US Open 2019: Not finished yet – Nadal showing he is king in his 30s

By Sports Desk September 09, 2019

Remember when Rafael Nadal was "finished"?

Without a grand slam title in nearly three years, a wrist injury plaguing his career and ongoing questions over his knee?

That was three years ago and feels more like a lifetime.

Since the start of 2017, Nadal has won five grand slams, the most recent of which was the US Open after an epic five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev in the final in New York on Sunday.

The Spanish great is up to 19 grand slam titles, just one shy of all-time men's record holder Roger Federer, while he pushed three clear of Novak Djokovic.

There was, perhaps rightly, a theory that Federer would have the best longevity of the 'Big Three', his style less reliant on the physicality of Nadal and Djokovic, whose relentlessness and gruelling approach from the baseline led to those suggestions.

But that has thus far proven to be wrong, and it is remarkably Nadal – with a remodelled serve helping his hard-court game this year – who has seriously starred since turning 30.

Federer turned 30 in August 2011, Nadal in June 2016 and Djokovic in May 2017.

In their 30s, Nadal has won five majors compared to four apiece for Federer and Djokovic, a tally few would have predicted and one that seems set to grow.

A battered body looked set to get the better of Nadal, but instead the majors in 2019 have belonged to him.

He finished with two grand slam titles and a 24-2 win-loss record – his best since going an extraordinary 25-1 in 2010.

At 33, there are some signs Nadal may be slowing down, and he unsurprisingly looked tired at times in the incredible clash with Medvedev that lasted almost five hours.

But he is showing he could be the king in the 30s of the 'Big Three', and he sure as anything is not finished yet.

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    Verdasco, the ninth seed at the ATP 500 tournament, was beaten 6-3 6-3 by fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar on the clay in Brazil.

    The 36-year-old has fallen to three straight losses, the first of which was a third-round defeat at the Australian Open.

    Verdasco – the 2018 runner-up – was one of three seeds tested, but Garin survived a test against Andrej Martin.

    Garin, who won the title in Cordoba earlier this month, needed more than three hours to edge Martin 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-5).

    Albert Ramos-Vinolas departed, the seventh seed falling to 16-year-old Carlos Alcaraz 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 7-6 (7-2) after three hours, 36 minutes.

    Federico Delbonis advanced, while wildcard Thiago Seyboth Wild needed almost four hours to get past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 5-7 7-6 (7-3) 7-5.

    There were also upsets at the Delray Beach Open, where John Millman and Adrian Mannarino were beaten in the first round.

    Millman, the fifth seed, went down to Yoshihito Nishioka 3-6 6-4 6-2 and seventh seed Mannarino fell to Kwon Soon-woo 1-6 6-3 6-2.

    Frances Tiafoe, the champion in 2018, came through his opener against qualifier Emilio Gomez.

  • Paire through in Marseille as Ymer sets up Tsitsipas clash Paire through in Marseille as Ymer sets up Tsitsipas clash

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    In the final match of the day, Alexander Bublik defeated Marton Fucsovics 6-4 7-5.

  • Clijsters takes solace in periods of dominance during Muguruza defeat Clijsters takes solace in periods of dominance during Muguruza defeat

    Kim Clijsters took solace in feeling like she had periods of dominance against Garbine Muguruza, who ensured the four-time major champion's comeback began with a defeat.

    Making her first appearance on the WTA Tour since the 2012 US Open, former world number one Clijsters fell to a 6-2 7-6 (8-6) defeat against Australian Open finalist Muguruza in the first round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

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    Clijsters said: "I felt obviously the second set was a big difference compared to the first set. My timing in the first set, my footing, just kept looking for it.

    "I felt a few times it was there, then it would be off a few points. At times I felt like I was close. I was seeing the ball clear. Just started reading her game better, as well, getting used to her pace a little bit.

    "Yeah, second set I felt I was really in the match. I felt like for a while I was dominating some of the points.

    "I think that's a good feeling to have, knowing the way I started the first set and then the way I was able to get back into that second set, with the type of tennis I played, it's something that is the positive about this match. I'll take that with me for the next matches.

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    Muguruza accepted she went into the match completely unsure of what to expect, with Clijsters representing something of an unknown quantity, though she is now anticipating the Belgian to cause problems for plenty of players.

    "I think she played very well, especially in the second set at the end," Muguruza said. "It was very tight.

    "I think this is just special because I didn't know how [Clijsters was] going to play. I know she can play incredible - she did at some point play [at an] incredible level. I haven't seen her play in so long, so it's like, 'Okay, what's going to happen?'

    "I'm sure she's going to get better and better, for sure, [and] give us a lot of trouble."

    Clijsters' fellow Belgian Elise Mertens was in action earlier in the day and had significantly fewer issues, cruising past Wang Qiang in straight sets.

    Mertens needed a little over an hour to secure her progression, ultimately running out a comfortable 6-3 6-0 victor – winning the second set in just 25 minutes.

    World number 18 Alison Riske suffered a shock 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 defeat at the hands of Ons Jabeur, who set up a second-round clash with Simona Halep.

    The Tunisian, who is ranked 45th in the world, eventually came out on top and owed much to her ability to hit a winner, outscoring Riske 28 to 11 in that metric as she claimed a seventh career win over a top-20 opponent.

    Barbora Strycova came through a lengthy encounter with 18-year-old Amanda Animisova, beating the American 6-3 (7-3) 2-6 6-4 over two hours and 33 minutes, taking advantage of her opponent's proneness to errors.

    Marketa Vondrousova was the highest-ranked player in action on Tuesday, and she dispatched Anastasija Sevastova with relative ease, winning 6-3 6-2.

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