Murray loses to Coric in third round of Madrid Open

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MADRID — Andy Murray’s struggles continued with a 6-3, 6-3 loss to lucky loser Borna Coric in the third round of the Madrid Open on Thursday, while defending champion Novak Djokovic made it to the quarterfinals by defeating Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 7-5.

The top-ranked Murray was outplayed by the 20-year-old Croatian to lose his fifth match of the year.

Murray has won only one tournament this season and hasn’t made it past the semifinals in the three clay-court tournaments he has played.

“Most things weren’t working particularly well,” Murray said. “I started the match OK, but when I started to go behind I didn’t find any way to improve my game or to make it more difficult for him. I just kind of let the same things keep happening, making mistakes very early in a lot of the rallies. I wasn’t building any points really.”

The 59th-ranked Coric became the first lucky loser to reach the quarterfinals in Madrid. He only made it to the main draw after Richard Gasquet withdrew because of a back injury.

“It’s a huge win, for sure. It’s going to mean to me a lot,” Coric said. “Obviously he didn’t play very good today. That was very obvious. I have noticed it from the beginning.”

Coric will try to win his second tournament this season. He won his first career title in Marrakech, Morocco last month.

Murray, who lost last year’s final to Djokovic in Madrid, had 28 unforced errors in a disappointing outing under the closed roof of the center court in Madrid. He was broken three consecutive times in the first set, and once in the second to give Coric a 5-3 lead that the young Croatian converted to close out the match.

Murray won his only title of the year in Dubai and had started the clay season trying to regain his form following a right elbow injury that kept him out of the Miami Open and the Davis Cup quarterfinals. He lost to Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the third round in Monte Carlo after blowing a 4-0 lead in the deciding set, then was eliminated by Dominic Thiem in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open.

Second-ranked Djokovic has also struggled this season, but stayed alive in Madrid with the two-set victory over Lopez.

The Serbian player was in control during his service games and broke Lopez once in each set to secure the victory. Djokovic saved the only break point he conceded to Lopez, who was playing in the tournament for a record 16th time.

“The level was definitely very high today I thought from both players,” Djokovic said. “I think Feliciano played really well, especially in the second set. I wasn’t winning too many points on his service games until the last one where I managed to return many balls back in play and then win the match.”

Djokovic won in Doha to start the year but failed to make it past the quarterfinals in the following four tournaments he played since then.

He will next play against sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan, who defeated David Ferrer 6-4, 6-3 to deny the Spaniard his 700th career win.

A finalist in Madrid in 2014, Nishikori is playing in his first tournament since March. He withdrew from Barcelona last month because of a right wrist injury.

Ninth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium cruised to a 6-4, 6-2 win over fifth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada and will play the quarterfinal against either Nick Kyrgios of Australia or four-time Madrid champion Rafael Nadal.

On the women’s side, third-seeded Simona Halep of Romania reached the semifinals by beating Coco Vandeweghe of the U.S. 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour.

“I was a little bit nervous, to be honest, before the match, because she has a big serve,” Halep said. “It’s always tough to play with someone who has a big serve.”

Halep will play Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, who defeated Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-3.

Kristina Mladenovic of France advanced to the final four by overcoming seven double faults to beat Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 6-4. She will play either Canadian Eugenie Bouchard or eighth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia.

 

Linette keeps getting better; into Australian Open semis

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Two days after advancing to her first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal, unseeded Magda Linette went one better and is into the Australian Open semifinals.

The 30-year-old Linette beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5, adding the former No. 1 to the list of top players she has beaten at Melbourne Park during this tournament.

Linette, who had lost seven of nine previous matches against Pliskova, had defeated Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in successive rounds.

A player from Poland was favored to reach the latter stages of the tournament, but it was top-seeded Iga Swiatek that everyone would have expected – and not Linette.

“It’s so emotional I can’t really believe it,” Linette said. “I tried to stay composed and took my chances when I could.”

Linette will play No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat unseeded Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in a later quarterfinal. The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday night.

Vekic, who had 13 double faults against Sabalenka, had a succinct appraisal of her serve: “I mean, it was all over the place. But I think mostly in the net.”

The other women’s semifinalists were determined on Tuesday. Two-time former Australian champion Victoria Azarenka will play Wimbledon titleholder Elena Rybakina for a chance to play in Saturday night’s final. Rybakina beat Swiatek in the fourth round.

Later Wednesday, the remaining men’s semifinalists will be determined. Unseeded Americans Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul play before nine-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic will be looking to qualify for his 44th Grand Slam semifinal and a win in that match on Friday would advance him on Sunday night to his 33rd major singles final.

The other men’s semifinal on Friday will see third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas play Karen Khachanov.

Rybakina rules in Australian Open quarterfinal vs. Ostapenko

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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MELBOURNE, Australia – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The match on Rod Laver Arena featured a rare rain delay of about 20 minutes while the roof was closed. Rybakina led 3-1 and was holding a break point before the delay. On return, Ostapenko saved the first break point, but Rybakina broke on her next opportunity to go up 4-1 and won the first set 6-2.

In the second set, Ostapenko was up a break but Rybakina leveled with a break of her own. It came on her first break point when Ostapenko had been unable to convert four in the previous game.

Rybakina, who beat top-seeded Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, set up match points with aces, both of which were saved by Ostapenko. But she clinched the match with another ace, her 11th of the match and a tournament-leading 35 overall.

“I was nervous in the last game, but I managed my emotions and played very well.” Rybakina said. “The conditions were different after the roof was closed. But it can happen here, you never know, on the morning one weather and later it changes.”

Rybakina will play the winner of the night quarterfinal between American Jessica Pegula, at No. 3 the highest women’s seed remaining, and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.

In men’s quarterfinals, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda played the next match at Rod Laver Arena against No. 18-seeded Karen Khachanov. In a night quarterfinal, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Jiri Lehecka. The winners of those matches will play each other in the semifinals on Friday.