Rafael Nadal Wins Opening Group Match at ATP Finals

Rafael Nadal has started his ATP Finals experience on a winning note…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star made easy work of Andrey Rublev in Sunday’s late match, beating the Russian 6-3, 6-4 in just 1 hour, 17 minutes inside a largely empty O2 Arena.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal is hoping to cap off a season in which he earned his record-equaling 20th Grand Slam title and 1,000th match win on tour by capturing his first-ever trophy at the ATP Finals. He has qualified for the season-ending event for a record 16 straight years, but has lost in the final twice and missed six editions because of injuries.

Nadal steered the evening match in his direction from the start, losing just five points on his serve in the first set. He broke for a 4-2 lead when Rublev sent a shot long, and the Russian then slammed his racket into the ground in frustration.

Rublev entered the tournament as one of the hottest players on tour, having won five titles this season, but looked unsettled against Nadal and continuously gesticulated and shouted to himself between points.

Nadal broke in the opening game of the second set as well and never faced a break point of his own. He served out the win on his second match point when Rublev’s return sailed long.

This is the 12th and last year that the ATP Finals is played at the 02 Arena before moving to Turin, Italy, next year. Because of the coronavirus pandemic there are no fans inside the 20,000-capacity venue this time — meaning the normally raucous atmosphere has been replaced by an eerie silence interrupted only by muted applause from the players’ boxes between points.

There are also no line judges, as the tournament is using electronic line calling for the first time. The system means players can no longer challenge whether a ball was in or out as those calls get made automatically. However, they can request a video review for other disputed situations, such as double bounces.

Diego Schwartzman to Face Novak Djokovic in First Group Stage Match at Maiden ATP Finals

Diego Schwartzman is preparing for the big dance…

The 28-year-old Argentine professional tennis player, who clinched the final spot at the prestigious season-ending ATP Finals, will play ATP Tour World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in his first group stage match.

Diego Schwartzman

Schwartzman, competing in his first-ever ATP Finals, will be the first Argentine player to compete at the tournament since Juan Martin del Potro in 2013.

Schwartzman is the eighth singles player from Argentina to feature in the 50-year history of the tournament, following in the footsteps of 1974 titlist Guillermo Vilas (1974-77, ’79-82), Jose-Luis Clerc (1980-83), Guillermo Coria (2003-05), 2005 champion David Nalbandian (2003, ’05-06), Gaston Gaudio (2004-05), Mariano Puerta (2005) and 2009 runner-up del Potro (2008-09, ’12-13).

Schwartzman joins fellow debutant Andrey Rublev of Russia, alongside former qualifiers  Djokovic of Serbia, Spain’s Rafael NadalDominic Thiem of Austria, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the 2020 singles field.

There will be four players aged 24 and under at the ATP Finals for the second straight year. The last time this happened in back-to-back years was in 2008-09.

Schwartzman broke into the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings for the first time at No. 8 on 12 October after a run to his first Grand Slam championship semi-final at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal). A few weeks earlier, the Buenos Aires resident beat  Nadal en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome (l. to Djokovic).

As the first Argentine in the Top 10 since del Potro in May 2019, Schwartzman also finished runner-up at two ATP 250 events in a reduced 2020 season — at the Cordoba Open (l. to Garin) in February and at the bett1HULKS Championship runner-up in Cologne (l. to Zverev) in October.

At 5’7”, Schwartzman is the shortest player in the Top 10 since 5’6″ Harold Solomon, whose last week in the Top 10 began on 27 July 1981.

Rafael Nadal Routs Novak Djokovic to Win French Open for Record-Tying 20th Men’s Grand Slam Title

Rafael Nadal has lived to slay on clay another day…

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star produced a nearly flawless performance against World. No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the French Open final on Sunday to tie Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slam titles.

Rafael Nadal

 

Nadal equaled long-time rival Federer for the most major singles tennis championships won by a man and added to his own record at Roland Garros with No. 13 on the red clay, courtesy of a surprisingly dominant 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Djokovic.

“What you are doing in this court is unbelievable. Not just this court — throughout your entire career, you’ve been a great champion,” Djokovic told Nadal during the trophy presentation. “Today you showed why you are King of the Clay.”

Rafael NadalWhen Nadal ended it with an ace, he dropped to his knees, smiled widely and pumped his arms. It’s the fourth time he has won his favorite tournament without ceding a set.

“The love story that I have with this city, and with this court, is unforgettable,” Nadal said.

He deflected a question during the on-court post-match interview about catching Federer, saying his focus remained squarely on the French Open.

“[To] win here means everything to me, no? It’s not the moment, honestly … [to] think today about the 20th,” Nadal said. “Roland Garros means everything to me. I spent, here, the most important moments — or most of the most important moments — in my tennis career, no doubt about that.”

Nadal, No. 2 in the rankings, improved to 100-2 at the French Open, including a combined 26-0 in semifinals and finals, and picked up his fourth consecutive title in Paris. He previously put together streaks of four French Open championships from 2005 to ’08, then five in a row from 2010 to ’14, to go alongside his four trophies at the US Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open.

Nadal is now even with Federer for the first time since each man had zero Slams to his name in 2003. Federer’s first arrived at Wimbledon that year; Nadal, naturally, earned his first in France in 2005, by which point he trailed 4-0.

Federer reacted to Nadal’s win on Twitter, congratulating his “greatest rival.”

“I have always had the utmost respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion,” Federer said in his post. “As my greatest rival over many years, I believe we have pushed each other to become better players. Therefore, it is a true honor for me to congratulate him on his 20th Grand Slam victory.

“… I hope 20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us. Well done, Rafa. You deserve it.”

Nadal is the oldest French Open champion since 1972, and the more than 15 years between his first and most recent Grand Slam titles is the longest such span for a man.

Diego Schwartzman Outlasts Dominic Thiem at the French Open to Advance to His First Grand Slam Semifinal

Diego Schwartzman is finally into a Grand Slam semifinal… And, he did it against a difficult opponent. 

The 28-year-old Argentine professional tenista played through the wind and rain, and into the dark of night, at the French Open, contesting a total of 376 points spread out across five sets and 5 hours, 8 minutes on Tuesday night, to outlast Dominic Thiem.

In the process, Schwartzman finally won a Grand Slam quarterfinal after failing in three previous tries.

Schwartzman, who at one point was two points from defeat against Thiem, the U.S. Open champion and two-time runner-up at Roland Garros, found his way and emerged with a 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory by taking the last four games.

“I was just so nervous, because I saw the chance today,” said the 12th-seeded Schwartzman.

He called his advancement into his first major semifinal “a big step.”

“At the end, this night, I deserved to win,” Schwartzman said with a chuckle.

Thiem said as much, too, about his friend after a grueling contest in which more than 100 of the points lasted at least nine strokes — frequently going past 20 or even 30 shots.

Schwartzman next will face 12-time champion Rafael Nadal. He beat the former World No. 1 at a clay-court tune-up event in Rome last month.

Nadia Podoroska Becomes First Qualifier in Open Era to Reach French Open Women’s Semifinals

Nadia Podoroska continues to surprise while making history at Roland Garros

The 23-year-old Argentine tennis player knocked out Elina Svitolina, the French Open‘s third seed on Tuesday, becoming the first qualifier to reach the women’s semifinals at the French tournament in the Open era.

Podoroska threw her racket in the air, tilted her head back and pumped both fists after stopping Svitolina from reaching a third semifinal in her past four Grand Slam tournaments.

Ranked 131st in the world, Podoroska had never won a main draw Grand Slam match before last week, and she could hardly believe it when she won 6-2, 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Podoroska is only the third female qualifier to get to the semifinals at any major tournament in the Open era, which began in 1968, and the first since Alexandra Stevenson at Wimbledon in 1999.

Afterward, she was asked whether she was pinching herself to make sure it wasn’t all just a dream.

“No,” Podoroska replied. “I don’t want to wake up.”

Serving at 5-4 down, Svitolina saved two match points, the second with an audacious slice at the net to end a 27-shot rally.

But on the third match point, Podoroska hit a crisp forehand winner and then chucked her racket up toward the blue sky.

Podoroska, who is from the same city in Argentina as soccer superstar Lionel Messi, said she considered quitting tennis altogether a couple of years ago after “too many injuries,” including to her right wrist.

She was off the tour for eight months; her ranking dropped; she didn’t have enough money to travel to tournaments; she split with a coach she’d been working with for a decade.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Podoroska said.

She stuck with it, though, and now has a new team around her, based in Spain. And, by far, the best results of her career.

Svitolina, though, blamed herself for this outcome.

“Lots of things were not going my way,” Svitolina said. “I was not 100 percent mentally on it today, and that was really disappointing.”

In the semifinals, Podoroska will face unseeded 19-year-old Iga Swiatek.

Nadia Podoroska Advances to French Open Quarterfinals

Nadia Podoroska continues her Cinderella run at the French Open

The 23-year-old Argentine tennis player, a qualifier at this year’s event, outlasted the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Sunday to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in her maiden appearance at the Grand Slam tournament.

Nadia Podoroska

Podoroska, ranked No. 131 in the world, will face third seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine for a place in the semifinals.

Podoroska was the second qualifier to make the tournament’s last eight on Sunday following Italian world No. 159 Martina Trevisan‘s win over Dutch fifth seed Kiki Bertens.

Podoroska, who was ranked at No. 255 at the start of the season, has now won 42 matches across all tours in 2020, despite the truncated season, and will make her top 100 debut after the tournament.

She will now bid to emulate compatriot Paola Suarez who made the semifinals in Paris in 2004.

Three years ago, on her only other visit to Paris, Podoroska fell in the first round of qualifying, losing to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in just 39 minutes, winning just 21 points.

Bruno Soares Wins Men’s Doubles Title at US Open with New Partner Mate Pavic

Bruno Soares is back in the winner’s circle at Flushing Meadows.

The 38-year-old Brazilian tennis player and Mate Pavic won their first Grand Slam championship as a team on Thursday, beating Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic 7-5, 6-3 to take home the US Open trophy.

Bruno Soares & Mate Pavic

“It means a lot. That’s what we practice for. That’s what we were trying to do in these five months off, working for this moment,” Soares said on court after the match. “Extremely happy. Tough year for everyone. Really glad the work that everyone put into this event to give us the opportunity to get back on the court. To start with a Grand Slam title, I think it’s a very positive way to come back for us.”

Pavic and Soares lost in the first round of the Western & Southern Open, the first tournament since the ATP Tour resumed. But they battled past four former US Open champions en route to earning the title at the same venue, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Both men had previously captured Grand Slam glory, with Soares winning the 2016 Australian Open and US Open with Jamie Murray, while Pavic triumphed at the 2018 Australian Open with Oliver Marach.

This is their second tour-level victory together after winning last year’s Shanghai Masters.

Pavic and Soares were both the more dynamic and solid team inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Pavic wreaked havoc with his big serve and flashy shotmaking, while Soares made few mistakes and forced their opponents to hit difficult shots.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Among the Real-Life Heroes Celebrated in DC Comics’ “Wonder Women of History” Graphic Novel Anthology

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is getting illustrated

DC Comics has unveiled the new young adult graphic novel anthology Wonder Women of History, which celebrates real-life heroes, including the 30-year-old Bronx-born Puerto Rican politician who currently serving as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Ocasio-Cortez, or simply AOC, as she’s known, drew national recognition when she won the Democratic Party‘s primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district in June 2018, defeating Democratic Caucus chair Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent, in what was widely seen as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries. She defeated Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in the November general election.

Taking office at age 29, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. She has been noted for her substantial social media presence relative to her fellow members of Congress

Female and non-binary writers and artists tell 17 stories of those “who take up Wonder Woman‘s iconic mantle” in their respective fields of science, sports, entertainment, politics, social justice and more, according to the DC Comics blog. 

New York Times bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson edited the collection after recently writing the original graphic novel Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed.

In addition to Ocasio-Cortez, Wonder Women of History also spotlights singer-actress Janelle Monáe, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Iskwew Air CEO and Founder Teara Fraser, LGBTQ+ rights activist Edith Windsor, transgender activist and Stonewall uprising figure Marsha P. Johnson, Parkland shooting survivor and gun control advocate Emma Gonzalez, disability rights activist Judith HeumannNASA‘s first Hispanic female astronaut Ellen Ochoa, deputy director of Wuhan Institute of Virology and China’s “Bat Woman” Dr. Shi Zhengli, 23-time Grand Slam winning tennis player Serena Williams, stand-up comic Tig Notaro, actress Keiko Agena, and the first African American gymnast to win an individual Olympic medal Dominique Dawes.

The graphic novel will officially hit bookstore shelves everywhere on December 1. The anthology will also include portraits of illustrators Weshoyot Alvitre, Colleen Doran, Agnes Garbowska, Bex Glendining, Ashley A. Woods, and Safiya Zerrougui.

Wonder Women of History is already available for pre-order here.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Notches Best Ever Grand Slam Performance with Third Round Win at US Open

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina is boldly going where he hasn’t gone before…

The 21-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated Cameron Norrie 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 in two hours and 43 minutes on Friday in the third round at the US Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Davidovich Fokina showed little sign of nerves during the match as he booked a place in the fourth round in his US Open debut, as he registered his best ever performance at a Grand Slam championship. His previously best was a Second Round appearance at this year’s Australian Open.

Davidovich Fokina, who has admitted that he learned a lot from hitting with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Marbella during the five-month ATP Tour suspension, won eight straight games against Norrie from 1-2 in the third set to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set.

The World No. 99 beat Dennis Novak in the first round and No. 24 seed Hubert Hurkacz in the second round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, having lost in the first round of qualifying at the Western & Southern Open.

He’ll next play Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals.

Garbine Muguruza Reaches First-Ever Australian Open Semifinals

Garbine Muguruzais back in a Grand Slamsemifinal…

The 26-year-old Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player and former world No. 1 defeated No. 30 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-3 to reach the semifinals at the Australian Open for the first time in her career.

Garbine Muguruza

Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion, took a little more than 1 1/2 hours to eliminate Pavlyuchenkova, with both players struggling with their serves with the sun shining brightly at one end. 

It’s Muruguza’s first spot in a Grand Slamsemifinal since Roland Garrosin ’18.

After struggling for form following her 2017 Wimbledontriumph, Muguruza has looked like a player reborn at Melbourne Parksince reuniting with former coach Conchita Martinez.

Last November, Muguruza climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and got away from it all. She didn’t want to dwell on two relatively barren seasons since her Wimbledon win in 2017.

Her time on the mountain was “definitely was a life-changing experience,” Murgurza said, although she couldn’t explain how because it’s too complicated in a tournament environment.

“But it definitely had an impact on me, not as a tennis player, but just in general,” she said. “Being through such a tough challenge, I think, yeah, did many things inside of me.”

She’ll next face Simona Halep, both have already won at Wimbledon and the French Openand have been ranked No. 1, and are bidding for their first Grand Slam title on a hard court.