Top-seeded Rublev overpowers Nakashima in San Diego Open

Getty Images
1 Comment

SAN DIEGO — Top-seeded Andrey Rublev broke to begin each set and was on his way to overpowering wild-card entry Brandon Nakashima 6-2, 6-1 in the second round of the San Diego Open.

Rublev, fresh off helping Team Europe win the Laver Cup exhibition in Boston, used big forehands to take control of points from the baseline.

“Since the beginning, I was thinking I need to be the one who’s going to dominate. I need to try to take my forehand and try to dictate,” said Rublev, a 23-year-old Russian who is ranked No. 5 and has been to four Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Rublev improved to 45-15 in 2021. He had a first-round bye at the hard-court tournament that was a late addition to the ATP calendar to make up for the cancellation of the tour’s Asian swing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the first match against a top-20 opponent for Nakashima, a 20-year-old from San Diego who is ranked 83rd.

Next up for Rublev is a match against No. 6 seed Diego Schwartzman, who came back from a set and a break down to get past Lloyd Harris 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 at night. Harris was visited by a trainer for a problem with his left foot in the second set, during a stretch in which Schwartzman claimed 10 of 11 games.

No. 5 Hubert Hurkacz and No. 8 Dan Evans were seeded winners earlier in the day.

Hurkacz, who won singles and doubles titles at Metz, France, last week, defeated qualifier Alex Bolt 7-6 (2), 6-1, and Evans beat two-time Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson 7-6 (11), 7-5.

In Evans’ victory, 22 points in a row were won by the server from 3-all to 6-all in the opening set. Then, in the tiebreaker, it was Anderson who nosed ahead and held set points at 6-5 and 7-6 but failed to convert.

Anderson, the runner-up to Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open in 2017 and to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2018, got a third chance to close out the set when ahead 11-10 but again came up short. Eventually, Evans took it on his fourth set point.

“A little fortunate to come through that one,” Evans said.

Evans, who is ranked a career-high 22nd, now faces 28th-ranked Cam Norrie in an all-British matchup.

“I know him pretty well; he knows me,” said Evans, who figured there will be chatter about the upcoming meeting on a text messaging group both he and Norrie are part of.

They’ve played each other once before on tour: Norrie beat Evans in four sets in the first round at the Australian Open in February.

Jabeur bounces back at French Open, Ruud and Andreeva advance

Getty Images

PARIS — Ons Jabeur got a do-over on Court Philippe Chatrier at the French Open and won this time.

A year after her first-round exit, the No. 7 seed Jabeur beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-4, 6-1 to help erase some bad memories and answer questions about a recent calf injury.

The Tunisian, a crowd favorite in Paris, smiled and expressed relief in not repeating last year’s mistake, when she lost to Magda Linette of Poland.

“I’m very happy to win my first match on Philippe Chatrier – because I’ve never won here,” Jabeur said on court about the clay-court tournament’s main stadium.

Now she can focus on trying to win her first major. She was runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.

The 28-year-old Jabeur has also battled injuries this season. She had knee surgery after the Australian Open, and was then sidelined with a calf injury. She had stopped playing against top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the clay-court tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, in late April and then pulled out of the Madrid Open.

“It was a very difficult period for me after Stuttgart,” said Jabeur, adding that she’s beginning to find her rhythm.

Jabeur struck 27 winner’s to Bronzetti’s seven, though with 24 unforced errors she’ll have room to improve.

Mirra Andreeva had a memorable Grand Slam debut by dominating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-2, 6-1. Andreeva’s older sister – 18-year-old Erika – was facing Emma Navarro later in the day.

Later, Swiatek gets her French Open title defense started against Cristina Bucsa, who is ranked 70th.

On the men’s side, No. 4 seed Casper Ruud beat qualifier Elias Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to remind the higher-profile tournament favorites that he was runner-up to Rafael Nadal last year at Roland Garros.

New mom Elina Svitolina beats seeded player at French Open in 1st Slam match in 16 months

Getty Images

PARIS — So much has changed for Elina Svitolina, who played – and won – her first Grand Slam match in nearly 1 1/2 years at the French Open, eliminating 2022 semifinalist Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-2.

For one thing, she’s now a mother: Svitolina and her husband, French tennis player Gael Monfils, welcomed their daughter, Skaï, in October. For another, Svitolina is now ranked 192nd, nowhere near the career high of No. 3 she first reached in 2017, back in the days when she was regularly reaching the second weeks of major tournaments – including a pair of semifinal runs. Away from the courts, her home country of Ukraine was invaded by Russia last year, and the war continues.

“Everything,” she said, “is kind of old and new for me right now.”

In sum, Svitolina is juggling a lot nowadays.

She hadn’t played at a Slam since a third-round exit at the Australian Open in January 2022. She hadn’t played a match anywhere since March 2022, when she was still ranked 20th.

“It was always in my head … to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” the 28-year-old Svitolina said.

The work to return to the tour after giving birth began this January; her initial WTA match came at Charleston, South Carolina, in April. She won her first title since returning to action, at a smaller event on red clay in Strasbourg, France.

At Roland Garros, she used her big forehand to compile a 20-12 edge in winners and never faced a single break point against Trevisan, who was seeded 26th.

Trevisan cried as she spoke after the match about a problem with her right foot that made it difficult to even walk and prompted her to stop playing during her quarterfinal last week at the Morocco Open, where she was the defending champion.

Still, she gave Svitolina credit.

“Even though she’s just coming back from having a daughter, she’s a champion,” Trevisan said. “And she’s coming off a title, so she’s confident.”

Svitolina talked about feeling “awful when you’re pregnant, especially the last months,” but getting into a position now where she thinks she’s stronger than before – in more ways than one.

“I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court and, match by match, I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental (state) can influence your physicality, as well,” she said. “I tried to find the balance, and I feel like I’m seeing (things) a little bit again differently as well after the break. Everything is getting there. The puzzles are getting slowly into place.”