Ukrainian teen who plays Serena next saw matchup coming

AP Photo

MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams’ next Australian Open opponent, 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska, feels as if she saw Saturday’s matchup coming a decade ago.

She tells the story of being at home in Ukraine at the age of 8 and watching on TV as Williams — whom she calls “a legend” — fell behind in a Grand Slam match. That was, understandably, distressing to the little fan. Dayana, who’d been taking tennis lessons since she was 4 1/2, decided Williams could use some help.

So the kid ran to her bedroom, grabbed a racket and resumed following along with the broadcast, pretending to hit the shots Williams needed to hit.

“She won a point. She won a game. She won a set. She won a match. I was screaming at the same time she was screaming. And when she won the match, I had in my thoughts that, ‘Well, I guess we won together. It’s our win,’” Yastremska said, laughing at the memory. “And then I had another thought that, ‘Maybe, one day I’m going to play (against) her in the big arena.’”

That’ll happen in the third round at Melbourne Park — in what’ll be only the fourth Slam match for the 57th-ranked Yastremska, who trains at Justine Henin’s tennis academy in Belgium.

Yastremska’s two wins this week are her first at this level and they came against 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur and No. 23 seed Carla Suarez Navarro.

It’ll be Slam match No. 379 for the formerly top-ranked Williams, who is 333-45 and already has 23 Grand Slam titles, including seven from the Australian Open alone.

Asked what she knows about Yastremska, who was born about eight months after Williams won her first major championship at the 1999 U.S. Open, the 37-year-old American responded that her coach would provide a scouting report.

“I’m going to just go out there and obviously take her extremely serious,” Williams said. “She’s here, made it this far, and she’s here to win.”

Saturday’s match won’t be their first face-to-face encounter, according to Yastremska.

She said the pair crossed paths in the locker room this week.

“I just say, ‘Hello,’ and ‘You have a great daughter, and I respect you a lot as a person, as a player.’ She told me, ‘Thank you so much. You’re so nice, so sweet,’” Yastremska recounted.

Just like any admirer getting the chance to meet an idol.

Now they’ll share a court with a fourth-round berth at stake.

“I always wanted to be like her. But getting older, I realized I have to (have) my own style,” said Yastremska, the junior runner-up at Wimbledon in 2016 and owner of one WTA title.

“It’s like a dream come true, so I’m going to try to (beat) her. I’m going to try to show my best tennis,” Yastremska said, then, thinking back to her 8-year-old self, added: “And maybe later, I’m going to tell her this story.”

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

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.