Anisimova stuns defending champion Halep to reach French Open semi-finals

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Seventeen-year-old Amanda Anisimova produced a stunning performance to defeat defending champion Simona Halep in the French Open quarter-finals.

Anisimova is the first player born in the 2000s to reach the last eight at a slam and she overcame her nerves to hit Halep off the court in a 6-2 6-4 victory.

Halep’s defeat means there is guaranteed to be a first-time slam champion come Saturday, with Britain’s Johanna Konta the only one of the remaining quartet who had ever reached a singles semi-final before.

If Anisimova can keep playing like this, there is no reason it cannot be her. She is the youngest semi-finalist at Roland Garros since Nicole Vaidisova in 2006 and is yet to drop a set.

The daughter of Russian immigrants to the United States, she has been a rising star for a number of years and made her grand slam breakthrough by reaching the fourth round at the Australian Open.

A prodigious ball-striker – particularly off her backhand side – and a fine mover, the 51st-ranked American raced through the first set, with Halep simply unable to find any answer.

Anisimova the surged into a 4-1 lead in the second set before the nerves kicked in and Halep fought back to level at 4-4.

Anisimova saved a break point to stop the rot and in the end it was Halep who was the more jittery player, serving a double fault to cough up a match point, which her opponent took with a backhand winner.

In the last four, Anisimova will take on another first-time grand slam semi-finalist in Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.

The eighth seed is more thought of as a threat on faster surfaces but she has been in superb form this season and has carried that onto the clay.

Barty was a 6-3 7-5 winner over 14th seed Madison Keys, taking her second opportunity to serve out the victory.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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Roland Garros: Rafael Nadal drops a set before brushing aside David Goffin in Paris

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Rafael Nadal dropped a set at the French Open for only the second time since 2015 but recovered to beat David Goffin and reach the fourth round.

The 11-time champion had won all his matches in straight sets the last three years apart from in the quarter-finals 12 months ago, when he lost one set against Diego Schwartzman.

Nadal tore through the opening two sets against 27th seed Goffin but the Belgian fought back impressively to take the third before the Spaniard completed a 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3 victory.

The win saw Nadal match Federer, who defeated Casper Ruud earlier, by making the last 16 here for the 14th time, an all-time record.

On the 10th anniversary of his most famous defeat, when he was beaten in the fourth round by Robin Soderling to lose on the Paris clay for the first time, Nadal seemed in a hurry to write a happier story on May 31.

He raced through the first five games, and Goffin, who had won his first two matches with impressive ease, struggled simply to get a foothold in the match.

But things changed in the third set as Goffin matched his opponent stride for stride before breaking serve for the first time in the match in the ninth game and serving it out.

It was the first set Goffin has managed to win against Nadal in four meetings on clay, and the earliest round in which the 32-year-old has lost a set here for six years.

But Goffin was unable to turn a set into a real challenge to Nadal, who wrapped up victory after two hours and 49 minutes.

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French Open 2019: Naomi Osaka leaves it late to fight back against Victoria Azarenka

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Naomi Osaka.

Naomi Osaka continued to live dangerously at the French Open but her hopes of a third successive grand slam title remain intact after a comeback win against Victoria Azarenka.

The 21-year-old lost the first set 6-0 against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first round on Tuesday and was two points from defeat.

Things did not get quite so hairy against former world No1 Azarenka in a high-quality match but the top seed was a set and a break down before recovering to win 4-6 7-5 6-3.

Osaka said: “After a certain point, I don’t even look at the score. I just try to take it point by point. I have this mindset that I feel like I can win if it gets down to the wire. If I have to break a person, I feel like I have the ability to do that. So I probably shouldn’t wait until the last minute.”

Osaka, who said she had never been more nervous during a match than against Schmiedlova, again made a poor start, with Azarenka winning the first four games.

Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka has been getting closer to her best form having finally returned full-time to the tour last spring following a bruising custody battle over her toddler son.

She weathered an Osaka fightback to take the opening set and then opened up a 4-2 lead in the second but the Japanese player showed in winning the Australian Open that she can find a way back from most situations and she levelled the match before opening up a 5-1 lead in the decider.

“Today I kind of felt like a challenger,” said Osaka. “I know she went to the semis here before, so obviously she has a lot more experience here. She won grand slams and she was number one way before I was. I’m still kind of new at this.”

Azarenka, now 29, has lifted her ranking to 43 but, while she is unseeded, she runs the risk of difficult early draws like this.

“She’s been a lot in those situations where those margins are really small,” said Azarenka. “I need to have some more of those experiences. But I’m pretty positive that I can take a lot of things out of this match and turn them into positive for my next tournaments.”

Serena Williams also had her difficulties in the first round, losing her opening set to Vitalia Diatchenko, but she was much more comfortable in a 6-3 6-2 victory over Japanese qualifier Kurumi Nara.

Williams has been struggling with a knee problem and this is the first tournament since the Australian Open in which she has completed two matches.

She was asked afterwards about a picture taken on the eve of the tournament at Disneyland showing Williams in a wheelchair.

Asked about it after the win over Nara, she said: “I’m not going to get into that. I’m playing, and all’s good.”

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