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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

Djokovic loses in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Ashleigh Barty’s chance to move back to No. 1 was only one victory away. At the end of an up-and-down week, she didn’t have another comeback left.

Neither did Novak Djokovic, who went away with yet another disappointment in Cincinnati.

Barty lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday. Djokovic ended the day with another stunner, getting overwhelmed by Daniil Medvedev’s serve as the Russian pulled out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

It’s been that kind of week in Cincinnati, with top players in both brackets either struggling or hurt heading into the U.S. Open.

The women’s bracket has a lot questions with New York just around the corner. No. 1 isn’t one of them.

Barty’s seven-week run atop the field ended when Naomi Osaka edged ahead of her in the latest ranking. A victory Saturday would have moved Barty back ahead for the U.S. Open. Instead, she dropped the opening set for the third straight match and this time, there was no digging out.

“A week that we battled through,” Barty said. “I think at times I played some good stuff. At times, I played some pretty awful stuff.”

Which will it be for Barty at the Open? And will Osaka be in good enough shape to defend her title?

Osaka dropped out of her semifinal match Friday with discomfort in her left knee that caused her worry. She still plans to play in New York, but it’s unclear whether the knee will be a problem.

And then there’s Serena Williams, who retired in the finals at Toronto last Sunday because of back spasms. She also withdrew from Cincinnati before her first match, but stuck around to cheer sister Venus until her loss in the quarterfinals.

A resurgent Kuznetsova gave Barty no openings, knocking off a top-five player for the second time this week to reach her first final of the season. The 153rd-ranked player is recovering from seven-month layoff because of a knee injury.

In her ninth tournament of the season, she got her game together, winning her first Premier-level semifinal since 2017 at Madrid.

“Well, sometimes in life it’s like this,” Kuznetsova said. “It’s like really small things change everything. Definitely it’s different momentum I have now.”

She’ll face Madison Keys , who beat Sofia Kenin 7-5, 6-4 with the help of 14 aces. Keys ended her streak of failing to make it past the second round of her last three tournaments, playing through heat and humidity all week without problem.

“I feel really good” she said. “Every day I’m kind of waking up, hoping that everything still feels like it’s in one piece and it feels really good.”

In the men’s bracket, Djokovic overcame concerns about his right elbow but couldn’t prevail over Medvedev’s 14 aces. Djokovic got the muscles around his right elbow rubbed during his quarterfinal win on Friday night and showed no sign of a problem a day later.

Djokovic won the tournament for the first time last year, getting the only Masters 1000 title that had eluded him. This one slipped away in the second set.

Medvedev reached the final at Montreal last week and lost to Rafael Nadal. He’s back to a title match again after fighting off a break point midway through the second set and closing with a flurry, winning 12 of the last 14 points to even the match and take the momentum.

He’ll face David Goffin, who reached his first Masters 1000 final by beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 . Goffin also is on an upswing after falling to No. 33 in the ATP rankings on June 10, his lowest since September 2014.

“Of course, it was a tough period there,” Goffin said. “I was coming back from injuries. I had some trouble with my confidence. I couldn’t find my rhythm, my game. So it’s great now. I’m feeling great. I’m back at my best tennis.”

The men’s bracket also took several notable hits throughout the week.

Originally billed as a reunion of the Big Four – Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray together for the first time since January – it quickly lost its luster. Nadal dropped out after winning the Rogers Cup, citing fatigue. Murray played singles for the first time since hip surgery in January and lost his opening match.

And Federer, the seven-time champion, failed to reach the weekend, losing in the quarterfinals.

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Barty upset in Cincy semifinals, misses top spot for U.S. Open

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MASON, Ohio — Ashleigh Barty was upset by Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Open semifinals, missing her chance to return to the No. 1 ranking ahead of the U.S. Open.

Barty dropped an opening set Saturday for the third straight match, but couldn’t overcome the slow start this time. A resurgent Kuznetsova earned her third win over a Top 10 player this week and reached the final for the first time this season.

Barty had slipped behind Naomi Osaka in the latest rankings. She would have jumped back ahead by winning Saturday. Osaka, the defending U.S. Open champion, withdrew in the quarterfinals with a sore knee.

Serena Williams dropped out during her first match of the tournament because of back spasms.