Osaka Advances As Tsitsipas Escapes Murray At US Open

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 30: Naomi Osaka of Japan celebrates against Marie Bouzkova (not pictured) of the Czech Republic during their Women’s Singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

 

Defending champion Naomi Osaka stretched her Grand Slam win streak to 16 matches on Monday at the US Open while Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas struggled past Andy Murray in five sets.

Osaka, seeking her third US Open crown in four years, defeated 87th-ranked Czech Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-1 at a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium to book a second-round matchup with Serbian qualifier Olga Danilovic.

“It feels kind of crazy to play in front of everyone again,” Osaka said. “I feel really comfortable here. I’m just glad I won.”

Osaka beat Bouzkova in their only prior meeting in the first round of this year’s Australian Open on the way to her fourth Grand Slam title.

The 23-year-old Japanese star could become the first back-to-back US Open women’s champion since Serena Williams, out this year with a torn hamstring, won her third in a row in 2014.

Osaka’s major win streak includes her most recent US and Australian Open wins and a first-round win at this year’s French Open before withdrawing over mental health issues.

Osaka, who lit the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics, gave an Olympic pin to a young girl in the same venue where she won last year’s title when fans were banned due to Covid-19.

“It felt quite lonely for me,” she said. “So I’m quite glad to see little kids in the audience and grown ups too. The energy here is unmatched.”

Osaka broke Bouzkova in the 10th game of the first set when the Czech netted a backhand, the broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set on the way to victory in 93 minutes.

Tsitsipas outlasted Britain’s Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, by 2-6, 7-6 (9/7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after four hours and 49 minutes in surroundings more like an intense second-week showdown than a curtain-raiser for the fortnight.

“To have an electric atmosphere out here is something we’ve been waiting for,” Tsitsipas said.

Two-time Olympic champion Murray, ranked 112th lost for the first time in 15 first-round US Open matches.

“It didn’t come easy,” Tsitsipas said.

Tsitsipas, this year’s French Open runner-up, took a long break before the final set, frustrating Murray, who surrendered a break in the opening game. Delay tactics brought a frosty reception at the net after the match.

“I have zero time for that stuff at all and I lost respect for him,” Murray said. “It’s nonsense. And he knows it, as well.”

Tsitsipas, who plays Frenchman Adrian Mannarino next, said he followed ATP rules on breaks and medical timeouts, even as Murray questioned the length and timing.

“I’m playing by the rules and sticking to what the ATP says is fair,” said Tsitsipas. “Then the rest is fine.”

In the second-set tie-breaker, Murray slipped at the net and fell because his sweat-soaked shoes were wet and he didn’t have another pair. Murray missed out on two set points and the 23-year-old Greek star won five of the next six points to grab the set and level the match.

“The shoes got so wet that at the end of the set, I was slipping basically and was losing balance,” Murray said. “That was my bad. It was an important moment in the match.”

Murray broke in the second game of the third set and held out from there, but Tsitsipas took the last two sets to advance.

– Crowd energy returns –

Spectators had to show proof of vaccination to attend but they brouht energy back to Ashe.

“Playing without fans here was brutal,” 2017 US Open winner Sloane Stephens said. “Having these fans out and the energy, the atmosphere, it brings a lot back to tennis.”

Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and Stephens each won to reach the second round.

“You feel the energy. You feel alive on court,” Halep said. “Hopefully it will stay like that forever.”

Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev defeated Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 for his 200th career match win and 160th win on hardcourts.

Women’s second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus outlasted Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-0 while Russian men’s fifth seed Andrey Rublev ousted 221st-ranked Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.

AFP

Serena, Murray Advance On 2020 US Open Day Two

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: Serena Williams of the United States serves the ball during her Women’s Singles first-round match against Kristie Ahn of the United States on Day Two of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP
AL BELLO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

 

Serena Williams’ quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam got off the mark as Andy Murray rolled back the years with a vintage comeback at the US Open Tuesday.

Six-time winner Williams powered past 96th-ranked Kristie Ahn after Murray came from two sets down to win a five-set thriller in his first singles Slam match in 18 months.

The pair both progressed to the second round on day two of a US Open that is unrecognizable from previous tournaments, without spectators and with stringent measures to prevent Covid-19 infections.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: Serena Williams of the United States serves the ball during her Women’s Singles first-round match against Kristie Ahn of the United States on Day Two of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 1, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

 

Williams defeated Ahn 7-5, 6-3 as she started the latest bid of her protracted pursuit to match Margaret Court’s Grand Slam title with a straight-sets win at Flushing Meadows.

The 38-year-old overcame the loss of her first service game in the opening set to advance at a virtually empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, where artwork by black artists is displayed in honour of the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice.

“I was really happy with how I just fought for every point no matter how I was playing,” said Williams.

It has been more than three years since Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam title at the 2017 Australian Open — when she was already pregnant with daughter Olympia.

She has come close since, reaching four major finals only to come away empty-handed, but should have a better chance this time around with several top players absent because of coronavirus concerns or injury.

World number one Ashleigh Barty, the second-ranked Simona Halep and Canadian Bianca Andreescu — who stunned Williams in last year’s final — are all absent from the behind-closed-doors tournament.

A title win for Williams would also see her become the most decorated women’s player at the US Open in the modern era. She is currently tied with Chris Evert on six.

– Navarro tribute –

Murray secured a stunning 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4 come-from-behind victory in a bruising 4 hr and 39 min encounter against Japan’s 49th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka.

The Scotsman, who who has barely played in 2020, said he had learnt a lot about his physical condition and the metal hip he received during surgery last year.

“I’ve just played a four-and-a-half-hour match when I never thought I’d be able to,” he told reporters.

“I’m not sitting here with my hip throbbing and aching. I’ll be able to sleep fine tonight,” Murray added.

Tenth seed Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 French Open champion and 2017 Wimbledon winner, advanced to round two with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Japan’s Nao Havino.

She dedicated the win to compatriot Carla Suarez Navarro, who revealed Tuesday that she had been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma and will require six months of chemotherapy.

“You know, she’s such a nice woman, so sweet, so kind, so humble. When these things happen to these good people, I feel, like, so sad about it,” said Muguruza.

Also in the women’s draw, second seed American Sofia Kenin needed just over an hour to score a 6-2, 6-2 win over unseeded Belgian Yanina Wickmayer at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

And ninth seed Johanna Konta beat compatriot Heather Watson 7-6 (9/7), 6-1 in a tie dubbed the “Battle of Britain.”

There was disappointment for 40-year-old Venus Williams though who bowed out in the first round for the first time in her career, losing in straight sets to Karolina Muchova.

Another veteran, Belgium’s 37-year-old Kim Clijsters, also fell at the first hurdle.

Clijsters making a comeback for the second time in her career and playing in her first Grand Slam draw since 2012, was beaten in three sets by Ekaterina Alexandrova, losing 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

– Thiem advances –

In the men’s competition, number two seed Dominic Thiem progressed to round two when opponent Jaume Munar retired after the second set at Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Munar abandoned before the start of the third set, with Austria’s Thiem leading 7-6 (8/6), 6-3.

Thiem now faces India’s Sumit Nagal, who became the first Indian man since 2013 to the reach the second round of a Grand Slam event with a 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Bradley Klahn of the United States.

The US Open is taking place in a spectator-free bubble at the US National Tennis Center in New York.

Players movements are tightly controlled and everyone onsite is being tested regularly to minimize the risk of infection.

Argentina’s Guido Pella accused tennis chiefs of operating a double-standard over the handling of French player Benoit Paire’s positive COVID-19 case.

Paire was withdrawn on Sunday but several French players who had been in contact with him were allowed to remain in the tournament under enhanced safety protocols.

Pella was excluded from last week’s Western & Southern Open, a US Open tuneup, despite testing negative after his trainer contracted the virus.

“I am mad at them because of that because they change the rules when Benoit tested positive. So I want to know why,” he said after being knocked out in the first round.

AFP

Murray’s Statue To Be Erected – Wimbledon CEO

Andy Murray of Great Britain breaks down during a press conference in Melbourne on January 11, 2019, ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament. William WEST / AFP

 

Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray is likely to be honoured with a statue at the historic Grand Slam venue, the All England Club’s chief executive told the BBC.

The 31-year-old Scot — who won the grass-court Grand Slam in 2013 and 2016 — announced last Friday retirement was on the cards due to a chronic hip injury.

He then choked back tears and broke down as he revealed he hoped to end his career at Wimbledon, but admitted the Australian Open which began Monday could be his last event because the constant pain was so bad.

Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Club, said Murray could well be honoured in the same manner as fellow Briton and multiple Wimbledon men’s singles champion Fred Perry.

Perry — who won three successive Wimbledon titles from 1934-36 — had a statue unveiled in 1984.

“We always felt that when Andy retired, that would be the appropriate time to recognise his extraordinary career,” said Lewis.

“I am sure something like (a statue) will be done, but meanwhile down at the club he is seen as a highly-respected person both on and off the court.”

AFP

Murray Upbeat After Winning Start In Brisbane

Andy Murray of Britain reacts on a point against James Duckworth of Australia during their men’s singles first round match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament in Brisbane on January 1, 2019. Saeed Khan / AFP

 

Former world number one Andy Murray was upbeat after making a winning start to 2019 with a straight sets victory over Australian James Duckworth in the Brisbane International on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old Scot missed 11 months of last year with a hip injury and has slumped to a world ranking of 240.

He had not played competitively since pulling out of the China Open in September and started slowly against Duckworth before overcoming the Australian 6-4, 6-3 in a touch under 90 minutes.

Murray, who didn’t appear hampered with his movement, said he could feel his touch returning as the match progressed.

“It wasn’t particularly good tennis at the beginning, but I think one of the positive things for me was kind of instinctively I came up with some shots where I was kind of reading the game quite well, which is positive for a first match,” he said.

Murray said that while he was still playing in some pain, his hip wasn’t an issue.

“I didn’t feel particularly apprehensive… about my hip as such today, just because I’ve trained on it more and been here playing practice sets with guys, and I’ve just had a lot longer to get used to it,” he said.

“When I was playing in June, July last year, my hip was pretty sore.

“I hadn’t really practised much. I hadn’t played matches for a long time, and psychologically it was difficult.

“I was concentrating more on that than actually playing the match or my tactics, whereas, today I didn’t really think about it at all — I was just concentrating on the match.”

Murray now plays fourth seed Daniil Medvedev in the second round after the Russian received a first round bye.

Defending champion Nick Kyrgios battled past American Ryan Harrison in a rematch of last year’s final.

Kyrgios won 2018 final easily but he was pushed all the way by Harrison on Tuesday, eventually winning 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 7-6 (7/5) in two hours, eight minutes.

Kyrgios fired down 44 aces and Harrison 27, with the Australian just able to shade Harrison in the third set tiebreak.

The mercurial Kyrgios wasn’t happy with his groundstrokes and said he had only got through thanks to the quality of his serving.

“I was pretty poor — everything I did was pretty poor, except for my serve today,” he said.

“So I know that needs to get better. But that will come with more matches. I think the more matches I play, the more time on the court I have, I think that’ll get better.”

In other matches, Denis Kudla beat fellow American Taylor Fritz 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, while Frenchman Jeremy Chardy outlasted Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

AFP

Nadal Leads Toronto Field With Murray Missing

Spain’s Rafael Nadal                                                                                                     Eric FEFERBERG / AFP

 

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal will be working to increase grip atop the rankings at the ATP Toronto Masters, an event which lost an exhausted Andy Murray prior to Monday’s start.

Britain’s Murray, winner of three matches in four days this week in Washington, withdrew from Washington and Canada on Friday after finishing his latest victory after 3 a.m., breaking down in tears after the match.

But the cumulative effort was too much for the 31-year-old Scotsman, who underwent right hip surgery in January.

“I’m exhausted after playing so much over the past four days, having not competed on the hard courts for 18 months,” Murray said.

“I also need to be careful and to listen to my body as I come back from a long-term injury.”

The former number one, now ranked 832, was playing the third event in his slow-running comeback after first returning in June on grass in Britain before withdrawing from Wimbledon.

World number two Roger Federer is skipping Canada and will return on August 13 in Cincinnati, where Murray is also expected.

Federer, limiting his schedule to extend his longevity, turns 37 on Wednesday.

Nadal will be making his first appearance on court since a five-set Wimbledon semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic.

With most of the rankings top 10 in Canada, Nadal’s path to a potential fourth title in the country after 2005, 2008 and 2013 will be a predictable challenge.

The Spaniard resumed training recently on his home island of Mallorca after spending off-time sailing.

Nadal opens play on Wednesday against either American Jared Donaldson or Frenchman Benoit Paire, fined $16,500 this week for a racquet-smashing outburst in Washington.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion isn’t looking ahead at other potential foes such as Swiss three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka or Australian Nick Kyrgios.

“I cannot think about Wawrinka, Kyrgios, Joao (Sousa) before playing Benoit or a qualifier,” Nadal said.

“I know the first round is going to be a tough battle. But the full draw doesn’t distract me from being focused on that first round.”

“I always take it match by match. That’s what I’ve done all my life. That’s the only way, in my opinion, to have success.

“You need to respect all opponents. In tennis, things change so quickly, so you need to be ready to accept both victories and losses.”

Second seed Alexander Zverev will defend his crown after beating a tiring Federer in the 2017 title match at the event, which alternates annually between Toronto and Montreal.

The 21-year-old German has shown he has the game to challenge the elite, winning Masters 1000 trophies in Rome, Montreal and Madrid.

But his weakness so far has been the Grand Slams, where the NextGen talent can boast just one quarter-final from Roland Garros last spring.

With his big-match format suspect, durability has also been a recent problem for Zverev.

He lost at Roland Garros in his third successive five-set match as he played Ernests Gulbis and was tested in a pair of three-setters in Washington.

Zverev will come to Canada having had little chance to rest and regroup, starting with either Spain’s David Ferrer or a qualifier.

Third seed Juan Matin del Potro will be hoping to make up for a second-round loss a year ago, taking on either Japan’s Kei Nishikori or Dutchman Robin Haase.

Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson takes the fourth seeding, the South African to open against Russian Andrey Rublev or a qualifier.

Wimbledon winner Djokovic starts with South Korea’s Chung Hyeon, an Australian Open semi-finalist bothered by injury much of this season.

AFP

Serena Williams Seeded For Wimbledon As Murray Misses Out

Serena Williams of the US plays a backhand return to Germany’s Julia Goerges during their women’s singles third round match on day seven of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on June 2, 2018. Thomas SAMSON / AFP

 

Seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams has been seeded 25 for this year’s women’s singles by the organisers despite being ranked 183 in the world.

The 36-year-old — who was not seeded for the French Open — has made only a tentative return to action following complications during daughter Alexis Olympia’s birth last September.

Williams played her first Grand Slam for over a year at the French Open last month, reaching the fourth round before a shoulder injury forced her to quit ahead of her clash with old rival Maria Sharapova.

By contrast Britain‘s two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has not been seeded in the men’s singles although he has returned to action in the past fortnight.

The 31-year-old — who spent nearly 11 months off the court due to a hip injury and then a subsequent operation — has not yet committed himself to play at Wimbledon and is due to play compatriot Kyle Edmund at Eastbourne later Wednesday.

Some had argued against Williams being seeded with world number 32 Dominika Cibulkova telling the BBC it would be ‘unfair’ as she would be the player to lose out as there are 32 seeds.

The All England Club usually follows the WTA ranking list, but reserves the right to make a change if it “is necessary to produce a balanced draw”.

Romanian’s French Open champion Simona Halep is the women’s top seed, with Swiss legend and eight time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer the men’s top seed.

AFP

Murray Defeats Nishikori, Proceeds To French Open Semis

Murray Defeats Nishikori, Proceeds To French Open SemisAndy Murray has qualified for the French Open semi-final for the fourth consecutive time with a four-set win over Kei Nishikori.

The 30-year-old came through 2-6 6-1 7-6 (7-0) 6-1 on Wednesday against the Japanese eighth seed at Roland Garros in Paris.

The world number one proceeds to face Swiss third seed Stan Wawrinka, who beat Marin Cilic 6-3 6-3 6-1.

Earlier, nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal defeated Pablo Carreno Busta who retired while trailing 6-2, 2-0.

The Spaniard faces Dominic Thiem for a place in the final after the Austrian beat defending champion Novak Djokovic.

Barcelona Open: Nadal Reach Final, Murray Crashes Out

File photo

Rafael Nadal reached the final of the Barcelona Open by dispatching Argentine Horacio Zeballos 6-3 6-4 on Saturday to book his place in Sunday’s showpiece against Dominic Thiem where he will be looking to win the tournament for a 10th time.

Nadal struck the first blow by breaking the unseeded Zeballos in the fourth game and the difference in quality between the two players soon began to show.

Zeballos earned two break points in the fourth game of the second set but 14-time grand-slam winner Nadal recovered to hold his serve and wrapped up his victory in 94 minutes, setting up a re-match with Thiem, who beat him last year on clay in the Argentina Open semi-finals.

Thiem reached the final after defeating world number one Andy Murray 6-2 3-6 6-4 also on Saturday.

Thiem became the first Austrian since Thomas Muster in 1996 to reach the final of the claycourt tournament after subduing Murray for the first time in his career.

Just as in Friday’s gruelling quarter-final with Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Murray got off to a bad start.

The Briton relied on his serve to recover the second set but could not sustain the level and bowed out.

Rome Masters: Cilic Shines, Murray, Federer Hungry For Upsets

Marin Cilic was the man of the moment today at Rome Masters as he toppled the few seeds in action on the clay courts after he smoked out Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev 6-4 6-2.

The Croatian seeded 11th is billed to clash with Kevin Anderson, a South African who saw off Jürgen Meltzer of Austria, in the second round.

Argentinean Juan Monaco also fell to lowly rated Benoit Paire as the Frenchman won the first set tiebreak 7-4, but Monaco recovered to take the second 6-1 but went down 6-4 in the final set.

Czech Radek Stepanek also suffered a three-set defeat to Italian Potito Starace. Helped by local support, Starace won 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to set up a second round meeting with Roger Federer.

Second seed Federer who arrived earlier due to his early exit by Kei Nishirkori in the Madrid Open last week, said he has been practising and he is motivated and hungry to play some fine tennis again.

The Swiss will be starting fresh on Tuesday after the extra time he got to prepare.

“I arrived much earlier because of second round loss in Madrid,” Federer said. “I have been practising well, my body is well, really hungry and motivated to play again. I hope I can play a good tournament here.”

Andy Murray also had a first round bye and will face Spaniard Marcel Granollers who beat Nioklai Davydenko 6-3, 6-4.

The third seed from Britain said the Rome schedule would suit him better than Madrid where he was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Czech Tomas Berdych.

Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic will hope to make up for an early defeat also in Madrid when he begins in the second round on Tuesday against either Spain’s Albert Montanes or Slovakian Martin Klizan.

Rafael Nadal, winner of four clay court titles already this season after returning from injury, will begin with an Italian opponent in round two, either Fabio Fognini or Andreas Seppi.

Federer Beats Murray to claim Dubai title

Fans’ favourite Roger Federer helped himself to a record fifth title when he fought past Britain’s Andy Murray in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open at a packed Dubai Tennis Stadium on Saturday night.

Watched by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirate (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai, and Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman, Dubai Sports Council, for a major part of the first set, the Swiss went on to record a 7-5, 6-4 victory.

The capacity crowd rose to the occasion to welcome Federer as champion for a record fifth time in Dubai following his earlier successes in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. “I think I played well in the big points tonight and that is what made the difference,” Federer said.

He received the winner’s trophy from Shaikh Hasher Maktoum, Dubai Director of Information and President of Tennis Emirates; Shaikh Ahmad Al Sabah, Chairman, Kuwait Tennis Association; Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, Vice-President, Tennis Emirates; Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman, Dubai Duty Free, and other officials.

Making his fourth appearance here, Murray had never previously got past the quarter-finals. But during the course of the week he showed all signs of maintaining his career edge against the former world No 1.

Playing both Djokovic — whom he beat in the semi-finals — and Federer at the same tournament for the first time ever, Murray was broken for the only time in the opening set in the 11th game. That put Federer 6-5 up and then served out 7-5 in 52 minutes.

In the second set, Federer assumed early control with a break in the third to go 2-1, up but squandered the advantage as Murray bounced right back with a break — the first against Federer’s serve in 65 service games — and then hold for a 3-2 lead.

Federer had not previously been broken since the semi-finals in Rotterdam against Nikolay Davydenko last month.

However, Federer was far from finished as he broke Murray a second time when the Scotsman netted a backhand return in the ninth game to enable the second-seeded Swiss to serve out for set and match in an hour and 36 minutes.

Federer received the winner’s cheque of $409,170 (Dh1.5 million).