AP Images

Del Potro sets up French Open semifinal match against Nadal

Leave a comment

PARIS – Juan Martin del Potro is back in the French Open semifinals for the first time since 2009 and will next face Rafael Nadal, the man with the most appearances at this stage of the clay-court Grand Slam.

The fifth-seeded Del Potro, whose career has been hampered by injuries, beat third-seeded Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 Thursday. Ten-time champion Nadal completed a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 win over Diego Schwartzman. Both matches had been stopped by rain on Wednesday.

With his good run at Roland Garros, Del Potro is now guaranteed to return to the top four in the rankings for the first time in more than four years.

Del Potro fought back tears during his post-match interview and was loudly cheered by fans at Court Suzanne Lenglen.

“It’s tough to speak now,” the 2009 U.S. Open champion said. “It has been a long time without good feelings. I had three surgeries on my left wrist. I was close to (quitting).”

Del Potro, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2009 French Open semifinals, hit 31 winners against Cilic, including 19 aces.

He briefly lost his focus toward the end of the second set when he appeared to be distracted by a spectator just before hitting a double-fault to drop his serve and give Cilic a 5-4 lead. He confronted the fan, then smashed his racket as he returned to his chair at the changeover.

He eventually lost the set and found himself trailing 3-1 in the third set before turning things around, with Cilic largely undone by his 74 unforced errors.

Del Potro has won only five of his 14 previous matches against Nadal.

“I don’t know if I will win, but I will take a big love from you and that’s the most important for me,” he said.

Nadal was serving at 5-3, 30-15 after having dropped the first set when play was stopped on Wednesday. He came back on court in full swing and made Schwartzman run with a combination of deep groundstrokes and subtle drop shots. He was also able to raise his level when in danger, saving three break points in the eighth game of the third set with great shot-making, and four more in the final set.

Nadal is only the third male player in the Open era to reach 11 semifinals at a single Grand Slam, alongside Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors.

In womens’ play, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys were to play for a spot in the French Open final. It’s the first semifinal between a pair of American women at Roland Garros since Serena Williams beat Jennifer Capriati on her way to the 2002 title.

Top-ranked Simona Halep is up against 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza in the other semifinal match.

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

Defending US Open champ Stephens wins Cincy opener

AP
Leave a comment

MASON, Ohio (AP) Defending U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens overcame a thumb injury to cruise into the third round of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-3, 6-2 win over qualifier Tatjana Maria on Wednesday.

A trainer applied a bandage to the third-seeded Stephens’ right thumb between the third and fourth games of the second set of this U.S. Open tuneup. The match was Stephens’ first since losing on Sunday to Simona Halep in the finals at Montreal.

Sloane’s semifinal appearance last season is her best Cincinnati finish in six previous appearances.

Roger Federer advances in Cincinnati

Getty Images
1 Comment

MASON, Ohio (AP) Roger Federer advanced to the third round of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Peter Gojowczyk on Tuesday.

It was Federer’s first Cincinnati appearance since winning his tournament-record seventh championship in 2015. After a first-round bye, Federer extended his Cincinnati winning streak to 11 matches since losing to Rafael Nadal in the 2013 quarterfinals.

The second-seeded Federer, refreshed from a month off after losing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, became the tournament favorite when Nadal withdrew on Sunday night.

Karolina Pliskova and Nick Kyrgios also advanced Tuesday in early tournament action.

Pliskova moved into the second round by snapping a seven-match losing streak against Agnieszka Radwanska with a 6-3, 6-3 win.

“It means a lot because it was against her, and, like, you know, I never beat her,” Pliskova said. “We played so many times. I think I always played her at her best level the matches before, so it was always tough.”

Kyrgios, a finalist last year in Cincinnati, overcame physical problems to fight off qualifier Denis Kudla for a 6-7 (2), 7-5, 7-6 (9) victory.

“This year has been tough,” Kyrgios said. “I started the year very well. Then, obviously, I hurt my elbow. Then I had an ongoing hip injury. We have been definitely thinking about the options with my hip. You know, there is only so much you can do before you have to, you know, I guess, get surgery or something like that. You know, right now I’m just managing it.”

No. 11 seed David Goffin advanced with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Leonardo Mayer became the first player to reach the third round on the men’s side with a 7-6 (7), 6-4 victory over 16th-seeded Lucas Pouille.

Australian Open semifinalist Hyeon Chung won the last five games to beat Jack Sock 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Sock has lost eight straight matches since winning in Rome on May 13.

Two-time Cincinnati semifinalist Milos Raonic advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 win over qualifier Dusan Lajovic. Robin Haase also made it to the second round, defeating Filip Krajinovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Sixth-seeded Caroline Garcia reach the third round with a 6-4, 6-5 win over wild card Victoria Azarenka. Elise Mertens scored a 6-4, 6-2 first-round win over Magdalena Rybarikova. Ashleigh Barty stopped wild-card Marketa Vondrousova 6-3, 7-5.

Maria Sakkari upset Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka 6-3, 7-6 (8). Ekaterina Makarova cruised past qualifier Ana Bogdan 6-3, 6-2.