AP Photo

Kei Nishikori into quarterfinals in return to U.S. Open

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Kei Nishikori was so crushed about missing the U.S. Open last year, he couldn’t even watch the tournament. Nishikori’s season was over with torn tendons in his right wrist, and he knew how much he’d ache to play if he flipped on the TV.

“I didn’t really want to see any matches,” he said.

A year later, Nishikori might want to catch some U.S. Open highlights.

He’s starring in them.

The Japanese standout still has some soreness in the wrist he hurt in August 2017, but it hasn’t slowed him down in his return to Flushing Meadows. Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up, beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 on Monday to reach the final eight for a second straight Grand Slam tournament.

“He pushed me around,” Kohlschreiber said.

Up next, a potential rematch of the `14 final against No. 7 seed Marin Cilic, who faced 10th-seeded David Goffin later Monday.

Either way, the 28-year Nishikori hardly resembles the player he was in 2014 when he became the first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam singles final. He altered his serve in the wake of the wrist injury. His confidence is soaring, too, after he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

Naomi Osaka also reached the quarterfinals Monday, only the second time in the professional era that a Japanese man and woman reached that round at the same Grand Slam event. Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date did it at Wimbledon in 1995.

“I always thought that if I can keep up with him, that would be really cool,” Osaka said.

Four years ago, Nishikori recalled feeling upbeat before he played Cilic and was surprised he didn’t have a case of nerves.

Once he hit Arthur Ashe Stadium, the magnitude of the moment hit him.

“I wasn’t nervous before the match, but as soon as I got into the court, it was different,” he said. “I remember I wasn’t there for the match. Hopefully, I can come back to that stage.”

Nishikori was worn down by the time he reached the final in a remarkable run where he defeated three of the top five seeds. He beat No. 5 Milos Raonic and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in five sets in back-to-back matches totaling more than 8 1/2 hours. Then he upset No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets.

He’s made quick work of his opponents this year.

Nishikori, coached by Michael Chang, needed four sets to beat Diego Schwartzman, but has two straight-set victories and didn’t even complete two full sets in another match because Gael Monfils retired with a wrist injury.

Short and sweet – and staying strong in a deep run.

“I don’t have any pressure,” Nishikori said. “But (I’m) enjoying playing every match and enjoying playing tennis again a little more than before.”

The No. 21 seed returned to the tour early this year, building his confidence back with a victory in a Challenger Tour event, then reached the final in Monte Carlo and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, where he lost to eventual champion Djokovic.

His success may have eased the pressure, but a country is keeping tabs on him.

Nishikori, the first Japanese man to be ranked in the ATP’s top 10, was a hero in his home country when he played in the U.S. Open final. In his hometown of Matsue, hundreds of fans packed into a convention hall to cheer him on at a standing-room-only public viewing event. Giant banners emblazoned with messages of encouragement hung on the walls.

He feels at home in New York, where scores of Asians root for him, no matter the court or time of match, and he made a return trip to the semifinals in 2016.

“I feel like I have great support here,” he said.

Federer, Zverev lead Team Europe to Laver Cup win

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO — Alexander Zverev beat Kevin Anderson on Sunday night to give Team Europe a victory in the second Laver Cup.

Zverev won the final five points to defeat Anderson 6-7, 7-5, (10-7). His victory helped Team Europe beat Team World 13-8.

Roger Federer earlier put Team Europe ahead by saving three match points for a 6-7, 7-6, (10-7) victory over John Isner.

Isner staggered Federer with a body serve that caused the 20-time Grand Slam winner to stumble early in the match. But Federer regrouped and fought off two match points in the second-set tiebreaker before capturing the deciding 10-point tiebreaker used in the Laver Cup.

In the opening doubles match, Jack Sock and Isner saved two match points in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Federer and Zverev 4-6, 7-6, (11-9).

Team Europe won the first Laver Cup last year in Prague.

Muguruza wins in first round of Wuhan Open; Ostapenko loses

Getty Images
Leave a comment

WUHAN, China — Gabrine Muguruza got off to winning start at the Wuhan Open. Jelena Ostapenko didn’t.

Muguruza defeated Alison Van Uytvanck 6-4, 6-0 on Monday in the first round of the tournament, avenging a second-round loss to the Belgian at Wimbledon.

“I’m happy that I won this time. I remember the match from Wimbledon, like a very tough match for me,” said Muguruza, who had been the defending champion at the All England Club. “It’s always good to play again the same person that beat you, feeling good you did something much better than the previous match.”

Muguruza will next face Swiss qualifier Viktorija Golubic, who defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

Ostapenko, who followed Muguruza as French Open champion in 2017, was beaten by Daria Gavrilova 6-2, 6-4.

Gavrilova, who won for only the second time in four appearances at the Wuhan Open, broke Ostapneko’s serve five times. She will next play Barbora Strycova, who defeated Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2.

Ashleigh Barty, a finalist last year in Wuhan, defeated Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-4 to advance.

Other winners included Aryna Sabalenka, Donna Vekic, Aleksandra Krunic, Dominika Cibulkova, Madison Keys and Wang Xiyu.