Nishikori wins two-day five-setter; Djokovic easily advances

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PARIS – When it comes to the deciding set, count on Kei Nishikori.

The Japanese player won his eighth consecutive five-set match on Monday to defeat Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-7 (8), 6-2, 6-7 (8), 7-5 over two days and set up a quarterfinal match against defending champion Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

In a match ridden with unforced errors that featured 15 breaks of serve but also some beautiful shots, Nishikori prevailed after a nearly four-hour battle. Their fourth-round match had been suspended by darkness on Sunday, with Nishikori leading two sets to one.

Nishikori extended his impressive record in five-set matches to 23-6, including a 6-1 mark at the clay-court Grand Slam. He also holds the best percentage of wins in deciding sets (132-45) – either in best-of-five or best-of-three matches – since the Open Era began in 1968.

In damp conditions, Paire’s all-risk tennis was working when they came back on court. The Frenchman saved two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker and served for the match at 5-3, but he was finally made to rue his awful mistakes.

“He was serving for the match, and I just tried to play one point at a time,” Nishikori said.

Paire hit 15 double-faults and 79 unforced errors.

“Never easy to finish a match,” Paire said. “It was tough emotionally. I’m very sad to lose this match but glad for what I did this week.”

Nishikori will play in a third quarterfinal match in Paris but faces a tall order in the next round. Nadal has won 10 of their 12 previous matches, including all three matches on clay.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic had an easier time against 45th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, becoming the first man to reach the French Open quarterfinals 10 years in a row with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory. His quarterfinal opponent will be No. 5 Alexander Zverev or No. 9 Fabio Fognini.

In the women’s draw, Sofia Kenin and Katerina Siniakova could not follow up their upsets of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Kenin lost to eighth-seeded Ash Barty 6-3, 3-6, 6-0, while 14th-seeded Madison Keys advanced to last eight for the second straight year with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Siniakova.

Keys and Barty will face off in the quarterfinals.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” said Keys, a semifinalist in Paris last year. “I feel like clay actually suits her game really well with her kick serve and slice.”

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.