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

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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.

Djokovic wins World Sportsman of the Year at Laureus World Sports Awards

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MONACO  — Novak Djokovic, Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn and the France national soccer team were among the winners at the Laureus World Sports Awards, with Woods claiming the Comeback Award 19 years after he was first recognized.

Djokovic matched Usain Bolt’s record by being named World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He also earned the honor in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Woods, who won the inaugural World Sportsman of the Year award in 2000, won the Tour Championship in September for his 80th PGA Tour title and his first since August 2013.

Vonn, who retired during the recent Alpine skiing world championships , took home the Spirit of Sport Award, which is given to an athlete for relentless dedication to his or her career, and France was honored for winning the World Cup in July.

Simone Biles was named World Sportswoman of the Year for winning four gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the gymnastics world championships. Naomi Osaka won the Breakthrough Award for winning the U.S. Open and Chloe Kim was named the World Action Sportsperson of the Year.

The awards were given in recognition of outstanding sports performance in 2018.

Wawrinka loses to Monfils in first final since knee surgeries

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka’s rebuilt knee couldn’t quite carry him to the title in Rotterdam on Sunday.

Wawrinka lost his first final since his comeback a year ago from left knee surgeries, succumbing 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to Gael Monfils of France at the ABN AMRO World Tournament.

It was the Frenchman’s eighth career title.

“I tried a couple of times here. I lost the final in 2016,” Monfils told Dutch national broadcaster NOS courtside. He said it was special to win a tournament that his idol, Arthur Ashe, also won. Ashe won back-to-back titles in Rotterdam in 1975 and ’76.

Unseeded Wawrinka reached the final by beating top-seeded Kei Nishikori in three sets on Saturday.

But the Swiss finally ran out of steam in the final set as Monfils stepped up his game.

“In the third set I was a little bit more aggressive and I go a bit more for my shots, I served bigger and that helped me a lot,” Monfils said.

Wawrinka was going for his 17th career title and second in Rotterdam, after winning in 2015.

It was his first final since the 2017 French Open, where he previously met Monfils in the fourth round.

Monfils also needed three sets to overcome fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals, but outlasted Wawrinka in a match that took 1 hour, 44 minutes.

After they shared the first two sets, Monfils was more consistent than Wawrinka in the decisive third.

Already trailing 4-2, Wawrinka hit three unforced errors to lose the seventh game and allow Monfils to serve out the match.