Barty goes distance, tops Azarenka to reach Miami quarters

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MIAMI — Ash Barty is tough to beat under any circumstances, especially when she’s on the ropes.

She proved that again Monday.

The world’s top-ranked player has reached the Miami Open quarterfinals, getting there by holding off 14th-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-1, 1-6, 6-2. It was Barty’s 17th win in her last 20 three-set matches, two of those victories for the Australian coming so far in this tournament.

“That’s a cool stat,” Barty said.

This, too, was cool: The match lived up to its showdown potential, with the reigning Miami Open champion and current world No. 1 in Barty facing someone who has won the Miami title three times and a previous world No. 1 in Azarenka.

Barty rolled in the first set, Azarenka in the second. But the third – as they tend to be – was all Barty, who was never in trouble in the deciding set.

“It’s just about staying in the fight,” Barty said. “It’s about not relenting, not giving up regardless of whether you lose a set or you get a break, whatever it might be. I think it’s just about trying to hang around and I’ve worked my backside off off the court to make sure that I feel like I’m good physical condition to play tennis.”

No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine needed nearly 2 1/2 hours to beat ninth-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 and earn her ticket to the quarterfinals.

“It was not easy conditions,” said Svitolina, who has already matched her best Miami finish by making the quarters. “I was trying to fight, trying to find a way, one extra ball over the net.”

Barty will next face No. 7 seed Aryna Sabalenka, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over No. 19 seed Marketa Vondrousova. Svitolina will play unseeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in the quarters; Sevastova was a 6-1, 7-5 winner over wild-card Ana Konjuh of Croatia.

No. 2 women’s seed Naomi Osaka of Japan ran her winning streak to 23 matches and moved into the quarters by topping No. 16 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, 6-3, 6-3.

“I’m not the type of player that really needs that many tournaments to feel a groove,” Osaka said.

Osaka wasted six set points before finally finishing off Mertens to win the opening set; she needed five break points before cashing in to go up 2-1 in the second. Mertens later needed a medical timeout that lasted about 10 minutes while she left the court to get treatment on the area below her right shoulder.

She didn’t win another game; Osaka casually munched on a banana and took a few serves while waiting for Mertens to return, then cruised the rest of the way. Osaka next meets No. 23 Maria Sakkari of Greece, who won a 2-hour, 38-minute marathon over No. 29 Jessica Pegula of the U.S.

Sakkari fended off six match points and won 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (6).

Unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain got her fourth win of the tournament, all of them three-setters. She topped No. 27 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 0-6, 6-1.

Next up for Tormo: No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada, a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 winner over No. 12 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain in Monday’s final match – capping a day where five of the eight women’s matches went three sets.

“I’m playing the best tennis of my life, this is for sure,” Tormo said after her shortest match of the tournament – a mere 2 hours.

On the men’s side, Sebastian Korda of the U.S. got his second consecutive win over a seeded foe, this one a 6-3, 6-0 romp past No. 17 Aslan Karatsev of Russia. Korda’s reward is a matchup with No. 5 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in the round of 16.

Korda is one of four U.S. men in the round of 16 at Miami. His father, Petr Korda, played in the event 10 times at its former Key Biscayne home and made the round of 16 on four occasions.

“It’s cool and it’s been super-special for sure,” the younger Korda said of having Miami success.

No. 26-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland upset sixth-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-3, 7-6 (6). Shapovalov was clearly frustrated with some calls that the Hawk-Eye Live technology – the system that replaces live lines judges with cameras – saw one way and he saw another way.

“We’re getting used to that, that Hawk-Eye life,” Hurkacz said. “It’s a little bit different.”

No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece topped No. 28 Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Tsitsipas meets No. 24 Lorenzo Sonnego of Italy, a 7-6 (6), 6-3 winner over Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia.

In other third-round men’s matchups, Schwartzman defeated 25th-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France 6-1, 6-4; 12th-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada topped 20th-seeded Ugo Humbert of France 6-4, 7-5; and 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia defeated Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti 6-3, 6-4.

Cilic will meet fourth-seeded Andrey Rublev of Russia next. Rublev rolled past Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics 6-2, 6-1 – beating him head-to-head for the third time in the last 22 days, and that doesn’t even include a walkover victory over Fucsovics in Qatar in that span.

“Marton (told) me, `I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to see you,”‘ Rublev said.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.