Rafael Nadal: Madrid loss a step backward ahead of French Open

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MADRID — Rafael Nadal’s good run preparing for the French Open has suddenly hit a speed bump.

Nadal’s quarterfinal loss to Alexander Zverev at the Madrid Open came as an unexpected setback in a week in which the king of clay said he was feeling good about his game.

“Negative feelings because this was an important week for me,” Nadal said. “I had been progressing, but sometimes when you are going up the stairs you may take a step backward, and that’s what happened today.”

Nadal lost to No. 6-ranked Zverev 6-4, 6-4 after comfortable wins against up-and-comers Carlos Alcaraz and Alexei Popyrin.

“The entire week I did things well, both in training and in the matches,” Nadal said. “Today again, but when it counted, in the decisive moments, I did everything wrong.”

Nadal has been trying to regain his best form after not playing much because of the coronavirus pandemic. He got off to a slow start on clay by his standards, being eliminated by Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo then won the Barcelona Open after dropping multiple sets through that week. At the start of the year at the Australian Open, he lost in the quarterfinals.

He will attempt to win a 10th Italian Open next week to complete his buildup for a 14th French Open trophy.

He said he was frustrated because he felt like he played better than Zverev at times but could not take advantage of his chances. He felt like he let the quarterfinal slip away by making “too many unjustified mistakes.”

“It was a different match than the one against Rublev (in Monte Carlo), when the conditions favored me. Here there was a sensation that I was not in control of things, so when you lose it feels like things are worse than they really are.”

Nadal said he doesn’t enjoy the faster pace in Madrid, prompted by the high altitude in the Spanish capital, even though he’s won the tournament five times.

Nadal still tried to look on the bright side.

“It was a week with many positive things. I did a lot of things well in training,” he said. “I leave Madrid with good sensations in general, but with a bad sensation of having played a match like today.”

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.

Samsonova beats Zheng to win 3rd WTA title in 2 months

Toray Pan Pacific Open - Day Seven
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TOKYO – Liudmila Samsonova extended a remarkable summer run by clinching her third title in two months after beating rising Chinese player Zheng Qinwen 7-5, 7-5 at the Toray Pan Pacific Open.

No. 30-ranked Samsonova won in Washington and Cleveland in August and also reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open. The 23-year-old has now won 18 of her last 19 matches and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo.

“It’s amazing. I think I need a little bit of time to realize it, but it’s unbelievable,” Samsonova said. “It was like a nervous match today. I was really prepared physically but I was tired mentally because I was playing singles and doubles every day. I’m very happy with the way I managed the pressure.”

Samsonova added that the exclusion of Russian players from Wimbledon had helped her game though she stopped short of supporting the move.

“Wimbledon for me is the best tournament. I love it. The news really impacted me. I had one month without a tournament so I thought let’s work,” she said, adding: “I don’t agree that politics should be involved in sports because it’s unfair.”

The match between two power hitters with big serves was close throughout but Samsonova was striking the ball cleaner and stronger.

Zheng, who ousted top-seeded Paula Badosa and No. 4-seeded Veronika Kudermetova, was broken in the first set after giving up her first double fault on deuce in the 11th game.

Samsonova, who defeated Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the first round and former world No. 1 Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals, then sent a perfect forehand that landed in the right-hand corner of the court to break the 19-year-old and go 6-5 up. She took the first set with another strong service game that included her third ace.

Zheng was the first to crack in the second set when she handed Samsonova free points with two double-faults in the fifth game. A double-fault by the Russian saw her drop to 0-40 in the next game and the No. 36-ranked Chinese broke back to level at 3-3.

As in the first set, Zheng was broken in the 11th game. A long forehand at deuce gave Samsonova a breakpoint and she converted it with a crosscourt forehand that sent her opponent the wrong way. Samsonova then won her next game to love after three errors by Zheng, clinching the match 7-5, 7-5.

Samsonova has now won all of the finals she has appeared in.

In reaching the final, Zheng became the youngest Chinese finalist at a tour-level event, beating the mark set by Peng Shuai.