Golden oldie Rafael Nadal shocked by stunning form in Australian Open

Nadal has looked in imperious form in Melbourne. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2019

Golden oldie Rafael Nadal shocked by stunning form in Australian Open

  • World No. 2 has looked in stunning form in year's first Grand Slam.
  • Aussie Open is Nadal's first tournament since last September.

MELBOURNE: Rafael Nadal admitted he has surprised himself with his outstanding level of tennis at the Australian Open after crushing Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinal.
The Spanish world world No. 2 handed the rising star a ruthless tennis lesson 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 in just 106 minutes.
Greek 14th seed Tsitsipas had enjoyed a fairytale run to his first Grand Slam last four, including a win over Roger Federer, but found Nadal in ruthless form in the Spaniard’s first tournament since the US Open in September
“Is not easy to be back after four months, five months, and play the way I am playing,” he said after undergoing ankle surgery in his extended off-season.
“Of course, I didn’t expect that at all,” Nadal told reporters after setting up a final Sunday against either top seed Novak Djokovic or Lucas Pouille.
“I believe that when you are older, you lose less the tennis when you are playing less.
“You don’t need that many matches to play well. That’s something that happened for the last two years for me.”
Second seeded Nadal has not dropped his serve for an astonishing 63 straight games and has not lost a set.
“I played well, of course. Have been playing well during the whole event. Every match more or less I think I did a lot of things well. Tonight was another one,” he said after a breathtaking display of almost perfect tennis.
“Probably the backhand was better today than the rest of the days.
“That’s important for me, too, because the forehand was working fantastic during the whole week, week-and-a-half, but the backhand was improving during the tournament.
“Tonight was even better than the previous rounds, no?“
Tsitsipas, 20, had been hailed as a new young Greek god of tennis after beating Federer, but his ascent to the summit of his personal Olympus was comprehensively halted by the colossus called Nadal.
“I have no idea what I can take from that match,” said a despondent Tsitsipas. “I wasn’t even close to getting something. I only got six games.”
Nadal’s win put him into his fifth Australian Open final and keeps him on course to become the first man to win all four Grand Slams twice in the Open era if he can add to his sole Melbourne Park crown in 2009.
Tsitsipas, in just his second Australian Open and seventh appearance at a Grand Slam, was looking to become the first Greek player — man or woman — to reach a final in a Grand Slam.
“He has everything to become a multi-Grand Slam champion,” Nadal said graciously of the young Greek, who enjoyed a breakthrough 2018, winning the ATP Tour NextGen Finals.
Nadal, who shattered the dreams of two other NextGen stars 19-year-old Alex de Minaur and 21-year-old Frances Tiafoe by jumping all over their serves early, made another immediate statement.
At 1-1 a rasping double-handed backhand and a forehand winner gave him a first break point which the Spaniard duly converted. Another followed as he cruised to the set just 31 minutes.
The second stanza was on serve at 2-2 when Nadal pulled off the shot of the tournament, a running forehand around the net post from almost behind the umpire’s chair on his way to earning three break points.
And the great Spaniard was in no mood to hang about at the start of the third, breaking Tsitsipas not once but three times to inflict a humiliating 6-0 “bagel” on the youngster in a further 31 minutes.


Mladenovic collapses again but blames umpire, Djokovic triumphs

Updated 30 September 2020

Mladenovic collapses again but blames umpire, Djokovic triumphs

  • The French player lost to Laura Siegemund of Germany 7-5, 6-3 after serving for the first set at 5-1

PARIS: Kristina Mladenovic’s first match since her nightmarish end to the US Open produced another collapse and a controversial umpire’s call at the French Open on Tuesday.

The French player lost to Laura Siegemund of Germany 7-5, 6-3 after serving for the first set at 5-1.

Mladenovic was furious with chair umpire Eva Asderaki for not spotting a double bounce on set point. During a 10-stroke exchange, Mladenovic hit a drop shot that Siegemund ran for and got back over the net — although a TV replay showed the ball bounced twice. Mladenovic slowed up, looked confused, and wound up touching the net, which automatically gave the point to Siegemund.

“Mistakes are human but I don’t see how the umpire can miss that. She didn’t see a double bounce,” Mladenovic said. “Unfortunately she will continue at Roland Garros, and I won’t continue at Roland Garros.”

For Novak Djokovic, though, his first Grand Slam action since his disqualification at the US Open went as smoothly as can be.

The top-ranked Serb, who is bidding for a second title here and an 18th major title overall, beat Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 under a closed roof at Court Philippe Chatrier. The first set lasted just 20 minutes and Djokovic broke the 80th-ranked Ymer nine times overall.

Djokovic was defaulted from his fourth-round match at the US Open this month for accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball hit in anger after dropping a game.

On Tuesday it was was Siegemund who faced questions of unsportsmanlike conduct for not acknowledging the double bounce that should have handed Mladenovic the first set.

“If she would have done it, she would have all my respect and be super fair play,” Mladenovic said. “But she’s not the one responsible. I think the chair umpire is the one that should be really focused on that call.”

Siegemund also said it wasn’t up to her to make the call, and that she wasn’t sure right away whether the ball had bounced twice.

Mladenovic suggested tennis should start using video replays, like the highly controversial VAR system used in soccer.

“It would be great and we’d avoid a sad scenario like I had today,” Mladenovic said.

It wasn’t quite as sad as Flushing Meadows, though, where she served for the match at 6-1, 5-1 against Varvara Gracheva then lost a tiebreaker and lost 6-0 in the third set.

She called that the most painful loss of her career. Four days later, she was part of the top-seeded women’s doubles team dropped from the US Open for having been potentially exposed to COVID-19.

In other women’s first-round matches, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Sherif was the first Egyptian player to qualify for the main draw at Roland Garros.

Danish teenager Clara Tauson earned her first tour-level victory by beating US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady 6-4, 3-6, 9-7. The 17-year-old Tauson, who won the Australian Open junior title last year, saved two match points.

In remaining men’s first-round play, US Open semifinalist Matteo Berrettini defeated Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. The seventh-seeded Italian next faces Lloyd Harris.

No. 20 Cristian Garin of Chile won against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 and plays lucky loser Marc Polmans.