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Raonic wins, Sock loses in first round at Toronto

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TORONTO — Canada’s Milos Raonic got off to a strong start at the Rogers Cup, beating David Goffin of Belgium 6-3, 6-4 on Monday.

Raonic, who has fallen from No. 3 to No. 30 due to numerous injuries the past sto seasons – including a quad tear at Wimbledon last month – used his powerful serve to his advantage, firing 13 aces to Goffin’s two and won 100 percent of his first serves.

“I think I can still serve much better, I don’t think I served particularly well,” Raonic said. “So I’ll take the time to work on some things tomorrow but overall it was a good performance. Mentally I was in the right state of mind the whole way through and I was very disciplined with myself.”

He will next play the winner of a match between American Frances Tiafoe and Italy’s Marco Cecchinato.

Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev upset 13th-seeded American Jack Sock 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in another first round match on a day play was interrupted for three hours due to rain.

In doubles, Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson defeated Canadian teens Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-2.

Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime started the match strong before Djokovic and Anderson took control. They broke Anderson’s serve for a 2-0 lead, to the delight of a tightly packed grandstand crowd. However, the Wimbledon finalists team – nicknamed Djokerson thanks to a Twitter poll conducted by Djokovic earlier in the day – broke back to tie the match 2-2, and again to go up 5-3.

Anderson and Djokovic won five straight games, going up two breaks, to win the second set.

“Our game was there, we didn’t feel intimidated at all,” the 19-year-old Shapovalov said.

“Just to have a chance to play with these guys is already good,” added Auger-Aliassime, who won’t turn 18 until later this week.

In other singles matches, American Bradley Klahn topped Spain’s David Ferrer 7-6, 6-4; Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France got past Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; Benoit Paire of France defeated Jared Donaldson 6-3, 6-4; Ilya Ivashka of Belarus beat Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-2, 6-3; and Borna Coric of Croatia was a 6-4, 6-3 winnner over Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the late match on center court.

Also, 30-year-old Canadian Peter Polansky, a wild card entry playing in the morning draw, defeated Matthew Ebden of Australia 7-6 (3), 6-4. He will play the winner of a match between Djokovic and Hyeon Chung of South Korea in the second round.

John Isner advances to final on Newport’s hot grass courts

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Top-seeded John Isner overcame extremely hot conditions and a first-set tiebreaker loss to beat fourth-seeded Ugo Humbert of France 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Saturday and advance to the Hall of Fame Open final.

The 34-year-old American will face Alexander Bublik, a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4 winner over Marcel Granollers of Spain. The 22-year-old Bublik, from Kazakhstan, reached his first career ATP final.

The matches were played before induction ceremonies for the 2019 class of Li Na from China, Mary Pierce of France, and Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Playing in a feel-like temperature in the 90s, Isner, ranked 15th in the world coming into the week, broke in the second game of the final set – the first break of the match – en route to his fourth final on Newport’s grass courts. He won in 2011, `12 and ’17.

“The length of the match is fine. That’s what happens, especially with matches like mine,” the big-serving Isner said. “It’s really hot and humid and takes a lot (out) of you. To be honest, I don’t feel really great right now.”

Isner is into his 28th ATP final.

In a match that lasted 2 hours, 44 minutes, started in sunshine and ended with shadows creeping nearly halfway across the court, Isner had two aces in the final game to go up 40-0.

He hit a forehand winner at the net and pumped his fist when it ended.

Isner hit a forehand winner down the line to win the second-set tiebreaker and force the deciding set.

“That was a big shot,” he said. “I always say when I win the second set, I’m going to win the match.”

Bublik broke in the fifth game of the final set to take control of his match.

Just before he closed it out, an elderly female fan, seated courtside in the sun, was carried out on a chair by two men with ushers helping. The feel-like temperature at the time was in the upper 90s with the sun beating down on the court and some spectators.

“It’s hot,” said Bublik when asked about the conditions during a post-match interview on the court. “I’m just glad I won a match.”

The stadium seating and courtside seats – both located in the sun and usually at least about three-quarters full on induction day – had less than a hundred people seated for both semifinals.

Li Na’s journey to stretch from China to Hall of Fame

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NEW YORK — Li Na remembers first watching a tennis match on TV, drawn to the unforgettable style of one of the players.

Andre Agassi had long hair, an earring and wore denim shorts, and made an instant fan in China.

“Andre Agassi is my role model,” Li said.

Li went on to become one herself.

The first player from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title, she will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend, celebrated not only for her skills on the court but for her contribution to the growth of the sport in her country.

“She’s like an icon in China. She’s a huge superstar,” said Mike Silverman, the director of sport for New York’s City Parks Foundation.

Li conducted a clinic with children from the organization on Thursday and her influence was obvious. Many of the young players were Asian, including one teenage boy Silverman thinks is good enough to get a college scholarship. They were probably too young to remember much of her career – she retired in 2014 because of knee problems – but her impact didn’t end when her playing days did.

“There’s no question that Li Na, when she was playing and even now, tennis in China has never been the same since she won the French Open,” Silverman said. “It changed everything.”

That was in 2011, when more than 116 million people in China watched the final. Li added a second major title in 2014 at the Australian Open after twice losing in its final, rose to No. 2 in the WTA rankings and earned more than 500 singles wins.

“At least I always try my best in tennis on the court,” Li said. “If you try everything I think one day for sure there will be payback.”

The mother of two children is a little nervous about the induction ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island, as she tries to put together her thoughts in English. But perhaps she can take a lesson from something else she admired about Agassi.

“He never cared about what other people say, he just did his own,” said Li, who is joined in this year’s class by fellow two-time Grand Slam singles champions Mary Pierce of France and Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia.

Li said she can see the growth of tennis in China, where the WTA Finals will be played in Shenzhen and which got another event on the tour’s calendar this year when the former Connecticut Open was moved to Zhengzhou.

“It’s not only good for the athletes, it’s also good for the fans to have less traveling,” Li said. “They can see a high-level tournament in China.”

Fans can see plenty of them, as there are nine women’s tournaments in China after the U.S. Open. The country may not have a long tennis history, but Li thinks it will continue to get bigger.

“For me, I think China tennis is still young,” she said. “They can have a lot of time to grow up.”