Maria Sharapova digs deep to beat Anastasija Sevastova in China Open epic

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Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova gained revenge over the Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova with a gutsy 7-6 (7/3), 5-7, 7-6 (9/7) victory in the China Open first round on Saturday.

It was the five-time Grand Slam winner’s first appearance since she was beaten by Sevastova at the US Open in early September and gets her stop-start return from a doping ban back on track.

Sharapova, ranked 104 in the world, is a wildcard in Beijing as she works her way back slowly from a 15-month ban for taking the banned substance meldonium.

She was far from her best, but Sharapova dug in during an attritional match lasting more than three hours.

Sevastova broke the Russian former number one – who had the majority of the crowd behind her – in the seventh game of the first set to seize the early initiative.

Sharapova immediately broke back for 4-4, before falling 6-5 down on her own serve when her drop shot went astray, only to strike back immediately to force a tie break.

“Come on!” the former China Open champion Sharapova shouted as she wrapped up the first-set tie break.

The 30-year-old looked set to race through the second set to book her place in round two.

But her serve was suspect all match and the Latvian refused to submit.

Sevastova broke Sharapova once more as the match clock hit the two-hour mark to level the encounter at one-set each, before Sharapova finally saw off her resilient opponent in an epic decider.

Earlier, the second seed Simona Halep battled past the American Alison Riske in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

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Juan Martin Del Potro stuns Roger Federer to set up US Open semi-final clash with Rafa Nadal

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Juan Martin del Potro sensationally gatecrashed the US Open again, stunning five-champion Roger Federer and shattering hopes of a first New York showdown between the Swiss legend and Rafael Nadal.

The Argentine giant, who won his only Grand Slam title in the city in 2009 by beating Federer in the final after seeing off Nadal in the semis, triumphed 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-4 in front of a spellbound Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd.

The 28-year-old will once again face world number one Nadal in the semi-finals on Friday, a stunning achievement for a man who had saved two match points to beat sixth seed Dominic Thiem in the last 16.

Nadal, who will keep his world number one status following third seed Federer’s exit, had earlier defeated Russian teenager Andrey Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in just 97 minutes.

It will be a sixth US Open semi-final for Nadal and 26th at the majors while Del Potro, the 24th seed, will be playing in just his fourth last-four match at the Slams.

For 36-year-old Federer, it was a first Slam loss of 2017 after he had captured the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles to take his career tally to 19.

Juan Martin del Potro (R) after beating Roger Federer

Juan Martin del Potro (R) after beating Roger Federer

“I served really good. I hit my forehand as hard as I could and I played a great match. I deserved to win,” said Del Potro who will be in his first Slam semi-final since Wimbledon in 2013.

“This feels like my home court. I played Rafa here in 2009 too. Hopefully I can get the same result on Friday.”

Del Potro, whose career was almost ended last year after undergoing four wrist surgeries, wrapped up the first set thanks to a break in the 11th game secured with a blistering crosscourt pass.

Federer, who had a 16-5 winning record over Del Potro ahead of the quarter-final, levelled the tie after breaking for a 3-1 lead in the second.

However, the match turned in the third set tiebreak when Del Potro saved four set points before a weary and error-riddled Federer dropped serve again to trail 3-2 in the fourth.

Victory was Del Potro’s eight minutes short of three hours with a deep forehand as Federer was left to survey the wreckage of 41 unforced errors.

“It’s hard to explain, I didn’t play that badly,” said Federer.

“I just ran into a guy who was better on the bigger points. I don’t deserve to still be in the tournament.”

Nadal will take an 8-5 record over Del Potro into the semi-final where the winner will face either Kevin Anderson or Pablo Carreno Busta for the title.

“Juan Martin is a top player. When he’s playing well, it’s difficult to stop him. Probably the forehand is maybe the fastest on the tour,” said Nadal, who is chasing his second major of the year to add to his French Open.

Rublev, bidding to be the youngest man in 17 years to reach the semi-finals, had no complaints over his loss to Nadal.

“He gave me a lesson: 1, 2, and 2,” said the Russian, who lost 16 of the last 19 points of the opening set and finished with 43 unforced errors.

– All American –

The women’s semi-finals will be an all-American affair after CoCo Vandeweghe and Madison Keys set-up a last-four duel.

Thursday’s other tie will see seven-time major champion Venus Williams face Sloane Stephens.

American 20th seed Vandeweghe claimed a 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 win over the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova, whose brief eight-week stay as world number one ended with Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza taking over.

CoCo Vandeweghe

CoCo Vandeweghe

Vandeweghe’s victory means that the US Open will have an all-American semi-final line-up for the first time since 1981 after Keys defeated Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 6-3.

“I won the juniors here when I was 16 and dreamed of playing on the real stage,” said 25-year-old Vandeweghe, who also made the semi-finals at the Australian Open, beating then-world number one Angelique Kerber in the process.

The last time four US women were in the semis was 36 years ago when eventual champion Tracy Austin, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Barbara Potter all made it.

Keys, the 15th seed, will be playing in her second Slam semi-final after the 2015 Australian Open.

“It means the world to me,” said Keys, who underwent wrist surgery earlier this season.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Novak Djokovic becomes father of baby girl

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Twelve-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic and his wife Jelena have become parents of a baby girl, local media reported on Sunday.

Jelena gave birth on Saturday evening and their second child will be named Tara, Blic newspaper reported on its online edition.

The couple have a two-year-old son Stefan.

The 30-year-old Djokovic announced in July he would miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury.

The Serb retired from his Wimbledon quarter-final against Tomas Berdych in July because of the problem, from which is suffering for a year-and-a-half.

Between mid-January 2015 and June 2016, Djokovic won 17 of his 22 finals played in 24 tournaments. It seemed nothing could interrupt his dominance of world tennis.

But for months the Serbian national hero – now fourth in the world rankings – has been a shadow of his former self.

Since winning the French Open last year to complete the career Grand Slam, he has failed to claim another major title.

He crashed out of the Australian Open in the second round and the French Open in the last eight.

Djokovic said in July he would need a couple of months without the racket but that surgery was “not an option”.

With Andre Agassi continuing as his coach while he recovers, Djokovic now intends to be ready to start the new season at the beginning of 2018.

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