Leylah Fernandez Upsets Defending Champion Naomi Osaka to Reach Fourth Round at US Open

Leylah Fernandez has taken down the defending champion…

The 18-year-old half-Ecuadorian Canadian tennis player, ranked No. 73 in the world, defeated reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka in their third round match on Friday night 5-7, 6-7 (2), 6-4.

Leylah Fernandez

Before this year’s US Open, Fernandez had never been past the second round of a Grand Slam..

“Right before the match, I knew I was able to win,” Fernandez said after her upset win over Osaka.

Osaka had come into Friday with a 16-match winning streak at majors and four career trophies, all on hard courts. But this was Osaka’s first Slam tournament since she pulled out of the French Open before the second round to take a mental health break — she also sat out Wimbledon, before participating in the 2020 Tokyo Games, where she lit the cauldron — and maybe the time off was an issue.

Another possible factor in her failure to close things out while serving for the victory against the left-hander Fernandez at 6-5 in the second set: Osaka hadn’t competed since Monday. That’s because the woman she was supposed to meet in the second round, Olga Danilovic, withdrew due to illness.

Osaka left the court after seven games to change outfits and put on a yellow dress. She was quite good down the stretch in the opening set. She grabbed 12 of the last 13 points, including the last nine, with a break at love to go up 6-5, and a hold at love with the help of a pair of aces at 112 mph and 114 mph to end it.

Osaka seemed on track for a similar conclusion in the second set, leading 6-5 and serving. But when she sailed a forehand wide, Fernandez had her first break of the match to make it 6-all.

“I guess I wanted to stay on court a little bit longer. And I wanted to put on a show for everybody here,” Fernandez said. “One hour was not enough for me to be on court.”

And so began Osaka’s downward spiral. She fell behind 5-0 in the ensuing tiebreaker, missing shots and displaying her frustration, as she occasionally has done in the past, by flinging her racket. Chair umpire Alison Hughes did not sanction Osaka then, although later a warning was issued for hitting a ball into the stands.

“Honestly, I wasn’t focusing on Naomi,” Fernandez said. “I was only focusing on myself and what I needed to do.”

More to the point, Osaka was not at her best. She left the court with a white towel draped over her head after the second set and never really got her game going the rest of the way.

Fernandez certainly had something to do with that, particularly because of her serve. She won 18 of 19 first-serve points — and never faced a break point — in the third set.

Fernandez’s knee-to-the-ground, quick-redirect style at the baseline is reminiscent of another lefty, Angelique Kerber, a three-time Grand Slam champion who won the 2016 US Open. And who just so happens to be the next opponent for Fernandez.

“I’m going to put on a show like I did tonight,” Fernandez said, “and we’re going to see how it goes.”

Carlos Alcaraz Outlasts Stefanos Tsitsipas to Reach Fourth Round at US Open

Carlos Alcaraz has notched the biggest win on the ATP Tour

The 18-year-old Spanish tennis player claimed a fifth set tiebreaker to stun third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a thrilling third-round match at the US Open.

Carlos Alcaraz

Alcaraz prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 0-6, 7-6 (7-5) to set up his first Grand Slam fourth-round appearance.

Alcaraz became the youngest man to reach the French Open third round since 1992 in June – and he nce again demonstrated why he’s being tipped for future glory as he shocked the world number three at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Alcaraz twice led Tsitsipas, who reached his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros earlier this year, by a set and showed maturity well beyond his years as he also recovered from failing to take a game in the fourth.

Roared on by a partisan crowd, the talented Spaniard survived a break point at 3-2 down in the deciding set and showed no sign of tension as he held serve to force the final tie-break.

In a dazzling display Alcaraz landed 61 winners and, after more than four hours of play, clinched his third match point with an assured forehand winner to set up a fourth-round meeting with German Peter Gojowczyk.

“I think without this crowd I haven’t the possibility to win the match,” said Alcaraz. “I was down at the beginning of the fourth set so thank you to the crowd for pushing me up in the fifth.

“It’s an incredible feeling for me. This victory means a lot to me. It’s the best match of my career, the best win, to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas is a dream come true for me.”

Rafael Nadal to Make Debut at Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

Rafael Nadal is gearing up for hard-court season…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star will return to competition later this month by making his debut at the Citi Open in Washington.

Rafael Nadal

Organizers of the hard-court tournament have announced that the 20-time Grand Slam champion is in the field for the July 31 to August 8 event that serves as a US Open tuneup.

Nadal has not played since his loss to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open last month.

He decided to sit out Wimbledon, which ends Sunday, and the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23, saying his body needed time to rest and recover after the clay-court season.

Other players entered in the Citi Open include Wimbledon semifinalists Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz, who beat Roger Federer on Wednesday.

Wimbledon quarterfinalists Felix Auger-Aliassime and Karen Khachanov also are entered.

The tournament says Rock Creek Park Tennis Center will be allowed to have spectators at 50% of capacity. Last year’s Citi Open was canceled because of the pandemic.

Rafael Nadal Defeats Diego Schwartzman to Reach French Open Semifinals

Rafael Nadal’s streak may have ended, but he’s still extending other records at the French Open.

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis star, the King of Clay, saw his 36-set winning streak end at Roland Garros on Wednesday, but he battled through to a record-extending 14th semifinal at the tournament.

Rafael Nadal

The 13-time champion improved to a 105-2 match record at the clay-court Grand Slam following a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Argentine 10th seed Diego Schwartzman in two hours and 45 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Nadal, who is bidding to capture a record 21st major crown, lost the final three games of the second set in front of 5,000 spectators, but regrouped in the third set and from a 3-4 deficit put his foot down to win nine straight games, and 20 of 21 service points in a row.

“I started badly in the second set, then I was able to come back,” said Nadal. “But at 4-4, returning with the wind, I played a bad game and hit a double fault in the next game. I needed to play more aggressively and I did so throughout the rest of the match. I won an important match today against a tough opponent. I was able to find a way to play my best tennis in the moments that I really needed to.”

He will next challenge World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion with 18 major trophies who beat ninth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini, in Friday’s semi-finals.

Nadal trails Djokovic 28-29 in their legendary ATP Head2Head series, but Nadal won their last match in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final in Rome.

Nadal has compiled a 23-3 match record on the season, which also includes the Barcelona Open title (d. Tsitsipas). He is through to his 35th Grand Slam semifinal and is 26-0 once he reaches the Roland Garros semifinals.

Paula Badosa Advances to First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinal at the French Open

It’s a personal Grand Slam best as a pro for Paula Badosa

Six years after winning the French Open as a junior, the 23-year-old Spanish tennis player outlasted Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 at Roland Garros on Sunday to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Paula Badosa,

“I’ve always liked dreaming big,” said Badosa after her win.

Badosa fell into a seeded position, at No.33, at Roland Garros when Alison Riske withdrew from the draw, but anyone who has followed the tour from week-to-week would have circled her name regardless.

Back on her favorite surface, Badosa came into Paris with the highest clay winning percentage on tour, at 86.7% (13-2). Her four wins and Paris brings that tally to 89.4%.

Badosa had been building a steady head of steam all season. She took her momentum from 2020 Roland Garros, where she notched just her second and third Top 50 wins, over Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko, to make her first Slam Round of 16.

Badosa then went on a string of notable semifinal runs.

  • In Lyon, her first of the season.
  • In Charleston, her first at the WTA 500 level, with a first win against a Top 20 player (Belinda Bencic) and first over a reigning No.1 (Ashleigh Barty).
  • In Madrid, her first at the WTA 1000 level.

And to add one more career milestone to the list, in Belgrade, where she captured her first WTA title.

As a result, Badosa rose from No.71 at the start of the clay season to No. 35 ahead of the French Open.

Badosa will next face Tamara Zidansek for a spot in the final four.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina Defeats Federico Delbonis at French Open to Reach First-Ever Grand Slam Quarterfinals

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina has reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal…

The 22-year-old Spanish tennis player battled past Federico Delbonis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 56 minutes on Sunday at the French Open.

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina

Davidovich Fokina, who overcame Casper Ruud in a mammoth five-set battle in the third round, hit 42 winners and broke Delbonis seven times on Court Suzanne-Lenglen to set up a clash with sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

Davidovich Fokina improved to 19-10 on the season with the victory over 30-year-old Delbonis.

He previously reached the fourth round at the US Open in September (l. Zverev) and advanced to the semifinals on clay at the Estoril Open (l. Ramos-Vinolas) in May to reach a career-high No. 45 in the ATP rankings.

In a lively start where both players broke serve, Davidovich Fokina moved ahead, reeling off four straight games to lead 5-3 as errors started to fly from the Argentine’s racquet.

The Spaniard, who had spent ten hours and 14 minutes on court ahead of this fourth round match, won 46 per cent of points on Delbonis’ first serve, dominating from the baseline as he showed no signs of fatigue to win the opener.

The Spaniard then raced into a 5-1 lead in the second as he won 93 per cent of points (14/15) on his first serve. Although the youngster displayed some nerves, with Delbonis closing back to 5-4, the Argentine could not convert two break opportunities to level at 5-5. Davidovich Fokina capitalized on his third set point with a forehand winner to move further clear.

Lefthander Delbonis hit his heavy forehand into the Spaniard’s backhand with more success throughout the third set though, and battled back from a break down to gain a foothold in the contest. However, Davidovich Fokina made 82 per cent of his first serves in the fourth and used the drop shot to great effect against his tiring opponent, making the crucial breakthrough at 3-3. He then fended off four break points to serve out the contest to extend his stay in France.

Delbonis lost just eight games in his third-round encounter with Fabio Fognini to move to 19 clay-court wins for the season. However, the 30-year-old, who reached the quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia as a qualifier (l. Opelka), struggled to deal with the Spaniard’s power on Sunday.

Pablo Andujar Comes Back from Two-Sets Down to Upset Dominic Thiem in French Open First Round

Pablo Andujar is celebrating a massive upset…

The 35-year-old Spanish tennis player defeated reigning US Open champion and two-time French Open finalist Dominic Thiem 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.

Pablo Andujar

Andujar, ranked 68th in the workd, came back from two sets down to claim the Roland Garros win against the fourth-seeded Austrian.

It marked the first time in eight appearances at the clay-court Grand Slam that Thiem lost his opening match.

Andujar also defeated Roger Federer in Geneva earlier this month. It’s the first time in his career that Andujar has come back to win after losing the opening two sets.

Thiem, who lost the 2018 and 2019 finals to Rafael Nadal, dropped to 11-9 in five-set matches.

Rafael Nadal Ends Up on the Same Half of French Open Draw as Novak Djokovic & Roger Federer

It’s the (bad) luck of the draw for Rafael Nadal

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star, the reigning French Open champion, has ended up in the same half of the Roland Garros men’s field in the draw as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, meaning no more than one of them can reach the final.

Rafael Nadal

The Big Three top the leaderboard for Grand Slam men’s singles titles. Federer and Nadal head to Roland Garros, where play begins Sunday, tied with 20, while Djokovic has 18. No one else has more than 14.

Nadal, the King of Clay, beat Djokovic in straight sets in the 2020 final for his record-extending 13th championship on the red clay of Paris, but if they meet again this time, it would be in the semifinals.

Nadal is ranked and seeded No. 3 — the seedings adhere strictly to the ATP rankings, so the Spaniard’s unprecedented success in Paris is irrelevant — so he could have wound up on either side of the bracket but was placed in No. 1 Djokovic’s half.

So was Federer, whose record for most weeks atop the ATP rankings recently was broken by Djokovic. Federer is seeded eighth after playing only three matches over the past 15 months because of two operations on his right knee and could meet Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

The other possible men’s quarterfinal on their side is Nadal vs. No. 7 Andrey Rublev.

On the other side of the draw, the potential quarterfinals are No. 2 Daniil Medvedev vs. No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 4 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 6 Alexander Zverev.

Medvedev is a two-time Grand Slam finalist but is 0-4 for his French Open career. Thiem won last year’s US Open and twice has been the runner-up in Paris.

This is the first time that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have been in the same half of a Grand Slam main draw, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Paula Badosa Wins First Career WTA Title at Serbia Open

Paula Badosa has claimed her first WTA title…

The 23-year-old Spanish tennis player, who has been an absolute beast on clay this year, battled through double duty on Saturday at the Serbia Open to claim the trophy.

Paula Badosa

Badosa, who improves to 13-2 on clay during the season, defeated Viktoriya Tomova, 6-1, 6-2, before claiming the title with a win over Ana Konjuh when the Croatian qualifier ended the match due to a hip injury while trailing 6-2, 2-0 RET.

“Today wasn’t an easy day, not even in the morning,” Badosa said. “In the afternoon, I think I played an amazing first set, I think I played at a very good level. Ana’s an amazing player, I’m so sorry for her we have to finish like this, but the part that I was playing, I think it was quite good so I’m happy with the level.”

Badosa will rise to a career-high ranking, projected at 34, which might be good enough for a seeding at Roland Garros. Last year in Paris, Badosa reached the round of 16 on the terre battue, and she has gone 19-4 on clay since the start of 2020.

Konjuh can be thankful her problems had nothing to do with the elbow injury that kept her off tour for a year and a half. She hopes to recover in time to take a shot at the French Open. She reached her first final since 2017 Auckland and will see her ranking rise to inside the Top 150 next week (for the first time since 2018).

“Yesterday in the match I kind of pulled my hip flexor,” said Konjuh, who qualified for the main draw, and defeated Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, 7-6(6), 7-6(4) in her first of two matches on Saturday. “I’ve been trying to get it right but this match this morning didn’t really help—it’s been a hell of a fight. I just could not continue and I didn’t want to risk Paris, playing in a few days, and hopefully I can get ready for it.”

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Rafael Nadal Defeats Novak Djokovic to Claim 10th Italian Open Title

Make than 10 for Rafael Nadal

The 34-year-old Spanish tennis star defeated Novak Djokovic 7-5, 1-6, 6-3 to earn a record-extending 10th Italian Open title on Sunday.

Rafael Nadal

With whipping forehands that produced an average of 54 revolutions per second — to Djokovic’s 45 — Nadal’s biggest weapon was in top form.

“I have been playing better and better with my forehand the last couple of weeks, getting to the confidence point,” Nadal said. “That’s a huge improvement for me, very important shot. Especially on clay, it [gives] me confidence.”

The title reestablished Nadal as the overwhelming favorite for the French Open, where he’ll be aiming for his 14th title starting in two weeks.

But Nadal preferred to focus on his achievement in Rome — at least for the moment.

“To have this trophy in my hands for the 10th time is something hard to believe,” Nadal said, recalling how he won his first title at the Foro Italico in 2005 as an 18-year-old, when he beat Guillermo Coria in a match lasting more than five hours.

“Now, 16 years later, to play in the final again is incredible,” Nadal said in Italian during the trophy presentation. “It’s difficult to describe. Without a doubt this is one of the most important places in my career.”

Three forehand winners helped Nadal produce the decisive break in the third set, when Djokovic’s energy level appeared to dip.

The top-ranked Djokovic spent nearly five hours on court Saturday, when he had to rally for a rain-delayed quarterfinal victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas before winning another three-setter over local favorite Lorenzo Sonego in the semifinals.

Nadal played only once Saturday, beating Reilly Opelka in 1½ hours.

“He managed to break my serve and played better. That’s it,” Djokovic said. “I had my shot to win it, but wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t feel fatigue. Actually, I was very happy with the way I felt on the court. I could have gone for another few hours.”

It was the 57th meeting between Nadal and Djokovic, which is the most matches between two men in the Open era. It was their ninth meeting in Rome, where they have played more than anywhere else.

Djokovic now holds a slim edge in the all-time series 29-28, while Nadal holds a 6-3 advantage in Rome overall and 4-2 in Rome finals.