x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Angry Rafael Nadal hits out at French Open schedulers

The men's defending champion upset at being placed low down the order of play on Thursday, leading to delay in playing his second-round match.

Rafael Nadal is not impressed with the schedulers at the French Open.
Rafael Nadal is not impressed with the schedulers at the French Open.

Rafael Nadal labelled the French Open schedule "a joke" and revealed he had struggled to motivate himself after reaching the third round with an unconvincing victory over the Slovakian Martin Klizan yesterday.

Nadal, seeking his eighth Roland Garros title and fourth in a row, looked ill at ease against fellow left-hander Klizan before securing a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory on a blustery day in Paris.

The 26-year-old Spaniard had not struck a ball in anger since struggling past Germany's Daniel Brands on Monday and seemed rusty as he initially allowed the powerful Klizan to dictate the baseline exchanges.

He eventually found enough energy to avoid any real alarms but later said he was unhappy about falling a round behind his main rivals for the title because of Thursday's rain, which backed up his match with Klizan.

"Yesterday I just warmed up for half an hour, so I've not played much tennis during three days," said Nadal, who will now have to play a rested Fabio Fognini today for a place in the last 16. "I think everybody knows in this room that the schedule of yesterday was wrong."

Nadal's main gripe was that the tournament's schedulers put him down for the last match on the Suzanne Lenglen Court on Thursday, after a women's singles and men's singles, while Fognini had to wait only for one women's match to finish.

Fognini polished off Lukas Rosol on Thursday while Nadal was left kicking his heels. He now faces a heavier schedule than his rivals if he is to retain his title.

"I cannot play third after men's and girls when our possible opponent plays second after girls. That's not fair," he said. "Today, I was playing almost three hours on court, and my opponent was watching the TV in the locker room.

"I can only smile and try to win my match and try to be ready for tomorrow. But that's not the right thing and I hope they accept the mistake.

"The excuse they told me was because Rosol had to play doubles. I am sorry, but that's a joke. Why do you want to protect the player who has to play doubles? So I'm going to write myself on the doubles draw, then, and I have the priority to play?"

Klizan, ranked No 35 in the world, took a leaf out of Brands's book with some heavy hitting from the baseline to unsettle Nadal who was strangely subdued.

"I don't think there was enough intensity, so it was rather predictable that the first set should go that way," Nadal said.

"I simply had to add intensity, increase my level of game, my attitude, and I found the motivation. In the first set I simply was not motivated enough."

A dreadful airy drop shot by Nadal in the seventh game was punished as Klizan earned the first break of the match and then he took his chance emphatically, serving out the set with the help of a booming second-serve ace.

Nadal surged 4-0 ahead in the second but the 23-year-old Klizan remained a threat and recovered one of the breaks of serve.

Nadal, the No 3 seed, took the second set and moved a break ahead in the third but wobbled at 3-2 when Klizan earned two break points, only to squander his chance to draw level.

Klizan's challenge faded and Nadal, without looking totally convincing and carelessly dropping serve late in the fourth set, secured a clash with Fognini.

"He's a very serious player. He's already won matches. He's confident," Nadal said of the Italian. "I'm going to try to play better than I played today. I think I have to deliver a top performance."

Elsewhere yesterday, Roger Federer went through to the fourth round after a 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Julien Benneteau.

The Frenchman has been a troublesome opponent for the 2009 champion in the past, winning two of their six previous matches and leading the Swiss by two sets to love at Wimbledon last year.

It looked like more drama could be in the offing when Benneteau broke serve in the first game but the 30th seed was hampered by a groin problem and went down in 91 minutes.

Federer felt sympathy for both Nadal and tournament organisers, saying: "I understand that he's frustrated. That's understandable. He would like to play every second day.

"But 50 per cent of the players couldn't play their match, I think. Then it makes the situation very complicated for everybody.

"I think [the organisers] didn't do it on purpose. They do their best."

The fourth seed, David Ferrer, has also had an untroubled route to the last 16, beating Spain's Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 yesterday, while the No 6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga eased past fellow Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 6-2, 7-5.

There were plenty of players like Nadal still to complete second-round matches. One of them was the No 19 seed John Isner, who for the first time in his career came back from two sets down to win, beating fellow American Ryan Harrison 5-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 8-6.

Janko Tipsarevic, the No 8 seed, almost found himself in the same predicament but saw off Fernando Verdasco 7-6, 6-1, 3-6 5-7, 8-6, while there were also wins for Richard Gasquet, Stanislas Wawrinka and the 35-year-old Tommy Haas.

Meanwhile, in the third round, Marin Cilic, the No 10 seed, lost 7-6, 6-4, 7-5 to Serbia's Victor Troicki.

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