Getty Images

Murray beats Ramos-Vinolas to reach Barcelona semifinals

Leave a comment

BARCELONA, Spain — Andy Murray came from behind to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) to reach the Barcelona Open semifinals on Friday.

Ramos-Vinolas had chances to beat Murray for the second straight time, but the top-ranked British player controlled the decisive points to close out the match in three hours.

The 19th-ranked Ramos-Vinolas eliminated Murray in the third round at the Monte Carlo Masters last week before eventually losing to Rafael Nadal in the final.

Murray will next face fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria, who defeated lucky loser Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-1, 6-2.

Murray comfortably won the final-set tiebreaker from a 4-0 lead, but he only got there after saving seven break points and converting all three he had against Ramos-Vinolas.

The Spaniard broke at 4-4 in the decisive set but failed to serve out the match. In the second set, Ramos-Vinolas squandered two break points at 3-3, and three at 4-4.

Losing to Ramos-Vinolas at Monte Carlo prompted Murray to enter Barcelona. He’s out to regain his form for the French Open following a right elbow injury.

Thiem was broken in the beginning of both sets but powered his way to victory against Sugita, who was coming off wins against Tommy Robredo, Richard Gasquet, and Pablo Carreno Busta.

“I knew he was in great shape after beating three great players before me,” Thiem said. “My game plan was to take him out of his comfort zone. I sliced a lot and tried to play with high spin.”

Thiem won the Rio de Janeiro title this year.

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.