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‘That could leave Rafael Nadal lacking a little belief’, says former star

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Competing in 12 semi-finals of the Masters 1000 is a good achievement that puts you in a position to chase at least a couple of titles at the premium level of the ATP. Playing the last four in a single Masters 1000 event 12 times makes you the legend of the tournament and secures you a place in the history books, as only two players have done so far.

Rafael Nadal is the group leader with 14 semi-finals in Monte Carlo, with the Spaniard and Novak Djokovic securing the 12th semi-final of the Masters 1000 in Rome two weeks ago. Thus, Novak became the second player with at least 12 semi-finals in a single Masters 1000 tournament, while Nadal extended his dominance and stayed on top with two such achievements.

Nadal got off to a winning start at the Foro Italico after a hard-fought 7-5, 6-4 victory over Jannik Sinner. Rafa lost serve three times against the young Italian and pursued the result in both sets. Using his experience and determination to avoid another early exit like in Monte Carlo and Madrid, Nadal overcame two handicaps in the first set and rallied from a 4-2 deficit in set number two to advance to the knockout stages.

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The Spaniard had to fight Denis Shapovalov in the third round, prevailing 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after saving two epic match points. Nadal trailed 6-3, 3-0, 40-30 and remained calm to steal the second set and prolong the match. Starting over and leaving the second set behind, the Canadian kept fighting back and built the lead in a decider before Nadal rallied and got back on the bright side.

Shapovalov saved break opportunities at 5-5 and won those two match points in Game 12, wasting both and allowing Rafa to seal the deal in the tie break. In the quarterfinals, Rafa needed two hours to fire Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4, avenging the defeat at the Madrid Open and advancing to the 75th semi-final of the Masters 1000.

In his most relaxed match of the week, Rafa defeated Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4 in his 12th Rome Open semi-final, staying on track for the title and setting up the title clash against Novak Djokovic.

Wilander on Rafael Nadal’s aura
Mats Wilander believes Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are beginning to lose their grip on the sport in the face of the NextGen’s steady rise.

Wilander also reckons that some of the younger players could give Nadal and Djokovic a difficult time in the early rounds of the French Open this year. “Novak and Rafa look more vulnerable each year,” Wilander said.

“The younger guys are hitting the ball so hard on both sides, they have big serves and they are taking a bit of Rafa and Novak’s confidence away from them.” Turning his attention to the upcoming French Open, Wilander claimed that Rafael Nadal’s aura of invincibility could take a hit if a younger player takes him the distance.

“There is a chance that a younger player can take a chunk out of Nadal’s confidence in the first round and even if he comes through, that could leave him lacking a little belief,” added the Swede. “Then he could get bullied around in his next match and if he doesn’t have any easy matches, his confidence may be shaken by the time he gets to the final.”

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‘I’m done with losing’: Anthony Joshua opens up on his pain after Oleksandr Usyk defeat

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Anthony Joshua has opened up on his shock loss to Oleksandr Usyk last month that saw him relinquish his heavyweight titles, saying he is “done with f…..g losing” and will exact swift revenge in their rematch next year.

In a wide-ranging interview with iFL TV, the former heavyweight champion also discussed his trainer situation as he looks to win back his IBF, WBA and WBO belts from the Ukrainian at the first time of asking.

Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) was thoroughly outboxed by Usyk as the unbeaten Ukrainian (19-0, 13 KOs) earned a unanimous points victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London to end Joshua’s brief second reign.

Joshua had suffered his first career defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 before winning back his titles in an immediate sequel in Saudi Arabia six months later.

The 32-year-old is confident that he will do the same against Usyk after getting his tactics wrong in their first encounter and hit back at critics who suggested he was too happy to lose.

“Because you don’t hear from me, I may not be effing and blinding on Insta stories and stuff like that, it doesn’t mean that I stomach losses,” Joshua said.

“I was on the next plane to the States, spoke to all my team. We’ve had some awkward conversations in the camp … It hurts bro. It hurts. Especially when you’ve got a winner’s mentality.

“I know from experience and track record, my mindset and my evaluation of losses and how I use them, it can catapult me to the next level.”

When asked why tried to outbox a technical fighter like Usyk rather than using his size and strength advantages to bully the much smaller man, Joshua initially sought to justify his baffling strategy, saying he was trying to conserve energy.

“When I looked at the other fight [Tyson Fury’s KO of Deontay Wilder in their trilogy fight] a couple of weeks later you saw that after two rounds, three rounds, the energy was depleted, Joshua told iFL TV.

“It’s not what I thought was the right way of boxing. So I started working on different elements of my boxing – trying to learn how to slip shots, roll shots a bit better, etcetera.

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“MY LIFE IS ON THE LINE” – ANTHONY JOSHUA EXPLAINS SEARCH FOR NEW TRAINER

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The deposed champion is preparing for his Oleksandr Usyk rematch

Anthony Joshua has denied splitting with trainer Rob McCracken but says he is looking for additional input ahead of his rematch with Oleksandr Usyk.

Joshua lost to the Ukrainian former cruiserweight in September but immediately exercised his rematch clause which should see the pair face one another for a second time in 2022.

The 31-year-old Briton was well beaten by Usyk in a technical match-up with many believing the former champion was wrong not to use his size and strength advantage.

Since the defeat Joshua has toured gyms in Texas and California, and he told IFL TV what his plans were.

Speaking of retaining McCracken, he said: “Yeah, and he has to speak to the people I may want to work with and see if he can work with them.

“I had the same conversation with Rob, ‘I want to work with you, but I also want to work with this guy for six months’.

“Rob might tell me, ‘You know what champ, this ain’t working for me. For the next six months, you do your thing and come and see me after.’

“It’s mature conversations. My life, my health is on the line.”

Joshua explained who he had seen on his visit.

“I need to go and get some new teachings from guys that have trained – Robert Garcia trained 13, 14 world champions,” he said.

“They’ve got so many generations of teachings.

“Virgil Hunter trained Andre Ward, a phenomenal fighter.

“I wanted to go around and be in an environment of fighters.

“Eddy Reynoso, ‘No boxing, no life.’ I love that saying. Canelo is obviously a phenomenal fighter.

“I watched him spar 12 rounds, asked certain questions.

“Ronnie Shields, another African American coach who has worked with the greats.”

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Tearful Serena Williams aids fight against cancer with heartbreaking call to action

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In tears, Serena Williams shared a heartbreaking video call-to-action to support her friend Esther Lee, a DPT who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a year ago, in promoting a challenge event meant to raise funds for battling cancer everywhere.

In the video, Serena Williams can be seen failing to keep her tears under control since the message involves a dear friend of hers. “I don’t think I can do this. This is going to be too hard for me,” Williams says in the video as her voice drowns in tears.

“My dear friend Esther has been a huge part of my own health journey and now she needs our help as she battles pancreatic cancer. Join me in helping patients like Esther by registering for the LA Cancer Challenge 5K Walk/Run on October 31.

With both in-person and virtual events, everyone can participate,” Serena Williams captioned the video.

How to help Serena and Esther in the battle against cancer
If you want to help researchers find a cure for cancer or aid people in battling the disease, you can register for the LA Cancer Challenge event, which “helps the Hirshberg Foundation raise money to fund research and programs designed to improve patient care, offer better treatment options and, ultimately find a cure for pancreatic cancer,” according to Serena Williams.

The tennis icon also said that you can “join me, in-person or virtually, for a day of costumes and fun, remembering those we have lost and celebrating those who are currently battling this disease. Together, regardless of where we are, we can make a huge difference in the battle against pancreatic cancer”.

On Williams’s official donation page on pancreatic.org, you have the option to donate or join Serena’s or Esther’s teams. At the moment, there are over $5000 raised. The goal is around $15000.

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