Friday 15 December 2017

Nadal unleashes verbal volley over scheduling 'joke'

TENNIS Paul Newman

After Rafael Nadal won six of his eight comeback tournaments and reached the finals of the two others, the expectation in some quarters was that winning his eighth French Open title would be little more than a walk in the Bois de Boulogne for the 26-year-old Spanish star.

For the second round in succession, however, Nadal lost the opening set before easing to a 4-6 6-3 6-3 6-3 win over Slovakia's Martin Klizan.

Nadal will be back on court today to face Fabio Fognini, who has already beaten Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet during the current clay-court season. To Nadal's displeasure, moreover, the 26-year-old Italian will have had an extra day to prepare, having completed his own second-round victory over Lukas Rosol on Thursday evening before rain curtailed play for the day.

Nadal did not hold back in his criticism of tournament organisers for their scheduling. Fognini's match on Thursday was second on court, following a women's singles, while Nadal was scheduled as the third match on another court, after a women's singles and a men's singles.

After a day waiting in vain to get on court, Nadal and Klizan were sent home and had to return for an 11.0 start yesterday morning.

"Today I was playing almost three hours on court and my opponent (tomorrow) was watching TV in the locker room," Nadal declared at the press conference. The defending champion said he had been told that the Fognini-Rosol match had been scheduled earlier because Rosol had to play doubles later in the afternoon.

"I am sorry, but that's a joke," Nadal said. "You have one more week to play doubles if you want to play doubles. Why do you want to protect a player who has to play doubles?

"So I'm going to put myself in the doubles draw then and I have the priority to play? That's not the right excuse to make a schedule like this."

Having built up a head of steam, Nadal then launched into the world rankings, repeating his belief that they should be based on results over two years rather than one. "When you get an injury like (Juan Martin) del Potro for nine months you come back as No 900 in the world, but you are clearly not No 900 in the world," he said.

Roger Federer, who reached the fourth round by beating Julien Benneteau 6-3 6-4 7-5, had some sympathy for Nadal over the scheduling but said diplomatically that tournament organisers "didn't do it on purpose. They do their best."

Maria Sharapova will have to play catch-up after completing her delayed second-round match over Eugenie Bouchard. Serena Williams is already through to the fourth round after beating Sorana Cirstea 6-0 6-2.

The world No 1 has dropped just six games in her first three matches. (© Independent News Service)

French Open, Live,

Set Ire 10.0 & 7.55, Eurosport/ITV4 9.30

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