Thiem reaches 3rd French Open semifinal; Keys reaches 1st

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PARIS (AP) Dominic Thiem made it to a third straight French Open semifinal after swatting aside second-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Thiem is in sight of a first final at Roland Garros.

In his way are 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato. Their quarterfinal on Court Suzanne Lenglen was later Tuesday.

There was no stirring comeback this time for Zverev on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Heading into the match, the German had won three consecutive five-setters – trailing 2-1 in sets in each – but the rousing effort caught up to him against Thiem.

Just 10 minutes in, Zverev clutched at his left hamstring. He grabbed it again midway through the second set, after giving chase to one of several drop shots Thiem used to force Zverev to run a lot.

After falling behind 4-1 in that set an hour into the match, Zverev called for a trainer, who applied a thick bandage to his upper left leg.

Soon enough, Zverev lost the second set, too, and it proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome. He trailed 4-0 in the third set before getting a game.

Over on Lenglen, meanwhile, Madison Keys reached her first French Open semifinal by defeating unseeded Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (5), 6-4.

The 13th-seeded Keys has not lost a set at Roland Garros.

While Putintseva regularly lost her composure, Keys stayed calm throughout and the big-hitting American secured victory on her first match point with a powerful serve which clipped Putintseva’s racket and flew into the crowd.

Her box, including three-time major winner Lindsay Davenport, rose to acclaim Keys, who lost last year’s U.S. Open final to friend and countrywoman Sloane Stephens.

They could meet again in the semifinals.

The 10th-seeded Stephens was facing No. 14 Daria Kasatkina in a quarterfinals later Tuesday on Chatrier.

The 98th-ranked Putintseva was trying to become the first player from Kazakhstan to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal.

She had her chances against Keys, troubling her with deft drop shots and spinning, looping forehands, but could not hold her nerve.

After losing the first-set tiebreaker, she started ranting at her box and struck the ground with her racket in frustration.

Known for her short fuse, she lived up to it, regularly spinning around to glare at her box with looks of incomprehension and hand-flapping gestures; or at other times mumbling to herself in frustration.

In the second game of the second set, she was convinced an incorrect call went in favor of Keys and asked the chair umpire to come down and check it.

“My God,” Putintseva said as she walked away. “I can’t believe … unbelievable.”

Djokovic faced an unfamiliar opponent in 72nd-ranked Cecchinato, who was cleared of a match-fixing charge on a technicality in 2016 – the year Djokovic won the last of his 12 majors at Roland Garros.

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.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.