Thứ Năm, 26 tháng 5, 2016

Tennis: Nadal back in Paris, no title to defend, no Federer to face

Rafael Nadal

Through the years, Rafael Nadal grew accustomed to a couple of givens at the French Open: He would arrive as the defending champion, and Roger Federer would be somewhere in the draw, often awaiting a showdown in the final.
This time around, neither is the case.
Federer withdrew a few days before Sunday's start of the clay-court Grand Slam tournament, ending his record run of 65 consecutive major appearances.
''For the fans, for the tournament, for the world (of) tennis, in general, is ... very negative news, no?'' Nadal said.
Nadal won the title at Roland Garros every year from 2005-08 and from 2010-14 - a record nine in all, beating Federer in four of those finals - but returns to town trying to earn back the trophy after relinquishing it in 2015.
He is seeded fourth.
''It's a tournament that I know I can play well,'' said Nadal, who lost in the quarterfinals to Novak Djokovic a year ago. ''If I am playing well, I know I can do good things.''
Nadal, who owns 14 major championships in all, could face No. 1 Djokovic in about two weeks in the semifinals - on what would be the Spaniard's 30th birthday.
Asked about that milestone, Nadal waxed philosophical.
''You know, time never stops. Nobody stops the time,'' he said. ''That's not a good thing, but at the same time, I am happy with my life. I enjoyed all these years on the tour, and I hope to keep enjoying the next couple of years.''
After dealing with health problems and a crisis of confidence last season, Nadal has been playing better on his favorite red clay of late.
He is 19-4 on the surface this season, including titles at Monte Carlo and Barcelona. Not bad, but not up to his old standards. In his past two tournaments, Nadal lost in the Madrid semifinals to Andy Murray, and the Rome quarterfinals to Djokovic.
''A lot of tournaments in a row playing well,'' said Nadal, who faces Sam Groth in the first round in Paris. ''I need to just keep going.''
Other things to know about the French Open, which begins Sunday:
Serena's 'Drought': Much was made of Serena Williams' title in Rome last weekend being her first trophy in nine months. She does not consider that gap a big deal. ''I guess when you win all the time, if you go a couple of tournaments and don't win them, it's like you're in a drought,'' Williams said. She is the defending champion and seeded No. 1 at Roland Garros, and another title would be her 22nd at a Grand Slam tournament, equaling Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era, which started in 1968.
Security stepped up: From patdowns at entrance gates to a 25 percent rise in the number of security agents, there is an obvious increase in protective measures at the tournament, about six months after terrorist attacks around the French capital. ''I notice more security pretty much everywhere,'' No. 2-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska said.
Olympic push: A Grand Slam tournament is a Grand Slam tournament, so there is plenty at stake as always over the next 15 days, but there is an added incentive for some players: the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The ATP and WTA rankings of June 6 - the day after the men's final in Paris - will be the basis for Summer Games qualification.
Doping talk: Two recent events put the topic of performance-enhancing drugs on the table in tennis. Maria Sharapova's positive test for meldonium and provisional suspension are keeping her out of the field at a tournament she won in 2012 and 2014. And Nadal filed a defamation lawsuit in Paris last month against France's former minister for health and sport, Roselyne Bachelot, after she said on a television show the player's seven-month injury absence in 2012 probably was due to a positive drug test.
Cheating: A report about whether tennis was doing enough to investigate possible corruption stirred things up at the start of the Australian Open in January. While the chatter has mostly subsided, the French Open revoked the wild-card entry granted to a French player, Constant Lestienne, because the Tennis Integrity Unit said he violated a rule.

Chủ Nhật, 8 tháng 5, 2016

Roger Federer News: Tough road awaits Swiss Maestro in Rome

Roger Federer

Roger Federer is set for a comeback in Rome, but the Swiss Maestro faces a tough road to winning his next tournament, with the rest of the Big Four and other players in the top 10 joining the Masters event.

Federer will be back to the tennis scene when he competes at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome next week following his disappointing exit at the Madrid Open. However, Federer is up for another challenging event, with Djokovic, Murray and Nadal also set to compete in Rome.

But before Federer could face any of the aforementioned contestants, the Basel native must overcome first a difficult bracket that features a decent lineup of tennis competitors. Federer could either open against Alexander Zverev or Grigor Dimitrov, who battles each other in the opening round. There is also a chance Federer could battle Austrian Dominic Thiem in the third round, while Japan's Kei Nishikori could meet him in the quarterfinal stages.

Despite Federer's profile as the world No. 3, there is still uncertainty whether he could pull off another vintage performance to reach the final round of the tournament, considering the Swiss' state this year that saw him miss a chunk of tennis competitions, most recently at the Madrid Open.

The 34-year-old did not participate at the ATP 1000 Masters event at the Spanish capital due to a back problem suffered during his practice session. The minor setback left Federer and his fans disappointed, but the 14-time Grand Slam winner is optimistic about playing well in Rome at the Foro Italico, a tournament he has yet to conquer.

"The goal clearly now is to play there and do well," Federer said, reports Tennis.

"I mean, I am frustrated. At the same time, I'm still upbeat ... I would rather have it being the back rather than the knee ... This is normal back things I've had in the past, which I guess is good because I know how to handle it. I know how long it can take. Sometimes it can vary by a few days here and there."

Federer has suffered from many setbacks since the start of the season. In his first tournament this year at the Brisbane International, Federer caught a flu-like virus that contributed to his final round loss against Canada's Milos Raonic.

After Federer's semifinal loss at the Australian Open, the world No. 3 sustained a knee injury that forced him to be sidelined for more than two months. His post-knee surgery recovery debut at the Miami Open was delayed because of stomach illness followed by the back issues prior to the Madrid Open competition.

It is no secret Federer wants French Open success this year, which leads to speculations that Rome would probably be his training grounds to test his form before heading to Paris. With Djokovic and Nadal gaining steam, Federer's chances for a second title at Roland Garros are very slim, but a win in Rome should put him back as the favorite to win the French Open.