Nadal returns to Queen’s Club

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Rafael Nadal’s relationship with the Queen’s Club tournament has been, well, full of twists and turns.

And now, for 2018, he’s back.

Nadal played the grass-court event, which formerly took place two weeks before Wimbledon and now is three weeks before, five times in the six years between 2006 and 2011. Coincidence or not, he reached the Wimbledon final each time he played it.

After losing to Robin Soderling early at the French Open in 2009, he pulled out of the entire grass-court season because of his knee issues and so, missed that edition.

At Queen’s Club, he made the quarterfinals four times. But in 2008, he won it beating Andy Roddick in the semifinals and Novak Djokovic in the final. A few weeks later, he won his first Wimbledon title in that epic day-night encounter against Roger Federer.

Two years later, after losing to Feliciano Lopez in the quarters at Queen’s Club, he won Wimbledon again.

Every year, there was an iconic photo on the London club’s lawns on the Tuesday after the French Open final. After taking one day off, Nadal would immediately hit the grass at Queen’s Club to work on the grass transition, no matter how tired he might have been from the fortnight in Paris. 

But then … the money gremlins kicked in.

Too much taxation sends Nadal to Germany

By 2011, Nadal had eschewed his traditional (and very successful) preparation as he railed against the system that taxed athletes in Great Britain. It was a system that also went after their endorsement income. And after all those years, Nadal had enough.

He decamped for the competing tournament in Halle, Germany that already had a longstanding deal with his rival Roger Federer – not incidentally, for the not-insignificant appearance fee of about $1 million and a two-year commitment. Although he said the cash played no part in his decision.

His Wimbledon record since then doesn’t have the same luster. And his fate in Halle seemed rather star-crossed.

Nadal lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in his second match at Halle in 2012, playing despite knee issues.

In 2013, he didn’t play it, pointing to the physical grind of the clay-court season. He lost in the first round of Wimbledon to Steve Darcis.

In 2014, making good on the missing year, he lost to another German, Dustin Brown, in his first match of the tournament.

In 2015, the taxation situation having been relaxed somewhat, he returned to Queen’s to try to recapture that Queen’s-Wimbledon karma. But he lost in the first round to Alexandr Dolgopolov, and in the second round of Wimbledon to Brown.

In 2016, he skipped the grass-court season entirely after injuring his left wrist in Paris. He returned despite not being 100 per cent physically only for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Last summer, he didn’t play any tuneup events. The long, successful clay-court season culminated in Nadal’s 10th French Open title, and he needed some down time. He lost narrowly, 15-13 in the fifth set, to Gilles Muller in the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

Getting that Queen’s Club karma back

Queen's
Nadal made his first visit to Queen’s Club in 2006 (when it was the Stella Artois). It was very good to him in his early years.

Is Nadal a superstitious sort? You could make that argument, given his rituals.

In his early career, the Queen’s Club – Wimbledon double clearly was extremely successful for him.

To tally it up: Nadal made the Wimbledon final the first five times he played Queen’s Club. Since the taxation issue chased him off, his sum total at Wimbledon has been two fourth rounds, two second rounds and a first round.  

With this return, perhaps he’s trying to put all the karma on his side.

(And yes, no doubt there was a pretty big cheque attached as well).

Three weeks expected absence for Nadal

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MELBOURNE, Australia – In the wake of Rafael Nadal’s retirement in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarter-final match Tuesday night, the world No. 1 had an MRI in Melbourne Wednesday.

The diagnosis is a Grade 1 strain of the illiopsoas muscle on his right leg.

He’ll return to Spain and after a few days’ rest. After that, he will start on anti-inflammatories, according to his PR representative Benito Perez-Barbadillo.

Nadal will start rehabbing and getting back on court gradually in two weeks. Perez-Barbadillo stated the normal recovery time for this type of injury is three weeks.

And he expects Nadal’s planned schedule – Acapulco, Indian Wells and Miami, all on hard courts – won’t be affected.

A Grade 1 strain is at the bottom of the seriousness scale. Nadal was clearly in a lot of pain Tuesday night, when it first occurred.

Per that reliable medical resource Wikipedia, The iliopsoas is formed when the Iliacus and psoas muscles, separate in the abdomen, merge in the thigh area.

Nadal’s Aussie bad luck continues as he retires vs. Cilic

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Whatever the injury to Rafael Nadal’s upper right leg is – he’ll know more on Wednesday – it was painful enough that he had to walk away.

And so, a great opportunity to reach another Grand Slam semifinal – and perhaps win the whole tournament – is gone in Australia, where the world No. 1 has had so much bum luck in the past.

Nadal shook No. 6 seed Marin Cilic’s hand down 0-2 in the fifth set, and down two sets to one, as his 2018 Australian Open campaign ended in the quarter-finals Tuesday night.

He went further than any of the other wounded veterans who began the season at less than 100 per cent. But not nearly as far as he wanted to, or could have.

“Start to feel the muscle little bit tired in the third, but playing normal, no limits, no limitations. Then in the fourth (set) at one movement, one drop shot I think, I felt something. At that moment I thought something happened, but I didn’t realize how bad, how bad was what’s going on in that moment,” the downcast Spaniard said during his press conference. “Just happened, and accept the situation. That’s all.”

Painful end to the tournament

Nadal was wincing in pain at the beginning of that fourth set, and limping. He sat down at his press conference in very slow and measured fashion. But although he ruled out a possible hip injury, he wasn’t prepared to diagnose it himself and will wait for more official word from the doctors.

But he was disappointed. In Australia. Again.

On his way out, Nadal made another pointed statement about how the ATP Tour needs to take better care of its players’ health.

It’s an ongoing concern, taken perhaps less seriously than it should by people who believe it is a self-serving exercise, that Nadal’s issue with all the play on hard courts is intimately linked to his superiority on the clay courts. And thus, to play more on softer surfaces would only be to his advantage.

But when you look at where the top five players at the end of 2016 are at the moment, it’s definitely not just about Nadal.

“Somebody who is running the tour should think little bit about what’s going on. Too many people getting injured. I don’t know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players,” he said. “Not for now that we are playing, but there is life after tennis. I don’t know if we keep playing in this very, very hard surfaces what’s going to happen in the future with our lives.”

Underprepared and undertrained

Nadal came into this Australian Open underdone. He played no warmup tournaments. But that’s something he said had little bearing on his current physical condition. Of more importance was the fact that because of his knee issue at the end of 2017, his preseason preparation was limited.

“Maybe if I had the chance to work as hard as I worked last year, maybe will not happen. But was not the case. I had the knee, and I had to go slower, step by step,” he said. “We worked as much as we could to be ready. We (thought) we were ready. At least we were in quarterfinals only losing a set.”

Cilic will now be an Australian Open semifinalist. And he will play the unseeded Kyle Edmund for the privilege of making his first Australian Open final.

The Croat hasn’t made much noise during this tournament. But he’s now at the business end of what is a tremendous opportunity.

Surprise semifinal in the top half

Cilic knows what it’s like to be physically diminished on a great occasion. He had a similar experience last summer in the Wimbledon final against Roger Federer. But he didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with Nadal, in terms of the health concerns.

“The calendar is there for so many years. Just in this last year, obviously beginning of this one, we see a lot of top guys that are injured. In the end it’s on all of us to try to take care of our bodies, to try to pick the right schedule, to listen to our body, how it feels.  I completely understand there are a lot of tournaments that we play, mandatory tournaments. In my own perspective, we are all picking our own schedule,” he said. 

“It’s tough to say, ‘Okay, we going to take out two months of the season, cut that many tournaments’, because tennis is such a global sport. Everywhere we play, people enjoy it. I think tennis is getting more and more popular, which we really want also.”

The ragged five – all gone

Nadal follows Novak Djokovic out the main gate of Melbourne Park with an injury, although Djokovic did finish his match against Hyeon Chung on Monday.

Andy Murray is home after having hip surgery in Melbourne. Kei Nishikori skipped the entire Australian summer and is scheduled to return to action this week at a Challenger in California. And Milos Raonic went out meekly in the first round to Lukas Lacko.

Raonic is not on the roster Tennis Canada named for Davis Cup against Croatia in a couple of weeks.

“Yeah, I worked hard to be here. We did all the things that we believed were the right things to do to be ready. I think I was ready. I was playing okay.,” Nadal said. “Yeah, I was playing a match that anything could happen: could win, could lose. I’m being honest. He was playing good, too. That’s the real thing.”

Golden opportunities

The gaping holes at the top of the game will continue for at least awhile longer. And that has allowed the likes of Edmund, Chung and American Tennys Sandgren to reach the final eight. 

The next move for Nadal will be to find out exactly what his issue is, with an MRI on Wednesday. 

Just when he likely wanted to get back to training hard, with the two big American hard-court events coming up in about six weeks, he may be sidelined again.

Meanwhile, 36-year-old Roger Federer is strolling through the Australian Open draw, with Cilic the highest remaining seed standing in the way of his title defence.

“Is not the first time an opportunity that is gone for me. I am a positive person, and I can be positive, but today is an opportunity lost to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me, no? … In this tournament already happened a couple of times in my life, so it’s really I don’t want to say frustration, but is really tough to accept,” Nadal said. 

Rafael Nadal arrives in Melbourne

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As he intended, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal arrived in Melbourne well ahead of the Australian Open.

He has a full 10 days to acclimate, practice and hope that the state of his right knee is such that he can compete.

The Mallorcan has signed on to play the Tie Break Tens event at Margaret Court Arena next Wednesday, along with a lot of the top players.

He won’t be the only one trying to gauge some health and form at that event; Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka also are scheduled to play.

But that will be all he has to go on when he makes the call to potentially play seven best-of-five set matches at the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2018 season.

Nadal’s history is that if he doesn’t think he has a good chance to win, he won’t compete.

At this stage of his career, with a long season ahead, it’s also the wisest course even if it would mean he and his team made the long trip to Australia for naught.

No sooner had he arrived, but he hit the court for some practice.

Here’s what it looked like.

(Video courtesy of Tennis Australia/The Australian Open)

Murray, Nishikori out. The rest? Maybes

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In the “not very surprising” department, the first two of the ATP Tour’s walking wounded have officially abandoned their quests to be healthy enough to compete in the first Grand Slam of the season.

First came Japanese star Kei Nishikori, who is recovering from a wrist issue. The 28-year-old had already pulled out of two planned warmup events.

Nishikori now is out of the Australian Open. He never even made the long trip Down Under.

Second up is Andy Murray, who has been trying so hard to be back on the court as he deals with what’s becoming a chronic hip injury.

Murray went to Abu Dhabi, even though he didn’t play in the exhibition there. He played a fun set against Roberto Bautista-Agut after Novak Djokovic pulled out. And he didn’t look very good.

The Brit then traveled to Brisbane, Australia to try to make his date there.

Murray played some practice sets against top opponents, but felt he wasn’t competitive enough, or pain-free enough, to play that event.

The rest of the crew – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka – all former Australian Open champions – are still question marks.

(Also announced Friday in Australia was that defending women’s champion Serena Williams also won’t be on hand. For a very different reason, though).

Murray headed home to assess options

Now that he’s out of the Australian Open, as well, a long trip to Australia for naught, Murray will head back to Great Britain to assess his situation.

After diligently working on rehab to try to avoid hip surgery, the Brit intimated earlier this week that the surgery option can no longer be completely off the table.

And that’s a sad state of affairs.

Nishikori in Newport Beach

Nishikori has taken a wild card into the Newport Beach Challenger, one of two new events sponsored by Oracle (whose owner, Larry Ellison, owns the Indian Wells event).

It will be Nishikori’s first appearance at the Challenger level since he lost to Amer Delic in the second round of the Champaign Challenger in Nov. 2010.

That’s a huge boost for the inaugural edition of the event, which takes place the second week of the Australian Open.

For Nishikori, the appearance in a Challenger is a savvy move, assuming he has progressed as expected from the wrist issue. He, too, wanted nothing more than to avoid surgery. He has seen how so many talented players have struggled to return after being operated on their wrists.

This way, he will be able to ease back into tennis slowly, after being out since losing in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal to Gaël Monfils in early August.

He also can return playing best-of-three sets, rather than the best-of-five Grand Slam format.

Tennis.Life also is told that Nishikori has accepted a wild card into the $125,000 Dallas Challenger the week after Newport Beach. If true, that’s even better. He also is scheduled to play the inaugural New York Open in mid-February.

Nadal in the house

On the positive side, Rafael Nadal has arrived in Melbourne.

(Photo: Australian Open Twitter)

The world No. 1 played just one match before withdrawing from the ATP Tour Finals in London in November, with his right knee giving him trouble again. 

Before that, he had pulled out of the Basel tournament, and gave opponent Filip Krajinovic a walkover in the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters.

Nada withdrew from Abu Dhabi and from the Brisbane warmup event.

Along with Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka, Nadal is scheduled to test out the knee in the Tie Break Tens exhibition next Wednesday in Margaret Court Arena.

He is arriving a good 10 days before the Australian Open starts.

Where is Wawrinka? On the plane!

Nishikori
Wawrinka’s Snapchat is good news – he’s on his way Down Under.

The Swiss No. 2 has been very low-profile on social media for a month. But he has been on Snapchat. And today’s posting was the best-news snap for his fans.

Wawrinka left Geneva for Abu Dhabi Thursday night. There’s a direct flight to Melbourne from there, leaving some three hours later, on Friday morning.

So it appears he will give it a go at the Tie Break Tens, and go from there.

Expectations, after knee surgery, with no matches and the best-of-five format, will no doubt be rock-bottom.

But with the loss of Murray and Nishikori, that’s at least two of the top guns who are at least going to try.

As for Milos Raonic, he lost his first match in Brisbane to young Australian wild card Alex de Minaur, 6-4, 6-4. But at least he’s back.

Whither Djoker?

The former No. 1 withdrew from the Abu Dhabi exhibition when he experienced pain in his elbow during practice before his first match. 

A day later, Djokovic pulled out of this week’s ATP Tour event in Doha.

He will be in Australia. Djokovic has signed on for Tie Break Tens event, as well as the Kooyong Classic that takes place a 10-minute drive away from Melbourne Park. It’s not known how many matches Djokovic will actually play there.

The Serb hasn’t played since retiring in the second set of his quarterfinal match at Wimbledon against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

Osuigwe among ITF 2017 world champions

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Florida’s Whitney Osuigwe, the 15-year-old who won the French Open junior girls’ title and has posted up an impressive number of wins this season, is the ITF junior world champion for 2017 on the girls’ side.

Osuigwe had just cracked the top 100 in the ITF junior girls’ rankings when the 2017 season began. She ends it at No. 1 and is still alive in singles and doubles at this week’s Orange Bowl in Florida.

She won both the 18s girls singles and doubles titles last week at the Eddie Herr tournament. That’s a home event for her as it’s held at the IMG Academy where she trains.

Countrywoman Catherine Bellis won the award in 2014 and Taylor Townsend in 2012. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Zina Garrison and Gretchen Rush in 1981 and 1982.

On the boys’ side, Axel Geller becomes first junior from Argentina to be named ITF world champion in 22 years. (Mariano Zabaleta and Federico Browne won the award back-to-back in 1994 and 1995).

He reached the singles final at both the French and US Opens, and took the doubles title in Paris.

Recent winners have included Taylor Fritz (2015), Andrey Rublev (2014) and Alexander Zverev (2013). Good crop.

All-Spain on the pro side 

Osuigwe
The all-Spanish double honor as ITF World Champions for 2017 is the first since Americans Davenport and Sampras both won in 1998.

On the pro side, ATP No. 1 Rafael Nadal and WTA No. 2 Garbiñe Muguruza have been named world champions for 2017.

Muguruza is just 40 points out of the No. 1 spot in the WTA Tour rankings, just behind Simona Halep. But unlike Halep, Muguruza is a Slam champion, having won Wimbledon this year. The ITF awards weight the Slams (which it has jurisdiction over) more than other tournaments.

According to the ITF, it’s the first time both winners have come from the same country since Lindsay Davenport and Pete Sampras were named ITF world champions in 1998.

It’s the third time Nadal has been so honored. Time flies: he’s the oldest-ever to be honored, at age 31.

“Becoming ITF World Champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me and is even more special because Rafa has also been awarded on the men’s side. He is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain,” Muguruza said in a statement.

“I knew that putting in the hard work would pay off eventually and it made winning Wimbledon and achieving the No. 1 ranking so special. I’m motivated to take everything I’ve learned this year and apply it to my work next season.”

Final accolade for Hingis

The doubles champions are Marcelo Melo (Brazil) and Lukasz Kubot (Poland) on the men’s side, and Yung-Jan Chan (Taipei) and Martina Hingis (Switzerland) on the women’s side.

Osuigwe

Melo and Kubot won the ATP Tour Finals last month, one of six titles that included Wimbledon, in their first season together.

Hingis, who retired at the end of the season, gets one more accolade.

She and Chan made nine finals – and won all of them. 

David Wagner, 43, was named the first-ever ITF Quad Wheelchair World Champion, a long overdue accolade after he finished No. 1 in the year-end rankings for the eighth time.  Gustavo Fernandez, 23 is the ITF Wheelchair champion on the men’s side and Yui Kamiji – also 23 – was honored on the women’s side. 

Kamiji won three of the four major titles in 2017, all but Wimbledon. 

The awards will be handed out at the French Open next June.

Nadal wins French defamation case

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The decision in Rafael Nadal’s defamation lawsuit against French television personality Roselyne Bachelot was handed down Thursday.

And the 31-year-old tennis star came away with a victory, if more a moral one than a financial one.

Bachelot insinuated during a French television show in the aftermath of the Maria Sharapova doping suspension in March, 2016 that Nadal himself was a doper.

Specifically, she stated Nadal’s long-term absence because of a knee issue back in 2012 was  “probably because of a positive doping test.”

“When you see a tennis player stopping for months, it’s because he has tested positive. Not every time, but very often,” Bachelot added.

Nadal, incensed, filed the suit in April, 2016.

Moral victory, not financial gain

The Tribunal heard the case Oct. 13. Its decision declared Bachelot guilty of defamation. She must pay a fine of 500 euros and damages and interest to Nadal in the amount of 10,000 euro. Bachelot also is liable for 2,000 euros in court costs.

Nadal had been seeking 100,000 euros. But whatever the amount, he intended to donate it to a charity in France. 

Le Figaro reports Bachelot won’t appeal the decision.  

“I would like to reiterate my respect to the legal procedure and tribunals of France,” Nadal said in a statement via his PR team. “When I filed the law suit against Mrs. Bachelot, I intended not only to defend my integrity and my image as an athlete but also the values I have defended all my career.

“I also wish to prevent any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete using the media, without any evidence or foundation, and to go unpunished.

“The motivation, as I have always maintained, was not financial. As the tribunal found, there has been wrongdoing and the sentence recognizes the right to damages. The award will be paid back in full to an NGO or foundation in France,” Nadal added. /blockquote>

Defamation, but no permanent damage

According to Le Figaro, the damages are for “obvious moral prejudice, such an allegation being one of the most serious that can be levied upon a professional sportsman.”

The tribunal reduced the amount of damages asked for by Nadal to “more fair proportions”. It contended that Nadal “failed to demonstrate any sort of prejudice in terms of his activities as a player,or his relationships with his sponsors,” Le Figaro reported.

Bachelot’s lawyer, Olivier Chappuis, said the former health and sports minister absolutely didn’t regret her statements. He added that his client was satisfied that the judges determined Nadal’s damage request disproportionate.

Nadal exits London after loss to Goffin

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If it wasn’t clear enough during his three-set loss to David Goffin Monday at the ATP Tour Finals in London, the next clue was in the goodbye.

Rafael Nadal saluted the full house at the O2 in London comprehensively – far longer than a man who planned to return two days later to play another match would likely do.

And so it was. Just a few minutes later in his press conference, the year-end No. 1 announced that he was one and done in London.

“No, I am off. My season is finished. Yeah, I had the commitment with the event, with the city, with myself. I tried hard. I did the thing that I had to do to try to be ready to play. But I am really not ready to play,” he told the media in London.

Nadal’s right knee had been giving him trouble since the Asian swing, perhaps longer. He played a full swing on the hard courts. First came Montreal, Cincinnati and seven matches in winning the US Open. After that, there was the Laver Cup. Then, five more matches to win Beijing, and five more to get to the final in Shanghai. It was a big load for the knee to handle.

After pulling out of Basel, the 31-year-old did show in Paris to meet his commitment there. But after scratching out two victories, he withdrew before his quarterfinal match against qualifier Filip Krajinovic.

In the week preceding the Tour Finals, various reports had Nadal and his entourage optimistic, uncertain, confident and everything in between.

What was clear was that Nadal wouldn’t be 100 per cent. What also was clear was that, as the newly-crowned year-end No. 1, and with the Tour Finals being one big title that has eluded him, he was going to try.

First win for Goffin

Nadal saved four match points in the second set Monday to make Goffin sweat it out. But in the end, the first Belgian to qualify for the Tour Finals was able to pull it out.

Sweet relief for Goffin, who let four match points slip away in the second set against Nadal, but rallied for a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 win. (Screenshot: Tennis.TV)

“I’m very happy.  Was such a great atmosphere tonight, and I’m looking forward to coming back in two days,” Goffin said during his on-court interview. “Honestly, I don’t know, after the second set it was tough. I had no regrets in the second. He played really well in the tiebreak. On the match points he played only winners. I had really only one small opportunity.”

It was the first win in three meetings with Nadal for Goffin, who had never faced him before this season. The first two took place on clay.

Goffin himself had tape on his knee. The Belgian also appeared hampered at times, although not as comprehensively as his opponent.

“It’s the best win of my career, for sure, to beat Rafa. But, yeah, I saw that he was struggling a little bit with his movement on the court, and his knee was suffering a little bit,” Goffin said later during his press conference. “It was tough even if he was not moving 100 per cent. He was hitting the ball really hard. It was not easy. It’s never easy to finish a match, to finish a set against him. Even if I lost four match points in the second, I had no regret. I kept going in the third.”

Nadal and the Tour Finals – an unrequited romance

The Mallorcan has qualified for the Tour Finals every season since 2005. This year, he was the first in, after winning the French Open back in June.

But he has yet to win it.

In fact, he has reached the finals only twice, in 2010 and 2013.

Five times, Nadal was unable to take the court. Twice, he was eliminated during the group stage. This is the first time he has pulled out mid-event. 

According to the ATP rules, the penalty for not playing at all in the ATP Finals is steep – five per cent of total prize money. In Nadal’s case, that would run up over $600,000. But a “bona fide injury” would waive that penalty even if Nadal hadn’t shown at all. And there’s no doubt the knee injury is a legitimate one.

He wanted to at least try. 

Sampras Group wide open

London
Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem will be alternate Pablo Carreño-Busta’s two opponents in the round-robin, as he replaces Nadal in the Sampras Group. (Screenshot: TennisTV)

What will happen now is that Nadal’s countryman, Pablo Carreño-Busta, will replace him as the alternate. Instead of playing Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov and Dominic Thiem will play Carreño-Busta in the group stages.

Thiem will be up against Carreño-Busta on Wednesday night, while Goffin plays Dimitrov during the day session.

On Friday, Goffin will play Thiem, and Dimitrov will meet Carreño-Busta.

Carreño-Busta can still advance to the semifinals, even with only two matches.

But a lot would have to happen.

He would have to beat both Thiem and Dimitrov, for starters, to post a 2-0 record. Beating Thiem Wednesday night would all but eliminate the Austrian, whose pool record would be 1-2 at best.

One more win for Goffin would ensure, at worst, a 2-1 record. So he would make it. If Dimitrov defeats Goffin, he will make it, for the same reason. Within the rules, a 2-1 record beats out a 2-0 record in round-robin play.

It’s impossible for Goffin and Dimitrov to both post 1-2 records, because they have yet to meet, and one of them will win that meeting and post his second round-robin victory.

Goffin can qualify Wednesday if he defeats Dimitrov in straight sets, and Carreño-Busta beats Thiem. In that case, Dimitrov and Carreño-Busta would face off on Friday for second spot from their group.

 

 

Dimitrov qualifies Wednesday if: – He defeats Goffin Goffin qualifies Wednesday if: – He defeats Dimitrov in 2 sets – He defeats Dimitrov and Carreno Busta defeats Thiem

Draws, schedule done, but no ATP Finals until Sunday

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The pool groups were drawn on Wednesday.

The schedule for the first two days of play was announced Wednesday. *

The ATP Tour’s annual awards were announced Thursday, at a private event for the players, guests and corporate sponsors.

It all seems very ahead of time, as fans will have to wait until Sunday before the first of action at the ATP Tour Finals in London. 

Even the stadium court wasn’t ready to practice on until Thursday.

In the meantime, fans of men’s tennis at least have the Next-Gen event in Milan to watch. That tournament wraps on Saturday night. So there’s no conflict with the start of the Tour Finals.

(It should be noted that there were no London model types present at the draw ceremony, to our knowledge).

Here are the singles round-robin groups. 

Pete Sampras Group

[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP)
[4] Dominic Thiem (AUT)
[6] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)
[7] David Goffin (BEL)

Boris Becker Group

[2] Roger Federer (SUI)
[3] Alexander Zverev (GER)
[5] Marin Cilic (CRO)
[8] Jack Sock (USA)

At first glance, Federer appears to be in the harder-hitting, more dangerous group, even if it contains Tour Finals rookies in Zverev and Sock.

He is 2-2 against Zverev, 7-1 against Cilic, and 3-0 against Sock although they’ve met only once in the last two years.

Nadal is 10-1 against Dimitrov (3-0 on hard courts in 2017), 2-0 against Goffin (both on clay this year) and 7-0 against Thiem (with all the meetings on the red clay, four of them in 2017)

Early schedules

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Day session (Noon start)

1. [1] Henri Kontinen (FIN) / John Peers (AUS) vs [8] Ryan Harrison (USA) / Michael Venus (NZL)
2. [2] Roger Federer (SUI) vs. [8] Jack Sock (USA) H2H (not before 2 p.m.)

Night session (not before 6 p.m.)

1. [3] Jean-Julien Rojer (NED) / Horia Tecau (ROU) vs. [6] Pierre-Hugues Herbert / Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 
2. [3] Alexander Zverev (GER) vs. [5] Marin Cilic (CRO) H2H (not before 8 p.m.)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Day session (Noon start)

1. [4] Jamie Murray (GBR) / Bruno Soares (BRA) vs. [5] Bob Bryan / Mike Bryan (USA) 
2. [4] Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs. [6] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) H2H (not before 2 p.m.)

Night session (not before 6 p.m.)

1. [1] Lukasz Kubot (POL) / Marcelo Melo (BRA) vs. [7] Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Marcel Granollers (ESP) 
2. [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. [7] David Goffin (BEL) H2H (not before 8 p.m.)

Tempest in a teapot

schedule
Photo credit: www.wonderhatch.co.uk

*A glitch an ATP Tour official put down to “human error” meant that there was some confusion early on about when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would play their first matches.

Their original statement was that the Sampras group (including Nadal) would play Sunday, while the Becker Group (including Federer) would play Monday.

No doubt plenty of fans of both players rushed out to buy tickets once they knew when their favorite would be playing.

Then Federer Tweeted he was to play Sunday.

Nadal is scheduled for Monday night.

Much murmuring ensued. One media outlet, El Español, even originally reported  (the current version of the story on its website does not allude to it) that Nadal had made a special request for a late start, in order to give his ailing knee the maximum amount of time to heal up before the event began. 

Or was it Federer who asked to play earlier? A Sunday start would give him an extra day of rest between the round-robin portion and the semis. 

Hmmm… Whichever theory you believed probably depended on whom you supported.

Federer was correct. But a communications person for the ATP says there were no special favors, that it was merely an error on the website.

The doubles picture

Photo credit: www.wonderhatch.co.uk

Yes, that is Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, the No. 1 seeds at the ATP Tour Finals. And they jumped into the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the individual doubles rankings on Monday.

Woodbridge-Woodforde Group

[1] Lukasz Kubot (POL) / Marcelo Melo (BRA)
[4] Jamie Murray (GBR) / Bruno Soares (BRA)
[5] Bob Bryan (USA) / Mike Bryan (USA)
[7] Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Marcel Granollers (ESP)

Eltingh-Haarhuis Group

[2] Henri Kontinen (FIN) / John Peers (AUS)
[3] Jean-Julien Rojer (NED) / Horia Tecau (ROU)
[6] Pierre-Hugues Herbert (FRA) / Nicolas Mahut (FRA)
[8] Ryan Harrison (USA) / Michael Venus (NZL)

The doubles event might be schedule filler for some, who are focused only on the big singles stars.

But for the players, it’s every bit the same accomplishment to qualify. And the financial rewards are substantial.

And, unlike the WTA Tour Finals equivalent, where a round-robin format was ditched for an eight-team, straight elimination tournament, it’s given equal weight.

An undefeated team winning the doubles title will earn close to half a million dollars – and 1,500 ranking points.

Nadal “oldest” year-end No. 1

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All Rafael Nadal had to do was win his first match.

He did that Wednesday, defeating Hyeon Chung of Korea 7-5, 6-3 in the second round of the Paris Masters.

And in doing that, the 31-year-old from Mallorca clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking.

Nadal began the season ranked No. 9.

And for tennis fans who will always have the long-haired, pirate-pant wearing version of Nadal as their go-to, the “oldest-ever” numbers are proof indeed that time stands still for no one.

Nadal is the first male player over 30 since the computer rankings came in in 1973 to secure the No. 1 ranking.

He did it for the fourth time in his career.

The first time came in 2008, the second two years later, and the third time in 2013. The gap between the first time and this year – nine years – is the biggest gap in ATP Tour history.

Only Pete Sampras (six times), Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors (five times each) have finished as the season-ending No. 1 more often. Nadal now is tied with Novak Djokovic, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl at four.

“I’m very, very happy for everything,” Nadal said during an on-court interview after the victory over Chung. “It has been an amazing year. One year ago, for sure I never dreamed about being World No. 1 again at the end of the season. It’s something that means a lot to me. But the season is not over.”

Nadal has a surprising number of no-shows at the Paris Masters, which takes place just before the year-end finals in London.

He played it 2007-2009, losing in the final to David Nalbandian in his first appearance. But after that, he didn’t return until 2013. This is only his third participation in the last eight years. He looks to have a pretty nice draw until at least the semifinals, with no seeded players in his way.