McDonald to face Sinner in Citi Open final

Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — A little more than two years ago, American tennis player Mackie McDonald needed surgery for a torn hamstring tendon and couldn’t walk for weeks.

Look at the 26-year-old McDonald now – a finalist at an ATP tournament for the first time.

McDonald beat 2015 champion Kei Nishikori 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 at the Citi Open in a back-and-forth semifinal filled with superb baseline play across 2 hours, 46 minutes.

“I feel like I put it all together a little bit this week,” said McDonald, who is unseeded and ranked 107th. “You never know when it’s going to click. For me, it’s this week, so far.”

He will face fifth-seeded and 24th-ranked Jannik Sinner of Italy for the trophy.

The 19-year-old Sinner arrived at the hard-court tournament in the nation’s capital on a four-match losing streak. But he reached his fourth ATP final and stopped the run of 20-year-old Californian Jenson Brooksby with a 7-6 (2), 6-1 victory.

McDonald was a college star at UCLA, winning NCAA singles and doubles titles in 2016. In the pros, he showed real promise by reaching Wimbledon’s fourth round in 2018. But McDonald badly injured his leg in a doubles match at the 2019 French Open and the road back was tough.

He showed that his game was coming together this February, when he got to the Australian Open’s fourth round. More positive ground came this week, including beating defending Citi Open champion Nick Kyrgios in straight sets in the first round and the close one against 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori.

When Nishikori netted a forehand to get broken to end the match, McDonald let out a celebratory yell.

“Yeah, it means a lot. I’m trying to downplay or, I guess, downplay a little bit. Try to keep my cool,” said McDonald, who for years has written down his tennis goals and now is one win from accomplishing one of them. “I guess that’s what’s really helping me – not make the moments too big, getting too high or too low, staying focused, knowing the values behind it.”

Sinner can become the first teen to win the U.S. Open tuneup since Juan Martin del Potro in 2008, a year before the Argentine claimed his only Grand Slam title in New York.

“He’s fairly strong mentally. He makes good decisions,” Brooskby said about Sinner. “He does a lot of things right.”

But it was Brooksby who nearly nosed ahead, holding three set points when he was up 6-5 and got to love-40 while Sinner served.

That is where Brooksby faltered, suddenly deserted by the backhands and drop shots that have been been the bedrock of his success during a breakthrough season in which he raised his ranking from outside the top 300 to 130th.

On the brink of relinquishing the set, Sinner grabbed the next five points to hold for 6-all – or, more accurately, Brooksby frittered away the next five points.

“I was, yeah, a little bit lucky,” Sinner acknowledged afterward.

In the tiebreaker, Brooksby’s mistakes continued to mount. He tried a drop shot that Sinner got to and tapped over the net for a winner to begin things. The set – the first one Brooksby lost in five matches – concluded with a drop shot into the net.

“I just tried to stay calm, stay with the right mindset,” Sinner said. “The first set could have gone either way. This, for sure, gave me confidence for the second set.”

The denouement perhaps reflected the gulf in experience that favors the younger of the two. Brooksby had appeared in a total of nine ATP matches, 80 fewer than Sinner.

“I know what I did wrong and did not come away with it, and also the letdown after that,” Brooksby said. “I’ll definitely learn from that the most and be more comfortable with those situations as it goes on.”

Elena Rybakina hits 10 aces in Miami for 12th straight win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina extended her winning streak to 12 matches by delivering 10 aces – her fourth consecutive outing with at least that many – in a 6-3, 6-0 victory over 25th-seeded Martina Trevisan in the Miami Open quarterfinals.

Rybakina has 46 aces through four matches at the hard-court tournament in Florida and a WTA-leading 201 this season.

The 23-year-old, who represents Kazakhstan, improved to 20-4 in 2023, including a run to the Australian Open final in January and a title at Indian Wells, California, last week.

She is trying to become only the fifth player to win the women’s trophies at Indian Wells and Miami in the same season. Top-ranked Iga Swiatek did it a year ago; she withdrew from Miami this time because of a rib injury.

“Of course it would be amazing to achieve something like that,” the 10th-seeded Rybakina said about the prospect of completing what’s known as the Sunshine Double, “but it’s still far away.”

So far in Rybakina’s career, 13 of her 18 semifinal appearances have come on hard courts. She will face No. 3 Jessica Pegula for a berth in the final after the American fought off two match points and outlasted No. 27 Anastasia Potapova 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a match that ended just before 1:30 a.m. after play had been delayed by rain.

“I haven’t been that physically tired in just a really long time,” Pegula said. “Just the humidity was taking so much out of me, and I haven’t been able to play in humidity like that in a while. It was just really tough, so really, it was just pure will.”

Trevisan reached the French Open semifinals in 2022.

In fourth-round men’s action Tuesday, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was beaten 7-6 (4), 6-4 by No. 14 Karen Khachanov, while defending champion Carlos Alcaraz, Taylor Fritz and Jannik Sinner all beat seeded opponents in straight sets.

Alcaraz, who returned to No. 1 in the ATP rankings last week, got past Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-4 to set up a meeting against Fritz, the top-ranked American man and seeded ninth in Miami.

Fritz compiled twice as many winners, 22, as unforced errors, 11, and only dropped serve once during a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 7 Holger Rune. That put Fritz into his first quarterfinal in seven appearances in Miami – and his first matchup against Alcaraz, a 19-year-old from Spain who won the U.S. Open in September for his first Grand Slam title.

“I’m really excited for it,” Fritz said. “I think that a lot of people are really excited for that, too.”

No. 10 Sinner eliminated No. 6 Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-4 and has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

Sinner’s next opponent will be unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori, a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 winner against No. 26 Botic van de Zandschulp.

No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, forced to start late and off his scheduled court after the rain, beat Quentin Halys 6-4, 6-2. He will face American Christopher Eubanks, who edged Adrian Mannarino in a pair of tiebreakers.

Khachanov will play Francisco Cerundolo, a semifinalist in Miami last year, in the other men’s quarterfinal.

Fritz, Sinner reach Miami Open quarterfinals with 2-set wins

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Taylor Fritz and Jannik Sinner beat seeded opponents in straight sets at the Miami Open to move into the quarterfinals.

No. 9 Fritz compiled twice as many winners, 22, as unforced errors, 11, and only dropped serve once during a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 7 Holger Rune.

That put Fritz, the highest-ranked American man, into his first quarterfinal in seven appearances at the hard-court tournament.

He will face either No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz or Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul next. Alcaraz is the defending champion in Miami.

No. 10 Sinner eliminated No. 6 Andrey Rublev 6-2, 6-4 and has yet to drop a set in the tournament.

Sinner’s next opponent will be No. 26 Botic van de Zandschulp or unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori.