Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova to meet in US Open first round

Press Association Sport 23:26 22/08/2019
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Serena Williams will start her bid for a seventh US Open singles crown against familiar foe Maria Sharapova.

Williams’ match-up with Sharapova is the pick of the women’s first-round draw, which sees British number one Johanna Konta start out against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina.

Sharapova upset Williams to win the Wimbledon title in 2004, a result which prevented the American from claiming a third consecutive title at SW19.

But 23-times Grand Slam singles champion Williams holds a convincing 19-2 lead in their head-to-head battles, with the 2012 Olympics, 2013 French Open and 2015 Australian Open among her final victories over the Russian.

Konta, the number 16 seed, has an awkward first-round assignment as Kasatkina has won their two previous meetings in Moscow and Dubai.

Number one seed Naomi Osaka starts the defence of her title against Russia’s Anna Blinkova.

Wimbledon sensation Cori Gauff has a fascinating first-round tie with Anastasia Potapova.

The 15-year-old Gauff reached the fourth round at SW19 and received a wild card to play at Flushing Meadows.

Russian Potapova is a former junior number one, as well as the 2016 Wimbledon girls’ singles champion.

Britain has three players in the men’s draw – Kyle Edmund, Dan Evans and Cameron Norrie.

British number one Kyle Edmund, the 30th seed, meets Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar in the first round, while Evans comes up against Adrian Mannarino of France.

Norrie has been drawn against a qualifier ahead of what could be a second-round meeting with 15th seed David Goffin.

Three-time champion Novak Djokovic, the number one seed, begins the defence of his title against Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.

Djokovic is in the same half of the draw as five-time champion Roger Federer, who will play a qualifier in the first round, and is projected to meet the dangerous Russian Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-final.

Second seed Rafael Nadal has a tricky opening against John Millman, the Australian who beat Federer in four sets at the US Open 12 months ago.

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Andy Murray to skip US Open and focus on recovery

Press Association Sport 12:56 16/08/2019
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Andy Murray has confirmed he will not be competing in either singles or doubles tennis at this month’s US Open.

The former world number one, who will face brother Jamie in the men’s doubles quarter-finals at the Cincinnati Masters, had been scheduled to play doubles in New York.

But he has opted to focus on singles competition elsewhere as he bids to step up his return from the career-saving hip surgery he underwent in January.

“I’m not going to play doubles at the US Open,” Murray told BBC Sport.

“My goal is to get back playing at the level that I want to on the singles court, and I’ve decided that I need to focus all my energies on that right now.

“The US Open, doubles and mixed, can be another couple of weeks that you are slowing things down.”

Murray and partner Feliciano Lopez beat Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock 2-6 6-3 10-7 to reach the last eight in Cincinnati after Jamie and Neal Skupski overcame French pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-3 6-3.

Murray will play in next week’s ATP event in Winston-Salem after being given a wild card and will then consider entering a tournament on the Challenger Tour during the US Open, which starts on August 26.

In the Cincinnati singles, Roger Federer suffered a shock loss to Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev in the third round.

Rublev, the world number 70, broke Federer three times as he powered to a stunning 6-3 6-4 win in 62 minutes.

The defeat was a blow to 20-time major champion Federer’s US Open preparations.

Rublev will now play compatriot Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals after the biggest win of his career.

World number three Federer said on www.atp.com: “He was super clean – defence, offence, serving well. Didn’t give me anything. He was everywhere.

“So it was tough for me, but an excellent match by him. I was impressed.”

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic beat Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets, 6-3 6-4. Djokovic will next play Lucas Pouille in the quarter-final.

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Juan Martin del Potro relishing 'special' second chance in US Open final

Eleanor Crooks 15:30 08/09/2018
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Whether he beats Novak Djokovic on Sunday to claim his second grand slam title or not, Juan Martin del Potro will still consider himself a winner.

When he won his first title here nine years ago as a 20-year-old, overpowering first Rafael Nadal and then Roger Federer, Del Potro seemed poised to be a major thorn in the side of the big four.

But six months later he was off the tour after undergoing surgery on his right wrist and, just when he was finally back to his best, he began to feel pain in his left wrist.

Del Potro lost nearly two years, undergoing three operations and fearing his career was finished.

The boot was on the other foot on Saturday when he benefited from another player’s injury, Nadal retiring with knee problems at two sets down. Del Potro was sympathetic, but he could not hide a beaming smile.

“I cannot believe that I will have a chance to play another grand slam final here, which is my favourite tournament,” said the 29-year-old. “So it will be special to me. A big challenge, as well, because I’ve been fighting with many, many problems to get to this moment.

“It will be a difficult match, of course. But I think I’ve been doing a good tournament. And in the finals, anything can happen. If I win, great. If not, I’ve been playing a great tournament and I will be happy anyway.”

The lowest point came after two wrist operations when he was still unable to play and had to decide whether to go under the knife for a third time.

The friends who have come to New York from his home town of Tandil and been so vocal in their support played an important role in keeping Del Potro believing that things would one day be better.

He said: “The worst moment was in 2015 when I was close to quitting this sport because I couldn’t find a way to fix my wrist problems. I was suffering a lot. I got depressed for a couple of months also. I didn’t get the chance to feel better with myself, to do this again. That was the bad moment for me.

“But I think that is completely in the past, and now I’m having a good present, looking forward for the future. I didn’t expect to get these kinds of emotions playing tennis again. Reaching finals, winning titles, having my highest ranking ever in this moment. Everything is almost perfect.”

The perfect ending, of course, would be victory over Djokovic, a player he has beaten only four times in 18 meetings, on Sunday.

“It will be a difficult match because we are close friends,” said the Argentinian. “Novak has won Wimbledon already. He’s playing so good. He will be the favourite to win on Sunday.

“But I don’t know. When I played Roger nine years ago, he was the favourite to win as well. I will try to make the surprise again.”

After winning Wimbledon, Djokovic has shown he is indisputably back to his best following elbow surgery and revelled in the cooler conditions in a dominant semi-final victory over Kei Nishikori.

He has the chance to equal Pete Sampras’ tally of 14 slam titles but is wary of Del Potro despite his excellent record against the Argentinian.

Djokovic said: “I personally like him very much, not just as a player but as a person. He’s a dear friend, someone that I respect a lot. We all felt for his struggles with injuries.

“But he was always a top-five player in the eyes, I think, of everyone. It was just a matter of time. He’s a big-time player. He’s a big-match player. He’s a grand slam winner. He’s playing the tennis of his life.”

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