Getty Images

Venus Williams leads American charge on Day 4 at Wimbledon

Leave a comment

LONDON — Five-time champion Venus Williams led a group of Americans picking up victories at Wimbledon on Thursday as the tournament scrambled to get back on schedule after two days of bad weather.

With play starting earlier on the outside courts and the rain holding off, Williams was among nine American players winning first- or second-round matches at the All England Club.

U.S. men’s winners included John Isner, Sam Querrey, Donald Young, Jack Sock and Steve Johnson. Joining Williams among the women’s winners were Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Julia Boserup.

The 36-year-old Williams, the oldest player in the women’s draw, needed nearly 2 1/2 hours to get past 20-year-old Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

It turned out to be an unexpectedly close match between Williams, winner of seven Grand Slam titles and playing in her 19th Wimbledon, and Sakkari, making her first appearance at Wimbledon and third at a major.

Williams last won Wimbledon in 2008, and she hasn’t gone past the fourth round since 2010.

Keys, seeded No. 9 after breaking into the top 10 for the first time this month, also reached the third round with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Kirsten Flipkens. Keys, a quarterfinalist last year, had 48 winners – more than double the Belgian player’s 22.

Stephens, seeded No. 18, defeated China’s Peng Shuai 7-6 (5), 6-2 in a first-round match. Stephens reached the quarterfinals in 2013.

Boserup advanced when seventh-seeded Belinda Bencic retired with an injury with the American leading 6-4, 1-0.

The 28th-seeded Querrey advanced to a third-round men’s matchup against two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic by beating Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. The match had been suspended by rain Wednesday at 5-2 in the second set.

The 27th-seeded Sock beat Robin Haase 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4. His third-round opponent will be sixth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic, who hit 25 aces in a 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 win over Andreas Seppi.

The unseeded Johnson reached the third round for the first time after a 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-3 win over Jerome Chardy.

In a first-round match extended over three days because of rain, the 18th-seeded Isner downed Marcos Baghdatis 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), 6-2. Isner, who had 33 aces, has yet to advance past the third round at the All England Club.

“The long days in the locker room the last days were just brutal,” Isner said. “You can only play so much putt-putt in the locker room with your friends and what-not.”

Young, meanwhile, won his first match at Wimbledon after losing in the first round in his five previous appearances. Resuming at 2-1 in the fourth set, he beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3.

In other men’s play, fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori came from behind to beat Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 on Centre Court; and No. 9 Marin Cilic needed four sets to beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-4.

British player Dan Evans made it to the third round for the first time, beating 30th-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-1. Evans, who entered with a 0-3 career record at Wimbledon, will next face seven-time champion Roger Federer.

No. 13 David Ferrer, a two-time quarterfinalist, was eliminated by Nicolas Mahut in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3. And No. 23 Ivo Karlovic was upset by Slovakian qualifier Lukas Lacko, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

In women’s matches, fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Varvara Lepchenko, and No. 5 Simona Halep beat Francesca Schiavone 6-1, 6-1. No. 14 Samantha Stosur was knocked out 6-4, 6-2 by 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki.

Two lowly-ranked men’s qualifiers finished a marathon match that went to 26 games in the fifth set – and ended on a double-fault.

Australia’s 248th-ranked Matthew Barton fell forward onto the grass in relief and exhaustion after 793rd-ranked Albano Olivetti’s second serve hit the top of the net and flew wide for his 17th double-fault of the match.

Barton came away with a 6-7 (9), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 6-7 (5), 14-12 win that earned him a second-round matchup against another marathon man – Isner. The American beat Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 in a match that went to 70-68 in the fifth set and lasted more than 11 hours over three days.

2-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova wins return from knife attack

Leave a comment

PARIS — Sweat-soaked and still wearing her match outfit, Petra Kvitova was looking for someone to hug as she wandered into the players’ lounge in the French Open’s main stadium shortly after leaving the court Sunday.

She found her father, Jiri, and her brother, also Jiri, who greeted her with warm embraces and joyous kisses on the cheek. Kvitova’s family members rarely attend her tournaments, but this was different – “special” was the word she, and others, kept using.

Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was back competing, winning the first match of her comeback 6-3, 6-2 at Roland Garros against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States.

“I’m happy with the game, of course,” Kvitova said, “but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Chatrier was a triumph of sorts for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand – the one she uses to hold her racket – after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December. She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.

“For us, it’s amazing. It’s miracle. Not even me or Petra thought she could be ready to come back so soon,” said her coach, Jiri Novak. “The prognosis was, let’s just say, not optimistic.”

During her on-court interview, Kvitova addressed Novak, her family and others in her guest box, saying: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”

Several members of her entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled with a red heart instead of the “O,” is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.

“The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important,” Kvitova said afterward. “So that’s … what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be kind of inspiration for other people, as well.”

There were plenty of opportunities for her to clench a fist and scream “Pojd!” on Sunday against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.

“She’s one of the nicest girls, and we are all really happy to see her back. After what she went through, it’s incredible,” Boserup said. “So it’s a victory for her to be back on court. It was really special.”

Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner on the opening point.

“Amazing,” she said. “I surprised myself.”

Kvitova wound up compiling the match’s first 10 winners and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category. She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points – the only ones she had to deal with in the match – while ahead 3-1.

When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.

“We are happy that she is healthy. The hand is good – and also the head,” her brother Jiri said. “Mentally, she is back.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Venus Williams eases into French Open’s second round after beating Qiang Wang

Leave a comment

In a record 20th appearance at the French Open, Venus Williams eased into the second round with a straight sets victory over Qiang Wang of China.

Williams, who is seeded 10th, saved two set points to win 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The 36-year-old American will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the next round.