Murray out of U.S. Open in 3rd round; Serena eliminated

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NEW YORK — Andy Murray’s latest Week 1 exit at a Grand Slam tournament did not discourage him. The three-time major champion still thinks he can go toe-to-toe with the best in men’s tennis – even after two hip operations, even as the years without a trip past the third round at any of the sport’s biggest events stretch on.

After bowing out at that stage of the U.S. Open with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-3 loss across more than 3 1/2 hours against 2021 Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini, Murray chose to look on the bright side.

“I’ve got a metal hip. It’s not easy playing with that. It’s really difficult. I’m surprised I’m still able to compete with guys that are right up at the top of the game,” the 35-year-old Murray said, resting his head on his left hand. “Matches like this, I’m really proud that I have worked myself into a position where I’m able to do that. I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get over the line today. But I get reminded, like, `This is the first time you’ve made the third round here since 2016.’ It’s been six years. It’s been a difficult six years for me.”

Berrettini, a big hitter who reached the 2019 semifinals at Flushing Meadows, dominated in just about every statistical way at Arthur Ashe Stadium, hours before 23-time Grand Slam title winner Serena Williams was eliminated by Ajla Tomljanovic with a 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1 loss in what was expected to be her final match.

Williams, who turns 41 this month, still didn’t definitely say her career was over. But her tearful thanks to her parents, older sister Venus and fans afterward made it sound that way.

“It’s been a fun ride. It’s been the most incredible ride and journey I’ve ever been on in my life,” Williams said.

Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American who reached the final at the French Open in June, made it to the fourth round at the U.S. Open for the first time with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Madison Keys, the 2017 runner-up in New York and seeded 20th this year.

Gauff’s match ended a little more than an hour before Williams-Tomljanovic was due to begin – and the teen was hoping Williams could keep winning so they could meet in the semifinals. But the six-time champion lost, shortly after 2019 winner Bianca Andreescu was eliminated by No. 17 Caroline Garcia, guaranteeing there would be a first-time U.S. Open women’s champion.

Gauff now meets Zhang Shuai, who eliminated Rebecca Marino 6-2, 6-4.

Defending men’s champion Daniil Medvedev beat Wu Yibing of China 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in Ashe to close the night and is set to meet Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios, the No. 23 seed who swept past American J.J. Wolf 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Medvedev had 12 aces to only one for Wu, who was the first Chinese man to reach the third round of the U.S. Open.

In other action during the day session, Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur came back to defeat No. 31 Shelby Rogers 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and avoid the sort of early exit by a high-seeded woman that has filled the first week of play at the year’s last major. No. 2 Anett Kontaveit (who lost to Williams), No. 3 Maria Sakkari and No. 4 Paula Badosa are all already gone, as are 2021 champion Emma Raducanu and 2021 runner-up Leylah Fernandez; No. 1 Iga Swiatek and No. 5 Jabeur have offered a bit of the expected.

Jabeur reached the fourth round in New York for the first time after going 0-3 in the third round since 2019.

“Finally,” Jabeur said. “I know that I don’t play the best on hard courts, but it’s always amazing to see how I’m improving, how I’m pushing my limits.”

She next plays No. 18 Veronika Kudermetova, who needed just 47 minutes to overwhelm Dalma Galfi 6-2, 6-0.

In the men’s bracket, French Open runner-up Casper Ruud edged 29th-seeded Tommy Paul in five sets, while No. 27 Karen Khachanov moved on when his opponent, Jack Draper, stopped playing in the third set because of an injured hamstring.

The 13th-seeded Berrettini advanced to face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina by hitting more aces than the unseeded Murray, 18-5, delivering far more total winners, 55-24, and accumulating 15 break points, converting five, while facing only four.

Murray’s summation: “I served pretty poorly for a large part of the match.”

He won his first Slam trophy at the U.S. Open in 2012, then added titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016, becoming the first British man to triumph there since the 1930s. Murray made it to No. 1 in the rankings in 2017; that also was the last time he reached the fourth round at any major, doing so at the All England Club.

“Unfortunately, I never played him when he was No. 1, but his level seems very high right now. He’s super intelligent. He reads the game very well. … He made me sweat a lot,” Berrettini said after a match that was interrupted for about five minutes while paramedics attended to a spectator. “He still moves well. He has a lot of strength in his legs. I see him in the gym all the time.”

The first procedure on his hip came early in 2018, and the assumption by most, including Murray, was that he would need to retire. Then a second surgery, to install the metal implant, arrived in January 2019.

“Lots of people told me I wouldn’t be able to play again. And lots of people told me I’d be able to hit tennis balls but not compete professionally again. That was nonsense,” he said, “and I want to see how close I can get back to the top of the game.”

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

San Diego Open - Finals
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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

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.”