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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

Murray turns ankle during win

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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

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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.”