Sharapova advances into US Open last 16, Cilic ousted

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Maria Sharapova rolled into the last 16 at the US Open by overpowering US teen Sofia Kenin on Friday while a wide-open side of the men’s draw lost 2014 champion Marin Cilic.

Former world number one Sharapova, the 2006 US Open winner in her first Grand Slam since serving a 15-month doping ban, downed the 139th-ranked wildcard 7-5, 6-2 and moved into a fourth-round clash with Latvian 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who tested positive for the blood booster meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, reached the round of 16 for the 14th time in 15 Slams since the 2011 US Open.

Sharapova, who returned from her ban in April, was snubbed for a wildcard in the French Open and injured for Wimbledon but was given a US Open wildcard despite playing only one hardcourt tuneup match due to a forearm injury.

The 30-year-old Russian broke Kenin with a forehand winner after 66 minutes to swipe the first set, exchanged early second-set breaks on double faults then broke again in the sixth and last games for the victory.

“She came out and had nothing to lose so I’m really glad I got through,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova blasted eight aces and 38 winners with 33 unforced errors while Kenin hit only seven winners in the match.

Croatian fifth seed Cilic, idled after Wimbledon until this week due to an adductor strain, was eliminated 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 by Argentine 29th seed Diego Schwartzman.

“(The injury) played a quite significant part, and just being injured and not being able to keep that good form,” Cilic said.

Cilic’s exit ensured a first-time Slam finalist will come from his draw half, which now lacks a top-10 player and has only one Slam semi-finalist, American Sam Querrey, who made it in July at Wimbledon.

“Everyone is improving,” Cilic said. “And you have a lot of youngsters coming up that are playing better.”

Prime among them is Canadian teen Denis Shapovalov, who became the youngest man since 1989 into the US Open last 16.

The 18-year-old Israeli-born world number 69 advanced when Britain’s Kyle Edmund retired with a neck injury with the Canadian leading 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 1-0.

Not since 17-year-old Michael Chang in 1989 had a younger player cracked the fourth round in New York. No qualifier had reached the last 16 since Gilles Muller in 2008.

“I’m playing my second main draw Slam. It’s huge,” Shapovalov said. “It opens up the draw and helps players like myself have a chance.”

Shapovalov will play for a quarter-final berth against Spanish 12th seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who ousted French qualifier Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

The Spaniard, who has not dropped a set, will become the first player to face four qualifiers at a Grand Slam in the Open Era (since 1967).

With US 10th seed John Isner being ousted 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5) by German 23rd seed Mischa Zverev, Carreno Busta became the top remaining seed in his half of the draw. Zverev gets US 17th seed Querrey next.

Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi, 35, became the oldest player in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam last 16 for the first time by defeating countryman Thomas Fabbiano 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

Lorenzi next meets South African Kevin Anderson, who beat Croatian Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Anderson has won all 43 of his US Open service games and saved all 14 break points he has faced.

Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza needed only 62 minutes to defeat Slovakian 31st seed Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1, 6-1 and continue her best US Open run as well as take command of the fight for women’s world number one.

Only current number one Karolina Pliskova and fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina can deny Muguruza reaching the top spot for the first time.

“I’m taking every match as a final here,” Muguruza said.

Awaiting Muguruza next is Czech 13th seed Petra Kvitova, the 2011 and 2014 Wimbledon champion who defeated French 18th seed Caroline Garcia 6-0, 6-4.

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Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova embrace New York state of mind at US Open

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Roger Federer

Roger Federer has conquered virtually everything in his two decades on tour but even the greatest tennis player of all time can’t beat New York’s notorious traffic snarl-ups.

The US Open, where the Swiss star has been champion on five occasions, is staged in the New York borough of Queen’s, across the East River from glamorous Manhattan, where players and media stay for the fortnight.

However, the 10-mile journey can often take an hour or more during the working week.

It’s one of the many challenges, on and off the court, which reinforce the city’s reputation as no place for shrinking violets.

Federer has found one way of making the tournament come to him by practicing on public courts in Central Park.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, anything that doesn’t make me drive very long,'” said Federer.

Fellow superstar Maria Sharapova, never one short of confidence, admits that when she first saw the city of 8.5 million souls, she hated it.

“When I first came to New York I was intimidated by the noise, the traffic, the people. But now I love it,” said the Russian star who was 2006 champion at the US Open. The feeling appears to be mutual.

When Sharapova played her first Grand Slam match since the end of her 15-month doping ban on the 24,000-capacity Arthur Ashe stadium on Monday, she wore a black dress, dotted with Swarovski crystals.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

“It’s prime time baby!” said Sharapova.

The Ashe stadium, the largest tennis venue in the world, can be a constant cauldron of noise. At night, the din is ratcheted up with music and commercials thumping out during changeovers while fans chat and fidget, usually on their way back from the bars around the sprawling venue.

“It’s intimidating, it’s so big, there’s so much going on. The screens are working during the points. Yeah, there’s a lot of people moving and talking. It’s not easy to play in,” said Canadian 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov.

Shapovalov even interacted with a spectator who was merrily enjoying his evening out. “I noticed a couple of guys had a little bit too much to drink. I mean, some of them were standing and, like, just talking to me as if we’re buddies.

“I was up a break in one game, I think it was probably 40-15, I just miss a backhand. He’s like, ‘Ah, no.’ I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, man, I got this.'”

The noise on Ashe is always impossible to ignore, although it wasn’t to everyone’s taste on Tuesday when the $150 million roof was shut all day as torrential rain washed away most of the programme.

With fans happily chatting away, the sound turned the arena into a giant echo chamber, much to the irritation of Rafael Nadal

“I understand it’s a show, but under the roof we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise,” said the world number one, a two-time champion at the tournament.

Most players who experience Ashe insist that you have to get the crowd on your side — otherwise you are doomed.

“It’s hard to beat a New York crowd when they’re for you – it’s a lot to go against,” said CoCo Vandeweghe of the United States.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Roger Federer survives another five-set scare while Rafael Nadal made to work for US Open victory

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Federer was taken to five sets for the second consecutive match.

Former champions Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal battled into the US Open last 32 on Thursday while the women’s draw lost the fifth seed from its top eight.

Federer recorded his 80th career win in New York but he needed five sets for the second successive match before claiming a 6-1, 6-7 (3/7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Mikhail Youzhny.

It was his 17th win in 17th meetings with the grizzled Russian, who, at 35, is his junior by just one year.

World number one Nadal, meanwhile, saw off Japan’s world 121 Taro Daniel 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 after being blown off court in the first set.

Federer, 36, and the five-time champion at the US Open, next faces another 35-year-old, Feliciano Lopez of Spain, for a place in the last 16. His record against Lopez is just as solid – 12-0.

“It was quite a lot of fun out there – I feel quite warmed up by now,” said Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Federer, who fired 63 winners and 68 unforced errors.

Youzhny admitted he had cramped, which meant he could move left to right but not forward and back.

“That was hard to watch,” said Federer. “But this was probably the best match we have played against each other.”

Top seed Nadal, the 2010 and 2013 champion, was rocked by New York-born Daniel in the first set.

But Daniel, who has never beaten a top-10 player, paid the price for his all-out assault as Nadal prevailed to book a third round date with Argentine lucky loser Leonardo Mayer.

“All the matches are difficult but especially here as everyone wants to play their best and if you don’t play your best it will be very difficult,” said Nadal, who recovered from a set and break down.

He saw room for improvement after converting six of 11 break points.

“I didn’t play very well but I will work hard to find better feelings because I know I can do much better,” he said.

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