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Novak Djokovic discussed dealing with the pressure of playing for a historic 23rd major title after he defeated Carlos Alcaraz - Inspiredlovers
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Novak Djokovic discussed dealing with the pressure of playing for a historic 23rd major title after he defeated Carlos Alcaraz

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Inspiredlovers 1606456_1 Novak Djokovic discussed dealing with the pressure of playing for a historic 23rd major title after he defeated Carlos Alcaraz Sports Tennis  Tennis World Tennis News Novak Djokovic Carlos Alcaraz ATP

Novak Djokovic discussed dealing with the pressure of playing for a historic 23rd major title after he defeated Carlos Alcaraz

The Serbian moved within one win of a record 23rd major trophy on Friday by defeating World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz to reach the championship match at Roland Garros. Djokovic pulled away from the physically ailing Spaniard after a pulsating opening two sets to clinch a four-set triumph and move to the brink of history.

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“Pressure is always on my shoulders, so it’s not going to be different,” said the 36-year-old, who would move ahead of Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam titles race by defeating Casper Ruud in Sunday’s final. “But it’s part of my sport, part of my life, all that I do. I think that having pressure is a privilege. But it’s a source of motivation, as well. Great motivation to play well and to reach Sunday.

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“Before the tournament, I was saying that of course for me Roland Garros is a Grand Slam, and it’s the most important tournament on this surface. So I was well-prepared so that I would be in this position so would be ready for this battle to win this other Grand Slam title.

“I hope that I’ll play my best tennis level on Sunday. The only thing I can say now is that I’m very focused. History is always something that’s hovering over me, but I’m very happy to be in this position to write the history of this sport, but I’m just thinking about winning the next match.”

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Djokovic produced some of his best tennis of the fortnight in Paris early against Alcaraz, but the Spaniard had struck back to level the pair’s semi-final at one-set-all when he began to suffer from a debilitating cramp that severely hindered his movement on Court Philippe-Chatrier. In true champion style, Djokovic stayed focused on his own game to clinch a comfortable victory in a match that had seemed set to become a Roland Garros classic.

“I have experienced that several times,” said Djokovic when asked about Alcaraz’s post-match self-assessment that the tension of the encounter had contributed to his physical issues. “Early in my career, I was struggling quite a bit physically. I can understand the emotions and circumstances that affect you mentally and emotionally.

“Being in one of the greatest tournaments of the world, [and] maybe for the first time in his career he was expected to win. He was maybe not an underdog, chasing the title and trying to win against a favorite. It was probably the other way around. So maybe that affected him. As he said, it probably did.”

Djokovic was in no doubt that 2022 US Open champion Alcaraz would soon come again on the Grand Slam stage, and likened the Spaniard’s tribulations on the Parisian clay to some that he went through earlier in his career.

“It’s part of the learning curve. It’s part of the experience,” said Djokovic, who had to wait three years between winning his first major title and his second. “He’s only 20. So, he’s got plenty of time.

“He’s shown so much maturity in the last couple of years. He appeared on the scene, just a few years ago, winning his first title, and only a year later he wins his first Grand Slam, and he becomes No. 1.

“I have tremendous respect for that, and he’s got a great coach, a great team of people around him. The career will be his. His career will be very successful if he manages obviously to keep healthy because the game is there.”

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Dissatisfied Max Verstappen speaks of a ‘bad day’ and is disappointed with Lewis Hamilton

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Dissatisfied Max Verstappen speaks of a ‘bad day’ and is disappointed with Lewis Hamilton

Max Verstappen did not get further than the seventh fastest time during the second training for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, after setting the fifth fastest time in the first session in Imola. Charles Leclerc was again the fastest.

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Verstappen stated at the start of the second, Friday session that his RB20 already felt a lot better than in the first training. Yet he rode ‘only’ the seventh fastest time.

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Two last attempts to set a fast time on the soft tire came to nothing. After Verstappen had already been affected by traffic during attempt one, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton then got in his way. Verstappen was clearly not happy with that and made this known in words and gestures. Hamilton immediately apologized and said to his engineer over the on-board radio that he would have liked to have received a warning that Verstappen was approaching him. Leclerc and Verstappen’s teammate Pérez also had a fight later in the session following a similar incident.

Verstappen: ‘So it happened again’
“That is not the first time that this has happened,” Verstappen said at the time with Hamilton. “You always try to remain calm, but it happened again. At the same time, I don’t want to talk about it too much because that wasn’t our problem today. We didn’t have the speed and we have to solve that. It was difficult to find the right balance, I didn’t feel comfortable in the car and it was very easy to ‘lose’ the car. Today was just bad. There are really things we need to improve to be competitive tomorrow.”

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Ferrari driver Leclerc lapped in 1.15.906, making him just under two-tenths of a second faster than Oscar Piastri (McLaren). Behind this followed the surprising Yuki Tsunoda, Hamilton, George Russell, Carlos Sainz and only then Pérez. Verstappen was half a second slower than Leclerc in that fastest lap, Pérez added an extra tenth.

Racing simulation also did not go entirely according to Max Verstappen’s plan
In the final phase, the drivers all focused on the long run with a view to Sunday’s race. That race simulation also did not go entirely according to plan for Verstappen, who shot straight again. Although the lap times of almost all drivers fluctuated back and forth during those long runs.

“The long run was also very bad,” Verstappen was clear. “Do I have confidence that things will get better tomorrow? It can hardly be worse than today. It seems that others have taken a step forward and for us it was not a good day.”

Verstappen also searching during the opening session in Imola
Verstappen was also dissatisfied during the first free practice, earlier in the day. He expressed his dissatisfaction over the on-board radio. The three-time world champion did not get further than fifth place in the opening session.

Apart from the Racing Bulls, all teams brought quite a few updates to Imola, which were extensively tested during the first session of the weekend.

Although Verstappen drove the fastest times in the first and third sectors, he lost a lot of time in the middle part. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) was ultimately fastest for the Italian public: 1.16.990.

Sergio Perez and Verstappen more than two tenths slower than Leclerc
Mercedes driver George Russell conceded a tenth to Leclerc’s time at the beginning of the afternoon, followed shortly afterwards by his teammate Carlos Sainz. Red Bull drivers Sergio Pérez and Verstappen were more than two-tenths slower than Leclerc.

With about six minutes left on the clock, Verstappen was making an improvement, but he shot straight ahead. That happened again in the final minute, without serious consequences. He was therefore unable to complete an ideal lap at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Red Bull has also introduced a major update in Imola, just like Ferrari and Mercedes. McLaren already did that two weeks ago in Miami. The winner there, Lando Norris, rode the eighth fastest time during the first training.

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“It’s Getting Hotter”: Chase Elliott Refuses to See Eye to Eye With Dale Jr and His Suggestion

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“It’s Getting Hotter”: Chase Elliott Refuses to See Eye to Eye With Dale Jr

It’s no secret that Chase Elliott is one of the most dominant active drivers on short tracks. Throughout his career, the #9 Hendrick Motorsports driver has brought in more than a handful of top fives and even wins at tracks like Martinsville. That being said, NASCAR and Goodyear’s short-track tire package dilemma has seen that notion change. With the rise to rumors of a short track losing a date in favor of a venue like Mexico, Dale Earnhardt Jr shared the prospect that NASCAR is making way for more intermediate racing.

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However, not every stakeholder believes this is the right direction to head in. Despite Chase Elliott’s drawbacks at short tracks lately, the HMS driver believes that the answer to NASCAR’s dilemma isn’t moving away from the problem.

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Instead of increasing the focus on intermediate tracks, Elliott believes the sport shouldn’t over-saturate type of racetrack.

Alongside Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr has been one of the strongest advocates for short-track racing. But with the new packages failing to make good on their promises, Junior interpreted recent rumors of Richmond losing a day as NASCAR altogether shifting away from the format slowly. But Chase Elliott believes this gives rise to an alarming pattern.

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The HMS driver believes that choosing to exploit the quality of certain tracks may end up backfiring in the long run. He shared with media ahead of the All-Star Race, “The races at the mile-and-a-half stuff has been really good. But I don’t think that’s always a reason to get more of them. I always feel like less is more. The Bristol Night race is the perfect example of less is more because you go there once a year, it’s super exciting, everybody loves a Bristol Night race, and it’s because it only happens one time a year, it makes it special.”

Adding to his argument, Elliott also highlighted how road-course racing seemed to lose its charm as of late. Compared to when there were only two events on the calendar, the frequent visits to road courses had diluted its exclusivity. Elliott shared, “I just think that that the more you do that and you lean in one direction and add more more more, you can easily make things that are exciting stale really quickly. So I think we just need to be careful not to do that.”

Going over better solutions, Elliott felt that making the Next-Gen car more suited to tackle the short-track dilemma would benefit the sport more. Not only would the calendar retain diversity in the type of tracks, but it would also allow each weekend to have its unique charm. The HMS driver concluded, “I would rather see a better product on the short-track stuff than take them away. I don’t think they’re taking them away, but I would hate to see a movement away from that, just because it’s an important part of our sport.”

It’s safe to say Chase Elliott is eager to protect short tracks from taking a hit on the Cup Series calendar. Speaking of which, the #9 HMS could prove his point further with his return to another glorious short track, this time in a late-model car.

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NASCAR War and Fame: Dale Earnhardt Jr Exposes the Consequences of Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR War and Fame: Dale Earnhardt Jr Exposes the Consequences of Denny Hamlin

When Denny Hamlin created 23XI, he already had his plate full. Facing a 36-race Cup schedule and curating a weekly podcast was bound to take a toll on him. But Hamlin had a simple answer for the media when they were curious about why he does it all. He said, “It’s what I love to do.”

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And even while managing three avenues: running a business, driving, and talking about motorsport, Hamlin fetches Cup wins every other weekend nowadays. The hectic life that he chooses to live as NASCAR’s foremost speaker is one not many can persevere and maintain. Dale Earnhardt Jr, another podcast owner like Hamlin, sheds light on this as he dissects Hamlin’s busy schedule.

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Denny Hamlin’s upbringing was imbued with discipline and hard work. His parents went all-out to support his racing career, as they incurred debt and sold their classic cars so that he could get in a race car. But Dennis Lou, Hamlin’s father, was adamant about a work ethic. “I’m not going out there and working on your race car for you. If you want to do it, you go out there, you learn it — and then when you wreck it, you have to figure out how to get it back to the racetrack.”

That work ethic reflects on all the hectic projects that Hamlin diligently sees through. In a recent interview with Rubbin is Racing, Dale Earnhardt Jr emphasized as much while hailing his podcast rival. “Denny is up for it…Denny’s got a personality and he’s in it…racing, and this is his life…He has his hand in every cookie jar, right. He’s a driver, he’s a car owner, he’s in the podcasting…Certainly, his takes on his show get a ton of attention. He flexes that muscle on all those fronts.”

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Hamlin may be sturdy enough to handle all these duties, but other veteran drivers are unwilling to go through that stress. Dale Earnhardt Jr shed light on this aspect: “So that can be really exhausting. And I think some drivers are like, ‘You know, I don’t feel like doing all that. I’m busy enough, I’m content.’”

Balancing racing life with family life and juggling podcast sessions and ownership duties requires you to have a steady mindset. And Denny Hamlin’s unique opinion of his life helps him. “I live in chaos. My life is chaos, and I thrive under chaos… The more (crap) that is stirred up around me, the more I come at it.”

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