Rafael Nadal Defeats Casper Ruud to Claim 14th French Open Title

Rafael Nadal has officially reclaimed his King of Clay title…

The 36-year-old Spanish tennis star overwhelmed Casper Ruud in straight sets on Sunday to win his record-extending 14th French Open championship and 22nd Grand Slam title.

Rafael NadalBut he revealed after the match that he needed an injection to his ailing left foot just to be able to play.

Nadal told Eurosport after his 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory that he received an injection to numb his foot for Sunday’s final.

“The preparation was not ideal,” he said. “I had a stress fracture of the rib, then I have the foot [pain], which stays there all the time. I had my doctor here with me — I don’t know how to say in English what we did. We played with no feeling on the foot, we played with an injection in the nerve so the foot was asleep — that’s why I was able to play.”

During the trophy ceremony, Nadal thanked his family and support team for helping him, because otherwise, he would have needed to “retire much before.”

“I don’t know what can happen in the future,” Nadal told the crowd, “but I’m going to keep fighting to try to keep going.”

Nadal revealed during his media availability after the match that he’d been undergoing frequent injections into a nerve throughout the past two weeks at Roland Garros, serving to numb the pain in his foot caused by Mueller-Weiss syndrome. It is not a long-term solution to the chronic foot problem, and he is expected to visit a specialist next week to undergo a fresh procedure — a radiofrequency nerve ablation.

The success of that procedure will dictate whether he plays Wimbledon or not.

“I’m going to be in Wimbledon if my body is ready to be in Wimbledon,” Nadal said. “That’s it. Wimbledon is not a tournament that I want to miss. I think nobody want to miss Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon.”

He said if the procedure doesn’t work, he’ll have to decide if he’s ready to undergo a major surgery with no guarantee that it will be successful and might require a prolonged recovery time.

But he did confirm he would not go through the whole process of getting injections daily to get him through Wimbledon.

“Wimbledon is a priority, always [has] been a priority. If I am able to play with anti-inflammatories? Yes. To play with anaesthetic injections? No. I don’t want to put myself in that position again. Can happen once, but no, is not a philosophy of life that I want to follow.

“So let’s see. I am always a positive guy, and I always expect things going the right way. So let’s be confident, and let’s be positive. Then let’s see what’s going on.”

Nadal’s victory came two days after his 36th birthday and made him the oldest title winner in the history of the clay-court tournament. The oldest champion in tournament history had been Andres Gimeno, who was 34 when he won in 1972.

Ruud led 3-1 in the second set, a deficit that spurred Nadal to raise his level — he took the last 11 games. Nadal’s six games lost Sunday are tied for his second fewest in a major final. He has won six major finals in which he has conceded fewer than 10 games, breaking a tie with Richard Sears for the most by any man in tennis history.

Given his age, and of more concern, the chronic pain in his left foot that has been an off-and-on problem for years, Nadal has said repeatedly in recent days that he can never be sure whether each match at Court Philippe Chatrier might be his last.

He played crisply and cleanly, accumulating more than twice as many winners as Ruud, 37 to 16. Nadal also committed fewer unforced errors, making just 16 to Ruud’s 26.

When it ended with a down-the-line backhand from Nadal, he chucked his racket to the red clay he loves so much and covered his face with the taped-up fingers on both of his hands.

The Spanish star’s first triumph in Paris came in 2005 at age 19. No man or woman ever has won the singles trophy at any major event more times than his 14 in Paris. And no man has won more Grand Slam titles than Nadal.

He is two ahead of rivals Roger Federer, who hasn’t played in almost a year after a series of knee operations, and Novak Djokovic, who missed the Australian Open in January because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

For all that he has accomplished already, Nadal now has done something he never managed previously: He is halfway to a calendar-year Grand Slam thanks to titles at the Australian Open and French Open in the same season.

Nadal improved to 14-0 in finals at Roland Garros and 112-3 overall at his favorite tournament.

“You are a true inspiration for me, for everyone who follows tennis around the world,” said Ruud, a 23-year-old from Norway participating in his first Grand Slam final, “so I hope — we all hope — that you will continue for some more time.”

When the players met at the net for the prematch coin toss, the first chants of “Ra-fa! Ra-fa!” rang out in the 15,000-seat stadium. There would be more such choruses. Ruud heard his own support, especially when he briefly went up in the second set, with some in the stands marking points he won with drawn-out pronouncements of his last name, “Ruuuuuuud,” that sounded as if they might be booing.

Ruud considers Nadal his idol. He recalls watching all of Nadal’s past finals in Paris on TV. He has trained at Nadal’s tennis academy in Mallorca.

They have played countless practice sets together there with nothing more at stake than bragging rights. Nadal usually won those, and Ruud joked the other day that’s because he was trying to be a polite guest.

The two had never met in a real match until Sunday, when a championship, money, ranking points, prestige and a piece of history were on the line. And Nadal demonstrated, as he has so often, why he’s known as the King of Clay — and among the game’s greatest ever.

“We all know what a champion you are, and today I got to feel how it is to play against you in a final. And it’s not easy,” Ruud said. “I’m not the first victim. I know that there have been many before.”

Nadal can now place this latest Coupe des Mousquetaires alongside the trophies he gathered at Roland Garros from 2005 to ’08, 2010 to ’14 and 2017 to ’20. He has also won the US Open four times and the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice apiece.

“For me, personally, it’s very difficult to describe the feelings that I have,” Nadal said. “It’s something that I, for sure, never believed — to be here at 36, being competitive again, playing in the most favorite court of my career, one more time in the final. It means a lot to me. Means everything.”

Carlos Alcaraz Defeats Casper Ruud to Become Youngest Miami Open Champion

It’s a win for the history books for Carlos Alcaraz

The 18-year-old Spanish tennis phenom and No. 14 seed defeated sixth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway 7-5, 6-4 in Sunday’s final, giving Spain its first ever Miami Open men’s champion.

Carlos Alcaraz

By claiming the first ATP Masters 1000 career title of his career, Alcaraz also becomes the youngest champion in the event’s history.

Alcaraz wasn’t even in the top 100 in the ATP Rankings at this time last year, but he now heads into the clay-court season playing as strongly as any other player.

“I love Miami,” Alcaraz said.

The melting pot city of Miami — with its massive Spanish-speaking community — loved him back, and Alcaraz said that made a big difference throughout his two-week stay.

“I felt like I was home from the first minute I began playing,” Alcaraz said.

He became the youngest champion in Miami Open history — Novak Djokovic was 19 when he won the tournament, then the NASDAQ-100 Open, for the first time — and picked up $1,231,245 for the victory, nearly doubling his career earnings with one check.

The shot-making ability from the Spanish teen was on full display: daring drop shots in tense situations, deft touch at the net when needed, raw power from the baseline when warranted. Alcaraz often would look to his team in the stands and give a joyous yell or a knowing fist-pump, clearly feeling more comfortable as the afternoon went along.

Among those there with him: his coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero. He had been away while mourning the death of his father, but made it back to Miami in time for the final. And when the match was over, Alcaraz hopped into the stands to give Ferrero his first hug as a Miami champion, as his coach wiped away tears.

“It’s pretty amazing to share this with you,” Alcaraz told Ferrero.

There had been four other Spanish men to make the final at what now is called the Miami Open — the tournament has changed names a few times over the years — over the last quarter-century. Sergi Bruguera was the first, in 1997. Carlos Moya was next, in 2003. David Ferrer got there in 2013 and the best player of them all, Rafael Nadal, made it to the Miami final in 2005, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2017.

They all lost. Every time.

Alcaraz ended the drought and did so with authority.

He ripped a crosscourt forehand for a double-break lead of 3-0 in the second set. Ruud broke back for 3-1, and had a chance at setting up another breaker late in the set.

With Alcaraz hitting a second serve at 4-3, 30-30, Ruud guessed the incoming ball’s path correctly and ran around his backhand to try what would have been a down-the-line winner. He put it just wide, and a point later Alcaraz was up 5-3. Before long, it was over.

“You’re such a good player already,” Ruud told Alcaraz during the trophy ceremony. “You’re so young and if you continue like this you will stand there many more times. I’m sure of it.”

Alcaraz lost one set in six matches in Miami, improved to 18-2 overall this year and became the third-youngest winner of any ATP Masters 1000 series event — which goes back to 1990. The only younger winners: Michael Chang and Nadal.

“For me, he’s one of the top four people that you have to talk about at every major now, along with Djokovic, Nadal and (Daniil) Medvedev,” raved tennis great Martina Navratilova on Tennis Channel after the match. “He’s the fourth one, for me.”

Rankings-wise, both players leave Miami better than ever. Ruud is expected to climb one spot to a career-best No. 7 in the world when the computer numbers are updated Monday; Alcaraz will be a career-best No. 11.

For Alcaraz, the rise has been meteoric. He was ranked No. 133 at this time a year ago.

But he made big jumps — getting to the third round of last year’s French Open as a qualifier pushed him into the top 75, making the US Open quarterfinals got him into the top 50, winning a tournament in Rio de Janeiro in February got him into the top 20, and he leaves Miami flirting with the top 10.

“You’re a great champion … and I hope you return for many years to the Miami Open,” tournament director James Blake told Alcaraz after the match, apologizing for the quality of his Spanish.

Carlos Alcaraz Defeats Defending Champion Hubert Hurkacz to Reach Miami Open Final

Carlos Alcaraz is one win away from history…

The 18-year-old Spanish tennis player ended the 10-match tournament winning streak of defending champion Hubert Hurkacz to advance to the final at the Miami Open on Friday evening to reach his first ATP Masters 1000.

Carlos AlcarazWith his 7-6(5), 7-6(2) victory, Alcaraz has reached the biggest final of his young career, going one better than his semifinal run at Indian Wells two weeks ago.

“I have a lot of emotions right now. It’s something that you dream of when you are a child,” said Alcaraz, who is one win away from becoming the youngest champion in the tournament’s 37-year history. “It’s really good to be in the final here in Miami. I love playing here. The crowd is amazing. I’m going to approach the final like a first round, trying to mask the nerves. I’m going to enjoy it, it’s going to be a great final.”

Alcaraz trailed 3/5 in the opening-set tiebreak, but repeated his heroics from Thursday’s quarterfinal win against Miomir Kecmanovic by winning four straight points to close it out.

After erasing two break points at 5-all in the second set — taking his tournament total to 15 of 17 break points saved — Alcaraz controlled the second tie-break with help from some untimely Hurkacz errors. A drop shot at 5/2 set up match point, and a dipping pass attempt forced a volley into the net to close out the match.

“I couldn’t return his serves, but I knew that the match was going to be long sets like it was, 7-6, 7-6,” said Alcaraz, who dropped deep with his return positioning, in contrast to his previous matches. “At the beginning, I saw that I couldn’t return. I thought we were going to play a lot of tiebreaks… A little bit different [than my previous matches] with his serve, but it’s a great win for me.”

Hurkacz tallied one more winner than Alcaraz on the night, 23 to 22, but gave up that advantage by committing 37 unforced errors in the match. Early in the second set, the frustrated Pole shouted to his coach: “I can’t do my backhand.”

But this was far from a standard matchup of baseline blasts as both men attacked the net with regularity, a total of 47 times between them, with both posting a 70 per cent win rate. Alcaraz also hit 16 drop shots in the match, winning 11 of those points (69 per cent).

In a match that did not see a break of serve, both men saved three break points, with each coming up clutch to fight off a pair when serving at 5-all. After failing to convert late in the first, Alcaraz provided a moment of good sportsmanship by offering to replay a point as he served at 5-6, 30/0 after an incorrect “not up” call. Hurkacz applauded the gesture but was not able to get a look in the service game.

“Definitely he’s playing insane for his age,” Hurkacz said following the match. “It’s really incredible how he plays, how he competes… He has an amazing career in front of him. It’s crazy how good he plays.”

By reaching the final, Alcaraz moves up to third place in the ATP Race to Turin, with an opportunity to move up to second with the title. The World No. 16 improves to 6-6 against the Top 10, having won the opening set in all six of his victories and lost the opener in all six defeats

He’ll face Casper Ruud in the Sunday’s final following his 6-4, 6-1 win over Francisco Cerundolo.

Alcaraz is hoping to become the third-youngest man to win a title at this level, behind only Michael Chang (1990, Toronto) and Rafael Nadal (2005, Monte Carlo). He’s also the second-youngest finalist in Miami history, behind only Nadal, who lost the 2005 final to Roger Federer.

Alcaraz is projected to move up to a career-high of No. 12 in the ATP Rankings with his final run, and will reach No. 11 with the title.

Pablo Carreno Busta Helps Lead Spain Into ATP Cup Semifinals

Pablo Carreno Busta has helped lead Spain into the next round of the ATP Cup.

The 30-year-old Spanish professional tennis player defeated Filip Krajinovic 6-3, 6-4 to secure an ATP Cup semifinal spot for Spain.

Pablo Carreno Busta Meanwhile, Roberto Bautista Agut completed the group-stage victory over Serbia with a 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Dusan Lajovic later Wednesday in the second of the singles matches.

Spain only needed to win one of the three matches against Serbia to top Group A and set up a semifinal against Poland.

Carreno Busta got the job done in 80 minutes, registering his third singles win of the round-robin stage.

“It was the best match of the group,” Carreno Busta said in a post-match interview. “I am close to 100%. Today I played very well, very aggressively, very solid. I feel very comfortable on court, so it is going well.”

Spain dropped only one set on its way to victories over Chile, Norway and Serbia, the 2020 champions.

Chile’s 2-1 win over Norway in the day session meant Serbia needed to sweep Spain to advance.

Alejandro Tabilo beat Viktor Durasovic 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-1 to give Chile the lead before No. 8-ranked Casper Ruud leveled it for Norway with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Christian Garin.

Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera clinched the doubles 6-0, 6-4, giving Chile a 2-1 record in the round-robin stage and leaving Norway 0-3.

Poland reached the semifinals for the first time when No. 9-ranked Hubert Hurkacz beat Argentina‘s Diego Schwartzman 6-1, 6-4 following Kamil Majchrzak‘s 6-3, 7-6 (3) win over Federico Delbonis.

Poland finished the round-robin stage 3-0 in Group D, also beating Georgia and Greece.

“I’m so happy for our team. We’re in the semis, so super proud of that achievement,” Hurkacz said. “We have great team spirit. We support each other. I think the atmosphere that we bring helps us play better.”

Greece picked up its first victory with a 2-0 win over last-place Georgia.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Defeats Federico Delbonis at French Open to Reach First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinals

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal…

The 22-year-old Spanish tennis player battled past Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 56 minutes on Sunday at the French Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Davidovich Fokina, who overcame Casper Ruud in a mammoth five-set battle in the third round, hit 42 winners and broke Delbonis seven times on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to set up a clash with sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

Davidovich Fokina improved to 19-10 on the season with the victory over 30-year-old Delbonis.

He previously reached the fourth round at the US Open in September (l. Zverev) and advanced to the semifinals on clay at the Estoril Open (l. Ramos-Vinolas) in May to reach a career-high No. 45 in the ATP rankings.

In a lively start where both players broke serve, Davidovich Fokina moved ahead, reeling off four straight games to lead 5-3 as errors started to fly from the Argentine’s racquet.

The Spaniard, who had spent ten hours and 14 minutes on court ahead of this fourth round match, won 46 per cent of points on Delbonis’ first serve, dominating from the baseline as he showed no signs of fatigue to win the opener.

The Spaniard then raced into a 5-1 lead in the second as he won 93 per cent of points (14/15) on his first serve. Although the youngster displayed some nerves, with Delbonis closing back to 5-4, the Argentine could not convert two break opportunities to level at 5-5. Davidovich Fokina capitalized on his third set point with a forehand winner to move further clear.

Lefthander Delbonis hit his heavy forehand into the Spaniard’s backhand with more success throughout the third set though, and battled back from a break down to gain a foothold in the contest. However, Davidovich Fokina made 82 per cent of his first serves in the fourth and used the drop shot to great effect against his tiring opponent, making the crucial breakthrough at 3-3. He then fended off four break points to serve out the contest to extend his stay in France.

Delbonis lost just eight games in his third-round encounter with Fabio Fognini to move to 19 clay-court wins for the season. However, the 30-year-old, who reached the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as a qualifier (l. Opelka), struggled to deal with the Spaniard’s power on Sunday.

Alex de Minaur Reaches Final at the Next Gen ATP Finals

Alex de Minaur is one win away from claiming his Next

The 20-year-old Uruguayan and Spanish-Australian tennis phenom, the top seed at this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, has reached the finals at the tournament.

Alex de Minaur

de Minaur defeated Frances Tiafoe4-2, 4-1, 0-4, 4-2, continuing his unbeaten run at the tournament.

It was a clinical performance from de Minaur who’s had a stunning week at the tournament. 

He capped off a comprehensive performance in the group stage, defeating Casper Ruud in the final match. 

But he saved his best tennis for Tiafoe, who put up a good fight in the semifinal. 

de Minaur converted all four of the breakpoints he had in the 73-minute match. The final breakpoint was the one that secured his passage through to the final. 

de Minaur also clamped down on his unforced errors, hitting 25 winners to his 15 errors. 

His forehand was his biggest weapon though, as he managed to dominate play and cramp up Tiafoe’s usually powerful hitting. 

It’s the second consecutive year that de Minaur has reached the final of the Next Gen ATP Finals tournament. 

He made the final in 2018, only to lose to current World No. 6, Stefanos Tsitsipas.

de Minaur will face Jannik Sinner in the finall. 

He’ll also face the biggest payday of his career if he wins the final on Saturday. de Minaur will receive $429,000 if he wins the tournament. 

Alex de Minaur Reaches Semifinals at the Next Gen ATP Finals

Alex de Minaur is on to the next…

The 20-year-old Uruguayan and Spanish-Australian tennis phenom, the top seed at this year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, has advanced to the semifinals at the tournament after producing his best performance of the week.

Alex de Minaur

de Minaur fired 23 winners to reach the semifinals with a 4-1, 4-0, 4-2 win over Norway’s Casper Ruud in just 61 minutes.

de Minaur clinched his spot in the last four after winning the opening set against Ruud. The Aussie finished 3-0 in Group A, marking the second straight year he’s gone undefeated in round-robin play at the event. 

His victory marked a record-breaking seventh win in Milan, breaking a tie with Andrey Rublev. Meanwhile, Ruud has been eliminated after dropping to 1-2.

“I knew from playing Casper before that he’d dictate any short ball without a purpose,” De Minaur said. “The game plan was to play on my own terms, play aggressively, play different styles of tennis. The goal I had was [to take] any half-chance, go up and back myself at the net. I’m glad it worked out today. I’m looking forward to the semi-finals.”

de Minaur arrived in Milan at a career-high No. 18 in the ATP world rankings. He used the momentum from his runner-up finish at last year’s event to spur a breakout season that includes his first three ATP Tour titles at the Sydney InternationalBB&T Atlanta Open and Huajin Securities Zhuhai Championships. He further proved his mettle indoors by reaching the final two weeks ago at the Swiss Indoors Basel, losing to Roger Federer.

He’ll next face USA’s Frances Tiafoe in the semifinals.

Guido Pella Advances to Brazil Open Final

Guido Pella has made it to the Brazil Openfinal…

The 28-year-old Argentine tennis player advanced by beating Rio Open champion Laslo Djere of Serbia 7-6 (10), 7-6 (1) at the clay-court event Saturday.

Guido Pella

He’ll next face Christian Garin of Chile in Sunday’s final.

Garin eliminated Norway’s Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4.

The only time the two have previously met was last year in the second round of the Argentina Open. Pella won 6-3, 7-6 (3) on that occasion.

Neither has won a professional title.