Rafael Nadal not satisfied after reaching 12th Monte Carlo final

Clearly a perfectionist Rafael Nadal is not resting on his laurels ahead of the final against Kei Nishikori.
Updated 21 April 2018
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Rafael Nadal not satisfied after reaching 12th Monte Carlo final

  • Super Spaniard looking for a record-breaking 11th Monte Carlo Masters title.
  • Nadal faces Japan's Kei Nishikori in Sunday's final.

Rafael Nadal’s priority after reaching his 12th Monte Carlo Masters final was to whip out his phone and frantically text coach Carlos Moya.
Despite a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 win against No. 5-ranked Grigor Dimitrov, he had a pressing concern given how quickly he was texting.
What frantic emergency could command such attention?
“I was texting Carlos to tell him that we need to book a court quick,” Nadal said. “I wanted to hit some forehands winners that I think I need for tomorrow.”
So the top-ranked Nadal, a 10-time French Open champion with 75 career titles, hurried to another clay court just for forehand practice ahead of Sunday’s final against Kei Nishikori, an opponent he has beaten nine times out of 11.
While it may seem absurd, it is a reminder of the relentless perfectionist Nadal is even on his best surface.
No matter that he has not dropped a set in six matches since coming back from a recurrence of a right hip injury; he is more focused on ironing out even the smallest of flaws.
Even though he crushed Dimitrov, as he had Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals on Friday, Nadal was not satisfied.
“I really had a lot of chances in the first set to have (a) little bit better score. I didn’t convert (them),” he said. “The only way to hold the level, and to hold the chances to keep winning after 10, 12 years, is to improve things.”
He remains on course for a record-extending 11th Monte Carlo title and record 31st Masters. He shares the Masters record with Novak Djokovic, whose 30 wins include two here.
Nishikori, who is making an encouraging return from a serious right-wrist injury, beat No. 4 Alexander Zverev 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“It’s getting there,” said Nishikori, who has missed the past two majors because of a torn tendon. “Little bit sore still.”
Nishikori won on his first match point when Zverev scooped a backhand wide. The German player looked jaded, having finished a long and grueling quarterfinal at 9 p.m. on Friday.
Nishikori has never won a Masters and last reached a final two years ago in Montreal. He beat Nadal in their last encounter two years ago to take the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
He knows it will be a different challenge toppling him in Monte Carlo.
“He’s been dominating crazy this week,” Nishikori said. “On clay he’s the king.”
Nadal never looked imperious as he beat Dimitrov for the 11th time in 12 career meetings.
“In the second set, he started to miss more,” Nadal said modestly. “I was there solid. That’s all.
“Being in 12 finals already here is something difficult to imagine,” added Nadal, who has lost only one, to Djokovic in 2013.
Dimitrov came out firing, but he was mostly more miss than hit.
The Bulgarian cracked trying to serve for 5-5. He made consecutive double faults and hit a wild forehand long to trail 15-40. He saved one set point but Nadal was in ruthless mode and took the next chance.
Two consecutive love breaks and three easy holds made it 5-0 to Nadal in the second set.
Nadal’s victory at Monte Carlo last year made him the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times. He then won a 10th title at Barcelona and at Roland Garros.


Benevolence, not bluster: How ‘Brand Salah’ bucks the trend

Updated 24 May 2018
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Benevolence, not bluster: How ‘Brand Salah’ bucks the trend

  • Mohamed Salah lines up for Liverpool in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday
  • Mohamed Salah has been unveiled as DHL’s new brand ambassador for the MENA region

LONDON: On Saturday Mohamed Salah will line up for Liverpool in the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
He will do so not only with the every member of the Red army behind him, but also the entire Arab world.
That is testament to his stratospheric rise — over the past nine months the Egyptian ace has gone from being a very good player, but one deemed as needing to justify his $52 million transfer fee, to a global superstar and cultural phenomenon.
As with any sporting star, with the adulation and attention comes potential pitfalls and, invariably, a new lexicon. So it was not surprising to hear the 25-year-old speak of “his brand” when he was unveiled as DHL’s new brand ambassador for the MENA region on Wednesday. Stars becoming brands is almost cliche now and one that Salah has clearly taken on board — he now has even his own logo.
“We are proud of him. Over the past two years, no has done what he has done. He has proved himself as one of the best and we wanted to deal with no one else, just him,” CEO of DHL in the Middle East and North Africa, Nour Suliman, said. “He is competing on another level and is the star of the Arab world. No one in the Arab world has done what he is doing. We are very proud to have him.”
Those types of corporate events, where a big multinational signs a deal with the latest big, young thing, lend themselves to the odd dollop of hyperbole. But there is little doubting the impact Salah has had on the pitch for Liverpool and Egypt, and off it in becoming a true Arab icon. And his utterance of the word “brand” is where Salah as a walking cliche begins and ends.
Every year in Egypt ahead of Ramadan the best dates are named after the most popular person in the country — the man or woman revered by the nation at that moment. In the past, the staple food of the holy month has tended to be named after political leaders.
This year there was no competition: The most succulent date has been named after Salah. At the DHL press conference he was presented with a packet of dates emblazoned with his face and name.
It said much about the man that he both looked and confessed to being “embarrassed.”
This week the British Museum in London displayed Salah’s green football boots as part of its Modern Egypt exhibition. And in a documentary about the player broadcast in the UK, he was credited with increasing attendances at England’s oldest mosque in Liverpool and improving the image of Islam by Dr. Abdul Hamid, a trustee at the mosque.
So while the signing of big deals hints he is very much the modern-day footballing superstar, everything else off the pitch suggests something else.
Salah is on social media, but does not, like many sports stars, live on it; he knows he is a hero for many, but pays more than mere lip service to his position as a role model; and he embraces attention (of both opposition defenders and fans) rather than seemingly getting annoyed by it if things are not going his way.
“I am not heavy into social media, I am on it and aware of it, but I don’t follow it that closely. It does not influence me,” he said.
“I am aware young people look up to me and I feel great that they do and that I can influence a young footballer to play better or train harder, or do better; that that makes me proud.”
This season Salah has done what few footballers have done before, transcend the game, and he has done so in a way characterized by benevolence rather than bluster.
Against Real Madrid he can again illustrate just what a talent he is — and if he does lead Liverpool to their sixth European Cup triumph, you get the feeling he will not let the adulation go to his head.