Furious Karolina Pliskova attacks tennis
A week ago, the only question in tennis that mattered was: can anyone beat Rafael Nadal on clay this summer? He was rampant as of old, fit and fired again with ambition to crush all-comers on his favourite surface.Nadal won again in Rome on Thursday – easily – and then the communal gaze switched to Alex Zverev. On Sunday he beat Dominic Thiem, who had beaten Nadal in the Madrid quarter-finals two days earlier.
Nobody could have predicted the struggle he would have in extending his run of victories to 11 as Britain’s No 1, Kyle Edmund, took him down to the wire in the third round of the Italian Open.They traded blows of breathtaking power, Edmund saving seven match points before Zverev eked out the most dramatic of wins, 7-5, 7-6 (11). He now has every chance of still being there on Sunday, probably against Nadal, to defend the title he won a year ago.If Nadal reaches the final here, Edmund will automatically be seeded in the top 16 at the French Open, which starts on Sunday week. “I’ve not been a seed in any of the grand slams but I guess it avoids playing a top guy like Rafa or Novak [Djokovic],” he said. “And it’s good to see I’m going up the rankings.”
Sunday’s final in Rome could be one to savour and Nadal, if he makes it, should have more in the tank than Zverev after dismissing Denis Shapovalov, 6-4, 6-1 in an hour and 22 minutes.But they are not the only actors in this play. Fabio Fognini, finally made the quarter-finals of his home tournament after beating the unseeded German, Peter Gojowczyk, 6-4, 6-4. His prize is … Nadal in the first match on Friday.Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.The most thrills yesterday arrived when Zverev and Edmund brought their contrasting personalities together on the tournament’s glorious second court.
Broken in the opening game, Edmund was back in business after several robust exchanges half an hour later, only to drop serve a second time. Zverev, whose serve frightens ballkids and dozing spectators, was banging them down at 128mph (207kph), 13mph faster than Edmund.Zverev, the world No 3, sealed the first set with a swinging ace down the T, his second, after 42 minutes.
Edmund had to save three break points in the third game of the second set, but overcooked a crosscourt forehand. Zverev, getting ahead of himself, hit rashly on key points, then somehow rescued his serve for 3-1. Edmund would not lie down and, when his cause looked lost under a fusillade of booming serves, he doggedly got back to four-all.Two double-faults in the ninth game nearly scuppered his fightback but it was Zverev’s racket that was shaking more obviously and, after losing three games in a row, he found himself serving to stay in the set,
Southgate has not put a message on Twitter since April 2015 and seems perfectly happy to have made the break. “I can’t ban them [the players] from looking at it because who knows what they’re doing when they go to their room? But I would make the suggestion: ‘Is it a good idea to read all that [abuse]?’ If you can rationalise it, accept it and put it in its own place, then fine. But I don’t know too many people who can. Even if there are 50 good replies, you can’t help but think about the one bugger who gives you advice you don’t want to hear.”
Nobody pointed out there was more just one dissenter after Southgate had named his squad earlier in the week. Yet the England manager did not show a flicker of self-doubt when it came to explaining his choices and, though he was tactful not to say anything that could be construed as overly critical, there were various clues when it came to the players who had been left out.