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Frenchman Gasquet faces Murray in French Open quarters

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PARIS — The wait had better be worth it for tennis fans when Richard Gasquet finally takes on Andy Murray in the French Open quarterfinals – weather allowing on Wednesday.

Since they won their third-round matches on Sunday, it has rained almost non-stop at Roland Garros, washing out Monday and most of Tuesday.

The second-seeded Murray munched on an energy bar as he watched No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s rain-interupted fourth-round match against No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Tuesday. The Murray vs. Gasquet match was supposed to follow the conclusion of Djokovic’s match and then No. 1 Serena Williams vs. No. 18 Elina Svitolina.

Gasquet should be patient by now, having never previously reached the last eight at the French Open since first playing here in 2002 – just short of his 16th birthday.

Murray and Gasquet are both 29, and Gasquet was the more talented early on, winning their first two meetings in 2006 and 2007 – the year Gasquet reach the Wimbledon semifinals as a 21-year-old. He should really have won their next encounter, too, wasting a two-set lead in the fourth round at Wimbledon the following year.

After that, Murray’s trajectory went up – two Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and seven other Grand Slam finals – while Gasquet’s form mostly stagnated, with rare highs being semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2013 and two years later at Wimbledon.

Murray has won their last five meetings – including in the fourth round of the French Open in 2012 – but Gasquet has taken confidence from an impressive win against No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Djokovic is looking to reach his 10th French Open quarterfinal. He’s never lost to Bautista Agut.

Neither has Williams against Svitolina, leading her 3-0.

Nor has No. 3 Stan Wawrinka against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and the defending champion leads the Spaniard 6-0 heading into their quarterfinal. Three of those wins are on clay, the most recent in the second round on his way to his victory at the Geneva Open.

That should give beleagured French Open organizers some hope those matches could be completed quickly as they face a serious backlog.

One of these is a potential fourth-round clash between No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 11 David Ferrer.

Ferrer, who leads 8-6 in their head-to-heads, will be 2-1 up when they resume in the first set; while Ernests Gulbis – a semifinalist here two years ago – is 3-0 up in the first set against No. 12 David Goffin of Belgium; and it’s one set each between No. 13 Dominic Thiem and Marcel Granollers.

WOMEN’S QUARTERFINALS: American Shelby Rogers could reach the semifinals before Serena and her older sister Venus Williams – who is also playing in the fourth round.

But Rogers, unseeded, must first get the better of No. 4 Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who is determined to reach the last four after losing in the quarterfinals for the past two years.

Meanwhile, Samantha Stosur will be looking to reach the semis for the fourth time and the bad news for her opponent – Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria – is that Stosur has won all her three quarterfinals here. The 32-year-old Australian reached the final in 2010, losing to Francesca Schiavone.

WOMEN’S 4th-ROUND MATCHES: Three other women’s fourth-round matches are scheduled for Wednesday, with No. 9 Venus Williams taking on No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky. The seven-time Grand Slam champion leads Bacsinszky 2-0 – beating her two years ago at the U.S. Open and six years earlier at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Bacsinszky lost to Serena Williams in a tense semifinal here last year.

Also, Kiki Bertens faces No. 15 Madison Keys in their first meeting and No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro plays Yulia Putintseva.

Kerber beats Sharapova in 3rd round; Halep in long-haul win

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Angelique Kerber is the only major winner remaining in the Australian Open women’s draw after ending Maria Sharapova’s comeback tour to Melbourne Park.

The 2016 champion routed Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the third-round match on Saturday night to extend her winning streak to 12 matches, including winning the Sydney International title last week.

Five-time major winner Sharapova was back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2016, when a failed test for meldonium led to a 15-month doping ban.

It was all over in one hour and four minutes, a vast contrast to top-ranked Simona Halep’s 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 win in three hours, 45 minutes over American Lauren Davis in the opening match on Rod Laver.

The third set took 2:22 and momentum swung. Halep wasted chances to serve for the match in the ninth, 11th and 15th games, then had to save three match points in the 22nd. There were 11 service breaks and two medical timeouts – for Davis to get treatment on both feet – before Halep converted on her first match point.

“I never played the third set so long, so I’m really happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead,” Halep said of the match which equaled Chanda Rubin’s win over Arantxa Shanchez Vicario in 1996 – also 48 games – for the Australian Open record in terms of most games.

“I just feel that my muscles are gone,” said Halep, who badly twisted her left ankle in the first round. “My ankle is, I don’t know how it is because I don’t feel it anymore! But … it was nice to win this match.”

Halep will play Naomi Osaka, who beat 18th-seeded Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-2 in a match that was moved from the center court to Margaret Court Arena because of the two long matches on Rod Laver.

No. 20 Barbora Strycova beat U.S. qualifier Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-2, leaving U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys as the only American woman to reach the fourth round.

Keys advanced 6-3, 6-4 over Ana Bogdan and will next play No. 8 Caroline Garcia, who beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat No. 29 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 in a match featuring just one service break.

On the men’s side, Hyeon Chung took out a Zverev for the second time this week. Chung beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 six days after a win over No. 32 Mischa Zverev in the first round.

Another unexpected loss at a major had the highly-touted Zverev admitted he may have a problem.

“Definitely not physical, so… I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slam,” he said.

The 20-year-old Zverev has five titles on the elite tour but his fourth-round exit at Wimbledon last year remains his best run at a major.

Tomas Berdych ended 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro’s return to Melbourne Park for the first time since 2014 with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to set up a fourth-round match against Tennys Sandgren, who continued his career-best run by beating Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Former world junior No. 1 Marton Fucsovics beat Nicolas Kicker 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 and No. 25 Fabio Fognini overcame Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

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More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen

Top-seeded Halep survives marathon match

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Top-seeded Simona Halep served for the match four times before prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 over American Lauren Davis in a marathon match at Rod Laver Arena.

Halep saved three match points in the 22nd game of the third set at 0-40 and Davis saved five break points in the 23rd game in the 3 hour, 45-minute match. The final set took 2 hour, 22 minutes and Halep won on her first match point when Davis hit a forehand wide along the sideline.

Davis twice had medical timeouts in the final set to have blisters on both feet treated.

Halep will play the winner of Saturday’s later match between local hope Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.

In other women’s third-round matches, sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 and No. 8 Caroline Garcia beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Garcia will play Madison Keys in the fourth round.

 

More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen