Kei Nishikori weathers Fernando Verdasco storm, reaches French Open quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Kei Nishikori weathers Fernando Verdasco storm, reaches French Open quarterfinals

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Eighth seed Kei Nishikori battled past big-hitting Spanish lefty Fernando Verdasco, recovering from a rough first set to win 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the French Open quarterfinals.

 

Japanese eighth seed Kei Nishikori fought off the barrage of big-hitting from veteran Spanish lefty Fernando Verdasco, weathering a 6-0 opening set from Verdasco to come back and win 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0 to reach his second French Ope quarterfinal. Nishikori, who has been pushed to four or five sets in three of his four matches so far this fortnight, has spent a grueling amount of time on court, but the Japanese superstars’ trademark strength in four or five set matches allowed him to outlast his 33-year-old opponent, who was the oldest competitor remaining in the men’s draw in the round of 16.

In the opening set, it was Nishikori, a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros in 2015, under siege by a barrage of Verdasco’s trademark lefty forehands, as the Spaniard was dominant on serve and return in the opening four games to grab a double break lead for 4-0. The unseeded Verdasco saved a break point in the fifth game of the set to hold on for 5-0, consolidating that double break advantage and forcing Nishikori to serve to stay in the opening set. Verdasco, a former champion in Barcelona, was ruthless in punishing the Japanese’s serve, breaking to love to seal the dominant bagel set 6-0 in under 30 minutes.

The second set was a far different affair, as the red-hot Verdasco forehand seemed to cool down, allowing the eighth seed a pipeline back into the match. The pair exchanged breaks of serve in the first two games of the set before serve reigned dominant for the ensuing six games to bring the scoreline to an even  4-all. The unseeded Spaniard had game points to go up 5-4 in the ninth game, but Nishikori’s improved return game paid dividends, surviving a lengthy deuce game to eventually seize the break and give himself the chance to serve to level the match at a set all. Nishikori made no mistake with his opening, serving out the second set comfortably to take the set 6-4 and level the match at a set apiece.

Kei Nishikori hits a serve at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Adam Pretty/Zimbio

The third set was very similar to the second, as the 2014 US Open finalist’s level continued to improve whilst the errors begun to pile up for Verdasco. Nishikori broke in the third game of the set for 2-1, but that lead was short-lived as three games later the Spaniard pegged right back, breaking fairly easily to level the set at 3-all. A marathon service game then ensued on Verdasco’s serve, as the unseeded veteran squandered two game points before Nishikori eventually broke through on his fifth time of asking to gain the break and go up 4-3. After the Japanese superstar consolidated the break easily, the 33-year-old left-hander saved a set point on his serve at 5-3 to hold for 5-4 and force Nishikori to serve it out. The eighth seed did just that, holding routinely to take the third set 6-4 and send himself a set from the last eight in Paris.

The fourth set was a complete role reversal of the opening set, as this time around Nishikori’s trademark mental strength and fitness wore down a struggling Verdasco. The 2015 Roland Garros quarterfinalist begun brightly in the fourth, going up love-40 before finally breaking the Verdasco serve to take the break. Nishikori was forced to come back from love-40 himself, saving three break points on his own serve to consolidate the advantage before sealing a double break the following game for 3-0. After a routine hold of serve, the Japanese superstar continued his dominance of the Verdasco serve, continuing to break at will for a 5-0 lead. With an opportunity to serve out the match, Nishikori made no mistake of this chance, holding to love to finish off a bagel set of his own and book his spot in the French Open quarterfinals for a second time 0-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0.

Following the match, Nishikori was asked about the crazy scoreline of his fourth round match. The Japanese eighth seed said, “Yeah, a little bit unusual. I think he started really well, especially this court’s bounce really high today and he was using very heavy forehand and I was running side to side. I couldn’t do anything first set but I try tried to play a little more heavy and a little more aggressive sometimes, and start working a little bit better.”

“But still it was really, really tough battle. There was so many long rallies, second and third sets. I don’t know. I don’t know how I get the second and third. But, yeah, a little bit gained some confidence during second and third. The fourth, I think it was perfect tennis I played.
So, yeah, very tough battle but very happy to win today,” said a relieved Nishikori.

Kei Nishikori hits a forehand at the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris/Adam Pretty/Zimbio

Nishikori will next face world number one and defending finalist Andy Murray in the quarterfinals after the Brit recorded a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russian Next Gen star Karen Khachanov. Murray and Nishikori will battle for a spot in the French Open semifinals on Wednesday in Paris.

Asked about the prospect of facing the top seed on Wednesday in the last eight, Nishikori said, “Yeah, we have been playing so many times. Yeah, he’s great player. Very smart tennis player.”

“It’s never easy, and I think this week he’s been playing well and very — watching some matches. He’s hitting great balls. So I’m sure it’s gonna be tough one, but try to enjoy and try to win the match.” concluded a confident Nishikori.

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Injured Rafael Nadal Ousts Fritz In Wimbledon Thriller

The world No.4 is through to the semi-finals but there are new doubts over his current health.

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Rafael Nadal has kept his chances of achieving a calendar slam alive by defeating American Taylor Fritz in a dramatic quarter-final match at Wimbledon where he struggled with injury. 

 

The second seed took a medical time out during the second set but continued to battle to a sensational 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(10-4), win over Fritz. Two days ago Nadal was seen wearing tape on his abdomen but refused to go into details when asked by reporters. Although it was clear that this issue is ongoing with the Spaniard crouching over a couple of times after serving in pain. 

“The body is generally fine. Of course, in the abdominal area, something is not going well. I had to find a way to serve a little bit differently,” said Nadal. “I was thinking during a lot of moments that I would not be able to finish the match but the energy (of Center Court) was something else.”

In the roller-coaster encounter, 19 breaks of serves occurred throughout the marathon match. During the gut-busting 260-minute showdown Nadal saw plenty of chances come and go. In each of the first two sets, he had a break advantage before losing them. He also failed to maintain a break advantage in the decider before coming through in the tiebreak. Nevertheless, he managed to come out on top with the help of 5 aces and 55 winners. 

“I enjoy playing these kinds of matches in front of you guys (the crowd),” the Spaniard continued. 
“It has been a tough afternoon against a great player. All the credit to Taylor, he has been playing great the whole season.’
“From my side, it was not an easy match and I am happy to be in the semifinal.”

The triumph is a bitter pill for Fritz to swallow who was bidding to become the youngest American man to reach the last four at Wimbledon since 2005. Until now he had been on an eight-match winning streak.

As for Nadal, he is through to his eighth Wimbledon semi-final and 38th at a major event. He is now 8-0 when it comes to playing quarter-final matches at the tournament.

Amid concerns over the abdomen, Nadal now has only two days to recover in time for his blockbuster showdown against the formidable Nick Kyrgios who came through his match in straight sets against Cristian Garin. Nadal leads their head-to-head 6-3 and has won their two previous meetings at SW19.  

“I hope to be ready to play it,” he said of the semi-final.
“TNick is a great player on all surfaces, especially on the grass. He’s having a great grass-court season and it’s going to be a great challenge. I need to be one hundred percent.”

At the age of 36 Nadal is seeking to reach his first Wimbledon final since 2011.

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“I Thought The Ship Had Sailed’ – Nick Kyrgios Reaches Maiden Wimbledon Semis

The 27-year-old reacts to achieving a new milestone in his career.

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Nick Kyrgios (AUS) - Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

Nick Kyrgios has achieved his best-ever result at a Grand Slam tournament after beating Cristian Garin in straight sets in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. 

 

Kyrgios, who was playing in the last eight of the tournament for the first time since 2014, rallied to a 6-4, 6-3, 7-5(5) win over his Chilean rival. Becoming the first player from his country to reach the last four of the men’s draw since Lleyton Hewitt did so back in 2005.  


”I felt I was playing on the back foot a lot. He’s a hell of a player,” Kyrgios said afterward. “He’s obviously very confident. Hell of a tournament for him to make the quarter-finals. I got lucky on a couple of break points here and there. It could have been him standing here (giving the winner’s interview).”

In what was a largely controlled match from Kyrgios, he produced a total of 17 aces alongside 35 winners against 29 unforced errors. There were the occasional outbursts and criticism of the lines officials but it was by nowhere as controversial as his previous encounters against Stefanos Tsitspas in the third round and Paul Jubb in the first.

The breakthrough comes during what has been a turbulent career. Kyrgios has been a player involved in many controversies and was at one stage issued with a suspended ban from the Tour due to unsportsmanlike conduct. However, his talent was never doubted but many were unsure if he could be consistent enough to have a deep run at a major event. He once was at a pub until 4 am on the same day he was due to play Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon.

“It was an amazing atmosphere out here (on court one). I never thought I will be in the semifinal of a grand slam. I thought my ship had sailed.” He admits. 
“I didn’t go about things earlier in my career great and I may have wasted (time).’
‘I’m really proud of the way I’ve come back out here with my team and with that performance.”

As one of the few top 100 players who travel without a coach, Kyrgios paid tribute to those around him. 

“I don’t have a coach I would never put that burden on someone,” he jokes.
“Each and every one of my team plays an important role. I feel like nobody knows my tennis better than I do. I’ve been playing this sport since I was seven and to be in the semi-final of a slam I am pretty happy.”  

Kyrgios is the lowest-ranked Wimbledon semi-finalist since 2008.

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Why Cameron Norrie’s Historic Run To The Wimbledon Semi-Finals Is No Fluke

The Brit has already proved his worth on the ATP Tour, it was only a matter of time before he did so at the majors.

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image via twitter.com/wimbledon

Cameron Norrie joins a small contingent of British men to have ever reached the semi-final of a major after coming through a dramatic five-set epic against David Goffin at Wimbledon.

Spurred on by an animated crowd, the ninth seed battled from behind to win 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, against the former top 10 player. In doing so the 26-year-old has become only the fourth British man in the Open Era to reach the last four of the grass-court major and the seventh to do so at any Grand Slam. 

 

“To just be a semifinalist of a slam, especially this one, living just around the corner. It’s just all pretty crazy and all happened pretty quickly.” Said Norrie. 

A former college standout player for Texas Christian University, Norrie’s Grand Slam breakthrough has been one in the making. Last year he achieved his best-ever season with a win-loss record of 52-25. During that year he contested six tour finals across three different surfaces, winning two titles. The most prestigious being Indian Wells.  His coach, Facundo Lugones, was recognized for his work by being named ATP Coach of the Year.

Norrie’s 2021 wasn’t a one-off with him continuing his form into this year. Winning the Delray Beach Open in February and Lyon in May. More recently, he was runner-up at Queen’s to Matteo Berrettini who is absent from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19

“When I was a kid watching guys on TV making the (Grand Slam) quarterfinals and thinking, ‘Wow, this looks so tough to do, and there’s almost zero chance I’m going to do that.’ But to actually be doing it, to be living it and experiencing it is very cool and pretty crazy.”

Until now the Grand Slams have been where Norrie has failed to shine. It was visible how much the latest Wimbledon win meant to the world No.12 who struggled to hold back his emotions whilst speaking during his on-court interview.

“All the hard work, the sacrifices and everything just kind of all hit me at once. Especially the situation here at Wimbledon in front of my family, my friends, and obviously a lot of people following that match.” Norrie explained.
“Thinking back about all the hard work, the sacrifices and everything was just…. I didn’t really know what to say. It got emotional there. (It was) just a crazy day and crazy match to get through.”

Standing in his way of becoming the first home player since Andy Murray to reach the Wimbledon final is Novak Djokovic. The top seed ousted Jannik Sinner in five sets earlier in the day.

“He has nothing to lose. Every victory from now onwards is a big deal for him. I know that.” Said Djokovic.
“But I practiced (with him) a few times. I know his game well. He’s been around. Of course, I will do my homework and get ready.”

Looking ahead to his showdown with the 20-time Grand Slam champion, Norrie describes playing him as one of the ‘toughest’ tasks in the sport. He first played Djokovic at last year’s ATP Finals in Milan where he lost 6-2, 6-1. Although the Brit believes he has learned a lot from that match and will be seeking tips from a former Wimbledon Champion as well. 

“Andy (Murray) has been super supportive to me and my team. I’m always practicing with him and always reaching out to him for ideas. He’s super supportive with us,” he said.
“I think he’s not a bad guy to ask about some tactics. I’m going to enjoy today and maybe reach out to him and see what he’s got.”

Norrie’s win-loss record against top 10 players in his career currently stands at 4-23. 

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