Serena Williams holds back Mladenovic at French Open

Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) Defending champion Serena Williams needed five match points after waiting out a rain delay of more than 2 1/2 hours, but she eventually moved into the fourth round of the French Open with a 6-4, 7-6 (10) victory over 26th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France.

In a tight, well-played match at Court Philippe Chatrier, action was suspended Saturday when a thunderstorm arrived right before Williams and Mladenovic began the second-set tiebreaker.

Once they resumed, Williams erased one set point for Mladenovic at 9-8 with a swinging forehand volley winner. Four times, Williams was a point from victory in the tiebreaker – at 6-5, 7-6, 8-7 and 10-9 – and couldn’t close it out. But on the fifth opportunity for Williams, Mladenovic pushed a forehand wide to end the match.

“She played really, really well and forced me to bring out my best tennis,” Williams said. “I’m happy I got through that.”

Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, called the tiebreaker “the only moment that I think was her good tennis.”

“Serena was really aggressive, went for her shots and took risks,” he said. “That’s her game.”

Williams, the No. 1 seed, is trying to become the first woman to win consecutive titles at Roland Garros since Henin took three in a row from 2005-07.

Next up against the American will be Elina Svitolina, who defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-4.

In her seven previous matches with Ivanovic, the 18th-seeded Ukrainian had only managed to win a set. Svitolina had also lost twice at Roland Garros against the 2008 champion.

“First win against Ana, it’s huge for me,” said Svitolina, whose best result at the French Open is a quarterfinal spot last year, when she lost to Ivanovic.

The 21-year-old Svitolina, who had won just one match on clay this season before starting her campaign in Paris, said she played with a “better mentality” than during her previous matches against the Serb.

“I was really confident today,” Svitolina said. “I don’t know. Just everything was right. Today I was doing (the) right things. Even missing bad shots, I was trying to stay positive and to play my tennis.”

Svitolina, who made her debut on the tour four years ago, has added three-time French Open champion Justine Henin to her coaching team this year, hoping that the former top-ranked player would help her reach a new level.

Although an injury hampered her quick progression this season, Svitolina said Henin’s experience has helped her mentally.

The Belgian’s knowledge of Williams’ game may be a strong asset too. The now retired Henin beat Williams twice at the French Open in 2003 and 2007.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for me,” said Svitolina, who has lost her three previous matches with Williams. “I think mentally I need to stay strong, stay positive, and no more junior mentality and junior tennis.”

The 14th-seeded Ivanovic managed to hold just three times when serving and got broken seven times by Svitolina. She also hit 29 unforced errors.

“My forehand wasn’t really working today,” Ivanovic said. “I was making a lot of errors. I managed to get back into (the) match and then few disappointing errors always came in the wrong time. I felt like that was sort of throughout the match.”

Also advancing to the fourth round Saturday were No.8 seed Timea Bacsinszky, who beat Pauline Parmentier 6-4, 6-2, and No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro.

In the men’s draw, Dominic Thiem prevailed in the duel of rising tennis stars, downing teenager Alexander Zverev 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

The 13th-seeded Thiem equaled his best result at a major tournament after reaching the round of 16 at the U.S. Open in 2014. It was the third time that Thiem and Zverev faced each other in four weeks, with Thiem extending his winning record to 3-0.

Thiem’s next opponent will be Marcel Granollers, who advanced without playing thanks to Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal with a wrist injury.

Former French Open runner-up David Ferrer also reached the fourth round, for a sixth consecutive year.

The 11th-seeded Ferrer came out on top from an all-Spanish match with Feliciano Lopez, winning 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-1. He’ll next face either seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych or Pablo Cuevas.

Venus Williams beats No. 1 Kerber in Miami Open quarters

AP
Leave a comment

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Venus Williams moved a step closer to her first Key Biscayne title since 2001 when she beat top-ranked Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open.

It was Williams’ 15th career win against a No. 1 player, but her first since 2014. Seeded No. 11, she’s into the tournament’s semifinals for the first time in seven years.

Williams’ opponent Thursday night will be No. 10-seeded Johanna Konta, who became the first British woman to reach a semifinal in the tournament by beating No. 3 Simona Halep 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2. No. 2 Karolina Pliskova will play No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki in the other semifinal.

Williams took charge of her quarterfinal match when Kerber double-faulted on the final two points of the opening set, and broke serve twice more early in the second set. She closed out the victory on her fifth match point with a backhand winner.

It was a matchup of offense against defense, with Williams the more aggressive player, charging the net often. Kerber stayed rooted to the baseline and was on the defensive even when she served, facing 13 break points and losing serve five times.

The German will remain No. 1 next week despite her loss. She reclaimed the top ranking this month after Indian Wells, replacing Serena Williams, who is sidelined by a knee injury.

Venus Williams improved to 61-13 at Key Biscayne, where she is making her 18th appearance. She won the title in 1998, 1999 and 2001 and considers the tournament her hometown event – she lives 90 minutes north in Palm Beach Gardens.

At 36, Williams was the oldest woman to enter the draw, but she hasn’t been taxed physically while winning every set in her four matches.

On the men’s side, Fabio Fognini became the first unseeded player in 10 years to reach the men’s semifinals at Key Biscayne when he beat 2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2. Fognini, 29, who matched his best showing in an ATP Masters 1000 event, will next play the winner of Wednesday night’s match between Rafael Nadal and Jack Sock.

Nishikori was seeded No. 2. Fognini improved to 9-44 against top-10 players, and became the first Italian man to reach a semifinal at Key Biscayne.

Historical marker for tennis great Tilden rejected again

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) A Pennsylvania panel once again rejected a historical marker for Philadelphia tennis great Bill Tilden.

Tilden became the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920 and also won seven U.S. championships. In 1950, The Associated Press voted him the greatest player of the first half of the century.

A year ago, a panel of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission that approves historical markers voted 4-1 against recommending approval of a marker at Philadelphia’s Germantown Cricket Club, citing Tilden’s convictions on charges involving teenage boys in the 1940s.

Karen Galle, coordinator of the historical marker program, confirmed Wednesday that the panel again voted 4-1 against approving the marker in February and that recommendation was among 54 approved by the commission at its March 22 meeting.

“While the significance of this athlete’s tennis career and talent are indisputable, his convictions for sexual misconduct with underage boys preclude recognition,” commission spokesman Howard Pollman said.

Lack of a marker doesn’t diminish Tilden’s accomplishments but approval “may be perceived to dishonor victims of sexual abuse,” Pollman said. Officials have cited the climate in the commonwealth following the sex abuse scandal involving another sports figure, Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky.

Tilden was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, in November 1946, after a 14-year-old boy was caught driving the star’s car erratically. Officers reported that when the teen exited the car, his pants zipper was down. Police charged Tilden with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and he served seven months in jail. He was arrested again in 1949 on allegations that he violated probation by being in the company of another teen boy, and that he groped a third teen. He served 10 months at a prison farm.

Tilden, born to a wealthy Philadelphia family, was featured regularly in magazines, newspapers and newsreels during his career. He was friends with Hollywood elite and played at the White House at the invitation of President Warren Harding. He’s credited with urging children of all economic backgrounds to learn tennis, once a sport only for the wealthy, and modern players still value his manuals on how to play.

After his convictions, Tilden’s Germantown membership was revoked, and his portrait was removed. In recent years, the club has begun to embrace Tilden’s memory, and a group of Philadelphians has been lobbying for a historical marker at the site.