160905-venus-williams-us-open
Getty Images

No Williams-Williams rematch at Open: Venus out in 4th round

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Venus Williams went from down and out to a point from victory, then back again. In the end, she couldn’t quite get past a woman a dozen years younger and never before at this stage of a Grand Slam tournament.

Williams failed to convert a match point and lost 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) to 10th-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Monday, despite vociferous support from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd down the stretch.

“I really played the perfect point there,” Williams said about her chance to end things while up 5-4, and Pliskova serving at 30-40, “and she managed to stay alive.”

At 36, Williams would have been the oldest woman to reach the quarterfinals at any major since Martina Navratilova was 37 at Wimbledon in 1994.

Williams made it that far at Flushing Meadows a year ago, before losing to her younger sister Serena. This time, they had been on course for an all-in-the-family showdown in the semifinals; Serena’s fourth-round match against Yaroslava Shvedova followed Venus’ in Ashe.

Instead, though, Pliskova managed, just barely, to make it to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at age 24. Until this tournament, she never had been past the third round in 17 appearances at majors.

“I was prepared that I’m going to play Venus — it’s going to be tough, because all the people are cheering for her,” said Pliskova, who leads the tour in aces in 2016 and produced eight in this match.

It took her a while to finish off this one, despite going up an early break in the third set and leading 4-2. Just as it seemed she would run away with it, Williams turned things around enough to go up 5-4 and hold a match point. But Pliskova erased that with a swinging forehand volley — the sort of shot Williams loves to hit — and followed it up with another aggressive forehand winner.

Then Pliskova broke to lead 6-5 and served for the match, getting three chances to close it at 40-love. After Pliskova frittered away one with a double-fault, Williams steeled herself and stepped up, smacking a volley winner, cross-court backhand winner and two forehand winners to break back for 6-all.

“To be honest,” Pliskova said, “it was really difficult … when I lost my serve.”

Somehow, though, she pulled herself together enough to get through the tiebreaker as Williams faltered.

“In the ‘breaker, I went for a little bit more,” Williams said, “but I didn’t put the ball in enough.”

Now Pliskova will face No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska or Ana Konjuh. Also reaching the quarterfinals with a victory Monday was 2014 French Open runner-up Simona Halep, who eliminated No. 11 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-2, 7-5.

In men’s action, 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro became the lowest-ranked man in the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 25 years, advancing when No. 8 seed Dominic Thiem stopped in the second set because of an injured right knee.

Del Potro missed 2½ years’ worth of major tournaments because of a trio of operations on his left wrist, so he’s ranked only 142nd. Jimmy Connors was 174th when he made a stirring run to the semifinals in New York at age 39 in 1991.

Del Potro has been playing as well as ever lately, winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics and picking up victories over Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka.

In the quarterfinals, del Potro’s opponent will be No. 3 Wawrinka, a 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (5), 6-3 winner against Illya Marchenko.

“He will be the favorite to win in that match,” said del Potro, who beat Wawrinka at Wimbledon.

“But,” del Potro added, “anything can happen in this event for me. I got the power from the crowd in every match.”

Murray turns ankle during win

170118-murray
Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) The Latest on Wednesday from the Australian Open (all times local):

10:50 p.m.

Top-seeded Andy Murray tumbled to the ground and hurt his right ankle early in the third set of his second-round win over Andrey Rublev at the Australian Open on Wednesday night.

He spoke to the trainer after that game, but didn’t need medical attention and went on to win 6-3, 6-0, 6-2.

A five-time runner-up at the season’s first major, Murray caught the sole of his right shoe on the court and tripped to the ground during the third game. He clutched his right ankle as he rolled on to the court and later was checked out by an ATP trainer during a medical time out.

After taking a 4-1 lead in the final set, Murray went to his courtside chair and said: “I’m all right.”

“It’s a little bit sore, not too serious,” he said in his post-match interview. “I definitely rolled it (but) I was moving OK toward the end, so that’s positive.”

9:35 p.m.

Andreas Seppi rallied from two sets down and saved a match point to beat an unpredictable Nick Kyrgios 1-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 in a second-round match Wednesday at the Australian Open.

No. 14-seeded Kyrgios was broken in the 11th game of the final set. Serving for the match at 6-5, Seppi was broken in a game that started with a high-risk, between-the-legs shot by Kyrgios. The Australian won the point.

Two games later, Seppi saved a match point with a stunning forehand down the line and then held. The pressure was back on Kyrgios, who double-faulted on break point to hand Seppi a 9-8 lead.

The 89th-ranked Seppi clinched 3 hour, 9 minute match with an ace in the next game.

Kyrgios, tipped to have all the talent to win a Grand Slam title but not the temperament, was suspended by the ATP Tour following the Shanghai Masters in October when he sped through a match against Mischa Zverev with little effort or apparent care whether he won or lost.

Krygios was fined more than US$40,000 and suspended for eight weeks, a period that was later reduced to three when he agreed to consult with a sports psychologist.

8:55 p.m.

French Open champion Garbine Muguruza has advanced to the third round at the Australian Open with a 7-5, 6-4 win over American Samantha Crawford. Muguruza clinched the match on her first match point when Crawford netted a forehand.

The Spaniard will play Anastasija Sevastova in the third round.

6:35 p.m.

It’s been a disappointing day for the American men at Melbourne Park.

John Isner, the highest-seeded U.S. player in the men’s draw, wasted a two-set-to-none lead and lost in the second round to Mischa Zverev of Germany, 6-7 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7), 9-7.

Isner had 98 winners in the 4-hour, 10-minute match, but only converted one of 17 breakpoint chances against Zverev.

Isner was joined on the sidelines by Steve Johnson, Noah Rubin and Ryan Harrison – all second-round losers on Wednesday afternoon.

The one bright spot for the U.S. was 31st-seeded Sam Querrey, who advanced with a 7-6 (5), 6-0, 6-1 win over Australian wild card Alex De Minaur.

Jack Sock, the 23rd seed, was playing later against Karen Khachanov of Russia.

5:35 p.m.

After winning the first two sets of his second-round match, Roger Federer had to really go to work in the third, recovering from 5-2 down and fending off two set points to defeat American qualifier Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-3, 7-6 (3).

He held serve at love to force the tiebreaker and, after it got to 3-3, reeled off the last four points to clinch the match in 2 hours, 4 minutes.

Federer is a four-time Australian Open champion but hasn’t lifted the trophy since 2010. In 18 trips to Melbourne Park, he’s never failed to reach the third round.

5:15 p.m.

Eugenie Bouchard is back in the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time in two years, defeating China’s Peng Shuai 7-6 (5), 6-2.

Bouchard, who reached the semifinals of the Australian Open in 2014, finally closed it out after Peng saved three match points on the Canadian’s serve at 5-1 in the second set.

Following her break-out year in 2014, which also saw her reach the Wimbledon final, Bouchard struggled to make it past the fourth round at the slams. Her best result last year was the third round at Wimbledon.

Her next opponent will be either CoCo Vandeweghe or Pauline Parmentier, who played later Wednesday.

“Overall, I’m feeling better with each passing day,” Bouchard said.

4:35 p.m.

Fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka is into the third round of the Australian Open for the ninth consecutive year after a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over American Steve Johnson on Wednesday.

Wawrinka won his first Grand Slam title at Melbourne Park in 2014 and has followed that up with two more majors – the French Open in 2015 and the U.S. Open last year.

The 31-year-old Wawrinka labored through five sets to win his first-round match against Martin Klizan in 3 hours, 24 minutes. He had a much easier time in the second round, beating Johnson in 1 hour, 52 minutes.

Wawrinka will next play either Viktor Troicki or Paolo Lorenzi.

3:15 p.m.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber marked her 29th birthday – angrily at times – with a 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2 win Wednesday over fellow German Carina Witthoeft.

Kerber, who beat Serena Williams in the Australian Open final last year, then won the U.S. Open in September, was her own worst enemy in the tiebreaker, double-faulting twice to turn a 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit.

Witthoeft, who had won a long rally which caused Kerber to swipe her racket toward the court just ahead of the double faults, won the next three points to level the match.

Kerber also started poorly in the third set, dropping her service, but rebounded to take a 4-1 lead, saving two break points in the fifth game, before closing out the match in 2 hours, 8 minutes.

She will next play the winner of Wednesday’s second-round match between Kristyna Pliskova and Irina-Camelia Begu.

1:55 p.m.

Serena and Venus Williams have pulled out of their scheduled first-round doubles match because of a right elbow injury to Venus, who won her singles match earlier Wednesday in straight sets over Stefanie Voegele.

The Williams sisters were set to play Timea Babos and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in a Show Court 2 match on Wednesday afternoon. The Australian Open confirmed the withdrawal on social media.

The American pair also withdrew from their first-round doubles match in 2015 at Melbourne Park.

The Williams sisters have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together, including four at the Australian Open.

1:20 p.m.

Kei Nishikori advanced to the third round in a far more straightforward manner than his five-set opener earlier this week.

The fifth-seeded Nishikori defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in just over two hours to reach the third round for the seventh consecutive year.

On Monday, he needed 3 1-2 hours before beating Andrey Kuznetsov in the first round.

“(I) was definitely playing much better than first round today,” he said Wednesday. “There were many ups and downs, still too many break points for me. Great to finish in three sets.”

Nishikori has reached the quarterfinals three times at Melbourne Park, but has never advanced beyond that stage. He could play top-seeded Andy Murray in the quarterfinals this year.

12:40 p.m.

Venus Williams, a first-round loser in 2016 at Melbourne Park, is one of the first players into the third round this year after beating Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-2 to begin play at Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

Williams maintained a perfect 3-0 record against the Swiss player, having beaten her on clay at Madrid, grass at Wimbledon and now hard courts in the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

Voegele wasn’t helped by four double-faults in the opening set. In the second, Williams broke Voegele’s service with a blistering forehand to the open court to take a 3-1 lead, then broke her serve again in the final game.

Williams lost to eventual semifinalist Johanna Konta in the opening round last year.

The older sister of Serena Williams, Venus Williams has never won the Australian Open. She lost the 2003 final to Serena. Venus’ best recent finish here was a quarterfinal appearance in 2015.

11:15 a.m.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber and top-seeded Andy Murray play their second-round matches on Wednesday in much more pleasant temperatures at Melbourne Park.

A cool change hit the city overnight, dropping temperatures from 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday afternoon to about 20 Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) when play began Wednesday.

Venus Williams was first up on Rod Laver Arena, playing Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland. Kerber was to follow against fellow German Carina Witthoeft, followed by Roger Federer against American qualifier Noah Rubin.

Murray was scheduled to play the last match on Wednesday night at Rod Laver.

Venus and Serena Williams were scheduled to play their opening doubles match on Wednesday afternoon.

Seppi posts comeback win over Kyrgios

170118-seppi
Getty Images
Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) The audacious between-the-legs shot by Nick Kyrgios. His missed match point. The nerveless break when Andreas Seppi was serving for a second-round upset win.

Three days into the Australian Open, Seppi’s 1-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 6-2, 10-8 comeback win Wednesday over the enigmatic Kyrgios rated as the match of the tournament.

Purely for talking points, it’ll be hard to beat.

The night match on a crowded Hisense Arena featured a stunning down-the-line forehand winner from Seppi to save a match point in the fifth set.

Two games earlier, when Seppi was serving for the match, an apparently nonchalant Kyrgios hit a ‘tweener’ from near the baseline, defying tennis wisdom. He won the point, and it will feature on highlight clips. But the No. 14-seeded Kyrgios missed a bigger opportunity at his home Grand Slam.

The 21-year-old Australian was broken in the 11th game of the fifth set. Serving for the match at 6-5, Seppi was broken in a game that started with that unusual Kyrgios shot.

Seppi, who have his 33rd birthday next month, subsequently saved a match point with the forehand down the line. He later explained it was a shot he had “missed a hundred times in practice (but) I made it today in an important moment.”

He held serve, returning the pressure to Kyrgios. A quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 2014 and the Australian Open in 2015, Kyrgios double-faulted on break point to hand Seppi a 9-8 lead.

The 89th-ranked Seppi duly clinched the 3-hour, 9-minute match with an ace.

Kyrgios, who sustained a knee injury playing basketball several weeks ago, was circumspect about the loss.

“It’s obviously disappointing, but it was ultimately a pretty fun match,” Kyrgios said. “He’s a great guy and he deserved it, so… I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It could have gone either way.”

Kyrgios, tipped to have all the talent to win a Grand Slam title but not the temperament, was suspended by the ATP Tour following the Shanghai Masters last October when he sped through a match against Mischa Zverev with little effort or apparent care whether he won or lost.

Krygios was fined more than US$40,000 and suspended for eight weeks, a period that was later reduced to three when he agreed to consult with a sports psychologist. He said Wednesday he’s still seeing the psychologist and “it’s going very well.”

His on-court demeanor has divided public opinion. On Wednesday, he was mostly on his best behavior, except for some shouts to his courtside box.

There were some boos from the crowd at the end, and Krygios noticed.

“Obviously it’s not the greatest thing to hear,” he said. “I didn’t have the best preparation coming into the Australian Open. Pretty banged up, my body. But getting booed off, definitely not the best feeling.”

He said his knee issues would likely force him to pull out of doubles with his partner Daniel Evans.

Seppi had a match point against Kyrgios two years ago but lost. He settled the score in Melbourne, and will advance to the third round against Steve Darcis.

“He played a few good points, especially the first one, the tweener, I didn’t expect that,” Seppi said. “It was important to keep on going, keep focusing.

“The last time I was two sets to love up and I lost … and I just kept telling myself `keep fighting.’ I don’t know, maybe it was meant to be.”