‘There’s always a chance’: Roger Federer dreaming of toppling ‘happy and excited’ Rafael Nadal

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Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates after winning against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka during their quarterfinal match on day ten of the French Open in Paris. (AFP)
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Spain's Rafael Nadal eyes the ball as he returns the ball to Japan's Kei Nishikori during their quarterfinal match at the French Open in Paris. (AFP)
Updated 04 June 2019

‘There’s always a chance’: Roger Federer dreaming of toppling ‘happy and excited’ Rafael Nadal

  • 37-year-old had not even played the tournament since 2015 before this year
  • Nadal thrashed Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 to claim his 91st win at Roland Garros

PARIS: Roger Federer insisted that “there’s always a chance” as he looks to finally beat old rival Rafael Nadal at the French Open after five previous defeats, eight years since their last Roland Garros meeting.
The 37-year-old had not even played the tournament since 2015 before this year, but powered into his eighth French Open semifinal with a 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday.
Nadal thrashed Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 to claim his 91st win at Roland Garros, against just two defeats.
But despite losing all five of his French Open meetings against Nadal, including in four finals, and trailing their head-to-head record on clay 13-2, Federer still holds hope that he can achieve another milestone in his illustrious career.
“Like against any player, there is always a chance. Otherwise nobody will be in the stadium to watch because everybody already knows the result in advance,” said the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
“That’s exactly what everybody believes by facing Rafa. They know it’s going to be tough. But you just never know. He might have a problem. He might be sick. You never know.
“You might be playing great or for some reason he’s struggling. Maybe there’s incredible wind, rain, 10 rain delays. You just don’t know. That’s why you need to put yourself in that position.”
Federer is also 23-15 behind overall against 33-year-old Nadal heading into their 39th clash, but has won their last five matches, including in the 2017 Australian Open final when he claimed his first Grand Slam title for five years.
The Swiss had taken a two-year break from clay altogether in an attempt to focus on Wimbledon, but returned to the red dirt last month, reaching the quarter-finals in Madrid and Rome.
He has built on that form in the French capital, losing just one set — the same as 11-time champion Nadal — en route to the last four.
He is now targeting only his second Roland Garros crown, after taking advantage of Nadal’s shock loss to Robin Soderling to win the 2009 title.
“The complete dream would be to win the tournament,” said Federer. “Other players won’t agree. It will be difficult, but I believe it anyway.
“For me to get to Rafa is not simple. It took five matches here for me to win to get there.
“That’s why I’m very happy to play Rafa, because if you want to achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he’s that strong and he will be there.
“I knew that when I signed up for the clay that hopefully that’s gonna happen.”
The beaten Wawrinka admitted he was unlikely to miss his close friend Federer’s tilt at Nadal in three days’ time.
“I’m a big fan of this sport,” said Wawrinka, a three-time major title winner himself.
“So when you get the chance to have in the semifinal of French Open Roger against Rafa, you’re gonna put the TV on and watch. I always did in the past.”
Meanwhile, Nadal said: “Having Roger in the semifinals is an extra thing.
“We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court facing each other. So it’s another episode of this, and I’m happy and excited. It will be a special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it.
“Roger came back on clay because he’s a player who plays well on all surfaces and on clay he has good chances of winning,” said Nadal who hasn’t lost to the Swiss on clay since the Madrid final in 2009.
“One thing is that he feels physically ready. He’s coming back because he wants to do so. And if he feels in good shape physically, well, he should not leave out a main part of the season.”
Nadal’s record at Roland Garros now stands at 91 wins against just two defeats — to Robin Soderling in the last-16 in 2009 and Novak Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals.
A wrist injury forced him to withdraw before the fourth round in 2016.
Many believed those back-to-back setbacks would signal the end of the road for Nadal who has battled a host of injuries throughout his career.
But since that tearful 2016 Paris exit, he has picked up three more majors and twice been a runner-up in Australia.
“After all the problems I have faced, what keeps the flame alive is this desire, the desire to play on the main stages where I’ve been playing tennis for all these years,” he said.
“This won’t last forever. So I want to give myself the maximum chances. For the time being, things are rolling well.”

(With agencies)


New Sharqiya Baja to take place Thursday

Updated 12 December 2019

New Sharqiya Baja to take place Thursday

ALKHOBAR: The new Sharqiya Baja 2019, the fifth and final round of the inaugural Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship, will take place at 3:15 p.m. on Thursday with a timed super special stage of 4.32 km. 

Ahead of a field of 51 cars, nine NUTVs, 10 motorcycles, 23 quads and one truck will be two further days of competitive action through the deserts of the Eastern Province and 474.86 competitive kilometers in a compact route of 746.58 km. 

 Several international drivers, most notably Spaniard Carlos Sainz, Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach, Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Czech Miroslav Zapletal will use the opportunity to finalize their preparations for January’s Dakar Rally.

In contrast, the massive Saudi contingent is spread across several categories and sporting disciplines, and the series finale will decide the outcome of the drivers’ championship and the winner of the quad section.

 Saudi Arabia’s leading drivers, Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Toyota Hilux) and Yasir Seaidan (X-raid Buggy), have fought a fascinating tussle for supremacy in the new series.

 Seaidan won the Aseer Rally opener and finished behind his rival at the Qassim Rally, the AlUla-Neom event and the Riyadh Rally. 

 The pair are now separated by just three points, heading into the showdown on Half Moon Bay.

An outright victory would give either driver the title, with 25 points awarded to the winner, 18 for second place and 15 for third. The two drivers, however, face strong opposition from a plethora of Saudi rivals. 

 ED Racing’s Essa Al-Dossari is a distant third in the series in his Nissan Navara, and can confirm that position by staying ahead of Mutair Al-Shammeri, Khalid Al-Feraihi and Faris Al-Shammeri. 

 Salman Al-Shammeri has already clinched the T2 title by scoring maximum points in the category for series production cross-country vehicles in three of the four rallies. His closest challenger is Yousef Al-Suwaidi, winner of the T2 in the Qassim Rally.

 Saleh Al-Saif confirmed success in the T3 before the recent event in Riyadh, and tackled that rally in the NUTV class, while Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb have cruised to the T4 title in a Mercedes truck. 

Yousef Al-Dhaif has an unassailable lead over Fahad Al-Naim and Khalil and Majid Al-Tuwaijri in the NUTV Championship, but the latter trio will be battling to finish as runners-up in the popular category. Motorcycle honors have already gone to Mishal Alghuneim with Abdullah Al-Helal finishing the series in second place, but a host of riders still have a shot at claiming third overall.

Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi won the quad section at the Qassim and AlUla-Neom rallies, but a retirement in Riyadh has left the door open for Riyadh Al-Oraifan to snatch the title in the Eastern Province. He trails his fellow Yamaha rider by 21 points, with 25 available for the outright win.

 Several riders can still finish third, but Abdul Aziz Al-Shayban heads into the ceremonial start on Half Moon Bay leading Riyadh event-winner Sufiyan Al-Omar by six points. 

The event is organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), under the chairmanship of Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal and the supervision of former FIA Middle East champion Abdullah Bakhashab. 

 The new Baja runs with the support of the SAMF, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group, Al-Arabia Outdoors and the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.

 The event is being considered as an official candidate for future inclusion in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas.