Getty Images

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

Leave a comment

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

Nishikori saves three match points in Geneva Open QF win

Getty Images
Leave a comment

GENEVA — Kei Nishikori saved three straight match points in the deciding set before outlasting Kevin Anderson 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the Geneva Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

The second-seeded Nishikori was serving at 4-5, 0-40 before rallying to beat the 62nd-ranked South African, who fired 14 aces without allowing any by his opponent.

Nishikori also trailed in the tiebreaker before creating a second match-point chance with a forehand crosscourt service return for a winner. He clinched with a forehand winner off a looping net-cord ball.

The No. 9-ranked Japanese player will face 33rd-ranked Mischa Zverev of Germany in the semifinals on Friday.

The Russian-born Zverev, who came through qualifying, beat fifth-seeded Steve Johnson of the United States 6-4, 7-5.

Madison Keys aiming to kick start her season at French Open

Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) After a disappointing start to 2017, Madison Keys is ready to kick start her season when the French Open begins on Sunday.

Keys missed the first two months of the year after undergoing surgery on her left wrist in the offseason.

“I’m fully recovered and happy to be back on the tour,” Keys said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Obviously, I haven’t had the perfect start to the season, but really I’m just happy to be back on the court and be pain free.

“I’m very excited to play in Roland Garros. I feel like every year I love it a little bit more and it’s such a beautiful city to play in, so I’m very excited for the start.”

In her first tournament back, Keys reached the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in March. But since then, the American has made first round exits in Charleston, Madrid and Rome – where she reached the final last year.

However, Keys hasn’t gone out in the opening round of a Grand Slam since losing to Sara Errani at Roland Garros in 2014.

“I’m really just trying to have some good matches and looking at it that way and you know that’s all I’m really concerned about,” she said.

Long considered one of the world’s most promising young players, the 22-year-old Keys burst through to the semifinals of the 2015 Australian Open while still a teenager and went on to make the quarterfinals at Wimbledon that year.

The upward trajectory continued last season, with Keys reaching the Olympic semifinals as well as making three finals and winning her second WTA title.

Moreover, Keys became the first American woman to be ranked in the top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999.

That success had Keys targeting the top five and a Grand Slam. But following her injuries, the No. 13 is now taking it one match at a time.

“I’m really just trying to kind of get my match rhythm back and feel more comfortable on the tennis court, so right now that’s kind of my main goal and focus,” Keys said.

Keys was reunited with former coach Lindsay Davenport in the offseason and also recently added Maria Sharapova’s former hitting partner, Dieter Kindlmann, to her team.

“It’s going well,” Keys said. “Lindsey and I have been working together for a couple of months now and I think the addition of Didi is really going well.”