No. 1 Nadal crushes Dolgopolov, returns to US Open quarters

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NEW YORK (AP) Rafael Nadal easily returned to the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the first time in four years by routing Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 on Monday.

Nadal turned in his most powerful performance yet on a dominant day for the No. 1 seeds, and moved a victory away from a potential semifinal showdown with longtime rival Roger Federer.

Shortly after top-seeded Karolina Pliskova overwhelmed American Jennifer Brady 6-1, 6-0 in just 47 minutes, Nadal punished an opponent who had beaten him in two of the previous three meetings.

He never gave the unseeded Dolgopolov a chance on Monday, breaking serve six times in the 1 hour, 41 minute match.

Federer was trying to keep alive his hopes of the long-awaited first matchup at the U.S. Open with Nadal when he brought an 11-0 record against No. 33 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber into their night matchup.

Nadal hadn’t reached the quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows since the last of his two U.S. Open titles in 2013. He advanced to face No. 9 David Goffin or unseeded teenager Andrey Rublev.

Nadal had dropped the first set in the two previous rounds but he was locked in from the start of his 50th U.S. Open victory, never losing serve and facing just two break points.

The second match of the day at Arthur Ashe Stadium started perhaps a little earlier than expected, thanks to the ease of Pliskova’s victory.

Two days after having to fight off a match point to advance, the Czech ran her unseeded opponent off the court as fans were still just filing into the grounds at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The Czech won 22 of 24 points on her first serve, broke Brady’s serve six times and advanced to face either No. 20 CoCo Vandeweghe or unseeded Lucie Safarova.

“Sometimes you just need to have some of those matches where you can just really get through it. You don’t even know why, but the game improves so much,” Pliskova said. “So I didn’t change anything. I didn’t even practice yesterday. So there is nothing really what I did different. But I just felt much better.”

Pliskova was the runner-up to Angelique Kerber at Flushing Meadows last year and needs to get back to the final in order to remain atop the WTA rankings.

She wouldn’t have much problem if she plays as she did in a nearly flawless fourth-round performance, looking nothing like the player who nearly went home a round earlier.

Pliskova also played the first match on Ashe on Saturday. She dropped the first set and had to fight off a match point in the second before rallying to beat No. 27 Zhang Shuai 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

This time, she raced to a 4-0 lead against an obviously nervous opponent, then won the second set in even more lopsided fashion. She won 25 points to just seven for Brady in the second set.

“I felt like she was playing pretty well today. I didn’t play my best. Maybe I gave her the opportunity to play well,” Brady said. “But, you know, I think she was hitting her spots and her serves well. She came out playing, I felt, like the No. 1 player.”

Former champion Juan Martin del Potro, the No. 24 seed, faced sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem, with the winner getting Federer if the five-time champion can improve his 31-1 record in night matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Women’s No. 4 Elina Svitolina meets No. 15 seed Madison Keys in the nightcap.

Keys and Vandeweghe are trying to join fellow Americans Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens into the women’s quarters.

More AP tennis coverage: – https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Nick Bollettieri, coach to many tennis stars, dies at 91

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Nick Bollettieri, the Hall of Fame tennis coach who worked with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Andre Agassi and Monica Seles, and founded an academy that revolutionized the development of young athletes, died at 91.

Bollettieri died at home in Florida after a series of health issues, his manager, Steve Shulla, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“When he became sick, he got so many wonderful messages from former students and players and coaches. Many came to visit him. He got videos from others,” Shulla said. “It was wonderful. He touched so many lives and he had a great send-off.”

Known for his gravelly voice, leathery skin and wraparound sunglasses – and a man who called himself the “Michelangelo of Tennis” despite never playing professionally – Bollettieri helped no fewer than 10 players who went on to be No. 1 in the world rankings. That group includes sisters Serena and Venus Williams, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Agassi and Seles.

“Our dear friend, Nick Bollettieri, graduated from us last night. He gave so many a chance to live their dream,” Agassi wrote on Twitter. “He showed us all how life can be lived to the fullest. Thank you, Nick.”

Bollettieri remained active into his 80s, touring the world to drop in on the top tournaments and, in 2014, became only the fourth coach to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. That was the same year another one of his proteges, Kei Nishikori, reached the final of the U.S. Open.

Six of his pupils already are in the Hall of Fame, a number sure to grow once others are eligible.

“I forged my own path, which others found to be unorthodox and downright crazy,” Bollettieri said in his induction speech at the hall in Newport, Rhode Island. “Yes, I am crazy. But it takes crazy people to do things that other people say cannot be done.”

The Bollettieri Tennis Academy opened in 1978 in Bradenton, Florida, and was purchased by IMG in 1987.

The IMG Academy now spans more than 600 acres and offers programs in more than a half-dozen sports in addition to tennis.

Bollettieri was an educator who would brag he never read a book, never mind that he majored in philosophy in college and even gave law school a try, albeit for less than a year.

He also was an adept self-promoter – one who would publish a pair of autobiographies – no matter that detractors dismissed him as a hustler and huckster. The truth is, any criticism was no match for the astounding success of his pupils.

His teaching methods were widely copied and tennis academies dot the globe today.

“Our sport lost one of its most passionate coaches & advocates,” Hall of Fame member Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. “Nick was always positive & was able to get the best out of everyone fortunate enough to work w/him.”

Bollettieri’s first student to reach No. 1 was Boris Becker in 1991. Then came others, such as Martina Hingis, Marcelo Rios and Jelena Jankovic.

Just as rewarding, Bollettieri said, were the successes of less accomplished players.

“The fuel that has sustained me to the summit is, without a doubt, my passion to help others become champions of life, not champions just on the tennis court,” he said. “Nothing makes me more happy than when I run into a past student or receive a kind note telling me how I changed their lives, that they are better parents, lawyers, doctors, CEOs and people because of the impact I made on their lives.”

Bollettieri’s devotion to his players came at a cost. For much of his career, he was on the road nine months out of every year, and he cited his travel schedule as one reason he was married eight times.

Survivors include his wife, Cindi, seven children and four grandchildren, according to Shulla, who said a celebration of Bollettieri’s life is planned for March.

Nicholas James Bollettieri was born July 31, 1931, in Pelham, New York. He earned a philosophy degree and played tennis at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and was a paratrooper in the Army before enrolling in law school at the University of Miami.

For spending money, Bollettieri began teaching tennis for $1.50 an hour, according to the Hall of Fame. More than 60 years later, his fee was $900.

After a few months, he dropped out of law school to concentrate on coaching. At first, he conceded, knowledge of tennis technique wasn’t his forte.

“I didn’t know much about teaching the game,” he said. “The gift God gave me was the ability to read people.”

Bollettieri won praise for his motivational skills, yelling when he deemed it necessary. He had an eye for talent and was a visionary regarding boot-camp training for young athletes who lived together.

He bought a club in 1978, and students lived in his house. Two years later, he borrowed $1 million from a friend to build a first-of-its-kind complex in what had been a tomato field.

The site now has a boarding school, 55 tennis courts and facilities for seven other sports, including football, basketball and baseball.

Running a business wasn’t Bollettieri’s strong suit, and he sold the academy to IMG but continued to work there, stressing a tactical approach that transformed tennis. He urged players to take advantage of modern racket technology, emphasizing power over finesse.

The academy churned out big hitters who relied on their serve and forehand to overpower opponents. That approach worked for Agassi, Seles, Courier and many others.

“In my dreams,” Bollettieri confessed with a grin, “I say, `Nick, you’re darn good.”‘

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

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LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.