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Isner beats Raonic, reaches U.S. Open quarters

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NEW YORK — John Isner — with all his finger-twirling, fist-pumping histrionics stirring the crowd — had just clinched his first U.S. Open quarterfinal berth since 2011 when his thoughts flashed to someone who wasn’t at the stadium to celebrate: his wife, Maddie.

She was home, expecting the couple’s first child.

Isner hoped he had another big delivery up first — a U.S. Open championship.

“Why not me?” Isner asked.

With his booming serve leading the way, why not indeed?

Isner, seeded 11th, slipped past Milos Raonic for the second time this season in a Grand Slam, using a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 victory on Sunday night to reach the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

Isner needed four sets to defeat Raonic at Wimbledon on the way to the semifinals, his best showing at a major. The 33-year-old Isner is playing the best tennis of his career. He won the Miami Open and the Atlanta Open and was the highest-seeded American man at the U.S. Open for the seventh straight year.

Isner improved to 5-1 lifetime against the 25th-seeded Raonic. Raonic, the last Canadian left in the singles draw, needed treatment on his back after the fourth set. The 2016 Wimbledon runner-up failed to break Isner’s serve in the three sets he lost — none, surprisingly, going to a tiebreaker between the big servers.

Isner is known for his marathon matches and he played another long one in Louis Armstrong Stadium, hitting 3 hours, 8 minutes. It must have seemed like a warmup compared to his 6 1/2-hour (including a 26-24 fifth set) loss to Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon. He would have played as long as needed to equal his best result in the U.S. Open.

Back on his home turf, Isner was a fan favorite in New York.

Isner had the crowd behind him on every point and the 6-foot-11 American pumped his fist on every winner. With Citi Field signage peeking through one side of Louis Armstrong, Isner proved the biggest power hitter at Flushing Meadows this year. The crowd erupted when he nailed a 141 mph ace to clinch the third set, and his 20 aces boosted his tournament-high total to 112.

But it was a pretty drop shot in the second that led to a Michael Jordan-esque shrug that might have been his best of the night.

“The crowd just kept me in it,” Isner said. “This atmosphere is like a jungle. It was amazing.”

Nadal gets his revenge over Tsitsipas to reach Rome final

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ROME (AP) After losing in the semifinals of three straight clay-court tournaments, Rafael Nadal looked more like his old, dominant self when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 Saturday to reach the Italian Open final.

It was a measure of revenge for Nadal after losing to Tsitsipas in three sets at this stage in Madrid last week. The victory should also restore Nadal’s confidence as he seeks a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.

“I’m playing better every match, every weekend,” Nadal said.

Aiming for a ninth trophy in Rome, Nadal’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be either Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman, who were playing later.

Nadal is in the middle of his longest title drought to begin a season since he came onto the scene in 2004. His last trophy came in Toronto last August.

The crowd attempted to encourage Tsitsipas with chants of “Tsi-Tsi-Tsi; Pas-Pas-Pas” but the 20-year-old Greek player couldn’t keep up with Nadal on the long rallies – even though he didn’t play a day earlier after Roger Federer withdrew from the quarterfinals.

Conditions were much slower than on the high-altitude court in Madrid, which favored Nadal and made it tougher for Tsitsipas to execute his attacking game.

Midway through the first set, Nadal produced an awesome forehand winner up the line on the run, drawing a loud roar from the packed Campo Centrale crowd.

Nadal broke Tsitsipas’ serve early in both sets.

In the women’s tournament, Johanna Konta rallied past sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in nearly three hours to reach the biggest clay-court final of her career.

Konta’s only previous final on clay came recently in Rabat, Morocco, where she lost the title match to Maria Sakkari.

Konta could get a rematch with Sakkari if the Greek qualifier beats fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the other semifinal.

Midway through the first set, Konta surprised Bertens with a drop shot winner during a baseline rally, causing Bertens to fall on her stomach to the clay as she rapidly changed directions. Then in the next game, Konta ran down a drop shot and produced an angled winner.

Bertens was coming off the Madrid Open title.

“She played really smart with the drop shots,” Bertens said. “I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But it was not there.”

The 42nd-ranked Konta served for the first set at 5-4 but was broken at love. But Bertens double faulted to let Konta serve for the second set and Konta got an early break in the third.

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John Isner out of French Open with injury

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PARIS — John Isner has pulled out of the French Open because of an injured left foot, ending his streak of 24 consecutive appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.

The 34-year-old Isner announced his withdrawal Friday on Twitter.

He is ranked No. 11, the top American man, but has not competed since hurting his foot during the Miami Open final March 31.

Isner was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, his best Grand Slam performance. He hasn’t missed a major since the 2013 Australian Open.

He’s reached the fourth round at Roland Garros three times, including in 2018, and is one of only two men to push 11-time champion Rafael Nadal to a fifth set there.

Isner is best known for winning the longest match in tennis history, 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut in Wimbledon’s first round in 2010. The match lasted more than 11 hours over three days.