Kei Nishikori loses focus but not match to advance at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Kei Nishikori lost his focus. At least he didn’t lose the match.

The seventh seed from Japan dropped a set, blew a lead in another and let four match points slip away before finally downing American Bradley Klahn 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday to advance to the U.S. Open third round and avoid the pitfalls that have forced out half of the top 12 men’s seeds.

Nishikori, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2014, relied on his strong baseline retrieving game against the hard-serving Klahn, a former NCAA champion at Stanford. But Nishikori appeared to struggle at times, getting only half his first serves in and throwing in a double fault on a break point to help Klahn come back from 5-1 down to tie the fourth set. Four match points slipped away down the stretch before Nishikori prevailed.

“A little bit of lost focus,” he explained later. “And he started playing better.”

Nishikori’s was among the first matches of this year’s tournament played under the retractable roofs on the two main show courts because of a drizzly rain that began falling early in the morning. That allowed the tournament to keep to its schedule for top matches including Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Venus and Serena Williams.

Under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium, third-seeded Karolina Pliskova easily advanced over qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze 6-1, 6-4. Unlike top seed Naomi Osaka and No. 2 Ash Barty, Pliskova has yet to lose a set.

Off the court, No. 12 Borna Coric pulled out the tournament with a lower back strain, giving a second-round walkover to Grigor Dimitrov. That adds to a growing list of men’s seeds who are out, including No. 4 Dominic Thiem, No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 9 Karen Khachanov and No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut, who were all upset Tuesday.

Key night matches still to come include Djokovic against 56th-ranked Juan Ignacio Londero, and Serena Williams taking on 17-year-old American Caty McNally.

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.