Andy Murray profits off Kei Nishikori’s erratic French Open quarterfinal performance

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PARIS (AP) Kei Nishikori’s French Open ended with an appropriately erratic performance against top-ranked Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.

The 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (0), 6-1 score and the manner of the defeat fittingly reflected how inconsistently Nishikori had been playing. In his previous four matches at Roland Garros, he twice won a set 6-0 and twice lost a set 6-0.

So it was a bit of a guess which Nishikori would turn up Wednesday at a sunny but somewhat windy Court Philippe Chatrier.

Murray got a taste of the Nishikori’s stylish shot-making in the first set, then saw Nishikori carelessly give points away in the second set, disintegrate completely after forcing a third-set tiebreaker and lose six straight games despite securing an early break in the fourth set.

“For sure I need more consistency. I should, you know, maintain the level like I did in the first set,” the eighth-seeded Japanese player said. “I think my serve got a little bit bad today, missing too many first serves.”

Murray was happy to profit.

“He played, you know, a very bad tiebreak and a bad game where I broke him in the fourth set, and also in the second (set),” said Murray, listing the errors. “Today (he) was maybe more erratic than usual, but I do think a little bit of that was to do with the conditions being difficult.”

It was a far cry from Nishikori’s five-set win against Murray in the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Open, where he had trailed 2-1 in sets before turning the tables on Murray.

When Wednesday’s humiliating tiebreaker ended, a dejected Nishikori took out his aggression on his racket by hurling it down.

His body language spoke increasingly of a player heading for trouble.

After he broke Murray at the start of the fourth set to raise his hopes of a comeback, Nishikori immediately lost his serve. He stood glumly at the far side of the court with his back to Murray, his arms stretched out against the backstop of the court, his head down between them.

The match was still evenly poised – it was only 1-1 – yet it seemed as if Nishikori knew he’d missed his chance.

He was right.

The next five games flew by in a blur of Murray’s winners and Nishikori’s unforced errors: One player commanding from the front foot, the other backing off toward defeat.

When Murray broke him again and held for love, making it 4-1, Nishikori sat slumped forward with a towel draped over his head.

He simply never looked capable of launching a comeback. Instead, he seemed listless, almost resigned to losing to Murray for the ninth time in their 11 career matches.

Nishikori needs a rest before he goes to play on grass.

“Well, I try to take couple days off, because I have some issues with my body right now,” the 27-year-old said. “Recover first and try to be ready for Wimbledon.”

Stephens beats Osaka in three sets at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — In a match between the last two U.S. Open champions, Sloane Stephens came out on top.

The 2017 champion beat Naomi Osaka 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 Monday at the WTA Finals, the season-ending tournament for the top eight players in the world.

Both players are making their debut appearances at the tournament, but Stephens appeared to be more composed while Osaka, who became the first Japanese citizen to win a Grand Slam title last month in New York, never seemed comfortable.

“I’m just really happy to get through and play a good competitive match,” Stephens said on court after the match. “I never gave up. I knew she’s been playing well and I’d have to play really good tennis to beat her.”

Both players struggled to hold serve. Osaka was broken on seven of 19 break-point opportunities, while Stephens was broken on four of 12.

Stephens entered the tournament with 33 wins this season, the least of any of the eight qualifiers. She reached her second career Grand Slam final at this year’s French Open, and won the Miami title.

Osaka continually showed her frustration during the match. When she failed to capitalize on four break points in the fourth game of the second set, she made a visible shrugging gesture with both hands.

Stephens gifted the second set to Osaka when she double-faulted on a second set point in the 10th game. But Osaka appeared to be mentally fatigued and only managed to hold serve in the third game of the final set.

Stephens is now 1-0 in the Red Group, while Osaka is 0-1. Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens are also in the group.

Tsitsipas wins Stockholm Open; becomes first Greek to claim ATP title

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STOCKHOLM — Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek tennis player to win an ATP World Tour title when he beat Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Stockholm Open on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Tsitsipas tossed his racket in the air and put both hands to his head when Gulbis put a forehand into the net after 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Tsitsipas had lost his previous two finals, both times to Rafael Nadal. The No. 145-ranked Gulbis was an easier proposition, though, and Tsitsipas won 80 percent of his service points and didn’t have his serve broken.

“Of course I feel happy because I’m the first Greek (to win an ATP title),” said 16th-ranked Tsitsipas, who became the 12th first-time title-winner on the ATP Tour this year. “Hopefully many Greek players can achieve something like this. I would be super-happy to see them achieve something like this in the future.”

Gulbis had won all six of his finals at ATP tournaments. This was his first since 2014, having beaten top-seeded John Isner in the semifinals.

It was still a great week for Gulbis, who only had four tour-level wins this season before coming to the Swedish capital.

“He played a really good match. He had a great week,” Gulbis said. “I know it’s a big deal to win your first ATP title, so enjoy it. I wish that it’s not the last one.”