French Open: Nadal aims to attend Madrid's Champions League final despite Roland Garros schedule

By Sports Desk May 27, 2022

Rafael Nadal intends to attend the Champions League final between his beloved Real Madrid and Liverpool, despite the ongoing French Open.

Paris' Stade de France plays host to the Champions League showpiece on Saturday, with Madrid aiming for a 14th European Cup as Liverpool look to add to their EFL Cup and FA Cup successes this season.

Meanwhile, across the city in the French capital, Nadal remains in contention at Roland Garros after defeating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-3 6-2 6-4 on Friday.

Madrid great Zinedine Zidane was in attendance as the Spaniard cruised to victory, with the 35-year-old setting up a last-16 clash with Felix Auger-Aliassime.

While Nadal did not get to converse with Zidane, he was aware of the Frenchman's presence as the record 21-time grand slam winner outlined his plans to make the short trip to support Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid.

"I didn't see him, but I knew it was him, I knew he was there because I was listening to the crowd shouting his name all the time," Nadal told reporters when asked about Zidane. 

"So I imagine he was there, but I didn't have the chance to see him after my match or talk with him at all.

"Tomorrow, let's see how I wake up, because, you never know with my body how the surprises are there.

"But if nothing happens, and I expect nothing happens, and if I'm able to have the right practice tomorrow, my intention and my goal is to be there [at the Stade de France]."

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    Carlos Alcaraz insisted he is not feeling any pressure to be among the Wimbledon favourites after coming through a marathon four-hour clash with Jan-Lennard Struff to reach the second round.

    Alcaraz, whose four Tour-level titles in 2022 are more than any other player on the ATP Tour, has been tipped for a deep run at Wimbledon after surging to seventh in the world rankings.

    But the 19-year-old was on the brink of a stunning first-round exit when he was taken to a fourth-set tie-break at 2-1 down on Monday, eventually recovering to post a gruelling 4-6 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 win on No. 1 Court.

    In his post-match media conference, the Spaniard reiterated last week's claim that he is not one of the favourites to triumph in London, although he said he could win the tournament if he plays to the best of his ability.

    "I don't feel the pressure because I don't rank myself as one of the favourites to win this tournament," Alcaraz said.

    "Obviously if I play well, I have [the] level to win the tournament, but there are a lot more experienced players on grass. I don't feel the pressure."

    Alcaraz also conceded his grass-court game can still improve as he hailed his tremendous serving display – which brought him 30 aces, as the reason for his victory.

    "I enjoyed [the match] a lot," he added. "Great battle over four hours. For me, [to] play on grass is so beautiful. I like to play on grass. 

    "I would say my level on grass has to improve a little bit, but I'm happy with my level.

    "I didn't expect to move as well as I did. I mean, I played really well, I felt really well playing on grass and I still don't know how I served [so well].

    "This is probably my best match serving. This was a weapon that I used [and] that's why I won – the serve, for sure."

    Alcaraz will face Tallon Griekspoor in the second round after the Dutch player overcame Fabio Fognini in four sets on day one.

  • Wimbledon: Kalinina and Tsurenko hoping second-round match can help war-torn Ukraine Wimbledon: Kalinina and Tsurenko hoping second-round match can help war-torn Ukraine

    Anhelina Kalinina and Lesia Tsurenko will face off in the second round of Wimbledon on Wednesday with just one thing in their mind – helping Ukraine's war efforts back home.

    Ukrainian pair Kalinina and Tsurenko came through their first-round tests with Anna Bondar and Jodie Burrage respectively on Monday to advance to the next stage.

    Both players receive £50,000 for progressing, while £78,000 is up for grabs for the winner of their midweek meeting at the All England Club.

    And given the events in Ukraine, where thousands have been killed or wounded since Russia invaded in February and at least 12 million have fled, motivation is not an issue.

    "I feel that I play better, just because for me emotionally winning or losing doesn't exist any more," Tsurenko said. "For me, there is a big issue in my life: it's war. And there is nothing else that can beat this.

    "I think with all the sportsmen that are able to take part in the competitions, also with all the singers that go to Poland, to Germany, and having all the concerts, that part when Ukrainians can just go and remind the whole world that we are here, we still have war and we need your help.

    "This is the main thing that I would wish to happen, that we get a lot of heavy weapons. It's just that we should remind with the fact that we are here and we are playing for my country, for Ukraine. We just want to remind that Ukraine is in trouble and we need help."

    Kalinina, who revealed her parents' house in Irpin had been bombed, added: "I understand it’s hard to focus, but for me it matters if I win or if I lose. The more I win, I'm not only helping my family, I'm helping other families and other people.

    "You go further. You earn more money. Then I'm able to help, and I'm helping as much as I can and not only to my family. So for me that matters. I'm not a superstar so I'm helping with what I can. And it's a lot to them, and for me that's huge motivation to play. Huge."

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    Ons Jabeur targeted becoming world number one after making a confident start to her Wimbledon bid, having required just 53 minutes to record a straight-sets win over Mirjam Bjorklund.

    Jabeur, who became world number two on Monday – the highest ranking ever achieved by an African player on either the WTA or ATP tour – raced to a 6-1 6-3 first-round victory on No. 1 Court.

    The Tunisian, who prepared for her Wimbledon campaign by winning the German Open earlier this month and playing doubles with Serena Williams at the Eastbourne International, will face Katarzyna Kawa in the second round on Wednesday. 

    Ranking points are not on offer at the All England Club due to Russian and Belarusian players being banned, but Jabeur is already looking further ahead, declaring after her opener that becoming the world's top female player this year was her aim.

    Asked whether she was hopeful of bettering her run to the last eight in SW19 last year, Jabeur said: "Yes, for sure, especially [after] today I achieved my highest ranking.

    "It's really amazing to be here, to come back to Wimbledon, to play on one of the greatest surfaces that I like, especially one that loves my drop shots and my slices, so I'm happy to be back and hopefully I'll go further than the quarter-finals.

    "It's a great start for me. I want to go as far as I can this tournament and dropping four games is a start.

    "In the beginning of the season, I was like number 10 or number nine, and I said, 'I belong in this ranking and I don't feel I deserve to be five or four'.

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    "I do feel more confident. I do feel like I deserve to be on this level. Hopefully next step will be number one."

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