man to reach the 300-wins mark at the Grand Slams, behind only Roger Federer’s 369 wins and Novak Djokovic’s 324.

“I’m happy I am through in three sets, that’s an important fact for me and that gives me the chance to keep working tomorrow and try to be ready for after tomorrow against a tough opponent,” said Nadal, who will face Botic van de Zandschulp on Friday. “So let’s see. I am happy about a lot of things that I did tonight, so let’s try to keep going and keep improving tomorrow.”

In the final match of the evening on Chatrier, Nadal controlled the baseline and relentlessly attacked Moutet’s serve, winning just under half (36/75) of his return points and converting on seven of 12 break points in the match.

Moutet did his best to stay aggressive and found intermittent success with that tactic, as well as with several drop shots. Some of his best moments came in the third set, when he held an early 2-0 lead and later broke Nadal as the Spaniard tried to serve out the match at 5-3.

But Nadal, who led 3-0 and 4-0 in the opening two sets, respectively, snapped back to secure victory with his seventh break. He won the last four points of the match from 15/0 on the Moutet serve, bringup up match point with a clever drop shot and clinching the match by chasing down a drop shot from Moutet.

“I enjoyed more 6-1,” Nadal said with a laugh when asked if he relished the competitive finale. “After that I think I played a basic set. At the beginning of the third I [played] a very bad game at the beginning and I had to come back. I did well. And then, again, I had a couple of mistakes in the serving for the match. Happy that I played another good game to finish.”

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The 23-year-old Moutet enjoyed plenty of crowd support in the matchup against his childhood idol, but could not stop Nadal from improving to 10-0 against Frenchmen at Roland Garros, including a 30-2 record in sets. Nadal is 96-13 overall against French opposition, including 16 straight wins. 

“I think the crowd was very nice with me too, no?” he said of the Chatrier environment. “I really didn’t feel the crowd against me at all. I think it was a 50-50 and it was supporting good tennis.

“I always enjoy good support here in Paris. I think the people here know how special this place is for me and how important and how much respect I always had for Roland Garros. I think they appreciate all the things that I did in this event, so I feel a lot of love from the people here.”

Nadal also improved to a perfect 14-0 against lefties at Roland Garros (114-16 overall) and 52-0 prior to the fourth round at the Paris major, not including his 2016 walkover to Marcel Granollers.

Moutet, who beat 2015 Roland Garros champ Stan Wawrinka to set up what was a dream matchup for him, was seeking his first Top 10 win but instead dropped to 0-7 in such matches. His best win by the Pepperstone ATP Rankings was a victory over then-World No. 13 David Goffin in Halle last season.

Nadal advances to face Van de Zandschulp in the third round after the 26th seed got past Fabio Fognini, who retired after falling behind by two sets earlier on Wednesday. The Dutchman qualified for Roland Garros and reached the second round last year as the World No. 154. Now seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam, his Friday meeting with Nadal will be his first match against a member of the Big Four.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough run to the 2021 US Open quarter-finals, where he was the only man to take a set off eventual champion Daniil Medvedev. He reached his first ATP Tour final less than one month ago in Munich, beating Casper Ruud and Miomir Kecmanovic before chest pains forced him to retire in the final against Holger Rune.

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Alcaraz: 'I Want To Play Big Battles'

  • Posted: May 25, 2022

Alcaraz: ‘I Want To Play Big Battles’

Spaniard survives match point scare on Wednesday

Carlos Alcaraz can be described in many ways, but fearful isn’t one of them.

The 19-year-old, seeded sixth at Roland Garros, had ice water in his veins as he stared down a match point in the fourth set of his second-round battle on Wednesday with Albert Ramos-Vinolas. He played fearlessly in the tightest moments of the fourth-set tie-break and maintained his intensity as they passed the four-hour mark, eventually smacking a ball into the stands with glee after his 6-1, 6-7(9), 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4 comeback.

”You always have nerves in the match, but I think I wasn’t nervous today,” said Alcaraz. “Just maybe at the end of the fourth set when I was down match point, there was maybe that thought, ‘Well, you are one point from losing.’ But I tried not to think that I’m in Roland Garros. I’m trying to enjoy the moment.

”I respect him. I know him a lot. I knew that it was going to be a great match and a tough match. But I’m very happy with my level, being able to come back and of course beat him at the end.”

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Alcaraz might still be a teenager who only secured his driver’s license a few months ago, but he’s no longer a rookie on Tour. Despite this being only his sixth Grand Slam appearance, he has a 4-1 record in five-set matches. He’s served out matches to win ATP Masters 1000 titles and defeat legends of the game. He’s played on show courts at every Grand Slam.

It might be a stretch to refer to a 19-year-old as a veteran, but he’s already gained a level of experience that only a select few of his peers on Tour can match.

”I’m still young, but I would say a pretty experienced player now. I feel comfortable playing in big stadiums, big matches, playing in Grand Slams,” said Alcaraz. “Physically and mentally, I’m strong. I think I’m ready to play these kinds of matches in these situations and these tournaments.”

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Perhaps most importantly, Alcaraz is relishing these moments. He riled the crowd up when the moment called for it against Ramos-Vinolas and took time to sign autographs after more than four hours of play.

His path doesn’t get easier as he gears up for a high-profile third-round showdown with No. 27 seed Sebastian Korda, but it’s a position that Alcaraz wants to continue finding himself in.

“In the fourth and fifth sets, I smiled with my team. So I enjoy the battles,” said Alcaraz. “I want to play big battles and tough battles against the best players in the world.”

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Djokovic Feeling The Love At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 25, 2022

Djokovic Feeling The Love At Roland Garros

Wherever Novak Djokovic goes, a crowd is sure to follow.

From standing-room only practises to throngs of fans asking for autographs as he makes his way through the grounds at Roland Garros, the defending champion has been a top draw in Paris for more than 15 years. But after COVID restrictions limited attendance to 1,000 spectators daily for the 2020 event and peaked at 8,500 for last year’s men’s singles final, packed crowds are a welcome sight for the top seed.

“It’s great to see the crowd back [and] the full capacity on all courts. Lots of young people, lots of kids, this is something that I really love to see,” said Djokovic. “It always gives you energy. For me at this stage of my career, a crowd and this energy of people coming to watch me play is one of the biggest reasons why I keep on competing [and] playing professional tennis.

“I think the improvements and facilities in the last few years have been great… It’s great that the tournament is recognising the importance of investing back in the facilities and trying to improve the experience for everyone.”

<a href=''>Novak Djokovic</a> signs autographs after his second-round win at <a href=''>Roland Garros</a>.

Djokovic has always been energised by a vocal audience and that has reflected in his performances so far this fortnight. The Serbian is through to the third round without dropping a set, scoring a convincing 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over Alex Molcan to reach this juncture of the tournament for the 17th consecutive year.

“I’m pleased with the way I’m feeling on the court [and] the way I’ve been striking the ball,” said Djokovic. “I think today was also under challenging conditions and playing against a specialist on clay, someone that is a tricky opponent and coming off from the [Lyon] final last week. It was never going to be an easy match, but I thought I performed very well.”

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The Serbian’s path to defending his title won’t get any easier. A potential quarter-final with Rafael Nadal awaits, while Carlos Alcaraz or Alexander Zverev could present a challenging semi-final task.

For now, Djokovic is focussed on his third-round battle with Aljaz Bedene. He leads the Slovenian 3-0 in their ATP Head2Head series, including a win at this event in 2016.

“You are aware what’s going on with the other guys, at least in my case, and I know that everyone else is watching everybody else,” said Djokovic. “[But] that cannot be dominating most of your time and energy that you invest in a day. So you are aware, but then of course it’s really not up to you what they do. It’s what you have to do, win matches and make good results.”

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Alcaraz Saves MP, Rallies Past Ramos-Vinolas In Five-Set Roland Garros Thriller

  • Posted: May 25, 2022

Alcaraz Saves MP, Rallies Past Ramos-Vinolas In Five-Set Roland Garros Thriller

Teen is now 4-1 in five-setters

Carlos Alcaraz bent on Wednesday at Roland Garros, but the 19-year-old Spaniard refused to break. 

The sixth seed saved match point in the fourth set and rallied from 0-3 in the fifth set to defeat countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-7(7), 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4 for a place in the third round in Paris.

“I feel tired,” Alcaraz said in his on-court interview, cracking a laugh. “It has been a great battle against Albert. I knew that it was going to be a great match, tough match. We fought until the last point. I’m so happy with the performance today.”

Alcaraz was the talk of the tennis world leading into the clay-court major, having defeated Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to his second ATP Masters 1000 title in Madrid. But Ramos-Vinolas had the teen one point from a shocking early exit. 

For much of the match, Alcaraz was frustrated by his 34-year-old left-handed opponent and struggled to find solutions, which has been a rarity this season. The 19-year-old converted just seven of his 31 break points, putting him in a deep hole.

But while Alcaraz earned his first 29 wins of the year through astonishing skill, he claimed his 30th through sheer will. The teen triumphed after four hours and 34 minutes to earn a clash against American Sebastian Korda or Frenchman Richard Gasquet.

“I’m so happy to live this experience in front of you guys. Thank you very much!” Alcaraz told the crowd.

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Alcaraz rallied from 0-3 in the fifth to move ahead by a break at 4-3. But Ramos-Vinolas, who was seeking his second win against a Top 10 opponent at a major, did not go down without a fight. Alcaraz missed a forehand into the net to allow his countryman back on serve.

But the sixth seed played what might be the defensive point of the tournament to earn another break, fending off two Ramos-Vinolas overheads before the lefty dumped a backhand volley into the net. Alcaraz raised his arms like a championship boxer as the Court Simonne-Mathieu crowd leapt to its feat, while Ramos-Vinolas threw his racquet into the terre battue in disappointment.

This time, Alcaraz did not relinquish his lead, blasting a ball into the Parisian sky after finally completing his victory. Despite 74 unforced errors contributing to his trouble, the Spaniard crushed the same number of winners compared to just 32 winners for Ramos-Vinolas.

So often Alcaraz is able to bend players to his will with his powerful groundstrokes and deft drop shots, especially on the forehand side. Few opponents this year have been able to find a way to take the teen out of his rhythm.

But Ramos-Vinolas tracked down many of his countryman’s drop shots and made him pay, while also dictating the action with his heavy forehand and lefty serve out wide in the Ad court. That helped put him in position to serve for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set, earning a match point in the game.

But Alcaraz showed no fear with his back against the wall, obliterating a 131mph overhead off the bounce for a winner to earn his second break point of the game. Ramos-Vinolas cracked on the next point when he missed a backhand into the net, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

From that moment, the free-flowing Alcaraz who has dominated the headlines this year surged to the forefront with stunning shotmaking from all areas of the court. He played a nearly flawless fourth-set tie-break to force a decider. Screams of frustration suddenly turned to roars of celebration.

That momentum came to a screeching halt when Ramos-Vinolas raced to a 3-0 lead in the fifth. But once again, despite plenty of missed opportunities, Alcaraz never gave up. The teen got back on serve with more jaw-dropping defence, sprinting from side to side and somehow sliding a backhand passing shot up the line past a stunned Ramos-Vinolas.

Alcaraz now leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series 3-0. Ironically, the reigning Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals first broke onto the scene two years ago as a 16-year-old outside the Top 400 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in Rio de Janeiro, where he shocked Ramos-Vinolas in a three-hour, 37-minute thriller.

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Zapata Miralles Conquers Fritz At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 25, 2022

Zapata Miralles Conquers Fritz At Roland Garros

Qualifier prevails on Wednesday

Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles recorded a career breakthrough on Wednesday at Roland Garros, upsetting No. 13 seed Taylor Fritz 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 for his maiden third-round showing at a Grand Slam.

Fritz acknowledged after his first-round win on Monday, a five-set victory over Argentine qualifier Santiago Rodriguez Taverna, that his Paris preparation had been hampered by a left foot injury.

”I spent two weeks in a boot up until basically last week,” said Fritz. “I flew here [last] Monday and that’s all the practice I’ve had after taking a lot of time off [and] not really doing anything.”

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Although Fritz committed 30 unforced errors to just 17 winners across the final three sets, the errors often came at the end of lengthy baseline rallies where Zapata Miralles refused to miss. He drew a backhand error from the American to earn a crucial break at 4-3 in the fourth set, then fired down-the-line two forehand winners before converting his first match point with a smash after two hours and 17 minutes.

Zapata Miralles, No. 131 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, scored his first win over a Top 15 player. The 25-year-old will break into the Top 100 for the first time if he can reach the second week in Paris.

Standing between him and that goal is another American in No. 23 seed John Isner, who battled past French wild card Gregoire Barrere 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5). Isner seeks to reach the fourth around at a major for the first time since the 2018 US Open.

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