Nishikori es­capes up­set bid, faces Zverev in semi-fi­nal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

WASH­ING­TON: Top-10 ri­vals Kei Nishikori and Alexan­der Zverev ad­vanced to a semi-fi­nal show­down at the ATP and WTA Citi Open on Fri­day while sec­ond-ranked Si­mona Halep re­tired with heat fa­tigue. Ninth-ranked Nishikori, the 2015 cham­pion on the Wash­ing­ton hard­courts, saved three match points in a ten­sion-packed sec­ond set be­fore ral­ly­ing to beat 225th-ranked Amer­i­can 20-yearold Tommy Paul 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 af­ter two hours and 40 min­utes.

“It was a great bat­tle,” Nishikori said. “He al­most had it. Happy to win.” Zverev, a 20-yearold Ger­man seek­ing his fourth ATP ti­tle of the year and ranked a ca­reer-high eighth, took only 57 min­utes to elim­i­nate Rus­sia’s Daniil Medvedev 6-2, 6-4. “I felt so good from the start,” Zverev said. “It was a great match for me.

It’s just all com­ing to­gether now.” It will be the first ca­reer meet­ing be­tween Nishikori and Zverev. “I’m sure it’s go­ing to be a tough match,” Nishikori said. He has been play­ing re­ally well.” “Kei has been in the top 10 for a long time now,” Zverev said. “He’s go­ing to be a tough test on the hard­courts.”

The other semi-fi­nal sends US eighth seed Jack Sock-a 7-5, 6-4 win­ner over Cana­dian third seed Mi­los Raonic-against South African 15th seed Kevin An­der­son, who blasted 21 aces to de­feat 200th-ranked In­dian qual­i­fier Yuki Bham­bri 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, af­ter oust­ing top seed Do­minic Thiem on Thurs­day.

“I def­i­nitely have the be­lief in my­self that I’m able to win this tour­na­ment,” An­der­son said. “If I play my best ten­nis I have a chance to do very well.” A day af­ter com­plain­ing that se­vere heat left her feel­ing “a bit dead,” French Open run­nerup Halep quit her quar­ter-fi­nal match in even more scorching con­di­tions, al­low­ing Rus­sian sev­enth seed Eka­te­rina Makarova to ad­vance 26, 6-3, 1-0. “It was just the heat. I felt a lit­tle bit sick and I couldn’t con­tinue,” Halep said. “I had a headache and I felt sick.”

KEI’S EX­PE­RI­ENCE PAYS OFF

Nishikori’s sec­ond-set drama in­ten­si­fied when Paul, in only his sixth ca­reer ATP main draw, hit a cross-court win­ner for an 8-7 tiebreaker edge. But Paul fol­lowed with a wide fore­hand, a back­hand be­yond the base­line and a miss-hit, hand­ing Nishikori the set af­ter 73 gru­el­ing min­utes.

“For sure he got a lit­tle bit tight,” said Nishikori. “But those points I played good points. I didn’t make any un­forced er­rors. Very fo­cused. Ex­pe­ri­ence worked well for me.” Nishikori, in his first event since a third-round Wim­ble­don exit, broke in the third game of the fi­nal set and held serve from there to elim­i­nate Paul, who reached his first ca­reer ATP quar­ter­fi­nal last week in At­lanta.

“It was a tough match but it was a lot of fun,” Paul said. “It was awe­some. I didn’t want to leave the court when I was done.” Nishikori hasn’t won an ATP ti­tle in 18 months, mak­ing his 30th start this week since win­ning last year at Mem­phis, a run that in­cludes six losses in fi­nals.

Raonic’s ti­tle drought reached 19 months and 30 events af­ter fall­ing to Sock. The 2014 Wash­ing­ton win­ner last lifted an ATP tro­phy in 2016 at Bris­bane.

‘CRAZY HOT AND HU­MID’

US eighth seed Sock won 12 of the last 14 points over Raonic in the first set and broke the Cana­dian in the penul­ti­mate game of the sec­ond on the way to an 85-minute vic­tory. “I was able to scrap out some balls and stay in some points to fin­ish it off,” Sock said. “It has been crazy hu­mid and hot.”

Sock has a 2-1 ca­reer edge on An­der­son, win­ning their most re­cent meet­ing in last year’s Auck­land semi-fi­nal. Top seed Halep broke Makarova three times to take the first set in 30 min­utes, but the Rus­sian bat­tled back to win the sec­ond set and broke to open the third be­fore Halep re­tired.

— AFP

WASH­ING­TON: Kei Nishikori of Ja­pan com­petes with Tommy Paul of USA at William H.G. FitzGer­ald Ten­nis Cen­ter on Fri­dat in Wash­ing­ton.

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