Japan Hails Naomi Osaka’s Performance At US Open

Naomi Osaka of Japan speaks to the media after winning the Women’s Singles finals match against Serena Williams of the United States/ AFP

 

Japan on Sunday hailed Naomi Osaka’s stunning upset against the legendary Serena Williams to win the US Open, giving the nation some rare good news after a summer of deadly natural disasters.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the praise, taking to Twitter to congratulate Osaka after her 6-2, 6-4 win in New York.

“Congratulations on your victory at the US Open. The first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam title. Thank you for giving energy and inspiration to the whole of Japan,” the premier tweeted.

Abe was on his way to the northern island of Hokkaido where a massive earthquake last week sparked landslides that buried houses in a rural town, killing at least 35 people and injuring hundreds of others.

Osaka’s grandfather Tetsuo Osaka, 73, lives in Hokkaido and said he wept watching his granddaughter on television.

“It still hasn’t sunk in for me yet. The moment she won, my wife and I rejoiced together. I was so happy, I cried,” he told public broadcaster NHK.

“I hope she stays healthy and continues her good work. I also hope she wins at the Tokyo Olympics (in 2020),” he said.

Fellow tennis star Kei Nishikori flooded Twitter with emojis of trophies, thumbs up and Japanese flags, followed by a simple tweet of “proud” alongside a Japanese flag.

And Tsuyoshi Fukui, a former top Japanese player and now a senior official at the Japanese Tennis Association, said Osaka’s performance would help to cheer the country up after typhoons, floods and earthquakes dominated the headlines this summer.

Osaka’s “tenacious and patient performance … must have been a great show of encouragement to those Japanese people who saw damage from such things as typhoons and earthquakes,” Fukui told Japanese media.

Meanwhile, NHK took a break from its round-the-clock coverage of the disaster to turn to happier news.

“Osaka wins women’s US Open, becomes first Japanese to win Grand Slam,” blared the broadcaster’s top headline.

Sports Nippon newspaper said Osaka had achieved a “complete victory” against an “irritated Serena who broke her racket”.

The Asahi Shimbun daily said on Twitter it would be printing an extra edition and distributing it in Tokyo.

– ‘Pride of Japan’ –
The final will probably be remembered for a meltdown from Williams who called the chair umpire a “thief” as much as for the 20-year-old’s historic win.

Williams’s tantrum overshadowed an outstanding performance from Osaka, who made her second career title a Grand Slam after winning her first at Indian Wells in March.

Osaka has dual Japanese-American citizenship and often replies to questions from Japan’s media in English, apologising for not knowing the appropriate word when she speaks Japanese.

After earning $3.8 million (3.29 million Euros) for the victory, Osaka said her next goal was a simple one: to win her next tournament in Tokyo.

Asked if she was prepared for the reception she’ll receive as the country’s first Grand Slam winner, Osaka said: “Apparently not, because people keep asking me that.”

Japan remains a fairly homogenous country and mixed-race children — especially those with black heritage — can often face prejudice, although attitudes among younger generations are changing.

And Japanese fans on social media were happy to claim her as one of their own on the day of her greatest triumph.

“Her interview showed that she is clearly Japanese — regardless of where she was born, where she grew up, the colour of her skin and the language that she speaks,” said one fan on Twitter.

“You are the pride of Japan.”

History At Stake As Serena, Osaka Meet In US Open Final

 

Serena Williams vies for a record-equalling 24th major title at the US Open on Saturday, with Naomi Osaka out to deny her idol and become Japan’s first Grand Slam champion.

One of the two will make history on Arthur Ashe Stadium court, where Williams won the first of her six US Open titles at the age of 17.

Osaka was not yet two at the time, and the 20-year-old admits it’s “surreal” to think she’ll be taking on the woman who inspired her tennis career in her very first Grand Slam final.

“I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam,” Osaka said.

The youngest woman to reach a US Open final since 2009, Osaka displayed poise and mental fortitude in saving all 13 break points she faced in a semi-final victory over American Madison Keys.

Her powerful ground game has carried her to the final with the loss of just one set, her infectious enthusiasm for the peculiar challenges of the US Open earning her a legion of fans along the way.

“I like to sweat,” Osaka declared of the punishing heat and humidity that has brought bigger names to their knees.

And she will go against Williams, who is vintage form as she chases her first Grand Slam title since the birth of her daughter Olympia on September 1 2017.

One year ago at this time, Williams was in the midst of four post-natal surgeries.

After coming tantalizingly close to equalling Australian Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with a runner-up finish at Wimbledon, Williams says the milestone isn’t her main focus.

“I’m just going to keep trying,” she said. “If it doesn’t happen, I’ll keep trying for the next one.”

That’s not the only record in Williams’s sights on Saturday.

With a seventh US Open title to go with those she won in 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014 she can break out of a tie with Chris Evert for the most ever.

Williams says it’s hard to gauge just how close she is to her dominant best, but there’s no question she’s playing far and away above her number 26 world ranking and even the 17th seeding granted by US Open officials.

She leads the tournament with 64 aces and has been broken just six times in six matches while Osaka has dropped her serve just four times.

The numbers promise a scintillating matchup if the magnitude of the occasion doesn’t prove too much for the young Japanese.

“I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match,” she said. “I shouldn’t really think of her as my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.”

Williams isn’t worried that their only prior meeting, at Miami in March, was a victory for Osaka.

“It was good that I played her because I kind of know how she plays now,” Williams said. “I mean, I was breastfeeding at the time, so it was a totally different situation.

“I have nothing to lose,” added Williams, who can join Australians Court, Evonne Goolagong and Belgian Kim Clijsters as the only mothers to win a Grand Slam singles title. “I’m going to go out there and do what I can.”

Osaka, meanwhile, will do everything she can to bring the match-up to the conclusion of her youthful dream.

“I don’t dream to lose,” she said.

Japan Hails Nishikori, Osaka’s Historic Run To US Open Semis

Japan Hails Nishikori, Osaka's Historic Run To US Open Semis
Kei Nishikori of Japan celebrates his victory over Marin Cilic of Croatia during their US Open tennis men’s singles quarterfinals match on September 5, 2018, in New York. Kena Betancur / AFP

 

Japanese media and fans on Thursday rained down the superlatives on tennis stars Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka who made history by both reaching the US Open semi-finals.

“There is no stopping the Japanese players,” screamed the Nikkan Gendai tabloid, after the pair became the first from the country to secure semi-final berths in both singles competitions during a Grand Slam.

Particular praise was heaped on 20-year-old Osaka, who became the first Japanese woman to get into the top four at the US Open.

The last Japanese woman to achieve a Grand Slam semi-final was Kimiko Date at Wimbledon in 1996 — a year before Osaka was born.

“Osaka was in full throttle from the start,” Nikkan Sports said in its digital edition, reviewing her 6-1, 6-1 quarter-final victory over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

“She showed her strength and accuracy, as well as a cool intellect to predict how her opponent would move.”

“She has taken a step into uncharted territory for Japanese women in New York,” the paper added.

Osaka’s feat was credited with lifting the share price of her racquet producer Yonex, which soared more than 10 percent on the Tokyo Stock Exchange while the headline Nikkei index sank.

Meanwhile, Nishikori’s victory over Marin Cilic was seen as sweet revenge for the 2014 US Open final, which ended in victory for the giant Croat.

Former world number-four Nishikori, 29, pulled off a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 victory this time.

“Nishikori gets his revenge on Cilic,” said a Sports Nippon headline.

Nishikori next faces Novak Djokovic, while Osaka will play Madison Keys from the US.

Excited fans cheered on the Japanese players and allowed themselves to dream about silverware.

“Great! I want to see her go against Serena in the final,” said one Twitter user.

“Awesome! Nishikori-san and Naomi Osaka get into the semi-finals. Next match is vs Djokovic. Please win,” wrote another.

AFP

Djokovic To Face Nishikori In US Open Semis

Djokovic To Face Nishikori In US Open Semis
Novak Djokovic of Serbia gestures at Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 17, 2018 in Mason, Ohio. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

 

Two-time champion Novak Djokovic ended, John Millman’s fairytale US Open run on Wednesday, beating the 55th-ranked Australian in straight sets to book a semi-final clash with Kei Nishikori.

The Serbian star, who ended a 54-week title drought with his 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, defeated the tenacious Aussie 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach his 11th US Open semi-final in his last 11 appearances.

He lifted the trophy in 2011 and 2015.

Nishikori, the 21st seed, advanced with a 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Marin Cilic — the man who beat him in the 2014 final.

Millman, who stunned five-time champion Roger Federer in the fourth round, kept Djokovic running — and was kept running himself — for 2 hours 49 minutes on another hot, humid night on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“You survive on the court then thrive with a win,” said Djokovic, who converted just four of his 20 break points and made 53 unforced errors before he was finally able to accomplish what Federer couldn’t in seeing off Millman.

“Very tested,” said Djokovic, who admitted that like many he was surprised to find himself facing Millman, not Federer, across the net.

“But Millman is the kind of a player that makes you miss the balls, makes you win the point, earn the point.

“He doesn’t miss a lot himself, so he just runs left, right, gets a lot of balls. Tactically, you’ve got to find the right balance between being patient but constructive in the point, but at the same time, be aggressive and take the chance when you have a shorter ball. It’s easier said than done.”

It was clear that it could be a long night when the players battled for more than 15 minutes in the sixth game of the opening set, Millman saving four break points.

The Aussie saved another four in the opening game of the second set and as the duel continued both players were clearly feeling the effects of long, entertaining rallies.

Millman, his clothes soaked, made the unorthodox request to go change after the fourth game of the second set — Djokovic agreeing.

“He was apologizing he felt very sorry that he has to leave the court and change. I said, ‘Man, go ahead.’

“I needed that rest,” said Djokovic, who finally gained the decisive break in the penultimate game of the final set then served it out at love.

“I gave it a crack,” said the 29-year-old Millman, who has battled a litany of injuries in his career.

“I definitely left it all out there today and pulled up a bit short. Novak’s a champion. He’s played a lot of Grand Slams and he knows how to win them.”

Japan’s Nishikori, who missed last year’s US Open after a season-ending wrist injury, joined compatriot Naomi Osaka in reaching the semis — the first time that a Japanese man and woman have reached the last four in the same Grand Slam.

– Nishikori goes the distance –

Nishikori stunned then-world number one Djokovic in the semi-finals in 2014 to become the first man from an Asian country to reach the championship match of a major.

But he hasn’t returned to a Grand Slam final since, falling in the US Open semis in 2016.

Against Cilic he labored for 4 hours and 8 minutes.

“I don’t know why but it’s always a battle with Marin,” said Nishikori, who stretched his career record over the seventh-seeded Croatian to 9-6.

Nishikori appeared to be in control of the fifth set with a break for a 3-1 lead.

He had two game points for a 5-2 lead but a double fault and a backhand wide opened the door for Cilic, who stormed through, shouting “Got it!” when he secured the break to narrow the gap to 4-3.

But Nishikori broke Cilic in the final game, capturing the match with a blistering service return.

“I try to fight every point,” said Nishikori, who boasts an impressive record in decisive sets.

“Especially in the end I really focus on every point,” he said but added: “I wish I don’t go to five sets every time.”

AFP

Defending Champion Stephens Knocked Out Of US Open Last Eight

Sloane Stephens of the US hits the ball against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia during their Women’s Singles Quarter-Finals match at the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 4, 2018. PHOTO: KENA BETANCUR / AFP

 

Sloane Stephens’s US Open title defense ended with a 6-2, 6-3 quarter-final defeat to Anastasija Sevastova on Tuesday as the Latvian avenged a 2017 loss to the American at the same stage.

Sevastova, through to the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time, will face either 23-time major champion Serena Williams or eighth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova for a place in the final after toppling Stephens in brutal heat and humidity on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I think it was very physical today. It’s tough to play, so hot in here. The first set was so important,” said the 19th-seeded Sevastova, who broke Stephens in the final game to pocket the opening set.

She earned the last of five breaks in the second set to take a 5-3 lead and served it out on her third match point when a weary Stephens put a backhand into the net.

“I showed some nerves at the end but it’s normal,” Sevastova said.

With the heat, humidity and blazing sun combining to make conditions hazardous enough that organizers suspended junior matches, the scraps of shade on the massive Ashe court were invaluable.

“When the shade was there it was so hot here and amazing there,” Sevastova said of the contrast of playing on the shady or sunny end of the court.

“The last games, it was good that I played in the shade. The sun was not comfortable and it was hot.”

Stephens was ranked 83rd in the world when she upset Sevastova in three sets in the quarter-finals last year, trailing by a break in the third set before winning it in a tiebreaker.

Now number three in the world, Stephens joined an exodus of women’s seeds that saw top-ranked Simona Halep and number two Caroline Wozniacki exit in the first two rounds.

AFP

US Open Loss: ‘I Struggled To Breathe’, Says Federer

AFP

 

Roger Federer revealed he struggled to breathe during his shock 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/3) defeat to world number 55 John Millman at the US Open on Monday.

The 37-year-old five-time champion laboured to his earliest loss at the tournament in five years with his challenge sinking in the crushing humidity on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I just thought it was very hot tonight. Was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air. There was no circulation at all,” said 20-time major winner Federer who was bidding to clinch the US Open for the first time in a decade.

“I just struggled in the conditions. It’s one of the first times it’s happened to me.

“It’s uncomfortable. Clearly just kept on sweating more and more and more and more as the match goes on. You lose energy as it goes by.

“But John was able to deal with it better. He maybe comes from one of the most humid places on earth, Brisbane!”

It was Federer’s first loss against a player outside the top 50 in 41 meetings at the US Open.

He finished with 77 unforced errors and 10 double faults but had a host of chances to take wrap up matters in straight sets, squandering set points in the second and third sets.

He had also been a break to the good at 4-2 in the fourth but the errors just kept piling up.

Monday’s result meant there would be no quarter-final showdown with old rival Novak Djokovic who will now face Millman instead on Wednesday.

“I knew I was in for a tough one. Maybe when you feel like that, as well, you start missing chances, and I had those,” said the Swiss.

“That was disappointing. I was just happy that the match was over.”

Federer believes the decision to build a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium contributed to his problems.

The roof was open Monday, but the space above the cavernous arena has been reduced by the wings which help support the structure.

“I do believe since the roof is on that there is no air circulation in the stadium. I think just that makes it a totally different US Open,” said the world number two.

“Plus conditions maybe were playing slower this year on top of it. You have soaking wet pants, soaking wet everything.

“It was just tough. I thought John played a great match in difficult conditions.”

Federer said he did not regret his decision to invite Millman to come and train with him after the Australian had suffered a first-round loss at Roland Garros.

The pair spent a few days on the court before the Wimbledon warm-up event at Stuttgart.

“I didn’t know he had a girlfriend in Stuttgart. Just Severin (Luthi — his coach) asked him. He was like, Yeah, absolutely, I’m ready to come. We had a great few days, a good time together.”

Federer said he admired Millman’s fighting spirit, forged from suffering a series of injuries in his career.

He has undergone two surgeries on his shoulder and one on his groin.

As a result of his injury toils, his ranking slumped to 1,101 in August 2014 but recovered to 71 just 12 months later.

After a groin operation, Millman was slipping again with his ranking at 235 in August last year.

“I love his intensity,” said Federer.

“He reminds me of David Ferrer and those other guys that I admire a lot when I see them, when I see how they train, the passion they have for the game.

“He’s got a positive demeanour about himself on and off the court.”

Roger Federer Crashes Out Of US Open

 

Five-time champion Roger Federer crashed out of the US Open on Monday, beaten in four sets by 55th-ranked Australian John Millman.

Millman’s 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/3) victory in his first Grand Slam fourth round match scuppered a blockbuster quarter-final between Federer and two-time winner Novak Djokovic.

It marked Federer’s earliest US Open exit since he fell in straight sets to Tommy Robredo in the fourth round in 2013.

Federer had set points in both the second and third sets, but troubles with his serve infected his entire game and 77 unforced errors doomed the 20-time Grand Slam champion in the face of a determined attack from Millman.

“I’m probably in a little bit of disbelief,” Millman, 29, said after three hours and 35 minutes in the cauldron of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I have so much respect for Roger and everything he’s done for the game. He’s been a hero of mine.”

Federer took the opening set courtesy of a break in Millman’s first service game.

But Federer’s first service game in the second — in which he battled 14 minutes and saved six break points — proved prophetic.

Federer broke first on the way to a 5-3 lead in the set, but Millman won the last four games, breaking Federer twice.

Federer wasted two set points in the 10th game, giving Millman a break chance when he missed an easy volley then double-faulting on break point.

Federer upped his game in a tight third set, and had the first chance to claim the set at 6-5 in the tiebreaker. He netted a service return, and Millman converted his second set point to seize a two sets to one lead.

When the Swiss great broke for a 4-2 lead in the fourth the Ashe crowd were on their feet.

But he gave the break back in the next game after slamming an overhead into the bottom of the net on game point.

They went on serve the rest of the way to the tiebreaker, where two of Federer’s 10 double faults, followed by a backhand into the net and a wayward forehand gave Millman a 6-1 lead.

Federer clawed his way through two match points before slapping yet another forehand wide as Millman celebrated.

“Today he was definitely not at his best,” Millman said of Federer. “But I’ll take it.”

Serena, Stephens Reach US Open Quarter-Finals

Serena Williams of The United States celebrates victory during her women’s singles fourth round match against Kaia Kanepi of Estonia on Day Seven of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 2, 2018, in the Flushing neighbourhood of the Queens borough of New York City. PHOTO: Julian Finney/Getty Images/AFP

 

Six-time champion Serena Williams survived a spirited challenge from unseeded Kaia Kanepi to triumph 6-0, 4-6, 6-3 on Sunday and reach the quarter-finals of the US Open.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion looked set to romp home when she seized the first set from Kanepi in just 18 minutes.

But the hard-hitting Estonian, who took out world number one Simona Halep in the first round, settled down in the second set, shaking off the partisan crowd in a jammed Arthur Ashe Stadium to push Williams the rest of the way.

“It wasn’t an easy match at all,” said Williams, who let out what she called a “Serena scream” after ripping a backhand crosscourt to hold serve in the opening game of the third set.

“Winning a big game and a very important game and a really tight game, I think it was just a relief,” said Williams, who took control with a break in the next game and maintained that advantage until she fired a forehand winner on her first match point.

Williams finished with 18 aces and 47 total winners. A couple of loose points gifted Kanepi a break in the first game of the second set, however, and she couldn’t get back on terms.

Williams double-faulted on break point to send Kanepi up 5-2. The American would win the next two games, but she couldn’t find another break and after fighting off two set points saw Kanepi knot the match on her third chance.

“She’s had a lot of big wins in her career. I was just happy to get through it to be honest,” Williams said.

Williams booked a quarter-final date with Karolina Pliskova, the eighth-seeded Czech who beat Australian Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-4.

Pliskova defeated Williams in the semi-finals in New York in 2016.

Defending champion Sloane Stephens, the third seed, eased past Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-3 to book a quarter-final rematch with Latvian Anastasija Sevastova.

Sevastova toppled seventh-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 1-6, 6-0, leaving just two of the top 10 women’s seeds remaining.

Stephens, runner-up to Halep at the French Open, was looking forward to taking on Sevastova again in her bid to push ahead in her title defense.

“Obviously it won’t be easy,” she said. “Quarter-finals of a Grand Slam is always really tough. A big opportunity for both of us. Being defending champion, being able to get to the quarter-finals again, is incredible. I’m just going to try to keep building on that and keep going.”

Sevastova, in the quarters for a third straight year, is hoping to turn the tables on Stephens, who is trying to become the first woman to win back-to-back US Open titles since Williams won three straight in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

“Maybe third time lucky for me,” Sevastova said.

‘Interesting match’

Stephens could be headed for a semi-final meeting with Williams, although Williams acknowledged that in Pliskova she’ll face a player with plenty of weapons in addition to her big serve.

“She has a really good forehand. In fact, she doesn’t do a lot of things bad,” Williams said.

Plislkova’s runner-up finish to Kerber in the 2016 US Open remains her best Grand Slam finish, but Williams noted she briefly gained the number one world ranking last year.

“She got there for a reason, she has a lot of strong parts to her game,” Williams said. “It will be an interesting match.”

Pliskova was looking forward to it, too.

“I know she has a big game, but I have a big game too. I have a good serve. So I have some weapons, too. For sure, there is always a chance for me.”

Williams heads into the second week at Flushing Meadows tracking two milestones: A seventh US Open title would see her break out of a tie with Chris Evert for the Open Era record and also equal Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major titles.

She hasn’t won a major since the 2017 Australian Open. After returning to competition in March after the birth of daughter Olympia last September, Williams is trying to avoid her first season since 2011 without a Grand Slam title.

AFP

Serena Williams Defeats Her Sister In US Open Clash

Serena Williams (L) of the United States is congratulated by her sister and opponent Venus Williams (R) of the United States following their ladies singles third round match on Day Five of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USTA/AFP

 

Serena Williams roared through her 30th career meeting with her sister Venus on Friday, booking a US Open fourth-round berth with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Serena was all business for the highly anticipated all-Williams clash under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Despite — or because of — the emotional and tactical challenges of facing Venus, the 23-time Grand Slam champion said the match-up brought out the best tennis she has played since she came back from the birth of her daughter Olympia last September 1.

“Absolutely this was my best match since I returned,” said Serena, who blasted winners off both wings — 34 in all — and fired 10 aces in the 72-minute match.

Both players were subdued on the court. There were no fist-pumps or “Come ons” and when Serena sealed it with a forehand winner the sisters met at the net for a hug and walked to their chairs before Serena acknowledged the crowd with a wave.

“It’s not easy,” she said of facing Venus. “She’s my best friend. She means the world to me. Every time she loses I feel like I do.”

Venus’s seven Grand Slam titles include a victory over Serena in the 2001 US Open final. But Serena has gone on to beat her in seven of eight major finals since then and now owns an 18-12 record over her elder sister.

The third-round encounter marked their earliest meeting in a Grand Slam since Venus beat Serena in the second round of the 1998 Australian Open — the first time they met as professionals.

“It’s not very easy, but it’s a tournament and we all know there’s more to life than just playing each other and playing tennis,” Serena said.

Not even a brief injury scare could slow Serena. She rolled her right ankle in the second game, taking a medical time out to have more tape added to the bandage she was already wearing under her sock at the next changeover.

There was no sign she was affected as she broke Venus for a 3-1 lead and she pocketed the first set after 31 minutes with a love game punctuated by her fourth ace.

Venus had four game points in the previous game before she was broken to trail 5-1.

The second set was more of the same. Serena quickly gained the upper hand with a break in the opening game and broke Venus at love for a 4-1 lead.

Perhaps the first sign of nerves showed in two double faults in the final game — including one on her first match point.

But she followed each with an ace as she set up a clash with Estonian Kaia Kanepi for a place in the quarter-finals.

Kanepi, who toppled world number one Simona Halep in the first round, defeated Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).

AFP

Cilic Too Good For Edmund To Reach Open Final

Croatia’s Marin Cilic celebrates beating Britain’s Kyle Edmund in their men’s singles semi-finals match on day 11 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 25, 2018. PETER PARKS / AFP

 

Croatia’s sixth seed Marin Cilic stormed into his third Grand Slam final with a straight sets victory over unseeded British hope Kyle Edmund at the Australian Open on Thursday.

The former US Open champion was too strong for Edmund, winning 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 and will face either defending champion Roger Federer or unseeded South Korean Chung Hyeon in Sunday’s final.

He will face either defending champion Roger Federer or unseeded South Korean Chung Hyeon, who play on Friday.

“Overall I’m feeling really good,” Cilic said. “Now I have two days off before the final.
“I noticed in the third game of the third set, when I broke him, he just let a couple of balls go past him.

“So I realised his movement was a little bit restricted, so I just tried to move the ball around and obviously that second break was extremely crucial.”

It was an emphatic performance by the 2014 US Open champion, who broke Edmund’s serve four times and nullified the Briton’s powerful forehand.

The victory ensured that he will rise to a career-high of three when the new rankings come out on Monday.

Cilic will be only the second player outside the ‘Big Four’ of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Federer to reach the Melbourne final since Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2008 decider.

He lost to Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final, but beat the 19-time Grand Slam champion in the semi-finals on the way to his US Open triumph.

Cilic trails the Swiss ace 8-1, but leads Chung 3-0 in their meetings.

Medical Timeout

It was a match too far for 23-year-old Edmund, who upset world No.3 Grigor Dimitrov and world No.11 Kevin Anderson on the way to his first Grand Slam semi-final but had little left in the tank.

Cilic’s quick returns kept him on the defensive and the Croatian broke through in the sixth game when a net cord bounced out.

The Croat attacked Edmund’s backhand and kept away from his forehand weapon and came up with a second break with a forehand to the corner for the opening set.

Edmund left the court for a medical timeout and fought off break point in the fourth game of the second set.

At one point he become furious with umpire John Blom for awarding a point rather than replaying and ruling that it had not put the Briton off playing the shot.

Games went with service but the Croatian was too strong in the tiebreaker, getting to three set points and taking a two sets to love lead with a backhand winner.

Cilic broke in the third game of the final set to take a firm grip as Edmund dropped his head.

It got no better as Edmund hit a backhand wide on break point to drop serve again in the seventh game to leave Cilic with the task of serving out for victory.

Despite losing it was a breakthrough tournament for Edmund, the only British man in this year’s field after five-time finalist Andy Murray’s injury withdrawal.

He became only the fourth British man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals in the post-1968 Open Era

Rafael Nadal Wins Third U.S. Open

Spain’s Rafael Nadal holds up his winning trophy after defeating South Africa’s Kevin Anderson during their 2017 US Open Men’s Singles final match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 10, 2017. Rafael Nadal raced to a third US Open title and 16th Grand Slam crown on Sunday with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 rout of South African giant Kevin Anderson. Jewel SAMAD / AFP

Rafael Nadal raced to a third US Open title and 16th Grand Slam crown on Sunday with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 rout of South African giant Kevin Anderson.

The world number one, the champion also in New York in 2010 and 2013, added the US title to the record 10th French Open he captured in June.

Old rival Roger Federer won the season’s other two Slams at the Australian Open, beating Nadal in the final, and Wimbledon in an illustration of the two Grand Slam greats’ enduring appeal and power.

Nadal’s Grand Slam tally is just three behind Federer’s record 19.

For Nadal, it was his fifth title of the year and 74th of his career while the $3.7 million (3.07 euros) winner’s prize boosted his earnings to a shade under $90 million.

“It’s a very special two weeks for me. It’s unbelievable what’s happened this year after some seasons with serious injuries and not playing very well,” said Nadal.

“It’s been an emotional year since the Australian Open. I played a high level of tennis and winning here in New York again it’s unbelievable.”

Nadal also praised his coach and uncle Toni who has coached him since he was three but who will step down from his team at the end of the year.

“I cannot thank him enough,” said the champion.

“Without him I would not be here playing tennis. He gave me strength and motivation. When I had injury problems I got through them because of him.”

‘It Was An Honor’ 

It was a desperately disappointing afternoon for Anderson, the world number 32 playing in his maiden Slam final at the 34th attempt.

He was the first South African in a US championship final since Cliff Drysdale in 1965 and was bidding to become his country’s first Slam champion since Johan Kriek at the 1981 Australian Open.

The Johannesburg-born, Florida-based Anderson finished the 2hr 28min final with 40 unforced errors to Nadal’s 11, failing even to carve out a single break point.

Nadal, winning his first hardcourt title since January 2014 in Doha, gave up just 15 points on his serve and won 16 out of 16 net points.

“Rafa, we are the same age but I have looked up to you all of my life,” said Anderson.

“It was an honor playing you. You are one of the great ambassadors of our sport.”

In a final guaranteed to result in the fifth Slam champion in succession who is 30 or older, Nadal was on top from the start.

He had 28th-seeded Anderson scrambling to save two break points in the third and fifth games before the Spaniard converted his fifth off a forehand error for a 4-3 lead.

The world number one held and broke again, cleverly forcing the 31-year-old South African out of position on set point after 58 minutes of action.

By the end of the opening set, Nadal had just five unforced errors to Anderson’s 23 with the South African unable to muster a single break point.

The one-way traffic continued in the second set as Nadal broke for 4-2 off the back of three successive volleys.

Anderson even collected a time violation for his troubles as his efforts to compose himself failed horribly.

A brutal crosscourt forehand winner gave Nadal the second set 6-3.

Anderson was broken again in the opening game of the third set.

It was his fourth loss of serve in the final; before Sunday, he had been broken just five times in the entire tournament.

Anderson called the trainer for a bloodied right index finger after the fifth game, but his struggles continued.

He saved a match point but Nadal wrapped it up with a clinical backhand volley.

AFP

US Open: Sloane Stephens Beats Keys To Win First Grand Slam

Sloane Stephens of the US celebrates after winning against Madison Keys of the US during their women’s finals match during the US Open 2017 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on 9, 2017 in New York. Jewel SAMAD / AFP

 

Sloane Stephens, sidelined for 11 months by a left foot injury until returning in July, captured her first Grand Slam title by routing fellow American Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 in Saturday’s US Open final.

Stephens took a $3.7 million (3.07 million euros) top prize from the biggest victory of her career, pitted against one of her closest friends in the first all-US final since 2002 on the New York hardcourts.

With the 15th victory in her past 17 matches, Stephens became only the fifth unseeded player to win a women’s Slam title, although Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko managed the feat at this year’s French Open.

The only prior unseeded US Open women’s champion was Kim Clijsters, who came back from retirement to take the 2009 title.

Sloane Stephens of the United States kisses the championship trophy during the trophy presentation. Elsa/Getty Images/AFP

Stephens made only six unforced errors in the match to 30 for Keys, who had 18 winners to 10 for the champion.

It was the first final set of a US Open women’s championship match where the loser didn’t take a game since Chris Evert beat Evonne Goolagong 6-3, 6-0 in 1976.

Keys, seeded 15th, and 83rd-ranked Stephens each fought off injuries to reach the title showdown.

Stephens returned at Wimbledon and slid to 957th in world rankings before semi-final runs at US Open tuneups in Toronto and Cincinnati, while Keys underwent her second left wrist surgery after the French Open and won a tune-up title at Stanford.

Sloane Stephens of the United States and Madison Keys of the United States pose during the trophy presentation after the Women’s Singles finals match. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

Stephens will jump to 17th in Monday’s world rankings while Keys, who took home $1.825 million as runner-up, will rise to 12th.

In the first set, Stephens broke to seize a 3-2 lead, Keys swatting a forehand beyond the baseline to surrender the game, and Stephens broke again when Keys send a backhand long to take the set after 30 minutes.

Keys made 17 unforced errors in the opening set to just two for Stephens, both in the last game.

In the second set, Stephens broke with a forehand crosscourt winner past on outstretched Keys to grab a 2-0 edge, then broke again on a double fault for a 4-0 lead, Keys swatting the ball with her left hand as it bounced back at her.

Keys forced triple break point in the fifth game but Stephens saved them all and held to 5-0.

The end came after 61 minutes on Stephens’ third break and championship point when Keys netted a forehand.

Hands on hips, Stephens simply stood for a few seconds with a stunned expression, then smiled and made a tiny fist pump before going to the net to share a teary-eyed hug with Keys.

Neither Keys, 22, nor Stephens, 24, had ever reached a Slam final, only the seventh time in the Open Era (since 1967) two first-timers met for a women’s Slam title.

But it was the second time in three years it happened at Arthur Ashe Stadium after Flavia Pennetta beat Roberta Vinci in 2015’s all-Italian final.

AFP