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Updated: 5 days 17 hours ago

Day 8 Preview: Former Champions Federer, Djokovic, Cilic Headline

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 10:26pm

Rarely does Roger Federer find a crowd vociferously willing on an opponent noticeably more than him anywhere on tour these days. But three years ago, a dogged local underdog, John Millman, rode a wave of home support to have the Swiss great on the ropes under the lights in Brisbane. 

Federer was admittedly rusty in his first outing of the new season that night and came up against an inspired wild card then ranked No. 153, an opponent who simply did not know what it meant to lie down. The Swiss ultimately prevailed from a set and a break down – by no means a novel feat for the 37-year-old – but for a late-blooming Millman, it instilled a belief he could match it with the No. 2 seed should they cross paths again. 

After seeing off Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin to reach the fourth round at a major for the first time in his career, Millman earned that chance. And the Australian made it clear he would not be overawed stepping into the enormous crowd-filled surroundings of Arthur Ashe for the first time on Monday, even knowing this time the support would likely be tilted firmly in his opponent’s favour.

“Definitely a player I've looked up to throughout my career,” Millman said of Federer. “But it's like anything. I have never been a fan of playing anyone's reputation. When you go out on court, I think it's about engaging in a battle. 

“I definitely won't be thinking about those things… I want to start off at 0-all and not already being behind the eight-ball and playing someone's reputation. If you do that, I think you can get bogged down and you're in a bit of trouble.”

At Flushing Meadows, Federer has not lost any of his 40 prior matches against players outside the Top 50 in the ATP Rankings. Millman currently sits at World No. 55.

The Swiss will be shooting for his 13th US Open quarter-final berth in his past 14 appearances. And after seeing off Millman’s countryman, the ever-dangerous Nick Kyrgios, without conceding a set in the third round, it sent an ominous warning.

A win for the five-time champion and a win for two-time champion Novak Djokovic on Monday would set a blockbuster quarter-final showdown. The Serbian No. 6 seed will carry a 4-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead into his match with Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

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As with Millman, Sousa is making his fourth-round debut in a Grand Slam. The first Portuguese player to progress as far at a major has enjoyed an impressive run, having taken down Top 20 seeds Lucas Pouille and Pablo Carreno Busta in the previous two rounds. 

A rejuvenated Djokovic, however, is a step up. Despite dropping a set in each of his first two matches, the Serbian trounced former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet for the loss of just eight games on Saturday night.

It was the surest sign yet at this year’s US Open that the Djokovic of old was back. A fourth Wimbledon triumph last month and the career Golden Masters completed at the Western & Southern Open were added proof. 

In a match that came within four minutes of being the latest finish to a US Open night session, 2014 champion Marin Cilic survived an almighty scare to bounce back against gutsy #NextGenATP Aussie Alex De Minaur 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 as the clock struck 2.22am in the early hours of Sunday morning in New York. Cilic booked a fourth-round clash with Belgian 10th seed David Goffin, an opponent he trails 2-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

The Croatian No.7 seed, a runner-up at the Australian Open this year, has won their past two encounters, however. For Goffin, it is the chance to become the first Belgian man to reach a US Open quarter-final. He has only dropped one set – to the in-form Robin Haase – so far this tournament.

Should Cilic prevail he would be on track for a rematch of the 2014 US Open final against Kei Nishikori. The Japanese player, through to his third straight fourth round at a Grand Slam this season, starts favourite against Alexander Zverev’s conqueror, Philipp Kohlschreiber, on Sunday.

Nishikori, the 21st seed, missed last year’s US Open due to a right wrist injury and was impressive in seeing off No. 13 seed Diego Schwartzman in the third round. He holds a 2-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over Kohlschreiber. The German’s stunning upset of No. 4 seed Zverev sent him through to the fourth round at Flushing Meadows for the fifth time in seven years.

Kubot/Melo Fell French Champions To Reach QF

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 8:12pm

Seventh seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo are turning around their North American summer when it matters most, taking down Roland Garros champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut to reach the US Open quarter-finals on Sunday. The Polish-Brazilian duo advanced 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in two hours and 12 minutes.

Kubot/Melo had lost in the opening round in three of their four North American hard-court events leading in. It is the first time the 2017 Wimbledon champions have won three successive matches since winning the Gerry Weber Open on grass in Halle in June.

After winning the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament title indoors in Rotterdam in February, Herbert/Mahut went on to claim their third Grand Slam doubles crown together at Roland-Garros. They won just one of their three matches since that triumph leading in to the US Open.

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Kubot/Melo next meet unseeded Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren for a place in the semi-finals. Krajicek/Sandgren posted a 6-3, 6-4 result over Austria’s Jurgen Melzer and Croatia’s Nikola Mektic on Sunday. Prior to this year’s US Open, the Americans had only contested ATP Challenger Tour events together.

Unseeded South Americans Maximo Gonzalez and Nicolas Jarry will compete in their second Grand Slam quarter-final of the season after seeing off the Czech-Argentine pairing of Roman Jebavy and Andres Molteni 6-3, 6-4. Gonzalez/Jarry had reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in May, defeating No. 4 seed Bruno Soares and Jamie Murray en route and took down No. 3 seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers in the first-round at Wimbledon. The Argentine-Chilean duo will next meet either No. 3 seeds Mike Bryan and Jack Sock or 16th seeds Dominic Inglot and Franko Skugor.

Highlights: Nadal Survives Basilashvili Test

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 7:43pm
Rafael Nadal needs four sets to beat Nikoloz Basilashvili and advance to the US Open quarter-finals. Video courtesy USTA. Watch more video at usopen.org. Video not available in U.S.A. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

From Guimaraes To National Glory: Sousa Making Portuguese History

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 6:38pm
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When Joao Sousa was seven years old in his native Guimaraes, Portugal, he began joining his father, Armando, at the local tennis courts. The sport was his dad’s passion. And as he grew up, Sousa looked up to Nuno Marques, who was the first Portuguese player to crack the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings, climbing as high as No. 86.

“He was a star,” Sousa remembered. “It was like an idol for us, the kids, when we were growing up and trying to reach that level.”

Little did Sousa know that 22 years later, he would be his country’s star. On Saturday, the 29-year-old became the first player from Portugal to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam, which he accomplished by beating No. 17 seed Lucas Pouille in four sets.

“I didn’t turn on my phone. Not yet, but I believe there are going to be a lot of people sending me messages and they are very happy. I feel very happy as well [that] they also enjoy my tennis, my victories,” Sousa said. “It’s good for Portuguese tennis that a Portuguese player is in the second week of a Grand Slam, a major. Hopefully I can go even farther.”

And to think that all of this might stem from one life-changing decision at 15 years old. Sousa chose to uproot himself and move to Barcelona to train, leaving his family in Portugal.

“I think that was perhaps the biggest decision of my life. I went alone there,” Sousa said. “I think it was [my] one shot to go there to try and be a professional.”

And here he is, enjoying a successful career. The 6’1” right-hander has finished inside the world’s Top 100 in each of the past six seasons. Earlier this year, he became the first Portuguese player to celebrate a title on home soil when he triumphed in Estoril. Those accomplishments haven’t been flashes in the pan, but the results of a lot of hard work over a long period of time.

Watch Highlights Of Sousa's Triumph In Estoril:

“My main goal is to try to increase my level of play and play my best tennis in the big tournaments. Sometimes you have bad moments,” said Sousa, who had lost seven matches in a row before arriving in Flushing Meadows. “Sometimes it’s very important that the people around you, they support you even if you’re going through a bad moment and they enjoy with me the good moments. I’ve been able in the past years to be in the Top 100, which is very, very good for me and for Portugal.”

Typically, losing seven straight matches ahead of one of the season’s biggest tournaments would not be the best preparation. But Sousa’s three victories at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center have been a product of continuing to work hard during those low moments. There have been no revelations in New York.

“Nothing clicked,” Sousa said. “We’ve been working hard and the results just didn’t appear in the last months. But I always say that we were working very hard and we were working good. So in the end, all the work pays off and this has been the week. I’m very happy for it to be in a major.”

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Now, he will get a fifth crack at two-time champion Novak Djokovic inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, where he played his first FedEx ATP Head2Head match against the Serbian five years ago, winning just four games.

“I have to play my best tennis and perhaps he cannot play his best tennis. Otherwise, I will lose,” Sousa said. “Every match is different, every condition is different, so we’ll see. I will face him, I will try to win and hopefully I can keep the level I have been playing with for the last days and we’ll see.”

One thing is for sure: all of Portugal will be watching.

Big John's Big Win: Isner Into US Open QFs

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 6:24pm
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After reaching his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final at the 2011 US Open, John Isner went 25 majors without returning to the last eight. Now, the American has done so twice in a row.

Isner, who advanced to the Wimbledon semi-finals two months ago, beat former World No. 3 Milos Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 on Sunday to make the quarter-finals of the US Open for the second time.

"Fortunately for me there were no tie-breaks. There wasn't one in the fifth. That's a high-pressure situation. I would have relished it if that moment did come, but I was able to win in a little bit easier fashion," Isner said. "Everyone was expecting maybe five tie-breaks. If that's the case, so be it. But I didn't go out there expecting that. I knew that I could try to impose myself as best as I possibly could, try to do it without winning with a seven on the ledger."

The best season of the 33-year-old’s career continues to get better. He earned his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title five months ago in Miami. And then at SW19, he battled into the last four of a major for the first time, before losing 26-24 to Kevin Anderson in an epic fifth set.

"There are some matches I've played where I only just rely on my serve. But I think more times than not this year I've shown some other ability," Isner said. "That comes from just being relaxed on the court. It's not a product of more reps and more practice. The mental part of the game, being able to free up on the tennis court is much easier said than done. I've been able to, for the most part this year, do a pretty good job of that. In the past, that's what's held me back."

Isner has now won four consecutive FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Raonic, taking a 5-1 lead in their rivalry. Entering the match, the Canadian held a better fifth-set record (9-6) compared to his opponent (10-18). But that didn’t matter as day turned to night in Flushing Meadows.

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The No. 11 seed, who also came from a set down to eliminate Raonic at Wimbledon earlier this year, broke serve four times to advance after three hours and eight minutes. On the third break point he faced in his opening service game of the decider, Raonic double faulted, and Isner did not let him off the hook the rest of the way, breaking for the second time in the set to clinch his victory.

Entering the match, Isner led the tournament in percentage of service games won, having captured 97 per cent (63/65) of them through three rounds. But astonishingly, Raonic broke the home favourite in his first service game of the match. And as you’d expect in a battle of two of the biggest servers in tennis, Raonic held throughout the opener to earn the first set.

And perhaps even more surprisingly, that became a theme in their clash. The players had combined to hold 109 of their 114 service games in the six total matches they had played, meaning they were broken a combined five times. Yet there were six breaks of serve across the five sets played.

Isner, who hit 20 aces and now has a tournament-leading 112 of them, will next face 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro or World No. 20 Borna Coric. If he should beat the winner of that match, he will become the first American man to reach the semi-finals of the US Open since Andy Roddick made the final here in 2006.

Raonic was trying to reach the quarter-finals in New York for the first time. If he would have beaten the American, the 27-year-old would have become the 12th active player to reach the last eight at all four majors.

Read & Watch: Nadal Sets Thiem Clash In New York

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 3:54pm

After winning the longest match of the tournament two days ago, Rafael Nadal once again needed four sets to progress to the US Open quarter-finals on Sunday, beating Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The three-time champion, making his 10th Round of 16 appearance in Flushing Meadows, advanced after three hours and 18 minutes. He saved five of seven break points en route to the victory. Nadal improves to 57-10 at the year's final Grand Slam and has now won 26 of his past 27 matches, dating back to the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in May.

The 32-year-old, who was two points from a straight-sets victory at 6/6 in the third set tie-break, has now reached the US Open quarter-finals on eight occasions. Nadal has won his past six matches at the last-eight stage in New York (6-1), with his lone loss coming on his quarter-final debut at the event in 2006 (l. to Youzhny).

For the first time on a hard-court, Nadal will face ninth seed Dominic Thiem, who defeated 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2, 7-6(2). Each of their 10 previous meetings have been contested on clay.

"It is a different kind of match than on clay," said Nadal. "But it is still a tennis match. It is a different thing, but in some way, I know how he plays. He knows how I am playing. [It is] going to be an interesting one, tough one, hopefully for both of us."

Nadal leads Thiem 7-3 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, with their most recent meeting coming in this year's Roland Garros final.

"He's a fantastic player. He's a very powerful player. He's a great guy. Very good relationship with him. Happy for him that he's in quarter-finals here. Last year he lost a very tough match against Del Potro here... [It is] going to be a tough one," said Nadal.

"He is a very powerful player and he knows how to play these kind of matches. I need to play my best match of the tournament if I want to keep having chances to stay in the tournament."

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Nadal used a mixture of height and depth off his return to neutralise rallies in the eighth game. That tactic, paired with consistent forehand aggression, paid dividends as the Spaniard earned his first break of the match before serving out the set to 15 in the following game.

Nadal carried the momentum into the second set, as Basilashvili struggled to find the court with a series of errors in the opening game. After saving his first three break points of the match at 2-1, Nadal used great court coverage to extract further errors from the Georgian in the ninth game. Nadal took a two-set lead on his second set point as Basilashvili misfired on his backhand side.

After trading breaks early in the third set, a tie-break was needed to split the two men. Nadal was forced to save set point at 5/6 with a rifled backhand up the line, and appeared to be heading towards match point, before narrowly missing the target on his signature down-the-line forehand. With a second opportunity to force a fourth set, Basilashvili successfully charged to the net, jabbing a backhand volley past Nadal to extend the match.

But Nadal quickly halted the Hamburg titlist's flow, snatching an immediate break in the fourth set after playing into his opponent's backhand wing. Basilashvili, running out of time to rebalance the scores, went for broke in the sixth game. The World No. 37 took his game to Nadal, ripping forehand returns before pushing Nadal into errors, with depth off the ground, to reach 3-3. 

Nadal soon replied, mixing up his attack with increased advances up the line on his forehand to unsettle Basilashvili. When the Georgian approached the net at 15/40 down, there was only one target in Nadal's mind, which he struck with pinpoint accuracy to regain his advantage. The Spaniard soon arrived at match point, converting his first opportunity with his seventh ace of the match.

Basilashvili, the first Georgian to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam since Irakli Labadze at 2006 Wimbledon, was bidding to record his third Top 10 win in seven matches (2-5). The Tbilisi native recently reached a career-high No. 35 in the ATP Rankings after capturing his maiden tour-level trophy at the German Tennis Championships 2018 presented by Kampmann.

Early Present: Thiem Reaches Maiden Quarter-final In New York

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 2:11pm

One day shy of his 25th birthday, Dominic Thiem rewarded himself with an early gift on Sunday at the US Open. The ninth-seeded Austrian, appearing in the Round of 16 for the third time in four visits, hit 41 winners compared to 13 unforced errors to eliminate 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2, 7-6(2) on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Having lost his opening six FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against the South African, Thiem has now won both his clashes against Anderson this year. The World No. 9 also defeated Anderson en route to his second straight Mutua Madrid Open final in May.

"I served really, really well today," said Thiem. "Not the best percentage, but I almost made every point in the first serve game. So I didn't face one break point, and I didn't feel so much pressure on service games.

"So it was a little bit easier to play the return games. I could change my return position, and this helped me a lot. And also the court, I think, made a big difference. It's a huge court. I could go very far back like I do on clay usually."

Thiem had never reached a Grand Slam quarter-final away from Roland Garros prior to beating Anderson in three sets. The Austrian was appearing in his sixth Grand Slam fourth round outside of Paris, having also reached the Round of 16 at the Australian Open (0-2) and Wimbledon (0-1).

"I was pretty close last year. It was very painful," said Thiem. "So I'm happy that I made it, and it was an amazing victory over one of the best players right now. Also [it is my] first time in the quarter-finals outside Paris, but most of all, I'm happy with the performance."

Thiem will meet World No. 1 Rafael Nadal in a repeat of this year's Roland Garros final for a semi-final spot. Thiem trails Nadal 3-7 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.

"We have already played ten times now, but was all the time on clay... It's going to be the first time on hard court which is a completely new experience... I'm really looking forward to playing him on a hard court for the first time," said Thiem. "On clay, I think it's one of the biggest challenges in sports to beat this guy or to compete with this guy. I hope that it's a little bit more comfortable on a hard court, but I'm not sure."

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Following 10 consecutive service holds, Thiem stepped up his aggression on his forehand side to great effect at 5-5. The 24-year-old hit his targets, pushing Anderson back in the court before finding the lines to seal the first break.

After serving out the set to 30, Thiem continued to ride the momentum in the second set. The 10-time tour-level titlist won eight of the opening nine points to take a 2-0 lead before doubling his advantage with a second dominant return game to move 5-2 ahead.

Faced with the prospect of a third five-set match in four rounds, Anderson continued to fight throughout the third set. The South African saved the only break point of the set, at 3-3, en route to a crucial tie-break.

From there, Thiem, once again, controlled rallies on his forehand side. The Austrian hit with precision and power to take a 6/2 lead and converted his first match point with a delicate, chipped backhand to outfox Anderson at the net.

"I definitely felt he played a great match. He made life pretty difficult for me," said Anderson. "I thought he defended amazingly. I think a lot of success I have had in the past is I have been able to work points, find the right time to come forward. I still had a pretty good success rate coming forward today, but there were pockets where he had some unbelievable passing shots, made me hit another ball.

"That made things pretty tough... I didn't feel like I played poorly today. I think I did quite a few things well. Hat off to him. I thought he really stepped up. He was definitely the better player today."

Two-time Grand Slam finalist Anderson was bidding to reach his third US Open quarter-final in four years at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The World No. 5, who drops to 22-9 in Flushing Meadows, also reached the last eight in 2015 before his run to the final last year (l. to Nadal).

"I wanted to be here right till the end and put myself in contention of winning my first major," said Anderson. "It wasn't meant to be... I have to leave earlier than I wanted to. As always, I keep my head up, look objectively at all the matches I played, see where I can improve and get ready as quick as I can. Obviously [there are] still a lot of very big tournaments for us throughout the rest of the year. Still a lot of tennis to be played, a lot to play for."

Highlights: Cilic Scores Epic Comeback Win Against De Minaur

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 12:15pm
Main Cilic rallies from two sets down to stop plucky Aussie Alex de Minaur at 2.22am in the third round of the US Open. Watch more video at usopen.org. Video not available in U.S.A. Photo: Getty Images

Novak's Night: Djokovic Dispatches Gasquet

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 10:54pm
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Novak Djokovic walked onto the court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday evening having won his past 10 third-round clashes at the US Open. And it was clear from the get-go that streak would not be coming to an end.

The two-time US Open champion cruised past No. 26 seed Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the fourth round in Flushing Meadows for his 11th consecutive appearance. In each of those tournaments, Djokovic has advanced to at least the semi-finals.

"It was the best match of the week so far, without a doubt. One of the best performances I had in the hard-court season after Wimbledon. It came at the right time because Gasquet is a tricky player, someone that has plenty of experience, someone that I know very well," Djokovic said. "Obviously he showcased today why he has one of the best backhands, one-handed backhands, in the game... He was playing well. I thought I was playing on a very high level from the first point. Very, very pleased with the performance."

It is the continuation of a tremendous stretch for the Monte-Carlo resident. After beginning the 2018 campaign 6-6 as he recovered from a right elbow injury — which forced him to undergo a procedure after the Australian Open — the Serbian has tallied a 30-4 record. Perhaps the main highlights of that run came at Wimbledon, where he earned his fourth title, and at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, where the 31-year-old completed his Career Golden Masters, winning the only ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event missing from his resumé.

If Djokovic is going to stumble ahead of a potential quarter-final clash in New York against No. 2 seed Roger Federer, he certainly has not shown any signs. The World No. 6 dropped a set in each of his first two matches against Marton Fucsovics and Tennys Sandgren, but he has yet to truly find himself in trouble.

And his best performance of the tournament thus far came against Gasquet. Djokovic was ruthless from the baseline, hitting high, heavy balls — especially off the forehand wing — to keep the 2013 semi-finalist well behind the baseline throughout. From there, Djokovic did a good job of maintaining variety, from hammering away until Gasquet could no longer adequately defend to using his drop shot here and there.

Djokovic saved all five break points he faced in the match, including three in the third set, to take a 13-1 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with Gasquet. The No. 6 seed has not dropped a set in 10 of their past 11 meetings. 

He advanced after two hours and 11 minutes, setting a fourth-round class against Portuguese No. 1 Joao Sousa, who upset No. 17 seed Lucas Pouille 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(5). Sousa triumphed on home soil earlier this season at the Millennium Estoril Open. Djokovic leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head 4-0, winning each of their sets by a margin of 6-4 or greater.

"He deserves a credit for reaching first time last 16 in a Slam. He doesn't have anything to lose. He's a fighter. He grinds. He doesn't give you too many free points. He makes you run. He loves to run. Loves to run around his backhand, hit some forehands. Plays pretty flat," Djokovic said. "I haven't played him for a while. Anyway, look, I know that I'm the clear favourite in the match. At the same time I will try to maintain the level of focus and performance and level of tennis that I've had today. If it's like that, then I have a good chance to win."

In their first clash, five years ago here in New York, Djokovic lost just four games en route to a 100-minute triumph. But Sousa has found great form at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Despite arriving at the tournament on a seven-match losing streak, the World No. 68 also battled past Spaniards Marcel Granollers and 2017 semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta.

Day 7 Preview: Del Potro Takes On Coric, Nadal & Anderson Step Up

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 10:43pm

Even the big names admit to getting a little star struck. So when Juan Martin Del Potro met rock legend Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen after a show on Broadway last week, it became a meeting that would go on to fuel his ninth US Open campaign.

The No. 3 seed notched his 40th win of the season on Friday night with a tight straight-sets victory over Andy Murray’s conqueror, No. 31 seed Fernando Verdasco. It set a Sunday showdown with 21-year-old Croatian Borna Coric and if the Argentine felt those Springsteen vibes again it could spell a tough night for the fourth-round debutant.

“I went to see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ at the theatre and I had the honour of meeting him after the show,” Del Potro said on court after his win over Verdasco. “He is a big idol of mine and it was just like winning the title. I hope he can come and see me play but he may be too busy.”

The 2009 champion remains the only player in the top half of the draw yet to drop a set and he will bank on his experience, having claimed 12 of 15 fourth-round matches in Grand Slams. Coric has broken new ground in New York, passing the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time with his straight-sets defeat of 22-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev.

The Croatian has struggled since winning his first grass-court title over Roger Federer in Halle in June, winning just two of six matches since, including a first-round defeat to Medvedev at Wimbledon. This will be his first showdown with Del Potro.

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Another fourth-round debutant, Georgia’s Nikolaz Basilashvili, will feature on Day 7 in Arthur Ashe Stadium when he meets World No. 1 and defending champion Rafael Nadal in the first match on. The Tbilisi native followed up his upset of American No. 18 seed Jack Sock with a four-set triumph over Argentine Guido Pella on Friday.

He will be keen to erase memories of his lone prior FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter with the Spaniard. Nadal conceded just one game in a third-round clash en route to his 10th Roland-Garros title in 2017.

Since falling to Dominic Thiem in the Mutua Madrid Open quarter-finals in mid-May, Nadal has lost just one match, to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semi-finals. He survived arguably the highest-intensity clash of this year’s tournament so far to outlast 22-year-old Russian Karen Khachanov in a four-hour, 23-minute showstopper on Friday. The Spaniard, who won his fourth Rogers Cup in Toronto leading in, recovered from a set and a break down to turn the tables on Khachanov. 

“It was a physical, demanding match. It was a mentally demanding match,” Nadal said. “That's why we practise every day, to play these kind of matches in a great atmosphere in front of an amazing crowd. Very happy to be through. Very happy to have the chance to play again.”

After his surprise run to the final of last year’s US Open, Kevin Anderson has proved in 2018 it’s no flash in the pan. The South African No. 5 seed won his first title since 2015 at the New York Open in February and reached his second Grand Slam final within 12 months at Wimbledon, where he fell to Novak Djokovic. Anderson has survived two five-setters already this campaign – against Ryan Harrison and #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov. He will carry a 4-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record into his clash with No. 9 seed Dominic Thiem. 

The Austrian is searching for his first Grand Slam quarter-final appearance outside of Roland-Garros. It was on the clay in Paris this season he reached his first Grand Slam final before falling to Nadal. But it has been slim picking since, winning just three of eight matches leading into the US Open. 

In a showdown between two of the biggest servers on the ATP World Tour, top American John Isner meets No. 25 seed Milos Raonic on Saturday for a place in his first US Open quarter-final since 2011. Isner holds a 4-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over the Canadian, including a win in this year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals. 

The US Open’s No. 11 seed rebounded from losing a marathon five-set epic to Anderson at Wimbledon to win his fifth BB&T Atlanta Open in six years. A former No. 3 in the ATP Rankings, Raonic is bidding to complete the career set of Grand Slam quarter-finals, having never won a fourth-round match in New York in three previous attempts. He saw off 2016 champion Stan Wawrinka in straight sets to reach the fourth round.

 

Adversity Aside, Millman Finding His Stride

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 9:52pm
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Before the US Open began, Australian John Millman joined former World No. 1 Andy Murray for a practice session inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, the biggest tennis-only stadium in the world. After their hit, they tried launching 20 to 30 balls toward the scoreboard at the top of the stadium. The Budapest finalist had no luck, missing to the right. The 6’0” right-hander didn’t necessarily expect to be back on that court for a match at the year’s final Grand Slam.

But now, that looks like a near certainty. The Aussie defeated Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin on Saturday to reach the fourth round at a major for the first time. His reward? A meeting against five-time champion Roger Federer.

“I’ve always had confidence with my game and the longer my career has progressed, the more comfortable I’ve felt,” Millman told ATPWorldTour.com. “But to be honest with you, coming into this tournament, my expectations were pretty low. So maybe the time I thought I was going to be playing on Ashe was that practice session I had with Andy.”

Millman was forced to withdraw from his first-round qualifying match in Cincinnati in August due to a back complaint, and he lost in the first round at Winston-Salem the week before Flushing Meadows. But adversity is nothing new for the 29-year-old. In a way, it’s been intertwined in his journey.

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Early on in his career, Millman underwent a shoulder repair and he would need a shoulder reconstruction in 2013. Last February, he underwent groin surgery. That latest operation was a devastating blow considering that in 2016, Millman had ascended to what was then his career-best ATP Ranking of No. 60.

“[I had] a lot of moments of doubt, as there has been every time I’ve come back from surgery with a couple shoulders and the groin, a lot of moments of doubt. It’s tricky, because tennis on the men’s side at the moment — I only mention the men because I’m on the men’s tour — it’s so competitive right now,” Millman said. “There are so many good players, and sometimes we don’t see that because we see all our top players a little bit. But you don’t really understand the depth that there is out there and if you’re not fully functioning and firing on all cylinders, you won’t get back to the level and that’s a tough feeling. That’s tough to fight back from.”

But like he always has, the Brisbane native has chipped away. Last October, Millman dropped to World No. 218. If nothing else, his focus was on his health, preventing injuries, and maintaining a strong diet. Less than 11 months later, he’s in the second week of a Grand Slam and poised to surpass his career-high ranking of No. 49.

Watch Interview With Millman After A Recent ATP Challenger Tour Victory:

This comeback has been especially difficult, as the Aussie bases much of his game on his movement. And what does a groin injury inhibit? Movement.

“I like to extend points and really use my legs to keep myself in the battle, and that’s tough. But really happy that I managed to get back,” Millman said. “I had a great surgeon, a great team around me that really helped me out and now I’m back here and playing some of my best tennis. It’s a satisfying feeling.

“I’ve gotten better as this tournament has progressed and I feel as if I’m playing some good tennis and I really do feel I deserve my spot there. You have to win three matches, I’ve done that, and I’ve given myself an opportunity to put myself in a big match on the big stage.”

When Millman takes the court against Federer on Monday, there will be a sense of pride, for sure. But the Aussie says that it’s not all about him. It’s about everyone who has supported him through his highs and his lows. He bears all of those people in his mind when he goes out to do battle, and Millman will try to make them proud.

Read: Fantastic Federer Dismisses Kyrgios

“It’s special and there’s a lot of people who would give their eyeteeth to be in the situation that I am,” Millman said. “I plan to make the most of the opportunity and go out there and compete as hard as I can like I always do.”

Millman has played the second seed once before, pushing the Swiss star to three sets in Brisbane three years ago. And if they are placed on Arthur Ashe Stadium, keep in mind that the last time Millman was on that court, he was thinking about launching balls toward the sky, not playing a match. “If you can get the win on Ashe and the adrenaline’s pumping, maybe you can touch it,” he said.

It’s safe to say if Millman is able to shock the world and spring the upset of the tournament, he’ll certainly give it a go.

Highlights: Federer Snuffs Out Early Kyrgios Challenge

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 9:01pm
After seeing off an early challenge from Nick Kyrgios, Roger Federer powers into the fourth round of the US Open. Watch more video at usopen.org. Video not available in U.S.A. Photo: Getty Images.

Federer's Shot Was So Good, Kyrgios Is Instagramming It!

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 6:23pm

Roger Federer hit a shot in the third set of his third-round match against Nick Kyrgios at the US Open on Saturday that was so good, the Australian said he might even put it on his own Instagram.

The No. 2 seed sprinted forward to chase a Kyrgios drop shot at 3-3, shoveling a forehand around the netpost for a winner down the line from a few feet outside the doubles alley.

Are
......You
............Serious?@rogerfederer delivers the shot of the tournament!

Sit back and enjoy...#USOpen pic.twitter.com/6GEdG2CcpW

— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 1, 2018

“It was definitely one of the more unique ones. Like I explained on court, you don't get an opportunity to hit around the net post very often, because in practice, you can't really train them," said Federer, who would triumph in straight sets to reach the fourth round. "The net is out further and the court is more narrow, so for a shot like this to happen in a practice, you will be running into a fence and you will hit it into the net.

“I have hit a few throughout my career, and, sure, they are always fun, just because sometimes you can sort of aim for it because you realise you have an option more, which you just never have. As you're hitting it, you're, like, 'Oh, I can just shove it down the line and just flat'. That's what happened today.”

You might expect the player on the wrong end of that shot to be discouraged by it. But Kyrgios was simply left with his mouth agape, as he was in awe of Federer’s magic.

“It was almost unreal. Almost got to the point where I wanted him to start making shots like that, and I finally got it. I was pretty happy with myself,” Kyrgios said. “It was unbelievable. I'm probably going to place it on Instagram.” 

It won't be the first Federer hot shot posted on social media over the years. The 98-time tour-level champion has had his fair of highlight-reel-worthy moments.

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“I definitely think it was a special one, no doubt about it,” Federer said of Saturday's shot. “I do believe the smash off the smash against [Andy] Roddick [in Basel in 2002] was special just because it was way back in the court, as well. And then there was one more in Dubai [in 2005] against [Andre] Agassi on break point. I was able to flick a ball. I still don't know how I did it today. It went for a lob over him. I don't know. It was just a massive point on top of it, and it was against Andre.”

But today’s shovel down the line is certainly up there, and when a shot is memorable in Federer’s book, you know it was pretty special.

Bryan/Sock Breeze Through To Third Round

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 6:20pm

Mike Bryan and Jack Sock needed just 59 minutes to keep their hopes of a second straight Grand Slam title alive at the US Open on Saturday.

The Americans hit 32 winners, dropping just four points behind their first serves (27/31), to defeat Mackenzie McDonald and Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1, 7-5 on Court 17. The Wimbledon champions will meet Dominic Inglot and Franko Skugor in the third round. The Libema Open winners recovered from a set down to beat Dusan Lajovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4.

Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin held their nerve to stun second seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers 7-6(4), 3-6, 7-6(3). The Frenchmen won 75 per cent of service points to defeat the Rogers Cup titlists in two hours and 25 minutes.

Chardy and Martin, who reached the Australian Open third round in January, will face Rohan Bopanna and Edouard Roger-Vasselin for a place in the quarter-finals. The Indian-French tandem booked their spot in the last 16 on Friday, beating Matthew Ebden and Jackson Withrow 6-4, 6-4.

Ninth seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut continued their bid for a second US Open title, beating Italian duo Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini 7-5, 6-3. The French duo won 91 per cent of first serve points to advance after 67 minutes.

The 2015 champions will face seventh seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo for a quarter-final spot. The seventh seeds overcame Divij Sharan and Artem Sitak 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Western and Southern Open champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares extended their winning streak to six matches with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof. The 2016 champions have won 10 of their past 11 tour-level encounters.

Cincinnati finalists Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah also continued their strong run of form, moving past Marcelo Demoliner and Santiago Gonzalez 6-4, 7-6(4). The Colombian team will meet Ivan Dodig and Marcel Granollers in the last 16.

Basilashvili Reacts To Comeback At Hamburg 2018

Thu, 07/26/2018 - 8:25am
Nikoloz Basilashvili reflects on coming back to beat Pablo Cuevas on Thursday at the German Tennis Championships presented by Kampmann. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Chung Thrilled At Triumphant Return In Atlanta

Wed, 07/25/2018 - 10:36pm
Hyeon Chung discusses winning his first match in more than two months against Taylor Fritz in the second round of the BB&T Atlanta Open on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Staples/ATP World Tour

Isner Surges Past De Minaur To Reach QF

Wed, 07/25/2018 - 9:09pm

The BB&T Atlanta Open continues to bring out the best in top-ranked American John Isner with a packed house of Georgia fans cheering on the four-time champion as he cruised past Alex de Minaur in the second round on Wednesday. The top seed powered to a 6-3, 6-2 result over the #NextGenATP Australian to set a quarter-final showdown with No. 7 seed Mischa Zverev.

The 19-year-old De Minaur was coming off a tight opening round win over Polish lucky loser Hubert Hurkacz but had no answers to the 6’10” Isner’s huge serving. The American finished with 15 aces and dropped just two points on his first serve. He did not face a break point.

“Yeah it was a pretty comprehensive win. You never know how you’re going to come out. This was my first match on hard court since Miami so it’s been a little bit and hadn’t practised too much because the focus was on resting after that long match (at Wimbledon) so I’m very happy.”

It was the 33-year-old’s first match since that epic six-hour, 36-minute semi-final defeat to South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon semi-finals, a match in which Isner ultimately fell short 26-24 in the fifth set. It was a match that boosted Isner’s profile back home since.

“I’m very mature now. I know what it takes to bounce back from something like that,” Isner said. “As soon as I got off the plane I worked out actually. I have to keep my body constantly moving. Just sitting on a couch for days on end, I would have felt even worse… so I feel pretty good right now.”

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The win sends Isner into his fifth quarter-final of the season, with his biggest result coming in April when he claimed his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open presented by Itau. He has claimed four titles from seven finals in Atlanta and only once has he failed to reach the final, in 2012, when he fell to Andy Roddick in the semi-finals. 

Zverev, though, will favour his chances of ending that streak. The German carries a 3-2 FedEx ATP Head2Head record into the quarter-final clash.

“I’ve never played him in Atlanta so that might help,” Isner said. “He’s certainly going to have a lot of belief against me on Friday. 

“He cleaned my clock at the US Open last year, he beat me in five sets in the Australian Open (in 2017) and he beat me somewhere else also. He’s a very good player and gives a lot of players trouble.”

Mischa Zverev, On His Love Of Planes, How To Have A Successful Career

Wed, 07/25/2018 - 7:17pm
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German Mischa Zverev accomplished a lifelong goal last month at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne when he won his maiden ATP World Tour title. But winning a title every year won't make Zverev's tennis career a success, at least according to what he shared in this installment of "On The Line", a question-and-answer series about life off the court.

What's your biggest passion outside of sport and why?
Flying. I love airplanes. I love aviation. I love flying... I'm a pilot. I have a license. That's my passion... [I fly] not very often because my license is only good in the U.S. so I can only fly when I'm here in the States. Last time I flew was I think August last year so it's been awhile... In Tampa, I flew from home airport to home airport, stayed in the vicinity, did a couple landings, just flew around to get a feel for it again.

Anyone else in the plane?
No, when I don't fly very often, first couple times I have to go by myself just to make sure everything's good, and then start taking passengers.

Watch: Zverev Describes What Makes The Atlanta Tournament Unique

What do you fly?
A single-engine, four-seater, so a Cessna 172, Piper Cherokee, something like that... I don't have my own plane; I just rent... I always loved aviation. I like driving cars, I like driving boats and I love flying, so everything that has to do with manoeuvring and piloting, I love all that... Since I was little, I saw those big machines flying, I was fascinated.

What was the last book you read?
Russian book with a lot of short stories. I always have a few books, I try to read in Russian, German and English.

The last concert or show you attended?
Last year for my birthday (August), we went to a play, Macbeth, in New York, and it was where you are part of the play. It was this unique experience where you're in a building, four stories, and you walk around and the actors are all around you. Sometimes they walk straight at you. You have to get out of the way.

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Favourite sport to watch besides tennis and why?
Basketball. I enjoy basketball. I've always loved basketball. First time I came to the U.S. [when I was 5], the first live sports I ever watched was basketball, the Miami Heat, and since then I've just been passionate about basketball. I do like watching fishing on TV, it's very relaxing. It's a good start for a Saturday morning or Sunday morning. That's something I really enjoy.

Person, outside of significant other and your parents, whom you admire the most?
I think athletes like [Michael] Jordan and Roger Federer are the people I admire the most, for what they did on court and off the court.

My tennis career will be a success if I ________________.
Stop missing easy volleys.

After my tennis career, I want to _____________.
Fly more airplanes.

Chung Holds Off Fritz In ATP World Tour Return

Wed, 07/25/2018 - 6:59pm

Hyeon Chung made a triumphant return to the ATP World Tour on Wednesday to defeat #NextGenATP American Taylor Fritz at the BB&T Atlanta Open. The 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion saw off the 20-year-old American 6-4, 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals.

The South Korean had reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final in January at the Australian Open and made the quarter-finals or better at seven events this season before a right ankle injury kept him sidelined since 8 May. This was his first match since an opening round defeat at the Mutua Madrid Open.

"I'm really happy to win after two months injured,” Chung said. “I'm really trying to focus on the match but it was a little bit hot, so I had to try to focus on all of the points. Physically I felt all good because I was training a lot in the past two months."

Fritz, sixth place in the Race to Milan, was bidding to reach his fourth ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season. Trailing a set and a break, he managed to peg back level for 4-4 in the second set before the South Korean went on to clinch the pair’s first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting in a tie-break.

"He has a really good serve and big forehand, so I had many chances to finish in the second set but he was serving ace, ace, ace,” Chung said. “Tough second set. Anyway I'm really happy to win the match. After 10 weeks, I was really happy to be on the court."

He will next meet another American, No. 8 seed Ryan Harrison, for a place in the semi-finals. Harrison fought back to claim a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 result over Slovak Lukas Lacko.

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German Mischa Zverev ended Russian Mikhail Youzhny’s final Atlanta campaign on Wednesday. The No. 7 seed prevailed 6-4, 6-2 over the 36-year-old former World No. 8. Youzhny announced after his opening round defeat of Emil Reinberg he would retire after the St. Petersburg Open in September.

"I think the conditions were good for me,” Zverev said. “Youzhny doesn't like it, I think, when the ball bounces too high and goes quick through the air. So I was able to get a lot of easy points off of him, especially with my serve and also when he was serving using his second serve. I think that was key.” 

The 30-year-old was coming off a run to his maiden ATP World Tour title last month on the grass at the Nature Valley International. He awaits the winner of top seed John Isner and Australian Alex de Minaur in the quarter-finals.

“Eastbourne was beautiful. It was a great, great feeling, a great experience,” he said. “I'm happy I can finally say yeah I have a title, which is good."

Highlights: Defending Hamburg Champ Mayer Ousts Monfils

Wed, 07/25/2018 - 4:43pm
Leonardo Mayer, chasing a third title in Hamburg, advances to the quarter-finals after a straight-sets win over Gael Monfils. Watch all the Day 3 highlights from the German Tennis Championships 2018. Watch live matches at tennistv.com