Swiatek takes last 4 games, tops Niemeier at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Iga Swiatek went into her first-round Australian Open match with strong memories of what a tough go of it she had against Jule Niemeier the last time they met. So the No. 1-ranked Swiatek came in ready for another tussle, and possibly another three-setter, but grabbed the last four games to beat Niemeier 6-4, 7-5 in Rod Laver Arena.

Determined, Swiatek said, to “think about what I could do to push her back,” the 21-year-old from Poland took control from the baseline with her forehand late to improve to 15-1 in openers at Grand Slam tournaments, a .938 winning percentage that leads active women.

When they faced each other in the U.S. Open’s fourth round in September, Swiatek needed to come back from a set and a break down before getting past Niemeier in three sets en route to claiming a third major trophy.

Niemeier – a 22-year-old German who is ranked 69th and was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last year – broke to begin the second set, led it 5-3 and served for it at 5-4. But Swiatek smacked a big forehand to force one error and earn a break point, then did the same to convert it.

Swiatek broke again with yet another error forced by a forehand to end the match. She raised her right fist, looked toward her coach and sports psychologist in the stands and let out a yell. When Swiatek sat on the sideline, she closed her eyes and breathed deeply.

How close was this one? Swiatek made only two more winners (20-18) and just one fewer unforced error (29-28).

The owner of three major titles, and a semifinalist at the Australian Open a year ago, Swiatek now will face 84th-ranked Camila Osorio.

At French Open, Francisco Cerundolo is mad at chair umpire over Holger Rune’s double-bounce

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PARIS – Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina was devastated about losing his French Open fourth-round match to Holger Rune of Denmark in a fifth-set tiebreaker Monday. He also was mad at chair umpire Kader Nouni for missing a double-bounce of the ball on a point that was awarded to Rune early in his 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7) victory.

They were tied at a set apiece and on serve at 2-1 for the No. 6-seeded Rune early in the third at Court Suzanne Lenglen when the point of contention happened. Cerundolo, who was serving at deuce, hit a forehand that skidded low at the baseline and quickly bounced a second time – which normally would have meant that the point was his.

But Rune went ahead and got his racket on the ball, sending it back over the net. At about the same time, No. 23 seed Cerundolo was saying “sorry” to apologize for the odd way his forehand made the ball skim across the clay. Nouni was not immediately aware of the double-bounce, thought the ball was still in play and called Cerundolo for hindrance for talking during a point. That meant Rune got the point, and when he won the next one, too, he had a service break.

“It was unbelievable, because it was a clear double-bounce. I was mad at the umpire because he has to see it,” Cerundolo said. “It’s his fault.”

In tennis, electronic line-calling is used at many tournaments to make line calls, but replays are not used to check things like double-bounces or whether a point should be lost because a player touches the net, which is not allowed.

And while Cerundolo put the onus on the official, he also thought Rune could have ceded the point because of the double-bounce.

“For sure, I wish he would have done that, because it was a big moment,” Cerundolo said.

Rune, who moved into a matchup against No. 4 Casper Ruud in the quarterfinals, said he saw a replay after the following point, and “saw it was a double bounce. But the point already happened, and he called the score. So I felt sorry.”

But, Rune added: “This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires, they make mistakes. Some for me; some for him. That’s life.”

Gael Monfils withdraws from French Open with wrist injury

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PARIS — A thrilling five-set victory took a toll on Gael Monfils, whose withdrawal from the French Open handed No. 6 Holger Rune a walkover to the third round.

The 36-year-old Frenchman said he has a strained left wrist and can’t continue.

He battled Sebastian Baez for nearly four hours on Court Philippe Chatrier before beating the Argentine 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 in a first-round match that ended at 12:18 a.m. local time.

The victory was Monfils’ first at tour level this year, as the veteran was coming back from heel surgery.

“Actually, physically, I’m quite fine. But I had the problem with my wrist that I cannot solve,” he said. “The doctor say was not good to play with that type of injury. Yesterday was actually very risky, and then today definitely say I should stop.”

Monfils reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2008 and made it to the quarterfinals on three other occasions.