scottdargis

AP Images

Chris Froome happy as Tour de France heads for the mountains

Leave a comment

ANNECY, France – Chris Froome believes the mountains will reveal the true Tour de France contenders as he looks forward to the first of three grueling stages in the Alps.

“I’m feeling good and optimistic about the upcoming stages,” the four-time champion said on Monday, the Tour’s first rest day.

Froome, who is eighth overall after nine stages, is 1 minute, 42 seconds behind yellow-jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet before the first Alpine stage on Tuesday.

Van Avermaet is not expected to be a threat in the mountains, and Froome suggested the Belgian “will find it difficult to hang on tomorrow. It’s a proper climbers stage.”

After an opening week of relatively flat routes, the first significant ascents begin with four categorized climbs as well as the punishing Montee du plateau des Gileres, which features a six-kilometer climb at an incline of 11.2 percent.

“It’s a tough stage. It will definitely start shaping the GC,” Froome said of the general classification.

Sky teammate Geraint Thomas is second overall, 0:43 behind Van Avermaet, meaning the team has two viable options to claim the yellow jersey over the second week of the three-week Tour.

“It’s great for us to have those options to play when it comes down to it, especially looking at some of our rivals who have got two or three options in their team,” Froome said.

“The team around us is such a capable group of guys, and we’re really going to be coming into our element now in the mountains.”

Former No. 1 Kerber tops Ostapenko; into second Wimbledon final

AP Images
Leave a comment

LONDON – It was clear right from the opening game of Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon semifinal how things were going to go. She was not going to dictate or control much.

She was, instead, going to employ spectacular defense and solid, steady play, while letting her opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, be the one to determine the outcomes of nearly every point.

It worked. The 11th-seeded Kerber reached her second final at the All England Club by avoiding too many mistakes and using a seven-game run to seize control for a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 12th-seeded Ostapenko on Thursday.

“These are the matches I was working for as a young kid,” Kerber said, “and to stand here again in the final at Wimbledon is great.”

Kerber is a former No. 1 and a two-time major champion, both coming in 2016 at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. That was also the year the German was the runner-up at Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in the title match.

She could find herself up against Williams yet again: The 36-year-old American was scheduled to face No. 13 Julia Goerges of Germany in Thursday’s second semifinal on Centre Court.

Williams took a 19-match Wimbledon winning streak into the day. She won the grass-court tournament the last two times she played it, in 2015 and 2016, before missing it last year while pregnant. Williams gave birth to a daughter in September.

The left-handed Kerber was mainly a passive participant in the early going against Ostapenko. That first game consisted of eight points: Three were unforced errors by Ostapenko, including a double-fault to begin the proceedings; the other five were winners by her, including a 100 mph ace to close the hold.

Five games in, Ostapenko led 3-2, and the numbers were still tilted toward her. She had 14 winners and 10 unforced errors, while Kerber had three winners and – this was key – zero unforced errors.

There were no drawn-out points in the early going, no lengthy baseline exchanges, essentially because Ostapenko wouldn’t allow it. The Latvian plays an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis that carried her to the 2017 French Open title as an unseeded 20-year-old.

Kerber, in contrast, bides her time, working the back of the court to get everything back over the net, often kneeling to get low enough to reach shots.

Eventually, Kerber’s style ruled the day. She went on a half-hour run in which she took the last four games of the first set and took a 3-0 lead in the second. Ostapenko’s strokes were missing and she grew increasingly frustrated, slapping a thigh after a miss or leaning forward and putting her hands on her knees after others. By the time she flubbed a backhand while falling behind 5-1 in the second, she dropped her racket and screamed.

It took Kerber two tries to serve out the victory, getting broken to 5-2. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when she needed seven match points to win, this time it required only two, with the match ending – fittingly enough – on a forehand by Ostapenko that sailed wide.

The final tally told the story: Ostapenko had far more winners, 30-10, but also far more unforced errors, 36-7.

Kerber sets up Wimbledon semifinal vs Ostapenko

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON – Angelique Kerber reached her third Wimbledon semifinal after converting her seventh match point to beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 7-5 on Tuesday, setting up a meeting with former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Ostapenko became the first Latvian woman to make the last four at the All England Club with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Dominika Cibulkova on a windy No. 1 Court.

Kerber, the former No. 1 and two-time major champion who was the runner-up at Wimbledon two years ago, took advantage of Kasatkina’s erratic serving and many errors to return to the last four. Kasatkina finished with seven double-faults, including one on break point in the second game and then two straight to hand Kerber a 5-3 lead in the first set – halting her momentum just after breaking to get back on serve with the help of one of the best rallies of the match.

Still, Kerber had some trouble closing things out.

She served for the victory at 5-4 in the second set, but got broken. When she served for it a second time, she needed to navigate a 16-point game that included five deuces and all of those match points, until forcing a forehand error on the last.

Ostapenko was more efficient, serving her match out at love and converting her first match point with her 14th backhand winner.

Ostapenko was the aggressor throughout, hitting 33 winners to Cibulkova’s six, but also hitting 28 unforced errors to 13 for her opponent. She repeatedly went for winners on her service returns, a strategy that helped her break Cibulkova five times.

Both players struggled to deal with the wind at times when serving, having to interrupt their ball-toss motion on several occasions in the second set.

They traded breaks early in both sets before Ostapenko broke decisively for a 3-2 lead in the second when Cibulkova sent a forehand long.

Later, Serena Williams resumed her quest for an eighth Wimbledon title when she played 52nd-ranked Camila Giorgi of Italy.

In the fourth quarterfinal, 13th-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany faced former French Open semifinalist Kiki Bertens, with both players having reached the last eight at Wimbledon for the first time.

Also, Juan Martin del Potro became the last man into the quarterfinals by beating Gilles Simon 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5).

The fifth-seeded del Potro failed to convert four match points when serving at 5-4 in the fourth set, but maintained his composure to close out the contest with his first opportunity in the tiebreaker that followed.

It was the only fourth-round contest to be carried over to Tuesday and lasted 4 hours, 24 minutes, making it the longest men’s singles match of the tournament.

Del Potro will face two-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.