Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Serena stops Stanford grad; Murray wins marathon

Andy Murray rallied from two sets down and saved a match point in
a 4-hour, 39-minute victory over Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round
of the U.S. Open. File photo by Paul Bauman
   Serena Williams finally won in straight sets.
   Launching her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, the third-seeded Williams beat Kristie Ahn, a 28-year-old Stanford graduate, 7-5, 6-3 today in the first round of the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   Williams, a part-time Silicon Valley resident who will turn 39 on Sept. 26, improved to 4-2 since the WTA Tour resumed last month after a five-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Each of the previous five matches went to three sets.
   "It's been years, since the '90s, since I won a match in straight sets," Williams, who broke Chris Evert's women's record with her 102nd U.S. Open victory, cracked in a post-match interview. "It felt really good. I was like, 'Serena, just be Serena and close it out.' I know I can do that, so it felt really good."
   Ahn, ranked No. 96, was playing two miles (3.2 kilometers) from the hospital where she was born and a 30-minute drive from her residence in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. She reached the fourth round of last year's U.S. Open.
   Next for Williams, seeking her seventh U.S. Open title, is Margarita Gasparyan, a 26-year-old Russian. The 6-foot (1.83-meter) Gasparyan, ranked 117th, beat Monica Puig, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in women's singles, 6-3, 6-7 (0), 6-0. 
   Williams is 2-0, surrendering only eight games, against Gasparyan. This will be their first meeting since Williams' 6-2, 6-1 victory in the fourth round of the 2016 Australian Open.
   Sloane Stephens, a Fresno, Calif., product seeded 26th, dismissed Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-3, 6-3. Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, improved to 1-2 since the restart and 2-7 this year.
   Buzarnescu, a 32-year-old left-hander, claimed her only career WTA singles title in the inaugural Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif., in 2018.
   Andy Murray, who won the first of his three Grand Slam singles titles in the 2012 U.S. Open, outlasted Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in 4 hours, 39 minutes. Murray saved a match point in the fourth set of his first victory in a major since the 2018 U.S. Open.
   Murray, 33, is playing in his second tournament of the year as he continues his comeback from hip operations in 2018 and 2019. He won the first of his 46 singles titles in the now-defunct SAP Open in San Jose in 2006 at 18 years old and repeating the following year. 
   Nishioka, a 24-year-old left-hander, had surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in April 2017 and missed the rest of the season.      
   Andrey Kuznetsov has had a lifelong hip problem but has avoided surgery. Playing his first tour-level match in almost three years, the 29-year-old Russian defeated Sam Querrey, a 32-year-old San Francisco native, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-2.
   Kuznetsov, ranked as high as No. 39 in 2016, became the first unranked player to win a Grand Slam match since Nicolas Kiefer of Germany at Wimbledon in 2007. 
   Querrey, now based in Las Vegas, lost in the first round of the U.S. Open for the third consecutive year and fifth time in six years. He reached the quarterfinals, his best result at Flushing Meadows, in 2017. 
   Sumit Nagal, 23, of India beat Bradley Klahn, a 30-year-old Stanford graduate, 6-1, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 for his first Grand Slam main-draw victory.
   Nagal, only 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters) and 152 pounds (69 kilograms), made his Grand Slam main-draw debut as a qualifier in last year's U.S. Open, extending Roger Federer to four sets in a first-round loss. Klahn was playing his first official match since March.
   Norway's Casper Ruud, seeded 30th, defeated Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
   McDonald fell to 0-3 in the main draw of the U.S. Open. He reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2017 but underwent hamstring surgery in June 2019 and missed the rest of the season.
   Both McDonald and Ruud, the 21-year-old son of former top-40 player Christian Ruud, starred in the Fairfield (Calif.) Challenger, 40 miles (64.4 kilometers) north of Piedmont. McDonald won his first Challenger singles title there in 2017. Ruud advanced to the 2018 semifinals, losing to eventual champion Bjorn Fratangelo.
   Russia's Ekaternia Alexandrova eliminated 37-year-old Kim Clijsters, an International Tennis Hall of Famer playing her first Grand Slam match in eight years, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. Clijsters, a three-time U.S. Open champion and four-time Bank of the West winner, ended her retirement in February.
   Suarez Navarro has cancer — Carla Suarez Navarro, who climbed to a career-high No. 6 in 2016, revealed that she has been diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
   The 31-year-old Spaniard said she will undergo six months of chemotherapy. She announced in December that she would retire after the 2020 season.
   Five-foot-4 (1.62 meters) with a spectacular one-handed backhand, Suarez Navarro reached seven Grand Slam quarterfinals in singles — three in the Australian Open, two in the French Open and two in the U.S. Open. She won the doubles title in the 2014 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford with compatriot Garbine Muguruza.

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