Make or breaker: Nishikori stays, Spaniard out in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — One contentious point, after five hours and five sets, had Pablo Carreno Busta screaming at the umpire and gave Kei Nishikori the shift in momentum he needed to clinch his place in the Australian Open quarterfinals.

After being two points from victory, Carreno Busta lost five straight, including that one in the last tiebreaker where he berated the chair umpire for not ruling a replay, allowing Nishikori to advance 6-7 (8), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (8).

It was the second time the 2014 U.S. Open finalist has had to come back from two sets down in the tournament, and the second time he’s had to win in the new 10-point fifth-set super tiebreakers that were introduced at Melbourne Park this year.

“That was important point, too, but, I mean, you should ask how I came back from two sets down,” Nishikori said Monday. “That was only one point. I mean, maybe affect him, but … maybe it could affect me.”

Maybe affect Carreno Busta? The 27-year-old Spaniard lost it, stopping only briefly to hug Nishikori after the match before slamming his bag onto the court and screaming again at the umpire as he left Margaret Court Arena.

“I left as soon as I could after the last point, because I knew I might explode,” Carreno Busta said in Spanish. “I apologize for the way I left the court.”

On the disputed 14th point, Carreno Busta’s shot clipped the net and bounced on the left line. Nishikori readjusted quickly and hit an easy backhand winner.

A line judge called “out” as Nishikori hit the ball, and Carreno Busta was nowhere close to playing it. But Carreno Busta challenged the decision, and Hawk-Eye showed his ball hitting the line. The point remained with Nishikori, however, because chair umpire Thomas Sweeney ruled neither player had been hindered in the point.

Carreno Busta didn’t win another point, and Nishikori sealed the match with an ace. The eighth-seeded Nishikori stays to play six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic. Carreno Busta is out of the tournament.

“It’s tough, to me to leave Australian Open like this, because I think that I played an unbelievable match,” the 23rd-seeded Spaniard said. “Also Kei, he played really good, and that’s sad to leave like this.”

Nishikori had an earlier chance to serve out at 5-4 in the fifth, but Carreno Busta broke and it went down to the wire again.

“I’m really glad how I came back – I don’t even know how I come back,” said Nishikori, who has nearly 14 hours on court in four rounds. “Yeah, there were many tough moments.”

In the last match of the round, Djokovic overcame a couple of tumbles to the court and a series of energy-sapping baseline exchanges – one point lasted 42 shots – to beat No. 15 Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 and return to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2016.

Djokovic joked during an on-court interview: “Since I guess my next opponent is watching, I’m feeling fantastic. I’ve never felt fresher in my life.”

He later said he had a few aches and pains and “I didn’t feel so great in the last 20 minutes.”

“We’ll see tomorrow how the body reacts (but) I’m confident I can recover and can be ready for the next one.”

No. 16 Milos Raonic and No. 28 Lucas Pouille, who ousted No. 11-seeded Borna Coric 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (2), will meet in the other quarterfinal on the top half.

Raonic’s consistent winners frustrated fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev to the point where he shattered his racket and got an umpire’s warning in the 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (5) defeat.

The big-serving Canadian had his serve broken in the opening game but responded by winning the next eight games until Zverev finally held. After falling behind 4-1 in the second, Zverev slumped in his courtside chair and smacked his racket into the court eight times before tossing it aside.

The angry outburst only served to highlight Raonic’s dominance.

“I played incredible today,” the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up said. “I did a lot of things very well. Proud of that.”

Zverev, on the other hand, apologized after failing again to break his drought against top-20 ranked men at the majors.

“I was very angry, so I let my anger out,” he said. “I played bad. The first two sets especially I played horrible.

“It’s just tough to name one thing. I didn’t serve well, didn’t play well from the baseline. Against a quality player like him, it’s tough to come back from that.”

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.