Nadal gets emotional after losing in his last Madrid Open appearance, Alcaraz reaches quarterfinals

Nadal gets emotional after losing in his last Madrid Open appearance, Alcaraz reaches quarterfinals
Rafael Nadal, of Spain, center, waves to the crowd after losing a match against Jiri Lehecka, of Czech Republic, during the Mutua Madrid Open tennis tournament in Madrid, Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 01 May 2024
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Nadal gets emotional after losing in his last Madrid Open appearance, Alcaraz reaches quarterfinals

Nadal gets emotional after losing in his last Madrid Open appearance, Alcaraz reaches quarterfinals
  • Nadal: It’s been a gift what you’ve done for me during the 21 years that I’ve played here. All I can say is ‘thank you
  • After the match, tournament organizers unfurled five banners for each of Nadal’s titles in Madrid — 2005, ‘10, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘17

MADRID: Rafael Nadal had to pause for a few moments, visibly emotional, while addressing the crowd after his loss in the fourth round at the Madrid Open.

As chants of “Rafa, Rafa, Rafa” echoed around, the five-time champion in Madrid made a farewell speech following a 7-5, 6-4 loss Tuesday to the 31st-ranked Jiri Lehecka.

It was likely his last official match at the tournament in the Spanish capital.

“This is a difficult day when it arrives, but it’s a reality. My body and my life had been sending me signs for some time,” Nadal said. “I was able to say goodbye playing on this court, one of the most emotional ones for me. Madrid at times has been more important to me than a Grand Slam. The memories here will stay with me forever.”

After the match, tournament organizers unfurled five banners for each of Nadal’s titles in Madrid — 2005, ‘10, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘17. They also showed a video of his highlights, as his wife and sister shed tears in the stands.

“It’s been a gift what you’ve done for me during the 21 years that I’ve played here,” said the 37-year-old Nadal, a winner of 22 Grand Slam singles titles. “All I can say is ‘thank you.’”

Nadal had not lost to a player ranked outside the top 20 on clay since falling to Pablo Cuevas in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro. He was seeking his 60th win in Madrid and the 100th ATP 1000 quarterfinal of his career.

Earlier, the player who Spanish fans hope will take over Nadal’s reign, Carlos Alcaraz, needed nearly three hours to beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4).

Both Spaniards are coming off injuries and are trying to get back in shape ahead of next month’s French Open. The 20-year-old Alcaraz missed tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Nadal was coming off two matches in Barcelona after not playing competitively in nearly three months.

He arrived in Madrid saying he wasn’t fully fit and was worried about his condition, but in the end he won three consecutive matches without showing significant physical limitations.

“Just two days before I left for Barcelona I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to play again in an official match,” Nadal said, “and in the end I’ve played two weeks.”

The second-seeded Alcaraz was coming off two comfortable victories in Madrid but struggled on Tuesday. He squandered four match points against the 24th-ranked Struff while serving at 5-3 but converted on his first opportunity in the deciding tiebreaker at the Caja Magica center court.

“I wasn’t at my best physically toward the end of the match, but I’m happy that in the end I found my game,” Alcaraz said. “I fought for every ball and didn’t let down despite some difficult moments when things didn’t go my way.”

Alcaraz is trying to become the first player to win three straight Madrid Open titles. He also needed three sets to beat Struff in last year’s final. The world No. 3 will next face seventh-seeded Andrey Rublev at the clay-court tournament.

Top-seeded Jannick Sinner defeated 16th-seeded Karen Khachanov 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the Madrid quarterfinals for the first time. He is the only player to make it to the quarterfinals at all four ATP 1000 events this season.

“I made a couple of mistakes in the first set when he broke me, but this can happen,” Sinner said. “In the second set I tried to stay focused. Immediately, I broke him, and the confidence level raised a bit.”

SWIATEK RALLIES

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek rallied for a 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 win over Beatriz Haddad Maia to reach the semifinals for a second straight year.

After letting a 4-1 lead slip to drop the first set, Swiatek regained control in the second and third sets.

She will next face 18th-seeded American Madison Keys, who overcame eighth-seeded Ons Jabeur 0-6, 7-5, 6-1 after losing the first eight games of the match.

The Madrid Open is the only high-profile European clay tournament that Swiatek is yet to win.

MEDVEDEV ADVANCES

Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev was given the run around by Alexander Bublik before winning 7-6 (3), 6-4 to advance into a match against Lehecka.

“A lot of drop shots, and I got so tired in the end running for them,” Medvedev said. “That’s when you lose your concentration and you start to play a bit worse. But after the match he told me he was dead also. So, good for me, at least I was not the only one.”

World No. 8 Rublev advanced 6-2, 6-4 over Tallon Griekspoor and No. 22 Francisco Cerundolo upset two-time champion Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with Taylor Fritz, a 7-6 (2), 6-4 winner over Hubert Hurkacz.


Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
Updated 22 June 2024
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Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
  • Injured stars lose their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event

BERLIN: Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur joined the procession of injured stars limping off the Berlin grass as they retired Saturday while losing their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event.
Second-seeded Belarusian Sabalenka retired against unseeded Russian Anna Kalinskaya trailing 5-1 in the first set, in one of the quarterfinals pushed back to Saturday morning by rain on Friday.
Eighth-seeded Jabeur had gone toe-to-toe with top seed Coco Gauff before losing a one-hour 14 minute first set tiebreak 11/9 before packing her rackets in her bag and walking off.
“It doesn’t feel like a win,” said Gauff on court. “Especially as we had such a great first set.”
“It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”
Gauff said the Tunisian had indicated she was not seriously injured.
“I know she’s going to feel better tomorrow and should be fine for Wimbledon.”
Trailing 4-1, Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck treated. She played on for one game before stopping. It was the first time the Belarusian had retired injured in a WTA tournament, said the women’s tennis body.
“I played really good. I had a good start. I’m happy to be in the semifinals,” Kalinskaya said. “I’m happy to have three matches (here), fourth one on grass. That gives me confidence.”
On Thursday, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova retired with a right hip injury from her second-round match, also against Kalinskaya.
On Friday, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pulled out while trailing Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.
Azarenka will play Kalinskaya in one semifinal later on Saturday.
Gauff will face compatriot Jessica Pegula who beat Czech Katerina Siniakova 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday. The fourth-seeded American had led 4-2 in the third set when rain halted play on Friday.
Gauff said her training regime prepared her to play twice in one day.
“I’ll be ready for later today,” said Gauff.


Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’

Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’
Updated 21 June 2024
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Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’

Wimbledon champion Alcaraz says Queen’s defeat ‘part of our lives’
  • World No. 2 Alcaraz arrived for this grass-court warmup event for Wimbledon fresh from his French Open triumph on the clay of Roland Garros
  • Alcaraz begins the defense of his Wimbledon title at the All England Club, just a few miles across London from Queen’s, on July 1

LONDON: Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz said losing was “part of our lives” following a shock defeat by Britain’s Jack Draper in the last 16 of the Queen’s Club tournament in London on Thursday.

Alcaraz, also the reigning Queen’s champion, lost 7-6 (7/3), 6-3 with the British No. 1 claiming the biggest win of his career.

World No. 2 Alcaraz arrived for this grass-court warmup event for Wimbledon fresh from his French Open triumph on the clay of Roland Garros.

But the 21-year-old Spaniard was undone by Draper, 22, who is bidding to become the first British men’s singles champion at Queen’s since Andy Murray won his fifth title at the event in 2016.

Alcaraz, for whom this was a first defeat on grass in nearly two years, insisted he was “hungry to be better” at Wimbledon.

“Of course it’s tough to deal with the losses, but I think it’s part of our lives,” he said.

“We have to (deal with it) as good as you can. After the losses, you have to take the positive things and of course the negative things just to improve to the next tournament.

“I have to give credit to Jack. I think he played really good tennis today.”

Alcaraz begins the defense of his Wimbledon title at the All England Club, just a few miles across London from Queen’s, on July 1, with the champion saying he planned to remain in the British capital.

“I think the best way to be better on grass is to stay here, practice with players, physically doing good stuff on grass and the movement, really specific things,” Alcaraz said when asked if he would return to Spain before Wimbledon.

“In Spain or at my home, we don’t have grass courts or really grass places just to practice.

Alcaraz added: “Right now I’m hungry just to be better, to practice, and that’s all I have to do.

“I’m really excited to start Wimbledon. Of course I really want to win every title I (play for), and I think Wimbledon is even more special.”

For the 31st-ranked Draper, this stunning win followed his first ATP title in Stuttgart last week and meant he became the first British man to beat a top-two player on grass since Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final.

Neither Alcaraz nor Draper managed a break point in a first set where the British left-hander eventually pulled clear in the tie-break.

Alcaraz saved three match points on his own serve at 5-2 down in the second set before Draper, a day after 37-year-old Murray limped out injured of Queen’s after just five games, secured the win.

“It was a really tough match,” said Draper. “Carlos is the defending champion, he won Wimbledon, he’s an incredible talent and amazing for the sport. I had to come out and play well and luckily I did.”

Draper will next play American fifth-seed Tommy Paul, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo, in the quarterfinals.

There was more British success when wildcard Billy Harris joined Draper in the last eight.

The 29-year-old journeyman celebrated his award of a wildcard for Wimbledon — and a guaranteed £60,000 ($76,000) — by beating French qualifier Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard 6-4, 7-5.

Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Brandon Nakashima of the US.


Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics
Updated 18 June 2024
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Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics

Ons Jabeur ‘avoids risk’ by missing Paris Olympics
  • Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness

PARIS: Three-time Grand Slam runner up Ons Jabeur said on Monday she will sit out this summer’s Paris Olympics to avoid further injury to her knee.
Tunisian Jabeur, 29, will miss the Games, between July 27-August 4. The competition being played Roland-Garros, meaning a switch back to clay immediately after the grass season and before the hard-court run up to the US Open.
Last year Jabeur underwent surgery on her right knee.
“After consulting with my medical team regarding attending to the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season,” Jabeur said on her social media accounts.
“Unfortunately I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Olympics,” she added.
Jabeur reached the final at Wimbledon in 2022 and 2023 and at the US Open in 2022. She competed at the Olympics in London in 2012, in Rio in 2016 and in Tokyo five years later.
Wimbledon starts on July 1 with the US Open beginning on August 26.
Earlier in the day, world number three Aryna Sabalenka said she would also miss the Olympics to protect her fitness.


Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title

Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title
Updated 09 June 2024
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Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title

Alcaraz defeats Zverev in final for his third Grand Slam title
  • Carlos Alcaraz is a 21-year-old from Spain who grew up watching countryman Rafael Nadal win trophy after trophy at Roland Garros — a record 14 in all

PARIS: Carlos Alcaraz came back to defeat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 on Sunday and win the French Open for his third Grand Slam title.

Alcaraz is a 21-year-old from Spain who grew up watching countryman Rafael Nadal win trophy after trophy at Roland Garros — a record 14 in all — and now has eclipsed Nadal as the youngest man to collect major championships on three surfaces. Nadal was about 1.5 years older when he did it.

Sunday’s victory — in which he trailed two sets to one, just as he had in the semifinals against Jannik Sinner on Friday — allowed Alcaraz to add the clay-court championship at Roland Garros to his triumphs on hard courts at the US Open in 2022 and on grass at Wimbledon in 2023. Alcaraz is now 3-0 in Grand Slam finals.

Zverev dropped to 0-2 in major title matches. The 27-year-old from Germany was the runner-up at the 2020 US Open after blowing a two-set lead against Dominic Thiem.

This time, Zverev lost after surging in front by reeling off the last five games of the third set. Alcaraz’s level dipped during that stretch and he seemed distracted by a complaint over the condition of the clay at Court Philippe Chatrier, telling chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein it was “unbelievable.”

But Alcaraz reset himself and surged to the finish, taking 12 of the last 15 games while being treated by a trainer at changeovers for an issue with his left leg.

No. 3 Alcaraz and No. 4 Zverev were making their first appearance in a French Open final. Indeed, this was the first men’s title match at Roland Garros since 2004 without Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.

Nadal lost to Zverev in the first round two weeks ago; Djokovic, a three-time champion, withdrew before the quarterfinals with a knee injury that required surgery; Federer is retired.

There were some jitters at the outset. Zverev started the proceedings with a pair of double-faults — walking to the sideline to change rackets after the second, as though the equipment was the culprit — and eventually got broken. Alcaraz lost serve immediately, too, framing a forehand that sent the ball into the stands — which he would do on a handful of occasions — and double-faulting, trying a so-so drop shot that led to an easy winner for Zverev, then missing a backhand.

Let’s just say they won’t be putting those initial 10 minutes in the Louvre. A lot of the 4-hour, 19-minute match was patchy, littered with unforced errors.

Alcaraz managed to come out strong in the fourth set, grabbing 16 of the first 21 points to move out to a 4-0 edge, including one brilliant, sliding, down-the-line forehand passing winner that he celebrated by thrusting his right index finger overhead in a “No. 1” sign, then throwing an uppercut while screaming, “Vamos!”

No, he is not ranked No. 1 at the moment — Sinner makes his debut at the top spot on Monday — but he has been before and, although a “2” will be beside Alcaraz’s name next week, there is little doubt that he is as good as it gets in men’s tennis right now.


Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles

Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles
Updated 09 June 2024
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Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles

Paolini beaten again as Gauff, Siniakova win French Open doubles
  • Coco Gauff, the reigning US Open singles champion, wins her first Grand Slam doubles title

PARIS: French Open singles runner-up Jasmine Paolini suffered another defeat in Sunday’s women’s doubles final as she and partner Sara Errani lost 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 to Coco Gauff and Katerina Siniakova.
Gauff, the reigning US Open singles champion, won her first Grand Slam doubles title. The 20-year-old American was a losing finalist at the 2021 US Open and 2022 French Open in doubles.
Siniakova, 28, captured her eighth Grand Slam doubles crown and third at Roland Garros. She claimed the other seven titles with fellow Czech Barbora Krejcikova.