WTA

Osaka enjoys 'really good starting block' in Madrid, Raducanu also through

By Sports Desk April 29, 2022

Naomi Osaka was encouraged by her 2022 clay-court debut, winning her opening match at the Madrid Open against Anastasia Potapova.

The former world number one has not played on the red dirt since the 2021 French Open, where she withdrew citing mental health issues.

Heading into this week in Madrid, Osaka had an underwhelming 20-15 record on clay, with each of her grand slam successes coming on hard courts.

But the 24-year-old has spoken of adjusting her approach and learning from clay king Rafael Nadal – and the early signs were positive.

She needed just over an hour to defeat Potapova 6-3 6-1 on Friday and said: "I'm honestly trying to be more positive with myself.

"This year I came a week early to train on red clay, so I'm just trying to give myself more chances to do better.

Osaka added: "To be able to do it in two sets, for me, it's a really good starting block. 

"I think today for me it was really fun, just being able to be back on the clay and not taking those moments for granted."

Fellow hard-court major champions Emma Raducanu and Bianca Andreescu also won their openers, although the latter required three sets to eventually coast past Alison Riske 6-4 3-6 6-0.

Raducanu will play another 19-year-old in the second round, with the US Open champion paired with Marta Kostyuk after getting over a slightly slow start to thrash Tereza Martincova 7-6 (7-3) 6-0.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari overcame a scare, meanwhile, ending her losing run at three matches by coming from behind to defeat Madison Keys in three sets.

"Overall, it was a very positive match to get myself back in the winning feeling," the Greek said.

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    Rafael Nadal will make his eagerly-anticipated return to clay on Tuesday after he confirmed his participation in the Barcelona Open and provided a further hint that 2024 will be his last on tour.

    Nadal has been ravaged by injuries in recent years and announced last May his intention to retire at the conclusion of this season.

    The farewell tour for the 22-time grand-slam champion has failed to go to plan though, after he had to pull out of the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury and subsequently missed ATP 1000 events in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo.

    However, the 37-year-old will play at the Barcelona Open, where there is a court named after him, on Tuesday against Italian youngster Flavio Cobolli, which will represent his first professional tie on clay since his 2022 Roland Garros triumph.

    “No, I can’t give you an injury update because the list is long and I just want to think about what can happen,” Nadal told a press conference in English.

    “I can only tell you that today I feel myself, enough good to be on court tomorrow and that for me is so important.

    “It means a lot to me to be able to play one more time here in Barcelona, a place that I have amazing success and a lot of unforgettable memories.

    “So, I am just trying to enjoy every moment and I am excited about being on court in a professional tournament again, especially here at home.”

    Nadal has won this tournament a record 12 times but has only managed three competitive matches in 2024.

    He did recently take part in an exhibition with compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who will miss this week’s ATP 500 event due to a forearm injury.

    Current world number 644 Nadal has battled with his fitness for several years and was on crutches a day after his last major victory at the French Open in 2022, which was followed by injury-hit appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open before he barely featured last year.

    This appearance in Barcelona does at least raise the prospect that he could participate at Roland Garros next month and later this year when it hosts the tennis tournament for the Paris Olympics.

    Asked if he could envisage such a painful journey, Nadal conceded: “Well, no but the day after Roland Garros I have been on crutches so that’s the truth.

     

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    “In 2022 I cannot and I was not able to think about how long it would take me to be back playing in a clay-court tournament because at the time I was enjoying the title of Roland Garros and trying to be ready for the next event.

     

    “That is what I have been doing my whole life. To think about what is going on day-by-day and just try to adapt to the situation, try to be able to improve under any circumstances to be a better player. That is what I did all my life and it worked well.

    “Now I am in a different perspective of my tennis career, a different moment and I am trying to enjoy every moment.

    “I was not able to spend a lot of days on tour over the last two years, so I just want to enjoy every day I am able to play with the guys on a professional level. That means a lot for me.”

  • Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Casper Ruud to win Monte-Carlo title for third time Stefanos Tsitsipas beats Casper Ruud to win Monte-Carlo title for third time

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    The Greek star took just an hour and 37 minutes to see off his Norwegian opponent 6-1 6-4 on Court Rainier III.

    Ruud dispatched world number one Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals but he could not repeat the feat as Tsitsipas once again produced his best tennis in the principality.

    The title winner, who has had to overcome a back problem, told the ATP Tour’s official website: “It has been very difficult, so to be back on the podiums, winning tournaments just feels amazing.

    “I can’t thank my family enough and friends – and if there is God out there – for making this moment possible. I am extremely grateful for every person behind this journey.

    “The third time is even more special than the first or second time. This is an unbelievable win for me. Capturing that win today was nerve-wracking. I really wanted this trinity. I am extremely happy today.”

    The 25-year-old 12th seed came out firing against the world number 10, breaking the struggling Ruud in the third game and clinching the first set at the second time of asking.

    He had to save a break point in the first game of the second set and then three in the seventh as the improving Norwegian pushed for a way back into the match.

    However, Tsitsipas then broke to edge himself towards the finishing line and complete a good afternoon’s work.

    He said: “I am glad I presented on court and showed some ruthless tennis. From the beginning to the end my play was cohesive and I was able to blend in a lot of different shots.”

    Meanwhile, Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz has withdrawn from the Barcelona Open due to injury.

    The world number three pulled out of the Monte-Carlo Masters with a right forearm problem and has not recovered in time to defend his title in his home country.

    A statement from the tournament read: “Carlos Alcaraz will not be able to defend the title he won the last two seasons.

    “The player from Murcia has suffered from the injury sustained in Monte Carlo, and did not have a good feeling in his training on Sunday and, despite having tried until the last moment, he will not be in the Barcelona Open.

    “Wishing you a speedy recovery, we hope to see you next year.”

    Fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal is scheduled to make his comeback from injury at the tournament.

    The 37-year-old has not played on the main tour since January due to a hip injury.

  • Novak Djokovic suffers first defeat to Casper Ruud at Monte-Carlo Masters Novak Djokovic suffers first defeat to Casper Ruud at Monte-Carlo Masters

    World number one Novak Djokovic suffered a first defeat to Casper Ruud as he was beaten in the semi-finals of the Monte-Carlo Masters.

    Norwegian Ruud delivered the biggest win of his career with a 6-4 1-6 6-4 victory to reach his second ATP Masters 1000 final.

    Ruud had never won a set off Djokovic in their past five meetings, but found his form against the tournament’s top seed to battle through to the final, where he will face Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    In a rematch of last year’s French Open final between the pair, Djokovic – who had appeared to struggle physically during his quarter-final win over Alex De Minaur – failed to find his usual high levels.

    Ruud, though, rose to the occasion on Court Rainier III to hold off a fightback from the Serbian in the final set, with Djokovic recovering from 4-1 down to level.

    The 25-year-old rallied to claim a third match point after Djokovic double faulted, completing a hard-fought victory in two hours and 17 minutes.

    Djokovic, meanwhile, sees his hunt for a first tournament win of 2024 continue.

    “I am super happy. This is a day I will remember for a long time,” Ruud told the ATP Tour website.

    “Beating a world number one is something I have never done and beating Novak is something I have never done.

    “I am very, very happy. I am a little bit in a state of shock right now.”

    Earlier, Tsitsipas had battled past second seed Jannik Sinner 6-4 3-6 6-4 and now has his eyes set on a third title in the Principality.

    “It was tennis at its highest level that I have been able to play,” said the Greek, who lifted back-to-back Monte-Carlo Masters titles in 2021 and 2022.

    “Jannik was an extremely-difficult opponent and it can be seen throughout the year so far.

    “He has been very consistent and I could see that throughout today with his game.

    “He is one of the toughest opponents I have faced so far and to find ways when there weren’t that many, I am proud of that.”

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