Thursday, September 6, 2018

Serena, Osaka advance to U.S. Open final

Serena Williams, playing in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose
on July 31, reached her first U.S. Open final in four years. Photo by Mal Taam
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   For all her success, Serena Williams hasn't played in the final of her national tournament in four years.
   That drought will end Saturday, thanks to the 17th-seeded Williams' 6-3, 6-0 victory over 19th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in 66 minutes today.
   Williams lost in the U.S. Open semifinals in 2015, to 43rd-ranked Roberta Vinci, and in 2016, to Karolina Pliskova, and missed last year's tournament while having her first child.
   Williams was plagued by nerves against Vinci while trying to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam since 1988 and by a knee injury against Pliskova.
   Williams, a part-time resident of Silicon Valley who will turn 37 on Sept. 26, will face 20th-seeded Naomi Osaka, 20, of Japan in an attempt to tie Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
   The hard-hitting Osaka beat 14th-seeded Madison Keys, last year's runner-up at Flushing Meadows, 6-2, 6-4 to become the first woman representing Japan to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open era, which began in 1968.
   Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father and lives in Boca Raton, Fla. She is coached by Williams' former hitting partner, Sascha Bajin.
   Osaka defeated Williams 6-3, 6-2 in the first round at Miami in March in their only previous meeting. It was the second tournament of Williams' comeback.
   Williams won the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford three times (2011, 2012 and 2014) and Keys once (2017). Also, Osaka's first big win came in the 2014 tournament, which moved to San Jose this year under a new sponsor, Mubadala.
   As a 16-year-old qualifier playing her first main-draw match on the WTA tour, Osaka ousted 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the opening round at Stanford. Osaka saved a match point in the tiebreaker and overcame a 3-5 deficit in the third set. She then fell to No. 8 seed Andrea Petkovic.
   Men's singles -- No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal will face No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro in Friday's first semifinal at 1 p.m. PDT (ESPN), followed by No. 6 Novak Djokovic versus No. 21 Kei Nishikori.
   Nadal won his third U.S. Open title last year. Del Potro has rebounded from four wrist operations since stunning Roger Federer for the 2009 crown.
   Nadal, 32, is 11-5 against del Potro, who will turn 30 on Sept. 23. In their last meeting, Nadal prevailed 6-5, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in 4 hours, 28 minutes in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July.
   Djokovic has won two U.S. Open titles (2011 and 2015) and reached the final five other times (2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2016). Nishikori advanced to the 2014 final at Flushing Meadows, losing to Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
   Djokovic, 31, is 14-2 against Nishikori, 28, with a 13-match winning streak.
   Men's doubles -- No. 3 seeds Mike Bryan (Stanford, 1997-98) and Jack Sock of the United States topped No. 5 Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Colombia 6-2, 6-7 (1), 6-4 to reach the final.
   Bryan and Sock will meet No. 7 seeds Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil on Friday at 9 a.m. (ESPN2) in a matchup of the last two Wimbledon championship teams.
   Kubot and Melo, last year's Wimbledon titlists, beat unseeded Radu Albot of Moldova and Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3.
   Women's doubles -- No. 13 seeds Ashleigh Barty of Australia and CoCo Vandeweghe of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego region knocked off No. 1 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the semifinals.
   Krejcikova and Siniakova were seeking their third consecutive Grand Slam title.
   Barty and Vandeweghe, a two-time singles runner-up in the Bank of the West Classic (2012 and 2017), will take on No. 2 seeds Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France.
   Babos and Mladenovic, this year's Australian Open champions and the 2014 Wimbledon runners-up, beat unseeded Stosur of Australia and Zhang Shuai of China 6-4, 7-6 (4).
   Boys singles -- Jenson Brooksby, 17, of Carmichael in the Sacramento area eliminated Henry Von Der Schulenburg of Switzerland 7-5, 6-2 in a third-round clash of unseeded players.
   Brooksby is scheduled to play No. 14 seed Brandon Nakashima, a San Diego resident who routed No. 3 seed Hugo Gaston of France 6-1, 6-2, in Friday's quarterfinals.
   Brooksby defeated Nakashima 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 to win last month's USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., and 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Easter Bowl in Indian Wells in March en route to the title.

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