Friday, November 20, 2020

Djokovic reaches ATP semis; McDonald falls in Florida

Novak Djokovic, playing at Indian Wells in 2017, avenged a loss to Alexander
Zverev in the title match of the 2018 ATP Finals. Photo by Mal Taam

   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat fifth-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6 (4) today to reach the semifinals of the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
   Djokovic, a five-time champion, avenged a loss to Zverev, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) German, in the 2018 final of the indoor hardcourt tournament.
   Djokovic finished 2-1 and Zverev 1-2 in the four-man Group Tokyo 1970. The ATP Finals began 50 years ago in Tokyo.
   Both players have come under fire recently. Djokovic was defaulted from the U.S. Open in September for flicking a ball in anger and accidentally hitting a line judge in the throat. Zverev has denied accusations of domestic abuse by his former girlfriend Olga Sharypova.
   In Saturday's semifinals, Djokovic is scheduled to face third-seeded Dominic Thiem at 6 a.m. PST (Tennis Channel), and second-seeded Rafael Nadal is set to take on fourth-seeded Daniil Medvedev not before noon. 
   In a doubles semifinal, second-seeded Rajeev Ram, a 36-year-old volunteer assistant coach at the University of California, Berkeley from Carmel, Ind., and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain will meet seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France at 10 a.m.
   ATP Challenger Tour — Unseeded Brandon Nakashima, 19, of San Diego eliminated eighth-seeded Mackenzie McDonald, a 25-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, 6-3, 7-6 (8) on another windy day in the quarterfinals of the $52,080 Orlando (Fla.) Open.
   Nakashima, who ousted top-seeded Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-4, 6-3 in the second round, won seven straight games from 1-3 in the opening set of his first career match against McDonald, playing on his adopted home courts at the USTA National Campus. 
   In the second set, Nakashima saved a set point serving at 5-6 with a backhand passing shot down the line and later converted his fourth match point.
   Nakashima is scheduled to meet unseeded Mitchell Krueger of Dallas on Saturday after the 8 a.m. PST semifinal between fourth-seeded Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India and unseeded Christopher Eubanks of Atlanta. Both matches will be streamed live.
   Krueger, 26, defeated qualifier Alexander Ritschard of Switzerland 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1. Krueger, a quarterfinalist in the $100,000 Tiburon (Calif.) Challenger in 2015 and 2016, topped Nakashima 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the first round of qualifying for the 2018 Indian Wells Challenger in their only previous meeting.
   Gunneswaran, a 31-year-old left-hander who reached last week's final in Cary, N.C., routed sixth-seeded Dmitry Popko, a Russia native who plays for Kazakhstan, 6-0, 6-3. 
   The 6-foot-7 (2.01-meter) Eubanks, 24, subdued second-seeded Denis Kudla, an Arlington, Va., resident who won the Cary title, 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-3 in 3 hours, 5 minutes.
   Eubanks, who trailed by a service break in the second set, blasted 17 aces, committed 10 double faults and saved 16 of 18 break points against him.
   Gunneswaran and Eubanks will meet for the first time. They reached the semifinals of $100,000 tournaments in Tiburon (2017) and Aptos (2018), respectively, in Northern California. 
   ITF Women's Circuit — Second-seeded Maiar Sherif Ahmed Abdelaziz (Fresno State, 2015-16) of Egypt beat Lara Selden, a 21-year-old qualifier from Belgium, 7-5, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the $25,000 Open Gran Canaria on clay in Las Palmas de Gran Carania, off the coast of northwestern Africa.
   Sherif, who won a $100,000 clay-court tournament in Charleston, S.C., as a qualifier two weeks ago, extended her winning streak to 10 matches. She will play another 21-year-old, Jule Niemeier of Germany.
   In the other semifinal, top-seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia will meet sixth-seeded Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands.
   Kanepi, 35, has reached the quarterfinals of the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open twice each and been ranked as high as No. 15 in 2012. Hogenkamp, 28, climbed to a career-high No. 94 in 2017.

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