Rafael Nadal was set for an early New Year opportunity to avenge the worst defeat of his career yesterday when he was to tackle bitter rival Robin Soderling, the man who dumped him out of the French Open.
World No. 2 Nadal was defeated for the first time at Roland Garros last year, where he was four-time champion, by the towering Swede, a setback that sent his season into a downward, injury-hit spiral.
Nadal, who also lost to Soderling at the ATP World Tour finals in London, was to get his chance for revenge when the two were to meet in the final of the Capitala World Tennis Championship, an exhibition tournament, in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Nadal, who beat compatriot David Ferrer 7-6, 6-3 in an all-Spanish semi-final, is without an ATP final since May, with his second half of the season badly affected by knee tendinitis and a stomach strain.
Soderling made the final by beating world No. 1 Roger Federer 6-7 (8/10), 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 in his semi-final on Friday.
It was Soderling’s first career win over Federer, having lost the previous 12 times they had met, including in last year’s Roland Garros final.
“I’ve known Robin for a while and it was great to see his incredible run at the French Open. I think he’s really picked it up and it’s great to see,” Federer said. “It was obviously hard starting the year against him in a rematch of Roland Garros. I had fun though.”
Former world No. 1 Justine Henin faces a tough first-round match in her official comeback tournament after drawing second-seeded Nadia Petrova at the Brisbane International.
Henin, a wild card, was the last player in the 32-women field to come out of the draw, coincidentally conducted by Petrova. The Russian gave a rueful smile as she turned Henin’s name card over at the public draw in downtown Brisbane yesterday.
US Open champion Kim Clijsters will play Italian Tathiana Garbin today at Pat Rafter Arena. Henin plays Petrova tomorrow.
Men’s top seed Andy Roddick drew Australian Davis Cup player Peter Luczak, while fellow American James Blake will play fifth-seeded compatriot Sam Querrey.
Henin spent 117 weeks at No. 1 and has seven Grand Slam titles.
She announced her comeback in September, soon after her Belgian compatriot Clijsters won the US Open.
Clijsters and Henin are on opposite sides of the draw and could meet in the Brisbane final.
Henin said earlier this week she has matured during her 20-month break.
“I believe I can be a better player, I believe I can use my experience more than in the past,” Henin said. “When you are into [playing tennis at] 200 percent you have no time to realize it.”
Petrova felt Henin was already close to displaying the form she was in before her retirement.
“She was playing good tennis and she only needs a couple of matches to get her confidence,” Petrova said.
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational
STAYING COOL: Hamilton said that his ‘heart nearly stopped’ when he noticed the puncture, but he kept going to beat Alain Prost’s total of six home wins in France Lewis Hamilton said he feared he might not make it home when a last lap puncture almost derailed his charge to a record seventh British Grand Prix victory on Sunday. “I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners,” the world champion said. The front left tire of his Mercedes had delaminated and deflated on his final lap, leaving the six-time world champion to nurse his vehicle to the finish as second-placed Max Verstappen hunted him down. “I just can’t believe it,” Hamilton said. “It was heart-stopping. I backed off and stayed chilled and was so glad it happened on