One of the sleepers, Berdych, reawakens rivalry with Nadal

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MELBOURNE, Australia — The men’s tennis tour picked four “sleepers” to watch at the Australian Open. One of them has reached the fourth round at the Australian Open as many times — 11 — as Stefan Edberg, who won two titles in five finals here. He also has won more matches (47) at the season-opening Grand Slam in the Open era than Pete Sampras, who won two Australian titles among his 14 majors.

Care to guess who? It’s Tomas Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist. He next plays Rafael Nadal, who has reached the second week at Melbourne Park a dozen times.

Of the ATP’s other so-called sleepers, Milos Raonic is still in contention in the other half.

The big-serving Canadian’s win over 2014 champion Stan Warwinka took one of them out of equation. The other, 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, lost to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in a second-round rematch of the 2008 Australian final.

That leaves Berdych first among the quartet into the second week.

Berdych is outnumbered by Nadal on almost every statistic bar one — the 33-year-old Czech had more time on the sidelines last year with injury.

He beat No. 18 Diego Schwartzman 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 on the third of the show courts on Friday to reach the fourth round here for the 11th time in 13 years. Nadal beat 19-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in the opening night match on Rod Laver Arena.

“I don’t say I’m here, ready to win the tournament, because you never know what’s going on,” Nadal said. “The only thing that I can say is I won three good matches, and now I have another tough opponent in front that he’s playing great.

“He started the season at a very high level. So going to be a very big test for me.”

Coming off six months out because of a back injury, Berdych is unseeded at a major for the first time since 2005 and lurking in the draw as a difficult early-round rival for top players.

He beat No. 13-seeded Kyle Edmund, a semifinalist here last year, and Robin Haase. Now his path winds back to a long-time road block.

Second-seed Nadal, a 17-time major winner, is coming off three months on the sidelines with knee and ankle injuries but has hit form quickly.

Nadal leads their career head-to-heads 19-4, but Berdych’s win in the quarterfinals here in 2015 will keep it interesting.

Berdych said he feels fresher physically and mentally after his time out.

“The way I see things. It’s all together. It comes up to the result that I’m really feeling very good on court,” he said. “Yes it’s a combination of a different preparation, a different approach. Quite a lot of changes for me in the last six months.

“Seems they’re paying off.”

Berdych has been on the tour during the domination of the so-called Big Four — Roger Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray — and perhaps could have won a major if he’d played in another era. But it doesn’t bother him as he heads into the twilight of his career.

“Our generation is too strong. It’s just proved by the results,” he said. “You have a clear fact, clear results. That’s so far how it is.

“The only change is, we’re just getting older — it’s a process you cannot stop. One day it’s going to get ended. The young ones are going to take over. We’re just trying to do our best.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
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PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”