Gabrielle Guerard

No. 1 Swiatek tops Gauff in straight sets, advances to semis

Michael Owens/Getty Images
3 Comments

SAN DIEGO — Top-ranked Iga Swiatek cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 victory over sixth-seeded Coco Gauff in the quarterfinal round at the WTA 500 San Diego Open.

Gauff had a double fault on the opening point and the outcome was seemingly never in doubt as Swiatek took control with her relentless, sharp-angled offensive attack in a rematch of this year’s French Open singles final, won by the 21-year-old from Poland, 6-1, 6-3.

“I just kept my focus and I’m happy that I stayed composed tonight,” Swiatek said. “It was one of those matches where I felt in control from the first point.”

Played in mild, overcast conditions, the 65-minute contest was Swiatek’s fourth straight win without a loss over the 18-year-old Gauff.

The smooth-hitting, deceptively powerful Swiatek, winner of this year’s U.S. Open and French Open, next faces fourth-seeded Jessica Pegula in one of Saturday’s semifinals. Earlier Thursday, Pegula, a 27-year-old from Buffalo, beat unseeded Madison Keys, 6-4, 7-5 in an all-American matchup. In the other semifinal, Donna Vekic of Croatia, who beat third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1, takes on American Danielle Collins, who eliminated second-seeded Paula Badosa of Spain 7-6 (5), 6-4.

“We always play great, physical matches, so I’m looking forward to playing Jessica,” said Swiatek, who admitted to lingering jet lag since flying from the Czech Republic to San Diego last Sunday.

“I’m waiting to see the sun here, because I’m still not very tan,” said Swiatek, who lost a three-set final to Barbora Krejcikova in Ostrava last weekend.

Against Gauff, the crowd favorite despite a small group of fans dressed in Polish regalia, Swiatek captured the first eight games, breaking Gauff four straight times before the American won her first game, holding serve at 2-1.

Swiatek’s dominance included nearly error-free groundstrokes that forced Gauff into a total of 26 unforced errors.

“I’ve lost to her so many times, and I just didn’t have it today,” Gauff said. “Each time I play her, I learn a lot, like that I overplayed on certain shots which caused me to make more errors.”

The $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open continues through Sunday at San Diego’s Barnes Tennis Center.

Pegasus on Jan. 28, Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream

Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
1 Comment

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Gulfstream Park announced the schedule for the 2022-23 Championship Meet, highlighted by the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Jan. 28.

Also on Pegasus day: The $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, as well as the $500,000 Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Gulfstream’s top Kentucky Derby prep race, the $1 million Florida Derby, will be run on April 1 as part of a card with 10 stakes races. Other top 3-year-old preps at Gulfstream in early 2023 include the $150,000 Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1, the $250,000 Holy Bull on Feb. 4 and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on March 4.

The Pegasus is returning for a seventh time. The format has changed several times in the race’s infancy; the purse structure for the Pegasus World Cup no longer requires owners to put up $1 million apiece for a spot in the starting gate for what was, at its inception, the world’s richest race with a purse that reached $16 million.

This much has remained constant: Winning the Pegasus changes a horse’s resume. No Pegasus winner has ever finished worse than sixth in the yearlong earnings among North American horses, and two past winners – Arrogate and Gun Runner – are two of the three highest-earning thoroughbreds in U.S. history.

Gulfstream’s Championship Meet runs from Dec. 26 through April 2, featuring 60 stakes races, 35 of them graded, and worth a combined $13.6 million.

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

Julian Finney/Getty Images
0 Comments

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.”