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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.”

Joao Souza provisionally suspended

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LONDON — Brazilian tennis player Joao Souza has been provisionally suspended again amid a corruption investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit.

Souza had already been provisionally suspended on March 29 but was reinstated on April 8 following a successful appeal.

The TIU says that the provisional suspension has been put back in place “following consideration of additional evidence submitted by the TIU,” adding that no more appeals will be accepted.

No further details were given for the reason of the suspension.

The 30-year old Souza is currently ranked No. 422, having reached a career-high of No. 69 in 2015.

Also in 2015, Souza played in the longest Davis Cup singles match ever, losing to Leonardo Mayer of Argentina 15-13 in the fifth set after 6 hours, 42 minutes.

The TIU is a joint initiative of the Grand Slam Board, the International Tennis Federation and the ATP and the WTA tours.

Medvedev shocks Djokovic to reach Monte Carlo semis

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MONACO – An erratic Novak Djokovic suffered a surprise 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 defeat against Daniil Medvedev in the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals Friday.

The 10th-seeded Russian was appearing in the last eight of a Masters tournament for the first time but was not overawed. In fact, it was the top-ranked Djokovic who made the most mistakes. The two-time champion looked out of sorts in tricky conditions and produced 47 unforced errors.

“On a windy day like today, conditions are changing every game,” Djokovic said. “It’s tough to find rhythm and he doesn’t give you much rhythm. He was very patient and played well tactically.”

After failing to serve out the match, when his Serbian opponent broke back to 5-2 down, Medvedev broke for the fifth time to seal a memorable victory.

Djokovic double-faulted at 30-30 to give Medvedev his first match point and a backhand winner secured a first win against his top-ranked rival at the fourth attempt, and a first victory against a No. 1.

“It was amazing,” Medvedev said. “He played worse than before and I am gaining more experience. He was not so good in the first set and made a lot of mistakes.”

Medvedev twice had his thighs massaged during changeovers in the third set. “Cramp didn’t affect my game,” he said.

The 23-year-old Monaco resident next faces the unseeded Dusan Lajovic, who also reached a Masters semi for the first time when he beat Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 7-5.

Lajovic has not dropped a set at the clay-court event and is more surprised than anybody.

“I didn’t expect this. I was sick before the tournament and taking antibiotics,” the 28-year-old Serb said. “But it’s the best week of my career.”

The same goes for the 23-year-old Medvedev, who is ranked 14 and is chasing a fifth career title.

He had lost the three previous matches against Djokovic, including a tough four-setter in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open.

“In Australia he was at his best, but I made him run for his win there,” said Medvedev.

Djokovic won that tournament to secure a third straight Grand Slam title and 15th overall, moving two behind Nadal and five adrift of Roger Federer’s record haul of 20.

But Djokovic has now failed to reach the last four in three straight tournaments, after also falling short at Indian Wells and Miami.

“I am lacking that determination to go for shots on some points,” he said.

At times it looked like Djokovic would take control and he clinched the second set with two aces. But his shot-making was below its usual high standards and his drop shot rarely worked.

Nadal has won at Monte Carlo a record 11 times. The second-ranked Spaniard plays the unseeded Guido Pella of Argentina later.

The other match is between No. 9 Borna Coric of Croatia and No.13 Fabio Fognini of Italy.