Nadal’s nose just fine at U.S. Open; now 18-0 against Gasquet

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – Rafael Nadal’s nose was just fine. So was his tennis. No stitches or even a bandage, 48 hours after he drew blood by accidentally smacking himself with his racket – and not a trace of trouble, as usual, against Richard Gasquet.

Nadal improved to 18-0 against Gasquet across their careers and ran his head-to-head set streak to 34 in a row by winning their third-round matchup at the U.S. Open 6-0, 6-1, 7-5.

After No. 2 seed Nadal grabbed the initial nine games, Gasquet finally claimed one 70 minutes in. When a 97 mph serve drew a netted return from the 22-time Grand Slam champion, Gasquet raised both arms as the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd feted him with a standing ovation.

Things reverted to form from there between the two 36-year-olds for the remainder of that set, with Nadal’s groundstroke power and placement too much for Gasquet, who used to be a top-10 player but is now ranked 91st.

Only in the third set did Gasquet make things more competitive, getting to 5-all, before Nadal take the last two games to improve to 22-0 in Grand Slam matches in 2022.

Next for Nadal comes a matchup on against No. 22 Frances Tiafoe, an American who reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the third year in a row. Nadal is 2-0 against Tiafoe.

“Now I believe I can beat him. … I’m definitely going to come after him,” said the 24-year-old Tiafoe, who is from Maryland.

The key?

“Match his intensity from the first point to the last,” Tiafoe said after getting past No. 14 Diego Schwartzman 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-4. “You can’t really have any dips. He takes advantage of it.”

Nadal won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June, then got to the semifinals at Wimbledon before pulling out of the grass-court tournament because of a torn abdominal muscle.

Before coming to New York in pursuit of a fifth championship at Flushing Meadows, Nadal tweaked his service motion to ease the strain on his midsection, lowering his toss so as not to reach as far on the swing. The adjustment has not hurt his effectiveness.

And neither did the bizarre mishap in a second-round victory over Fabio Fognini, when Nadal’s racket bounced off the court and up into the bridge of his nose on a backhand follow-through. He was left bloodied and dizzy and worried he’d broken his nose.

“A little bit bgger than usual, but it’s OK,” he said with a smile after eliminating Gasquet. “The nose is still there.”

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.

Jabeur bounces back at French Open, Ruud and Andreeva advance

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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.