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Exclusive: Rafael Nadal’s calendar Slam bid faces Novak Djokovic challenge on grass




#Rafael #Nadals #calendar #Slam #bid #faces #Novak #Djokovic #challenge #grass

Spain's Rafael Nadal returns against Switzerland's Roger Federer during their men's singles semi-final match on day 11 of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 12, 2019. (Photo by ANDREW COULDRIDGE / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE

FILE–Spain’s Rafael Nadal. (Photo by ANDREW COULDRIDGE / POOL / AFP) 

Rafa Nadal‘s hopes of winning Wimbledon for the first time in over a decade and staying on track for the calendar year Grand Slam will meet a familiar adversary in Novak Djokovic who is bidding to extend his domination at the grasscourt major.

For the first time in his career, the Spaniard has won the Australian and the French Open back-to-back and has the chance to become the first man to win all four majors in the same year since Rod Laver achieved the feat in 1969.

Serbian Djokovic finished one match short of accomplishing it last season when he won the first three Grand Slams but lost to Russian Daniil Medvedev in the U.S. Open final.

When Djokovic won Wimbledon for the sixth time and the third in a row in 2021, it was his 20th major title — putting him in a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Nadal in the race for the most Grand Slam titles among men.

The 35-year-old Djokovic has not won a major since while Federer has not played since last year’s Wimbledon.

July 11, 2021 Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning his final match against Italy's Matteo Berrettini

FILE–Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Djokovic’s fans argue that Nadal‘s job was relatively easier at Melbourne Park this year as he did not have to beat the Serb who was not allowed to defend his Australian Open title due to his unvaccinated status against COVID-19.

The 36-year-old Nadal, who has not played Wimbledon since his 2019 semi-final loss to Federer, beat Djokovic in the Roland Garros quarter-finals this month before going on to lift a record-extending 14th French Open title and 22nd major.


Nadal‘s chronic foot problem will again be in focus but his task at Wimbledon, where he won in 2008 and 2010, is expected to be more challenging with Djokovic unbeaten there for 21 matches.

With world number one Medvedev banned from taking part and second-ranked Alexander Zverev missing due to injury, Djokovic is the top seed and Nadal number two.

The duo can only meet in the July 10 final if they progress through the draw.

“Novak might probably be the man to beat because he’s been doing very well,” said Eurosport pundit Alex Corretja.

“He’s been winning there. He’s the defending champion, and it’s going to be super difficult to beat him. He serves great, he returns perfect, he moves well, he plays deep.

“So I don’t think there are too many guys on the draw that really feel they can beat Novak best-of-five on grass.”


Matteo Berrettini Stuttgart

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini. (Photo by Bernd Weißbrod / dpa / AFP) 

Matteo Berrettini, runner-up last year, will fancy his chances of challenging Djokovic, having won titles on grass at Stuttgart and Queen’s in the lead-up.

The big-serving Berrettini has won 20 of his last 21 matches on grass with his only loss coming in the 2021 Wimbledon final.

Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz will also count himself among the challengers after crushing Medvedev to win the ATP 500 grasscourt tournament in Halle, Germany on Sunday.

Britain’s Andy Murray, who has lifted the trophy twice on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, and Australian Nick Kyrgios will be unseeded threats.


Murray, ranked 51st, showed strong grasscourt form with his runner-up finish in Stuttgart but is racing against time to be fit after sustaining an abdominal injury during his loss to Berrettini.

The temperamental Kyrgios skipped the claycourt season to prepare for grass and considers himself a top-five, top-10 level player on the surface.

The 45th-ranked Australian reached the semi-finals in Stuttgart and Halle.

“If I would be in the Wimbledon draw and I would be seeded, I would pray not to play Kyrgios in the first rounds,” Corretja said. “It’s so difficult to play against him, his serve is probably one of the best on tour right now.”

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Exclusive: Kyrgios laughs off wardrobe questions after win –




#Kyrgios #laughs #wardrobe #questions #win

Nick Kyrgios has laughed off questions regarding his on-court attire, as he opted to change his shoes and hat before taking a post-match interview following his gutsy performance in the fourth round.

Kyrgios’ detractors were desperate for something, anything, to take the shine off his impressive five-set win, where he battled a shoulder ailment throughout, receiving treatment several times.

But if his win over Stefanos Tsitsipas was a ‘circus’, as the vanquished Greek proposed it was, this was anything but.

READ MORE: Kyrgios lifts lid on move that baffled legend

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Save for a couple of words with the chair umpire late in the contest, Kyrgios was focused, and almost reserved at times.

Few sports stars are as polarising – and when Kyrgios switched his hat and shoes for a red Jordan brand cap and some matching sneakers, it gave his critics – of which there were fewer than his last match, for obvious reasons – the ammunition they needed.


Kyrgios books ticket to quarters

On commentary, Aussie legend Todd Woodbridge said that his countryman “might receive a letter in his locker” about the hat and shoe change.

The 27-year-old’s post-win press conference was nothing like the combative environment that it was two days ago, right until the very end.

A reporter posed the idea that Kyrgios invites his own controversy, including an open flaunting of clear wardrobe rules.

“Why then would you walk on to centre court with bright red trainers on and do an interview in a red cap?” Kyrgios was asked.

The reply was typically Kyrgios.

“Because I do what I want,” he responded, before being pressed on whether or not he thought he was above the rules.

“No. I’m not above the rules. I just like wearing my Jordans.”

The line of questioning continued despite a moderator’s attempted intervention, when Kyrgios was quick to correct the journalist that he hadn’t ‘moaned’ about controversy.

“I haven’t moaned. I love it,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s just more attention for me. What’s that saying? Any publicity is good publicity, right?

“Keep doing you then champion,” he said to the question asker before moving on.

Kyrgios will get a day off before facing Chile’s Cristian Garin for a spot in the final four.


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Exclusive: The squad regroups –




The squad regroups

#squad #regroups

Erik ten Hag was afforded a first opportunity to work with a number of returning Reds at Carrington on Monday.

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Exclusive: De Minaur bundled out of Wimbledon in classic –




#Minaur #bundled #Wimbledon #classic

Cristian Garin came from two sets down and saved two match points in the fifth before beating Alex de Minaur to reach his first grand slam quarter-final at Wimbledon.

The unseeded Chilean trailed 5-3 in the first-to-10 fifth-set tiebreaker before winning six straight points to take a 9-5 lead.

He then converted his second match point to advance 2-6, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (6) on Court No.2 after four hours and 34 minutes.

LIVE UPDATES: Kyrgios holding lead over American young gun

READ MORE: Tennis icon’s savage roast for ‘cheating’ Kyrgios

READ MORE: Kyrgios and Tsitsipas both fined after insane Wimbledon clash

Garin is the first Chilean man to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Fernando Gonzales in 2009.

The 19th-seeded de Minaur had never lost a set against Garin in three previous meetings and looked set to maintain that streak when he led 3-1 in the third-set tiebreaker. The Australian then held two match points at 5-4 in the fifth.



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