Getty Images

Nadal withdraws from ATP Finals after loss to Goffin

1 Comment

LONDON (AP) Rafael Nadal will have to wait another year to win the ATP Finals.

The world No. 1 withdrew from the elite, season-ending tournament after losing his opening match to David Goffin 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 on Monday at the O2 Arena.

Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters at the quarterfinal stage 10 days ago and admitted ahead of the ATP Finals on the indoor hard-court he struggles on, that his knees, which have caused him trouble throughout his career, were still “not perfect.”

Despite having qualified 13 consecutive times for the ATP Finals, only eight of which he’s been fit enough to compete in, Nadal has never won the event. Spain will still be represented, as Nadal will be replaced by U.S. Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta.

“My season is finished,” Nadal said. “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. I tried, but seriously was miracle to be very close in the score during the match.”

After two breaks of serve each, Goffin claimed an ugly opening set via a tiebreak and was on the verge of victory in the second, but Nadal’s fighting spirit saved four match points to force another tiebreaker and draw level.

However, the third set proved a step too far for the 16-time Grand Slam champion, who began to struggle with his movement and was in visible pain. Goffin secured a double break to be 4-1, but Nadal rallied once more. He could retrieve only one of the breaks.

“It was tough even if he was not moving 100 percent,” Goffin said. “He was hitting the ball really hard. 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 ominously waved goodbye as he left the court, bringing to an end another auspicious season. He won his 10th French Open in June, added a third U.S. Open in September and, at 31, became the oldest man to end the year atop of the rankings.

With the Australian Open still over two months away, Nadal was confident playing in London wouldn’t have done any lasting damage.

“The good thing is (this injury is) nothing new,” Nadal said. “Everybody of my team, we have the right experience on this thing. We hope to manage it well, to have the right rest, the right work, and try to be ready for the beginning of the next season.”

Nadal’s exit simplifies Federer’s path to a seventh ATP Finals title. The winner of 2017’s other two Grand Slams returns to action against Alexander Zverev on Tuesday after defeating Jack Sock on Sunday.

Making his debut at the ATP Finals earlier, Grigor Dimitrov withstood a comeback attempt from Dominic Thiem and held on for a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 victory.

The sixth-ranked Dimitrov maintained his focus despite being narrowly denied a chance to serve out the match in the second set, and then being broken at his first chance in the third.

“Every year you learn more about yourself, about the game, about the players,” Dimitrov said. “I’ve done also a lot of work on and off the court. It’s finally starting to kind of, like, come together.”

Keys sends U.S. into second straight Fed Cup final

AP Photo
1 Comment

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France — Defending champion United States will play in a second consecutive Fed Cup final after defeating France on Sunday.

Madison Keys secured the decisive point for the visiting team by beating Pauline Parmentier 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the second reverse singles. Keys’ victory gave the defending champions an unassailable 3-1 lead over France in their semifinal.

The 13th-ranked Keys, a late replacement for CoCo Vandeweghe, came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first set and made the decisive break in the ninth game of the second set with two consecutive winners.

“The girls did so well, both today and yesterday. We are very fortunate to have such a strong group and now we are looking forward to what is going to be a great final,” U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said.

Parmentier fought hard until the end and saved two set points in the opener, but ultimately surrendered to Keys’ deep groundstrokes. The Frenchwoman had the chance to break back while trailing 5-4 in the second set but Keys used her big serve to win the next three points and seal the match.

The U.S. will play the Czech Republic in the final.

Earlier, Sloane Stephens had given a 2-1 lead to the U.S. with a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing of Kristina Mladenovic.

The U.S. Open champion delivered a ruthless display against the 20th-ranked Mladenovic and prevailed in 54 minutes. Stephens hit 16 winners and converted five of six break chances at the 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix on indoor clay.

“That was a really good one. You never anticipate a scoreline like the way it turned out but it was really solid,” Stephens said. She also won her first singles match on Saturday.

The Americans extended their winning record to 12-2 against the French.

The Czech Republic qualified for the final by defeating Germany 4-1 in Stuttgart.

Nadal beats Nishikori to win Monte Carlo Masters

AP Images
Leave a comment

MONACO — Rafael Nadal won a record 31st Masters title after beating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 in the Monte Carlo Masters final on Sunday.

Nadal also became the first man in the Open era to win the same title 11 times – 13 years after his first title here – and moved one ahead of rival Novak Djokovic for career Masters titles.

“It’s great to have this trophy in my hands again,” Nadal said.

It gave him a 76th title overall and ensured the Spaniard keeps his top ranking ahead of Roger Federer.

Nishikori was chasing a first Masters title, but the Japanese player took 11 minutes to hold for 1-1.

He got some brief hope, breaking Nadal with a superb passing shot at full stretch to lead 2-1, but meekly surrendered the next four games.

“I knew it was going to be tough even though I was up break,” said Nishikori, who complained of tiredness. “My legs were very heavy today, playing three sets (for) three days in a row (before the final). It wasn’t easy physically.”

The second set was a procession and Nadal won on his first match point with a stinging backhand winner.

Nadal’s celebration was brief and low key. He thrust both hands into the air, and then jogged over to offer Nishikori a sympathetic hug after beating him for the 10th time in 12 meetings.

Nishikori saved a set point with a sharp, angled volley at the net. But Nadal was in relentless mood and sealed it on his next chance with a crisp forehand winner.

“It’s not easy to describe when you are coming back from injury and you start the clay-court season in this way,” Nadal said.

Nishikori is still working his way back to form and full fitness, after missing the 2017 U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open because of a torn tendon in his right wrist.

“It was a great week for me, I had an injury and couldn’t play for a long time,” said Nishikori, whose ranking has slipped to 36.

Nadal has not dropped a set in seven matches since coming back from a recurrence of a right hip injury that forced him to abandon during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

The injury relapse subsequently forced him out of the Mexico Open and Masters tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, but Nadal now looks back to his ruthless best on clay.

He has his sights firmly set on an 11th title at Barcelona next week and then an 11th French Open title at Roland Garros.