Rafael Nadal rolls to 43rd Slam quarterfinal

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MELBOURNE, Australia — So much for the thought that Rafael Nadal’s bad back might hold him back at the Australian Open as he tries to break a tie with Roger Federer for the most Grand Slam singles titles won by a man.

Win three more matches this week, and Nadal will be the only one with 21.

So far, he hasn’t dropped a set through four matches, moving into his 13th quarterfinal at Melbourne Park and 43rd in all at major championships with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 16 seed Fabio Fognini on Monday.

Take it further, to the start of last year’s French Open, and Nadal has won his past 33 Grand Slam sets in a row.

He called the first set against Fognini “without a doubt” his “best level in the tournament.”

Why was that? Well, the 34-year-old Nadal offered a rather simple explanation: He came into the match finally having been able to practice for two days in a row, after having his work limited by the back pain that surfaced about three weeks ago.

Not that everything is perfect, mind you.

“My physical condition needs to keep improving,” Nadal said. “But I think this match helps, too. I was not able to practice the proper way for the last 19 days, but yesterday I started again to increase the amount of work (in) practice. And today has been a positive victory with some long points, so that helps for the next match.”

That’ll be on Wednesday against No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who advanced when his fourth-round opponent, No. 9 Matteo Berrettini, pulled out of the tournament because of abdominal injury he picked up in his prior win.

Before Berrettini’s withdrawal officially was announced, Nadal accidentally broke the news by telling the media he’d be facing Tsitsipas.

Nadal is 6-1 against the 22-year-old Tsitsipas, including a 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 win for the Spaniard in the 2019 Australian Open semifinals.

The other quarterfinal on their half of the draw will be No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, the 2019 U.S. Open runner-up, against No. 7 Andrey Rublev in an all-Russian matchup between friends since childhood.

“Of course he knows my game. I know his game,” said Rublev, who has lost all three tour-level meetings with Medvedev. “But in the end, you still need to … see how the things are working or not working, how you’re feeling, and then you adapt.”


Serena Williams is performing a delicate balancing act at the Australian Open as she pursues a record-tying 24th major title.

Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, says Williams needs to think about what is in the offing – but not too much.

“The only way is not to think about the opportunities. Because when you think about the opportunities, you bring expectations, and we all know that expectations are not the best friend of the professional athletes,” Mouratoglou said. “The only way is to focus on how to get what you want. You don’t think about what you want. You just think about what you have to do.”

Williams faces No. 2 Simona Halep in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. The last time they played, in the 2019 Wimbledon final, Halep made just three unforced errors in a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

That part of a stretch in which Williams has gone 0-4 in Grand Slam title matches since claiming her most recent major singles trophy at the Australian Open in 2017 for No. 23, a record for the professional era.

Only Margaret Court, with 24 spanning the amateur and Open eras, has won more.


Paul McNamee, the former player and ex-CEO of the Australian Open, is now coaching quarterfinalist Hsieh Su-wei and recalls seeing her unusual, but precise, strokes go awry one day at a tournament in England.

He couldn’t figure out what was going on – until he realized she had broken a racket string, something that almost never happens to her.

“We had a bit of trauma because she had to get a re-string before the tournament. That’s once a year,” he said. “Players change rackets on the change of balls, right? She’ll go years with the same racket.”

McNamee said Taiwan’s Hsieh, who is ranked 71st and faces Naomi Osaka on Tuesday at Melbourne Park, doesn’t have a racket contract. So she has to buy her own.

Whatever 35-year-old Hsieh has been doing at the Australian Open, she should stick with it. She is the oldest woman in the professional era to get to a Grand Slam quarterfinal for the first time.

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.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”