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You cannot be serious: Murray hits back at McEnroe claim

June 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray has slammed John McEnroe’s claim the world number one should be seen as ‘a distant fourth’ behind old rivals Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Murray

Murray begins his Wimbledon preparations this week as he defends his title in the grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club and American legend McEnroe may have given the Scot a little extra motivation with his criticism.

Although Wimbledon champion Murray remains top of the rankings, the 30-year-old has struggled this year, while Nadal and Federer have enjoyed unexpected revivals.

At Wimbledon, Federer will be hoping to clinch a 19th Grand Slam, while Nadal and Djokovic are gunning for their 16th and 13th respectively.

McEnroe told the Sunday Times that Murray, who has won three major titles, can’t be ranked on the same level as his ‘Big Four’ rivals.

But while the Scot admits that rings true for their whole careers, he pointed to his record at the Olympics, where he has won two singles gold medals, as evidence to the contrary.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I’m very proud of the Olympic medals, they mean a lot to me,” Murray said at Queen’s Club on Sunday.

“Within tennis, a lot of people just go ‘oh that guy was a better player because he won more Grand Slams than that one or that woman was better because she won more Grand Slams’.

“If that’s the case then what is the point in all of us being here today? Why is everyone here covering this event? There are other tournaments outside the slams as well.

“If you look at the titles and everything those guys have won, I can’t compare myself to them.

“There’s maybe one or two things that I have done that they won’t have but for the most part I would have been fourth.

“But it’s not true of the last year because I’m ranked number one in the world. I’ve been better than them for the last 12 months, that’s how the ranking systems work.”

Murray also stood by his recent claim that he may only have two or three more years left challenging for major honours, despite Federer winning the Australian Open aged 35 in January.

“It’s really hard, it’s always tough to stay at the top of any sport,” Murray said.

“I hope I stay at the top of the game for five, six, seven years but I think just because Roger’s done it doesn’t mean that’s going to happen to everyone.

“Right now, I feel good, but we’ll have to see how I am.”

Murray will face British number four Aljaz Bedene at Queen’s on Tuesday as he looks to hold onto the title he won for a record fifth time last year.

‘Garbage’ man Murray, Nadal eye dream final

June 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal can edge closer to an intriguing French Open final rich in landmark moments on Friday after drastically contrasting campaigns in Paris.

Murray

World number one Murray was the first British man in the Roland Garros final since Bunny Austin in 1937 when he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic last year.

Two more victories, however, starting with his semi-final against 2015 winner Stan Wawrinka, would make him the first Briton to lift the men’s trophy since Fred Perry 82 years ago.

Nadal, who tackles Dominic Thiem, the conqueror of defending champion Djokovic, is bidding to become the first man to capture the same major on 10 occasions.

Murray arrived in France suffering from a fever, the latest woe in a season which has seen him endure an elbow injury, flu and shingles.

“I came in playing garbage,” admitted the 30-year-old of a Masters clay-court swing which saw him exit in the third round in Monte Carlo and Madrid and lose his opener in Rome.

“If someone had offered me a semi-final spot before the tournament, I would have signed up for that.”

His form in Paris has sent out mixed messages.

He needed four sets to get past Andrey Kuznetsov and Martin Klizan in the first two rounds.

Then, in what was expected to be a third-round ambush, he sailed past Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets and was similarly at ease against Karen Khachanov in the last 16.

However, in the quarter-finals, he dropped the first set against Kei Nishikori before his greater stamina proved decisive.

Nadal, meanwhile, is the hot favourite to collect an unprecedented 10th French Open and 15th career major.

The 31-year-old Spaniard, like Wawrinka and Thiem, hasn’t dropped a set at the tournament.

He should also be the fresher having spent just under eight hours on court through five rounds.

Murray has needed the best part of 14 hours playing time while Wawrinka has been in action for almost 11 hours and Thiem just under 10.

Nadal has dropped just 22 games so far, a figure aided by compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta retiring through injury in the second set of their quarter-final.

Bjorn Borg surrendered just 32 games on his way to the 1978 title, but Nadal insisted he has no interest in such records.

“I don’t know how many games I lost this year, but I really don’t care about this. I only care that I am in the semi-finals,” said Nadal.

“My only goal is try to be ready to play my best. The rest of these things, we can always find behind the stones.”

Wawrinka, like Murray a three-time major winner, has made his trademark understated progress to a third successive Roland Garros semi-final.

The Swiss third seed, at 32, is the oldest man to get to the last four since Jimmy Connors back in 1985.

He trails Murray in head-to-head meetings 10-7 and lost to the Briton in four sets in the semi-finals last year.

Wawrinka has lost 54 games — identical to the figure at the same stage in 2015 when he became champion.

“In the semi-final last year, Andy was really aggressive,” said Wawrinka.

“He was pushing me all the time, so it was tough for me to find any solution.”

Wawrinka, Nadal and Murray in the semi-finals means it’s only the third time that three men over 30 have got to this stage.

It happened at Roland Garros in 1968 and at this year’s Australian Open.

However, Thiem won’t mind being the odd man out.

The 23-year-old Austrian condemned Djokovic to a first straight-sets loss at a major in four years in his stunning quarter-final triumph, avenging his defeat to the Serb in the 2016 semi-finals.

He is the only man this year to have defeated Nadal on clay with his last-eight win in Rome offsetting losses in the final in Barcelona and Madrid.

“It’s going to be the toughest match you can imagine,” admitted sixth seed Thiem, who trails Nadal 4-2 on head to head.

Nadal, Djokovic into quarters as champion Muguruza exits

June 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal and title-holder Novak Djokovic surged into the French Open quarter-finals for a record-equalling 11th time on Sunday, but reigning women’s champion Garbine Muguruza crashed out in the last 16.

DJokovic

Nadal continued his ruthless form at Roland Garros by dispatching Spanish 17th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to match Roger Federer’s mark of last-eight appearances in Paris.

The 14-time major winner has dropped just 20 games in four matches as he strives to become the first man to win 10 titles at a single Grand Slam.

“I’m happy because Roberto is a very good player. It’s very important for me to be in the quarter-finals one more time,” said Nadal, who turned 31 on Saturday.

“Probably I didn’t play as well as I did the other day, but I still played well.”

The fourth seed will meet compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta, through to his first Slam quarter-final, for spot in the last four after the latter stunned Canada’s Milos Raonic.

Carreno Busta, seeded 20th, needed seven match points to clinch a thrilling 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (6/8), 6-4, 8-6 win over the fifth-seeded Raonic.

Djokovic also became an 11-time quarter-finalist as he sauntered past Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (7/5), 6-1, 6-3.

The Serb needed 75 minutes to clinch the opening set but then outclassed the 19th seed to set up a showdown with Dominic Thiem.

“There’s no easy match in a Grand Slam quarter-final, it will be very difficult for both of us,” said Djokovic of his upcoming challenge.

The Serb also confirmed that coach Andre Agassi had, as planned, already left Paris.

Austrian sixth seed Thiem thrashed Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the quarters for a second straight year.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori fought off a fierce challenge from South Korea’s Hyeon Chung in an all-Asian tussle held over from Saturday following rain to clinch a place in the last 16.

Chung quickly forced the contest into a fifth set as play resumed on Sunday, but the world number 67 double faulted on match point to gift Nishikori a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 0-6, 6-4 victory.

“I think the rain helps me a lot, because I was really down in the fourth set and mentally I wasn’t ready,” admitted Nishikori, who faces Fernando Verdasco next.

Karen Khachanov will play Andy Murray in the fourth round after the giant Russian beat American 21st seed John Isner 7-6 (7/1), 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3).

Kristina Mladenovic ensured the host nation will have two women in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1994 after dumping out fourth seed Muguruza 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

“I’m sad. It’s a very painful defeat here in the French Open,” said Muguruza, who left Court Suzanne Lenglen angrily wagging her finger at the crowd.

“I just think that they sometimes should be a little bit more respectful,” she added, as Mladenovic thrived on the partisan support.

The French 13th seed is through to just her second Slam quarter-final — after the 2015 US Open — and will face Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky for a spot in the last four.

The Swiss 30th seed, a 2015 semi-finalist, defeated 2002 runner-up Venus Williams 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 to guarantee a first-time major champion will be crowned next Saturday.

Danish 11th seed Caroline Wozniacki knocked off 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 to reach the last eight for just the second time.

Wozniacki, who made her only other quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros in 2010, will next meet Latvian teenager Jelena Ostapenko, a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 winner over 2010 finalist Samantha Stosur.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova advanced to round four with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Germany’s Carina Witthoeft.

Pliskova, who had won just twice in five previous French Open appearances before this year, will face Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg for a quarter-final spot.

World number 290 and qualifier Petra Martic reached the last 16 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Latvian 17th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Croatia’s Martic, a former top 50 player whose ranking slumped after a back injury sidelined her for 10 months, will face Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

Fifth seed Svitolina downed Magda Linette of Poland 6-4, 7-5.

Nadal merciless as Djokovic toils in Paris

June 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal lost just one game in a ruthless display to reach the French Open last 16 on Friday, but title-holder Novak Djokovic needed five sets to survive.

Nadal

Nadal demonstrated why he is once more considered the overwhelming favourite at Roland Garros with a brutal demolition of Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili.

The Spaniard romped to a 6-0, 6-1, 6-0 win, narrowly missing out on becoming just the sixth man in the Open era to record a “triple bagel”.

“Perfection? I don’t know about that,” said Nadal, who plans to celebrate his 31st birthday on Saturday by watching Real Madrid take on Juventus in the Champions League final.

“I think I played very well today. The most important thing is to be through and I played my best match in a while.”

Nadal will meet compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Reigning champion Djokovic escaped trouble against Diego Schwartzman, the second seed rallying from two sets to one down to prevail 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1.

The 12-time major winner was embroiled in a bitter spat with umpire Carlos Ramos in the fourth set as Djokovic was warned for unsportsmanlike conduct after an earlier time violation.

But Djokovic eventually proved too strong for Schwartzman, playing in the last 32 of a Slam for the first time, and goes on to face Spanish 19th seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in round four.

“I expected a tough match, there were lots of exchanges from the baseline and the conditions were heavy,” said Djokovic.

“I congratulate Diego on a great battle. He played very, very well.”

Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic advanced to the last 16 when Guillermo Garcia-Lopez retired with a thigh injury in the second set.

Raonic, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2014, led 6-1, 1-0 before the veteran Spaniard, ranked 153, quit after just 28 minutes.

He will play Spanish 20th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who dumped out Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Dominic Thiem, a semi-finalist last year and the only player to beat Nadal on clay this season, brushed past American 25th seed Steve Johnson 6-1, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Belgian 10th seed David Goffin suffered a nasty ankle injury when he got caught up in court covers, forcing him to abandon his third-round tie with Horacio Zeballos of Argentina.

Goffin was leading 5-4 when he chased down the ball towards the back of the Suzanne Lenglen court.

However, his right foot got horribly jammed beneath the rolled-up tarpaulin before he tumbled into the wall and a linesman’s chair.

The 26-year-old was helped from the court by two officials and retired in the locker room.

An MRI scan revealed that the Belgian had not suffered a break.

Reigning women’s champion Garbine Muguruza gained further momentum in the defence of her title with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Kazakh 27th seed Yulia Putintseva.

The Spaniard closed out victory with an ace in a match that featured 11 breaks of serve in 20 games played.

“I think the more matches I play and the toughest victories I think gives you self-confidence, successful feeling out there,” said Muguruza.

“I think it’s important with all the three matches that I played that are not easy at all.”

Muguruza plays French 13th seed Kristina Mladenovic, who rallied from 5-2 down in the third set to beat American Shelby Rogers, for a place in the last eight.

Venus Williams cruised past Belgium’s Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-1, while 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova overcame China’s Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 7-5.

Australian 23rd seed Samantha Stosur, the 2010 runner-up, breezed into the fourth round with a 6-2, 6-2 rout of American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Ons Jabeur’s historic run ended as the lucky loser from Tunisia, the first Arab woman to reach the last 32 at a major, lost 6-2, 6-2 to Swiss 30th seed Timea Bacsinszky, a 2015 semi-finalist.

Federer downs Nadal to win Miami Open

April 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer defeated long-standing rival Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to win the Miami Open on Sunday and continue his outstanding start to the year.

Federer

Since returning from his six month injury lay-off, the 35-year-old Federer has also won the Australian Open and Indian Wells and he heads into a self-imposed break before the French Open as, once again, the dominant presence on the ATP Tour.

Federer has beaten Nadal in all of those events this year and has now won his last four meetings between the pair.

“It’s been a fabulous couple of weeks,” said Federer after his victory before announcing he would take a nearly two month break before the French Open in late May.

“I’m not 24 any more so things have changed in a big way and I probably won’t play any clay court event except the French,” he said.

Nadal was playing in his fifth Miami final but remains without a win in the Masters series event.

Although Nadal still has a 23-14 advantage in the meetings between the two, dating back to their first match in Miami in 2004, Federer now has a 10-9 lead on hard courts.

The first set was a tight affair with both players having their opportunities to break. But it was not until the eighth game and 10th break point of the set that one of them was able to get ahead.

Nadal could only find the net from a Federer backhand and the Swiss grabbed a 5-3 lead and held the next game to secure the first set.

Federer pinpointed his saving of break points in the first game and at 3-3 as crucial moments in the contest.

“It was totally key,” Federer said. “He looked good from the get-go. He was playing big tennis, stepping in and doing all the right things.

“A bit more luck on his side and the wrong decisions by me at that moment and it could have turned very quickly. It was a very intense first set.”

There has always been a marked contrast between Federer and Nadal’s styles and with time it has become further accentuated.

Nadal was working hard in the 83 degrees afternoon heat, thrusting himself into his shots while the elegant Federer’s poise appeared almost casual.

The second set took an almost identical path, albeit with fewer openings to break for both players until Federer again pounced, to grab a 5-4 lead when Nadal went long returning a fine backhand.

“Maybe if you didn’t see the match and just saw the score you might think it was some sort of straightforward match with a couple of breaks. But that is not the full story,” Federer said.

“He had his chances in the first and the second it was close and I think on the big points today I was just maybe a little bit better … it just fell that way.,” added the Swiss, who showed some signs of tiredness after his gruelling three-set win over Nick Kyrgios in Friday’s semi-final.

“I was more in fight-mode today, just trying to stay afloat. Physically and emotionally it has been a draining week, I think I did very well,” he said.

Nadal was left to stomach a third defeat in three finals so far this year following a loss to Sam Querrey in Acapulco and Federer in Australia. But he said he felt in good form heading into the clay season, where he has enjoyed so much of his success.

“I think I am close to what I need to be. I am at a very high level of tennis and I believe I am ready to win titles,” he said.

“I’m playing enough well to fight for everything I think. I have good hopes that I’m going to be ready for Monte Carlo. Always when I am playing that well, on clay always helps a little bit more for me.

“I am very excited about playing back on clay again,” he said.

Nadal on track for Federer showdown at ATP Miami as Sock downed

March 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal took a step closer to a possible final against long-time rival Roger Federer in the Miami Open after a straight sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday at Key Biscayne.

Nadal

Nadal’s 6-2, 6-3 win over the 13th-seeded Sock sets up a semi-final meeting with unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini who upset second ranked Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day.

The Spaniard’s forehand was ominous as he neutralised Sock in one hour and 22 minutes.

Nadal was able to save six of seven break points earned by Sock as he kept control of the contest.

He broke Sock in the American’s first service game and swiftly established a 3-0 advantage and a second break at 5-2 wrapped up the opening set.

The American showed his spirit though as he broke Nadal at the start of the second but was unable to take advantage of a double break that could have put him 3-0 up.

Instead Nadal pulled back to 2-2 and with Sock failing to make the most of a chance of further break points it was comfortable in the end.

The 30-year-old Spaniard has never won in Miami despite being a four-time finalist and he expects plenty of work to get past Fognini and make it a fifth appearance.

“We know each other very well. He has beaten me a couple of times and so it will be a good test. I am happy to be the semi-finals but it will be a tough one and I will need to play my best,” said Nadal.

Fognini has three wins from ten meetings with the Spaniard, the most recent coming on clay in Rio de Janiero in 2015.

The 29-year-old world number 40 showed plenty of confidence as he took the game to his Japanese opponent from the outset.

It was the Italian’s first victory in three attempts over Nishikori and his first Masters series quarter-final win since 2013, when he reached the last four in Monte-Carlo.

Nishikori earlier said he had not felt fully in top shape for the contest.

“I wasn’t 100%, physically, I mean, it was tough conditions for me,” he said, referring to the heat on the mid-afternoon Key Biscayne centre court.

“But it was also same for him, too. He was playing a lot of the long matches, but I think he still played good enough to beat me today,” he added.

Fognini, who was cheered on by his friend, former Italy footballer Christian Vieri, said he had come through a demanding test.

“It wasn’t easy and I was just focused on my game. I am very happy, I’m in the semifinal, I’m playing well and I feel good again on the court,” he said.

On Thursday, Federer takes on Czech tenth-seed Tomas Berdych while the last quarter-final pits Germany’s Alexander Zverev against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.

Federer wants Rafa as Laver Cup doubles partner

February 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer revealed on Monday he wants to join forces in doubles with arch rival Rafael Nadal at the inaugural Laver Cup this year.

Federer

The Swiss tennis great made the confession at the unveiling of the new tournament scheduled for Prague in September which will pit a Bjorn Borg-captained European team against John McEnroe’s rest of the world.

Federer, who beat Nadal in an epic five-set Australian Open final last month, admitted on Monday: “I’ve always wanted to play with Rafa… just because our rivalry has been so special.

“I’ve seen his wicked forehand go past me too often!”

The new addition to the tennis calendar is named after Rod Laver, the last man to achieve the calendar Grand Slam in 1969.

“Rod Laver wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and play our best and win for our teammates. We will play to our best possibilities,” Federer, 35, told the media launch in Prague.

Federer, the world number nine, is due to figure with sixth-ranked Nadal at the September 22-24 event.

The Laver Cup will be held every year except in an Olympic season, with four matches each day — three in singles, one in doubles.

Each team comprises six players — four based on the ATP singles rankings after Wimbledon and two picks by the captains, Borg and McEnroe.

Federer refused to see Team Europe as a clear winner, although it currently has 17 players in the top 20 of the ATP rankings.

“I think Team Europe are going to be big favourites but because of the setup of the Laver Cup I think the margins are always going to be very slim,” said Federer.

Before talking to journalists, the Swiss star played the Czech Republic’s number one Tomas Berdych on a boat on the Vltava river in Prague’s historic centre on a chilly Monday morning.

Berdych, ranked 14th in the world, said their game under the picturesque Charles Bridge was “a very nice opportunity to show Roger a little bit of the town.”

“We were joking we should do this every day,” said Federer.

“I thought it was very particular, very unique — it was definitely a privilege,” he beamed before confessing: “It was a bit windy though.”

Federer wins Nadal thriller to clinch 18th Slam

January 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer defied age and his Grand Slam nemesis Rafael Nadal to win a record 18th Grand Slam title in a thrilling, five-set final at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Federer

Federer, 35, won a classic encounter 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to become the oldest major-winner in 45 years and move four titles clear of Nadal and Pete Sampras on the all-time list.

The veteran Swiss jumped for joy and cried tears of happiness as he sealed the win on his second championship point, ending a five-year wait for a big victory after Wimbledon in 2012.

Neither Federer nor Nadal, 30, was expected to reach the final but both players grabbed their chance after the early demise of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

And it was a final for the ages as momentum shifted from one side to the other before Federer finally seized control in the deciding set.

“That is a milestone in my career, they are always epic matches against Rafa,” said Federer, adding: “Rafa has caused me the most problems in my career.”

For Federer, it sealed an astonishing comeback from six months out with injury. His fifth Australian title came seven long years after his last, against Murray in 2010.

“Tennis is a tough sport, there’s no draws. But if there was going to be one I would have been very happy to accept a draw tonight and share it with Rafa, really,” Federer said.

“Keep playing please, Rafa. Tennis needs you.”

Federer becomes the oldest major champion since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open in 1972 at the age of 37.

His ranking has dipped to 17 after a knee problem ended last season following Wimbledon, but he will now rise to 10 when the new rankings are released this week.

It was the 35th meeting between the two long-time rivals with Nadal now leading 23-12 and 6-3 in major finals, including his five-set win over Federer in the 2009 Australian final.

“I would have said a great event would be making the quarters,” Federer said of his pre-tournament expectations.

“Today I just drove myself forward, I said, “Believe in it, run for the ball. Serve and run, serve and run. Just fight and see if you get lucky.

“I did, really got lucky tonight.”

Nadal, who has also come back to form and fitness after an injury-ravaged 2016, has held the edge over Federer in major finals, winning their last four.

“It’s amazing how well he’s playing after being away for so long. For sure, you have been working a lot to make that happen. I am very happy for you,” Nadal told the crowd.

“It was a good month for me, amazing month for me, really enjoyed it. I worked very hard to be where I am today. Probably Roger deserved it a little bit more than me.”

“I’m just going to keep on trying. Feel like I’m back to a very high level. I’ll keep fighting this season.”

Federer, playing aggressively and with a flatter backhand than normal, took the match to Nadal and got the only service break to take the opening set.

Nadal fought back with two breaks to level before Federer got the bit between his teeth with a double break in the third set.

The Spaniard hit back in the fourth set with a service break in the fourth game to take the final into a fifth set.

He again broke the Swiss early in the final set but Federer stirred himself and broke Nadal twice before serving out for a brilliant and emotional victory.

Federer, considered by many as the finest player in tennis history, is now the first man to win five or more titles at three different Grand Slam events.

He has collected five Australian Opens, seven Wimbledons, five US Opens and one French Open in a span of victories which now stretches across 14 years.

Federer, Nadal clash in blockbuster Aussie final

January 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will collide in a hugely anticipated Australian Open final on Sunday after both veterans beat the odds to open a new chapter in their thrilling Grand Slam rivalry.

Tennis

Federer, 35, will become the oldest Grand Slam finalist in 43 years, while Nadal, 30, has defied a series of injuries to reach his first major title match since he won the 2014 French Open.

It’s a final that nobody saw coming but after the early exits of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the old rivals have seized their opportunity with both hands.

For Federer, it’s a chance to extend his all-time record tally of Grand Slam wins to 18, and exact a measure of revenge on his long-time nemesis.

Nadal can win his 15th Grand Slam title, closing the gap on Federer and drawing level with Pete Sampras in second place on the all-time list of major-winners.

It comes after Serena and Venus Williams, aged 35 and 36 respectively, met in the women’s final — making it the first Open-era Grand Slam tournament where all four singles finalists have been in their thirties.

Neither of the former world number ones was expected to reach the final after injuries disrupted their seasons last year and their rankings dipped, to 17 for Federer and nine for Nadal.

The unexpected reprise of one of tennis’s great rivalries will be their ninth meeting in a major final, the most between any two players in the post-1968 Open era.

Nadal has won six of their major finals, with Federer’s last victory in 2007. But the Spaniard said past results were irrelevant.

“It’s a different match, different moment for both of us. I think this match is completely different than what happened before,” he said.

“It’s special. We have not been there in that situation for a while, so that makes the match different.

“I really don’t think about what happened in the past. I think the player who plays better is going to be the winner.”

The pair last contested a Grand Slam final at Roland Garros three years ago. They also met in the Australian Open semi-finals in 2014, with Nadal winning each time.

“Now it’s a different time. A lot of time has gone by,” Federer said. “I know this court allows me to play a certain game against Rafa that I cannot do on centre court at the French Open.”

It will be Federer’s sixth Australian Open final and his 28th Grand Slam decider in total, and caps a marvellous comeback after the second half of last season was wiped out by a knee injury.

He has thrilled his many fans with his revival, having not figured in a Grand Slam final since the 2015 US Open.

“This is the last one (match) so I will leave it all out here in Australia and if I cannot walk for another five months I will give it all I have,” Federer said.

Federer can become the first man to win five or more titles at three Grand Slam events, while Nadal stands to become the only man in the Open era to win all the majors at least twice.

Nadal edges Dimitrov to set up dream Federer final

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafa Nadal had to be at his battling best to outlast Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 5-7 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-4 at the Australian Open on Friday and set up a mouth-watering ninth grand slam final meeting with his great rival Roger Federer.

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN

The 30-year-old Spaniard looked every inch a 14-times grand slam champion as he slugged it out with his 25-year-old opponent over nearly five hours on Rod Laver Arena to reach his first major final since the 2014 French Open and 21st overall.

“Grigor was playing unbelievable, it was a great match,” Nadal said.

“I feel very happy to be part off it, I enjoyed it a lot. To qualify for the final in a match like this is amazing.”

With 35-year-old Serena Williams facing her 36-year-old sister Venus in Saturday’s women’s final and a rested Federer, 35, waiting for Nadal on Sunday, it is the first time in the open era that all four finalists at a grand slam have been over 30.

Dimitrov, riding high on a 10-match winning streak and seeking his first grand slam final, did his best to keep the twentysomething standard flying into the weekend, firing 79 winners.

There were no signs of the mental frailties that have prevented Dimitrov from fulfilling the potential promised by his nickname “BabyFed” as he went blow-for-blow with the powerful left-hander.

Ninth seed Nadal had conceded only six breaks in reaching the final four but was forced to save two break points in the opening game alone, setting the tone for a frenetic evening.

The 2009 champion soon hit his stride, though, and a booming pass that the world number 15 was unable to get back gave Nadal a break for 3-1 and he wrapped up the opening set in 35 minutes.

The Bulgarian refused to buckle, though, and pounced to break to love for a 3-1 lead in the second set, Nadal perhaps distracted by a time violation warning.

From there, the set descended into chaos with both players broken twice and Nadal forced to save four set points before Dimitrov evened up the contest on the fifth.

The break points continued to come thick and fast in the third set, Nadal converting his third and Dimitrov his fourth to keep the set on serve.

After a short break while a spectator received medical attention in the stands, Nadal held for 6-6 and the set went into a tiebreaker.

Nadal missed a large part of the 2016 season because of a wrist injury but proved there was nothing wrong with his fitness as he scrapped to win it, sealing the deal with a blistering forehand which Dimitrov parried into the net.

With the break points having dried up completely in the fourth set, a tiebreaker looked inevitable and Dimitrov quickly took control of it before serving up a 195 kph bomb to send the contest into a decider.

There were chances for both men in the fifth but, with midnight long past, Nadal came to the net to punch a backhand into the back court, break for 5-4 and earn the right to serve for the match.

Still Dimitrov would not lie down, though, and Nadal needed three match points to win his 12th straight grand slam semi-final and reach his fourth Australian Open final.

“I don’t think either of us thought we would be playing in a major final at the Australian Open,” Nadal said of he and Federer.

“First of all I hope to recover well, I think it’s a privilege for both of us.”

Bulgarian blockade as Nadal eyes Federer final

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal will try to set up a hugely anticipated Australian Open final with his old rival Roger Federer when he plays the in-form Grigor Dimitrov in the semis on Friday.

Nadal

Few gave injury-hit thirty-somethings Nadal and Federer any chance pre-tournament but the Swiss maestro is already into Sunday’s title match and his long-time sparring partner is keen to follow.

The early defeats of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic opened the door to other challengers and Federer and Nadal have shown they’re still at the front of the queue.

Nadal, 30, has looked fit and aggressive, if not fully back to his best, in beating third seed Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Alexander Zverev in his last three matches.

“All of them are top players. So that’s very important for me because that means that I am competitive and playing well. I worked hard to try to make that happen,” Nadal said.

The 14-time Grand Slam-winner, now ranked ninth, is aiming for his first major final since in two-and-a-half years after returning from an injury-wrecked 2016.

But Bulgaria’s Dimitrov, once dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ for his similarity to Federer, poses an interesting test as he is in the form of his life and playing with new focus and determination.

Dimitrov has beaten five top-20 players in a 10-match winning streak this year, equalling the best of his career, which includes his victory this month in Brisbane.

“He’s a player that has an unbelievable talent, unbelievable potential. He’s started the season playing unbelievable,” Nadal said.

“It’s going to be a very tough match for me. I hope for him, too. I have to play my best because he’s playing with high confidence.”

The 2009 winner is 7-1 in his matches with 15th seed Dimitrov, including a four-set quarter-final win at the Australian Open three years ago.

Another salient statistic is that Nadal is 66-8 against players with one-handed backhands at Slams.

The last time the Bulgarian won 10 straight matches was back in 2014, when he took the title at Queen’s and reached the last four at Wimbledon.

“I feel like I have all the tools to go further and my job isn’t over yet,” Dimitrov said. “I’m looking forward to my match. I think I’m prepared.

“I think I’m ready to go the distance. I don’t shy away from that. I’m confident enough to say that as I feel good physically, and overall on the court.”

Rafa roars again as Serena eyes dream final

January 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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A resurgent Rafael Nadal beat Milos Raonic to reach his first Grand Slam semi in three years at the Australian Open on Wednesday, as Serena Williams eyed a final with her sister Venus.

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Nadal hasn’t contested a major semi-final since he won the last of his 14 Grand Slam titles at the 2014 French Open, but he never looked like losing to Raonic, the Canadian world number three.

Spain’s Nadal yelled in delight as he completed a 6-4, 7-6 (9/7), 6-4 win which set up a semi-final with Grigor Dimitrov — with old rival Roger Federer potentially waiting in the final.

“Even though I had a great career, I had a lot of tough moments,” said Nadal, who struggled with injury last year and failed to reach any of the Grand Slam quarter-finals.

“That makes me enjoy this even more.” Nadal has a 7-1 head-to-head record with Dimitrov, the Bulgarian 15th seed dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ for his Federer-like playing style who earlier ousted Belgium’s David Goffin 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

Federer will play fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in Thursday’s semi-final with the very real prospect of a ninth Grand Slam final against Nadal, and the first since the 2011 French Open.

The women’s competition also has a retro feel after Serena Williams beat Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-3 to set up a semi-final with an emotional Mirjana Lucic-Baroni — 19 years after they last met as fellow teenage prodigies.

Williams, 35, has come a long way since her last meeting with Lucic-Baroni in the second round at Wimbledon in 1998, when they were both 16 and without a trophy to their names.

While Williams is now eyeing an Open-era-record 23rd Grand Slam title and a return to world number one, the Croatian is into her first major semi since 1999 after her career was derailed by personal trauma.

Unseeded Lucic-Baroni wept freely and gasped, “This has truly made my life,” after she upset Czech world number five Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

“I can’t believe this. This is crazy,” said the 34-year-old, who disappeared from the tennis scene after being forced to flee her abusive father in Croatia.

“The only thing I can say is, God is good. That’s all I can say. I can’t believe it. I feel a little bit in shock.”

Williams, whose sister Venus plays Coco Vandeweghe in Thursday’s other women’s semi, said she could take inspiration from Lucic-Baroni.

“I’m really happy for Mirjana. I was there when she first started. To see her be able to never give up actually is super-inspiring to me. It’s a wonderful story,” she said.

Williams added: “We both have gone through a lot. We both have survived, and here we are, which I think is a really remarkable story.”

There was little disappointment from Konta despite her steamrollering by Williams, who was able to raise her game to counter her opponent’s court speed and aggressive striking.

Despite Williams having only 45 percent success with her first serves, Konta could only break once, in the second set, and the American quickly hit back with two breaks of her own.

“I think it was probably one of the best experiences of my life,” said Konta, 25, who idolised Williams as a child.

“I think there’s so many things I can learn from that, so many things I can look to improve on, also acknowledge some things that I did well.”

Also on the centre court, Dimitrov soared into his second major semi-final with his straight-sets win over Goffin, his 10th victory in a row after his trophy run this month in Brisbane.

Raonic’s bomb serve could explode Nadal bid

January 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal knows he must find a way to defuse the booming serve of Milos Raonic on Wednesday if he is to stay on course for a dream Australian Open final with Roger Federer.

Raonic

The chances of a ninth Grand Slam final between the old rivals have dramatically improved after the shock exits of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic put the title up for grabs.

But 30-year-old Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam champion, first has to get past third seed Raonic, the highest-ranked player still standing in the men’s quarter-finals.

The Canadian, yet to win his first major title, suffered heartbreak in last year’s Melbourne semi-finals when a groin injury put paid to his chances against Murray.

But he should pose Nadal his biggest problem yet in this year’s tournament, where the Spaniard is bidding to end a major title drought stretching back to the 2014 French Open.

The winner will face either Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov or Belgian David Goffin in the semi-final in the bottom half of the draw.

Nadal leads Raonic 6-2 in their meetings, but he lost to the power-server only this month, over three sets in the Brisbane International quarter-finals.

“He’s an opponent that makes you feel you’re playing with a lot of pressure all the time because his serve is huge and he’s playing very aggressive from the baseline,” Nadal said.

“So it’s going to be a very tough match and I need to be very focused with my serve and play aggressive. If I am not playing aggressive, then I am dead.”

Nadal has shown his trademark fighting qualities in reaching his first Slam quarter-final in 18 months after a series of injuries.

After overcoming top-rated German teenager Alexander Zverev over five sets in the third round, he also needed four sets to subdue flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils on Monday.

Raonic, who is working with Dutch Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, has served 93 aces in the tournament so far, second only to 6ft 11ins (2.11m) Croatian Ivo Karlovic.

The Canadian, who has been suffering from ‘flu, cracked 33 aces in overcoming Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round after struggling early in the match.

Looking back on his recent win over Nadal in Brisbane, Raonic said: “We both tried to be the aggressors early on. I fought through a difficult moment midway through that second set.

“Then, I thought I had it pretty handily after that point. I broke towards the end of that second set. Broke right away in the third.

“Obviously it’s very within me to find those solutions again.”

Dimitrov, who will be playing in his third Grand Slam quarter-final, downed Goffin in their only meeting in the third round at the 2014 US Open.

The Bulgarian 15th seed lost to Nadal in the quarter-finals in Melbourne three years ago and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2014, where he lost to Djokovic.

“David is an excellent player. I know what to expect from him. We’ve practised against each other a few times this off-season,” Dimitrov said.

“He’s been serving really well and has served his way out of trouble. It’s one of his biggest weapons and he’s one of the greatest defenders out there.”

Goffin became the first Belgian man to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals when he knocked out eighth seed Dominic Thiem over four sets in intense heat.

“I’m feeling more confident against the top players. I’ve had a lot of matches before the tournament,” Goffin said.

Nadal subdues Monfils to break quarter-final drought

January 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal fought back to deny mercurial Frenchman Gael Monfils over four sets and reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final since 2015 at the Australian Open on Monday.

Nadal

The 14-time Grand Slam champion defeated sixth-seeded Monfils 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena in almost three hours and will play Canada’s world number three Milos Raonic in the quarters.

It was a gutsy effort from the never-say-die Spaniard, who was down a service break with a fifth set looming before he broke sixth-seeded Monfils twice to clinch victory.

The 2009 champion reached the last eight in Melbourne for the ninth time. He hasn’t contested a Grand Slam quarter-final since the 2015 French Open.

“I’m very happy being in the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam after a couple of years without being there,” he said.

“I start the season playing quarter-finals in a Grand Slam again, especially on hard court after a couple of years without being in this round which is great news.”

It was Nadal’s first win over a top-10 player at a Grand Slam since he defeated number two Novak Djokovic to win the title at Roland Garros in 2014, his last major win.

“Gael is a special player. He is able to play unbelievable shots. It is a pleasure to see him in the top rankings,” Nadal said.

“Sometimes it’s tough to play against Gael when you don’t know what he’s going to do. He combines mistakes with great shots.”

Nadal will go into his Australian quarter-final with a 6-2 lead over Raonic in their previous meetings.

“He’s an opponent that makes you feel that you’re playing with a lot of pressure all the time because his serve is huge and he’s playing very aggressive from the baseline,” Nadalsaid.

Monfils was broken in his opening service game as Nadal went on to take the first set in 46 minutes.

Nadal lost his service in the sixth game but broke the unpredictable Frenchman three times to open up a two-set lead and was closing in on a straight-sets victory.

But Monfils fought back, breaking Nadal in the ninth game and saving three break points in serving it out to trail 2-1 in sets.

Nadal began to struggle in the fourth set as Monfils fought off two break points and broke the Spaniard in the next game with a net cord on one of his three break points.

But Nadal fought back, breaking the Frenchman with a marvellous backhand winner to level at 4-4 before holding serve to 5-4.

Nadal then got to his first match point in Monfils’ next service game, which was saved. On a second match point, the Frenchman’s backhand was narrowly wide to send Nadal through.

Nadal confident he and Federer not finished yet

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal insists he can still compete with the best in the world for “many years to come” after opening his tennis academy alongside Roger Federer in Mallorca on Wednesday.

Nadal

Nadal and Federer have slipped down the world rankings this season due to a lack of form and fitness respectively.

However, the 30-year-old Spaniard insists two of the most successful players in the history of the sport can make it back to the top.

“Roger and I haven’t forgotten how to play tennis and we are working to get back to competing at the highest level,” said Nadal.

Federer won’t play again this year due to ongoing rehabilitation on a knee injury, whilst Nadal refused to confirm if he intends to play again in 2016.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion suffered a shock second round defeat to Victor Troicki at the Shanghai Masters last week.

Yet, at sixth in the world rankings, Nadal is still well-placed to qualify for the end of season ATP Tour Finals.

“Sometimes continuing to play is not the solution. Sometimes the solution is to stop and restart a training programme,” he added.

However, Nadal also hinted he could return at the Swiss Indoor tournament in Basel next week.

The stunning academy complex in Nadal’s home city of Manacor in the Balearic Island boasts 26 clay courts, as well as a fitness centre, two swimming pools and 10 paddletennis courts.

“I still have many years to come in tennis, but there is a future and this academy is part of that future,” said Nadal.

“We were very excited to create something so special and even more so in Manacor, it is a dream come true.

“We hope the kids enjoy it as much as possible. We want this facility to be a success at the professional level for them, but also on a human level.”

Nadal crashes, Murray reaches China Open semis

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal crashed out of the China Open quarter-finals to 20th-ranked Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov on Friday as Andy Murray swept into his 11th semi of the season.

Nadal

Despite two breaks in the first set, the 14-time Grand Slam champion struggled with his serve and Dimitrov kept the pressure on for a 6-2, 6-4 victory — his first over the Spaniard.

“Losing five serves in a row is something that you cannot do and win a match like this. That’s it,” Nadal said after the loss.

Nadal, 30, is approaching the end of his second consecutive season without a Slam title since he won his first aged 19 at Roland Garros in 2005.

The loss in the Chinese capital also puts his qualification for an 11th consecutive ATP Final — which brings together the season’s top eight players — in doubt.

Murray beat Davis Cup teammate Kyle Edmund to keep his hopes of dethroning Novak Djokovic for year-end number one alive.

The Scot — who is coming to the end of a career-best season — was forced into a tense 20-point tie break in the first set by his 21-year-old compatriot.

But Edmund was unable to hold his serve in the second and Murray denied him a spot in his first season semi-final with a 7-6 (11/9), 6-2 win.

Fellow Briton Johanna Konta was also smashing dreams Friday as she crushed home favourite Zhang Shuai in two sets.

Buoyed by the home crowd, Zhang broke the Briton twice to take the opening four games of the match.

But at 0-4 down, Konta abruptly turned the tide in her favour, winning 12 consecutive games to book her semi-final place with a 6-4, 6-0 victory.

“During the match I do my best to really try to impose myself on her because she definitely looks to dictate when she can. When she’s able to, she’s very dangerous,” Konta said.

The 14th-ranked Briton is now one win away from joining the ranks of the top 10, which would make her the first British woman to join the elite grouping since Jo Durie in 1984.

Konta next faces American Madison Keys, who ended Petra Kvitova’s eight-match winning streak 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5).

Keys exacted revenge against Kvitova in their first meeting since the Czech denied the American a bronze medal in Rio.

A double fault by Kvitova turned the first set in Keys’ favour but it was the Czech’s 32 unforced errors to Keys’ 25 that ultimately decided the semi-final place.

Keys, 21, made her top 10 debut this year and the big hitter — who is often cast as a successor to 22-Grand Slam champion Serena Williams — is also chasing her first qualification for the elite WTA Finals in Singapore.

With her quarter-final win she moves into seventh in the Race to Singapore leaderboard, but Konta is hot on her heels.

On the men’s side, Ferrer dispatched German youngster Alexander Zverev while Wimbledon runner up Milos Raonic saw off Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-4.

Zverev, 19, was looking to cap a breakout season with a strong Beijing run, but was unable to capitalise on his first set lead as he was beaten by Ferrer 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 7-5.

Murray and Nadal ease into second round of China Open

October 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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World number two Andy Murray overwhelmed Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-2 7-5 and second seed Rafael Nadal crushed veteran Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-1 6-1 to reach the China Open second round on Tuesday.

Murray

Briton Murray, three-times a grand slam champion, showed no signs of fatigue having just recovered from a thigh injury and wrapped up the match in under an hour and 30 minutes.

“I thought I did okay considering I hadn’t played much the past couple of weeks. I think I can do better,” Murray told reporters.

“There was some good stuff in there. With each match, I’ll play better hopefully. No injuries. Felt fine. Just need matches now,” the top seed added.

Murray will play the winner of the all-Russian clash between Andrey Kuznetsov and Konstantin Kravchuk in the next round.

Nadal, who won the China Open in 2005, won 79 percent of his first-serve points to breeze past the 34-year-old Lorenzi.

The 30-year-old Spaniard will next face compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas or French qualifier Adrian Mannarino.

Third seed Milos Raonic beat Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-4 7-6(1) and the big-serving Canadian will meet either Argentina’s Guido Pella or Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri in the next round.

During a rain-hit day in Beijing, Germany’s Alexander Zverev upset fourth seed Dominic Thiem 4-6 6-1 6-3 to advance to a second-round clash with American Jack Sock.

Defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic withdrew from the tournament due to an elbow injury.

Brief encounter as Djokovic wins in 32 minutes, Nadal breezes

September 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Novak Djokovic reached the US Open last 16 in just 32 minutes Friday when Mikhail Youzhny retired injured before fellow two-time winner Rafael Nadal also made the fourth round for the first time in three years.

Djokovic

Defending champion Djokovic was 4-2 ahead in the first set when Russian 34-year-old Youzhny called it quits suffering from a left hamstring injury.

The outcome completed a bizarre first week for world number one Djokovic.

After labouring over four sets to beat Jerzy Janowicz on Monday, he was handed a walkover into the third round when Czech opponent Jiri Vesely withdrew from their second round clash with an arm injury.

“I have never had this happen before in my Grand Slam career, getting a walkover and the next match lasting just half an hour,” said Djokovic.

The top seed next faces Britain’s world number 84 Kyle Edmund who stunned John Isner of the United States 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5) to make a Slam fourth round for the first time.

Nadal reached the fourth round for the first time since 2013 — the year of his last New York title — with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 win over Russia’s Andrey Kuznetsov.

“Andrey is always a tough opponent, he returns well and has good shots from the baseline,” said fourth seed Nadal who faces France’s Lucas Pouille for a quarter-final slot.

“I had a fantastic first set, a little trouble with my serve in the second but the third was key so I’m very happy.”

Djokovic’s very brief encounter had been preceded on Arthur Ashe Stadium by women’s eighth seed Madison Keys pulling off an epic comeback to beat Japan’s Naomi Osaka.

Keys won the latest-ever finishing women’s match at the tournament on Monday when she completed victory over compatriot Alison Riske at 1:48am.

On Friday, the 21-year-old was involved in more drama when she rallied from 1-5 down in the final set to defeat Osaka 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3).

The 18-year-old Osaka was so traumatised by her failure to convert her dominance into victory that she broke down in tears as she twice tried and failed to serve for the victory.

“This is the greatest comeback of my career, hands down,” said Keys who will face two-time runner-up Caroline Wozniacki for a quarter-final spot.

Jack Sock, the American 26th seed, reached the fourth round for the first time by knocking out 2014 champion Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in tie where he did not face a single break point.

The 23-year-old Sock, whose last two appearances at the US Open had ended in retirements, goes on to face French ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tsonga, a two-time quarter-finalist, made the last 16 with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) victory over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.

Wozniacki, who knocked out ninth-seeded former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second round, clinched a seventh win in seven meetings over unorthodox Monica Niculescu of Romania.

The Dane’s 6-3, 6-1 victory featured eight breaks of serve.

Roberta Vinci, the Italian seventh seed and runner-up to compatriot Flavia Pennetta in 2015, overcame a second set blip to defeat 21-year-old Carina Witthoeft 6-0, 5-7, 6-3.

The 33-year-old Vinci led 5-4, 30-0 in the second set before her 84th-ranked German opponent dug deep to take the tie into a decider.

But Vinci prevailed on the back of 40 winners and will meet Lesia Tsurenko of the Ukraine for a quarter-final place.

Tsurenko, the world 99, made the last 16 at a Slam for the first time by beating 12th seedDominika Cibulkova 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The 27-year-old Tsurenko committed 44 unforced errors. Fortunately for her, newly-married Cibulkova hit 54.

Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova backed up her shock victory over third seed and French Open champion Garbine Muguruza by making the last 16 for the first time with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine.

World number 48 Sevastova, who briefly retired in 2013, has matched her best run at a Slam and next faces British 13th seed Johanna Konta who put out Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1.

German second seed and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber closes the night session against American 17-year-old CiCi Bellis.

The winner faces two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova.

Murray and Nadal roll, Raonic outslugs Isner

August 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Olympic and Wimbledon champion Andy Murray picked up where he left off in Rio by drubbing Argentina’s Juan Monaco to take his place in the third round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Wednesday.

Aug 17, 2016; Mason, OH, USA; Rafael Nadal (ESP) returns a shot against Pablo Cuevas (URU) on day five during the Western and Southern tennis tournament at Linder Family Tennis Center. Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Murray, who with his gold medal triumph at the Rio Games became the first player to repeat as Olympic singles champion, notched his 19th successive match victory by a 6-3 6-2 margin in what amounted to a nice workout for the 29-year-old Scotsman.

The Wimbledon winner scored the first break of the opening set in the eighth game and served out the set.

After seemingly enjoying the long rallies, Murray had his right shoulder massaged on the changeover before the second set and rattled off four games in a row from 1-1 to turn it into a rout.

His victory set up a third-round match against South African Kevin Anderson with a berth in the quarter-finals at stake.

Top-seeded Murray’s victory was in contrast to numerous big battles in the U.S. Open run-up event and a slew of tiebreakers.

Third-seeded Spaniard Rafa Nadal, winner of gold in the Olympic men’s doubles, avenged a defeat to Pablo Cuevas in February with a 6-1 7-6(4) win over the Uruguayan.

Fourth seed Milos Raonic of Canada won a heavy artillery battle with John Isner 7-6(5) 7-6(5) for his first win after three career losses to the American.

Raonic said he had just spent 10 days in New York working with John McEnroe.

“John makes fun out of the practice, he challenges you in many ways,” Raonic said. “He finds ways to point out things that I tried to bring to the match today.”

Seventh seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France enjoyed his own double tiebreaker win over American Reilly Opelka 7-6(5) 7-6(3).

Second-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka overcame 18-year-old American wild card Jared Donaldson 2-6 6-3 6-4 in a match carried over from rainy Tuesday and will next face his doubles partner Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Tiebreakers decided two three-set encounters.

Borna Coric, 19, of Croatia came back from 2-5 in a climactic decider against Australian Nick Kyrgios by winning five of the last six points to claim the tiebreak 8-6.

Kyrgios showed his displeasure after dropping an opening set tiebreaker by smashing three rackets during the changeover.

“You have to focus on yourself,” Coric said when asked by Tennis Channel about the excitable Kyrgios. “I believe I did that unbelievably good today.”

Next up for Coric is Nadal.

Steve Johnson, who with one more victory would leapfrog Isner to become the top-ranked American player, prevailed over France’s Julien Benneteau 3-6 6-2 7-6(5).

Olympic bronze medallist and fifth seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, like Murray, took an easier route with a 6-3 6-2 win over Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

Nadal hails ‘unforgettable’ golden return

August 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal described his second Olympic gold as “unforgettable” after marking his return from his latest injury misery by partnering close friend Marc Lopez to the men’s doubles title in Rio.

Nadal

The 30-year-old Spaniard added the 2016 doubles crown to his 2008 singles gold in Beijing by defeating Romania’s Florin Mergea and Horia Tecau 6-2, 3-6, 4-6.

Nadal is just the fourth player to win gold in Olympic singles and doubles after Serena and Venus Williams and Chile’s Nicolas Massu.

The former world number one and holder of 14 Grand Slam titles was playing his first tournament since May when a wrist injury forced an early retirement from the French Open.

“It was an amazing experience, especially doing it with one of my best friends, with Marc, it’s something unforgettable for me, for both of us,” said Nadal.

“To win a gold medal after two months and a half with no practice, with no preparation, just working in the gym, is something that is a dream.

“The moment was unbelievable, and we had fun. We fight hard.”

Nadal’s participation in the Olympics was in doubt until the last minute but now he has one gold and the prospect of another in the men’s singles where he’s reached the semi-finals.

Earlier Friday, he defeated Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 for his 800th career singles win.

He will face Juan Martín Del Potro of Argentina on Saturday for a place in the championship match.

“It’s a dream to win for my country. I didn’t come here just to carry the flag at the opening ceremony,” added Nadal.

For 34-year-old Lopez, it was a second major title of 2016 after he partnered compatriot Feliciano Lopez to the French Open title in June.

“Sharing these feelings with Rafa is really a dream come true,” said Lopez, who has now won five doubles titles with Nadal.

“All the things we have done together, I am the happiest man on earth.”

Tecau paid tribute to Nadal whose all-court skills proved crucial.

“You don’t see this in singles, but he volleys really well. He moves a lot at the net, puts a lot of pressure, defends really well,” said Tecau.

“He can hit an angle in every shot. And he’s all over the court. You have to play with precision and play to win most of the time. Otherwise you’re going to give him a lot of shots and that’s what he likes. Then he takes control of the points.”

The Spanish pair had cruised through the first set of the final 6-2 on the back of breaks in the fifth and seventh games.

But Mergea and Tecau, giving Romania their first ever Olympic tennis medal, hit back, focussing their attack on Lopez.

They broke for a 3-1 lead and saved two break-back points in the ninth game to level the final on a chilly night in the Brazilian city.

Mergea and Tecau, both 31 and born within a week of each other, sensed victory when they nipped ahead at 4-3 in the decider with Lopez again broken.

But the Spanish duo regained the break at 4-4 when Tecau was broken. Nadal then held for a 5-4 lead.

The Romanian pair saved two championship points in the 10th game but a wild Tecau smash gave Nadal and Lopez the title after two and a half hours of action.

The Spaniards’ all-out attack and rock-solid defence were crucial forcing their opponents into making 46 unforced errors and having to save 12 of 16 break points they faced.

America’s Steve Johnson and Jack Sock defeated Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil, the Canadian seventh seeds, 6-2, 6-4 to claim the bronze medal.

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