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Monfils tops Nadal’s conqueror to reach Open SF; Kerber wins

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NEW YORK (AP) Beating Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open took a lot out of Lucas Pouille, and Gael Monfils took full advantage, reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal since 2008.

The 10th-seeded Monfils beat an error-prone Pouille 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in an all-French quarterfinal that concluded under Arthur Ashe Stadium’s retractable roof.

Monfils, who turned 30 last week, had lost six consecutive major quarterfinals since reaching his only previous semifinal, 8 1/2 years ago in front of a partisan crowd at the French Open. But the entertaining Monfils has been playing the best tennis of his career lately, winning all 15 sets he’s played during this tournament.

“It’s a court I love,” he told the crowd during an on-court interview. “I always say that the French is my home, but this one is my second.”

The 24th-seeded Pouille quite simply ran out of steam, winding up with just about three times as many unforced errors as Monfils, 44-15. He never had won a U.S. Open match or any match that lasted five sets until last week; his 4-hour-plus win against Nadal on Sunday was his third five-setter in a row.

Monfils repeatedly used lobs to try to take points from Pouille.

“I know he was maybe a bit flat today, so he wanted to close at the net,” Monfils said. “And the lob obviously is the best shot.”

He already was ahead 6-4, 4-3 when a brief shower led organizers to shut Ashe’s $150 million cover that is making its debut this year.

Up next for Monfils will be a matchup against No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, or No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whose quarterfinal was scheduled for Tuesday night. Monfils, Pouille and Tsonga gave France a trio of quarterfinalists at the American Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 89 years.

Monfils said he “might watch a little bit” of Djokovic vs. Tsonga, pulling for what he called “a full French semifinal.”

In the day’s first women’s quarterfinal, Roberta Vinci fell apart after losing the opening set on a foot fault, allowing No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber to take the last nine games and win 7-5, 6-0.

Vinci was the runner-up at Flushing Meadows a year ago, reaching her first major final by stunning Serena Williams to end the American’s bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam in tennis in more than a quarter-century.

But after being two points from taking the first set against Kerber while serving for it at 5-4, 30-all, the No. 7-seeded Vinci faltered badly. She missed a forehand long, then netted a backhand to get broken there – and that was just the beginning of her collapse.

Trailing 6-5, and serving at love-40, Vinci missed her first serve, then was called for a foot fault on a second serve. That resulted in a double-fault, ceding the set.

As she walked to the sideline, Vinci looked at the line judge who made the call and smiled sarcastically, giving him a thumb’s up and applauding with her racket.

It’s a rare ruling in Grand Slam tennis, especially at a critical juncture, although there was, of course, the most famous foot fault of all on the very same court. In the 2009 U.S. Open semifinals, Williams was angered by the same type of call: a foot fault that resulted in a double-fault; in that instance, it set up match point for her opponent, Kim Clijsters. Williams brandished her racket and yelled at the line judge, and the point she was docked for that ended the match.

This time, the call ended the competitive portion of Vinci’s quarterfinal: She managed to take only 10 of 38 points the rest of the way.

Vinci has been dealing with an injured left Achilles tendon – she wore black tape in the shape of a “V” that framed her left calf – and a bad back. Still, her varied game, filled with slices and drop shots and net rushes, gave Kerber fits for most of the first set.

Kerber, who has a chance to overtake Williams at No. 1 in the WTA rankings after the tournament, moved into her third Grand Slam semifinal of the year. She beat Williams to win the Australian Open for her first major championship, then lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final in July.

Kerber’s first U.S. Open semifinal since 2011 will come against an unseeded player, either two-time runner-up Caroline Wozniacki or Anastasija Sevastova.

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

Mattek-Sands upsets Svitolina at Miami Open

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Bethanie Mattek-Sands picked up her first top-10 victory since 2015, upsetting ninth-seeded Elina Svitolina 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the Miami Open’s third round.

Mattek-Sands, who turned 32 on Thursday, is ranked only 158th in singles and needed a wild-card invitation to get into the hard-court tournament. She is ranked No. 1 in doubles.

Against Svitolina, Mattek-Sands saved 12 of the 15 break points she faced.

The woman with whom Mattek-Sands won the doubles championships at the past two Grand Slam tournaments, Lucie Safarova, eliminated 23rd-seeded Daria Gavrilova 6-2, 6-2 on Thursday. Safarova, the 2015 French Open runner-up, is ranked 36th, so was just outside the seedings at the hard-court tournament. She broke Gavrilova five times while losing serve only once herself.

In another surprise, Kirsten Flipkens beat No. 29 Ana Konjuh 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-2.

Also, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, a finalist at last year’s U.S. Open, had no trouble beating 86th-ranked Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3 in about an hour to get to the third round.

Other seeded winners included No. 4 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 17 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No. 26 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, No. 27 Yulia Putintseva and No. 30 Zhang Shuai.

In men’s action, now things will get a little more challenging for Frances Tiafoe.

Tiafoe, a 19-year-old from Maryland, set up a second-round meeting against 18-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer by beating Konstantin Kravchuk 7-5, 5-7, 6-1.

Tiafoe hit 12 aces and accumulated 14 break points, converting five, on the 32-year-old Kravchuk’s serve. This was Tiafoe’s third career match victory at a Grand Slam or Masters event. Kravchuk, meanwhile, dropped to 0-7 overall this season.

Tiafoe is ranked 101st, Kravchuk 103rd. The level of competition will rise against the fourth-seeded – and former No. 1-ranked – Federer.

In other men’s first-round action, Horacio Zeballos came back to beat Gastao Elias 6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-5 and earn a matchup against top-seeded Stan Wawrinka next. Wawrinka lost to Federer in the final at Indian Wells, California, on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Adrian Mannarino defeated qualifier Benjamin Becker 7-6 (6), 6-3 and will next face No. 32 Paolo Lorenzi, Borna Coric edged Marcel Granollers 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-3, and Tommy Robredo topped Nikoloz Basilashvili 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Safarova tops No. 23 Gavrilova at Miami Open; Pliskova wins

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Lucie Safarova eliminated 23rd-seeded Daria Gavrilova 6-2, 6-2 on Thursday to reach the third round of the Miami Open.

Safarova, the 2015 French Open runner-up, is ranked 36th, so was just outside the seedings at the hard-court tournament. She broke Gavrilova five times while losing serve only once herself.

In another early women’s match Thursday, second-seeded Karolina Pliskova, a finalist at last year’s U.S. Open, had no trouble beating 86th-ranked Madison Brengle 6-1, 6-3 in about an hour to get to the third round.

In men’s first-round action, Adrian Mannarino defeated qualifier Benjamin Becker 7-6 (6), 6-3 and will next face No. 32 Paolo Lorenzi,