Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

Nadal shrugs off short-lived setback

PARIS — Briefly, Rafael Nadal was in a difficult spot in the French Open quarterfinals.

For the first time in this year's tournament, the eight-time champion dropped a set.

And this had to be on Nadal's mind: Opponent David Ferrer could present real problems. Not only is Ferrer ranked No. 5 and was the runner-up (to Nadal) at Roland Garros a year ago, but he also beat Nadal on red clay the last time they played.

Nadal handled this test perfectly. From late in the second set, he won 10 games in a row and 13 of the last 14 to come back and beat Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1, setting up a semifinal Friday against Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.

"At the beginning," Nadal acknowledged, "David was playing with a higher intensity than me."

But once Nadal made a key adjustment — dispensing with his surprisingly off-target backhand as much as possible and doing whatever he could to use his topspin-heavy forehand — he took over.

After committing 28 unforced errors across the windy first two sets, Nadal had zero in the third and three in the last.

"When I was able to hit with my forehand," Nadal said, "I felt that I was in control."

Ferrer said that in the latter stages, "I lost my concentration, my focus."

The route Murray took during his 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0 victory over No. 23 Gael Monfils of France was far more circuitous, finishing right on the cusp of dusk after 9:30 p.m. In front of a crowd loudly pulling for Monfils at Court Philippe Chatrier, Murray was terrific at the outset, mediocre in the middle then closed on a high.

After a brief discussion with a tournament official over whether there was enough sun to play the fifth set — the Roland Garros courts have no artificial lights — Murray made the whole thing moot. He raced through that set in 21 minutes, winning 24 of 31 points, as Monfils appeared to stop trying.

"Everything happened very fast," Monfils said.

Said Murray: "It was so dark at the end. Thankfully for me, he played a poor fifth set once I got ahead."

Murray will be playing in the French Open semifinals for the second time; he lost to Nadal in 2011.

The other men's semifinal will be No. 2 Novak Djokovic against No. 18 Ernests Gulbis.

Earlier, No. 4 Simona Halep of Romania and No. 28 Andrea Petkovic of Germany moved into the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. Halep beat 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2, and Petkovic defeated 2012 runner-up Sara Errani by the same score.

Comments
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

For the first time since its season commenced, the USF baseball team enters a weekend as the Bulls' feature sports attraction.Basketball ended last month, and spring football ended last Saturday, meaning would-be baseball fans no longer have reason t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Mallex Smith has style.Effervescent personality. Pop culture hipness. Sense of fashion with accoutrements.Now the Rays are going to find out if he has game.More specifically, enough game to be a front-line outfielder, even an i...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs LB Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs LB Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured his ankle in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the upcoming season in question.General manager Jason Licht said that Beckwith had surgery Tuesday to repair his injure...
Updated: 4 hours ago
NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

NHL makes right call in not suspending Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov

The NHL got it right.Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning's top scorer and best player so far in these playoffs, will play Saturday's Game 5 against New Jersey. He's not going to be suspended for his vicious hit on a Devils player in Tampa Bay's Game 4 vic...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Plant alumnus Rex Culpepper doing well in second chemo round at Syracuse

Plant alumnus Rex Culpepper doing well in second chemo round at Syracuse

Former Plant High quarterback Rex Culpepper recently started his second round of chemotherapy but is doing well and should return to football eventually, his college coach said Thursday morning."He's doing really good," Syracuse coach Dino Babers sai...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Life got you down? The Miracle League is back and making miracles again

Life got you down? The Miracle League is back and making miracles again

ST. PETERSBURG — An old friend is back in the lineup.The Kiwanis of Gulf Beaches Miracle League, which champions baseball for the physically and mentally challenged, returned with a flourish Saturday morning. We're better for it."This...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

NEW PORT RICHEY — Long before he became the best pole vaulter in the state, Stone Baker was 12 years old and liked to play football.He didn't know a vaulting pole from a tennis racket.Then one day his friend, Evan Bales, asked him to come over ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

Lightning holds off Devils and David Puddy

NEWARK, N.J. — The Devils pulled out all the stops for Wednesday's Game 4 of their Stanley Cup quarter final series with the Lightning by inviting David Puddy at the Prudential Center.For those who do not know who he is, Puddy was Elaine's...
Updated: 6 hours ago