x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Tennis round-up: Overtaking Federer not Nadal’s priority

World No 2 says he will walk away from tennis satisfied after knowing he gave game his all.

Rafael Nadal has been backed by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to break Roger Federer's record grand slam tally. Andy Wong / AP Photo
Rafael Nadal has been backed by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to break Roger Federer's record grand slam tally. Andy Wong / AP Photo

BEIJING // Rafael Nadal said on Tuesday he will look back on his career with pride even if he does not eclipse Roger Federer’s record 17 grand slam titles.

The world No 2 has 13 and has been in sizzling form this season after long-term injury. He is also closing in on the top spot in the world rankings, currently held by Novak Djokovic.

Tennis legends Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras reportedly said the Spaniard could overtake Federer before the 27 year old finishes his career.

“If that happens or that not happens, the only thing I am sure is when I am going to leave this tour, I am going to be very happy about what I did,” Nadal told reporters in Beijing in response to questions about the comments from Agassi and Sampras.

Nadal believes he would need to sustain his form – and crucially his fitness – for the next four years if he is to better Federer’s grand slam achievements.

“I tried everything in every practice, in every match. I gave everything. When you try your best every day, that’s all that you can do. I think I did. So that’s why I am going to be happy,” Nadal said after he won his opening game at the China Open against Santiago Giraldo 6-2, 6-4.

The second seed and 2004 champion in Beijing will now face German Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round.

Williams up and down in win

In the women’s draw, the world No 1 Serena Williams only showed rare moments of her trademark power-play and at times appeared agitated as she overcame Italian Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-5 in her second-round match.

The American gained the upper hand in the first set via a mistake from her opponent, who double-faulted on set point.

But Williams was forced to become more aggressive in the second set after her serve was broken in the first game by the world No 50, who became Italy’s first grand slam winner at Roland Garros in 2010.

As the competition intensified both players’ tempers threatened to boil over, with Williams ranting and Schiavone smashing balls into the barriers at the side of the court.

But Williams seemed calmer – and quieter – as she closed in on a hard-earned victory.

“I was able to save some energy, so I started walking slower and taking my time more. When I did that, I actually won three or four games in a row,” she said.

Williams will face Maria Kirilenko in the next round after the Russian beat Urszula Radwanska 6-4, 6-4.

More money at Australian Open

Australian Open organisers on Wednesday boosted prize money for the 2014 grand slam to Aus$33 million (Dh113.5m) and said they expected all of the world’s top 100 men and women to play.

The cash pool will be hiked by $3m, after a $4m jump in 2013 to record levels, when organisers reacted to threats of a boycott from players pressing for a greater share of revenue.

“We said it last year and we still believe it – these incredible athletes deserve every cent and we will continue to do everything in our power to make the life of an international professional tennis player more worthwhile,” said Craig Tiley, the Tennis Australia chief.

The January tournament, the opening grand slam of the season, is expected to attract all the world’s top players, led by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

Tiley said he was particularly looking forward to the return of Nadal, who missed last year’s event through injury but who has bounced back this year with nine titles so far, including the French Open and US Open.

“Rafa has had an incredibly successful year and has to be a major contender to win the Australian Open for the second time,” he said, adding that US great Pete Sampras will attend as a guest to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first of his two Australian Open titles.