Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Nadal rolls past Lajovich in French Open

PARIS — Maybe, just maybe, Rafael Nadal was a tad vulnerable, the thinking went before this French Open.

He had lost three times on his beloved red clay already this year, more defeats than he ever had on the surface before heading to Roland Garros.

Then came an admission, after the third round, that his back was bothering him and slowing his serves.

Well, leave it to the eight-time French Open champion's upcoming quarterfinal opponent — 2013 runner-up David Ferrer, one of the men who beat Nadal on clay this spring — to set the record straight.

"Rafael," Ferrer said, "is always the favorite."

Nadal looked the part in the fourth round Monday, when he won 18 points in a row during one stretch en route to beating 83rd-ranked Dusan Lajovic 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 for a record 32nd consecutive victory at the French Open. That broke his own mark of 31 and moved him closer to a fifth straight title in Paris.

The No. 1-ranked Nadal, now 63-1 for his career at the tournament, has won all 12 sets he has played in Paris in 2014, dropping a total of 23 games. He was asked whether he preferred a more taxing encounter by now.

"You never know what's better," he said. "But, in theory, the theory says that it's better (to) win like this than win longer matches."

And his back? The one that flummoxed him during a loss in the Australian Open final in January, and acted up Saturday, leading to an average first serve of 102 mph and top speed of 114? It didn't appear to be much of an issue against Lajovic: Nadal averaged 107 mph, with a high of 119.

"My back can be pretty unpredictable," said Nadal, who wore thick vertical strips of athletic tape under his shirt. "I'm not lying. It's totally unpredictable. I don't want to speak too much about it."

No. 7 Andy Murray beat No. 24 Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3). In a wild third set, Verdasco held to get within 4-3 with an apparent service winner, but chair umpire Pascal Maria said that point should be replayed because a line judge called the ball out. Verdasco shouted "Are you kidding me?" and wanted a supervisor to intervene — until Murray conceded the point.

No. 28 Andrea Petkovic's 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over 148th-ranked Kiki Bertens was the only three-setter for women, with 77 unforced errors and 14 service breaks. Afterward, Petkovic conducted a news conference sprinkled with references to Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus.

notable: Defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan lost in the men's doubles quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-2 to the 12th-seeded duo of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. The Bryan twins, who were seeded No. 1, have failed to reach the final at the last three Grand Slam tournaments after winning four major titles in a row before that, starting at the 2012 U.S. Open. … Sloane Stephens lost to fourth-seeded Simona Halep 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth round, leaving no American singles players in the tournament. The 15th-seeded Stephens made 35 unforced errors, 10 more than Halep, and was broken six of nine times.

Comments
Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

TAMPA — As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't speak in front of the cameras after the game. He has been like that since he hit the NHL. He still isn't comfortable with his English on TV.But Vasilevskiy spoke loudly and clearly in the first-round ...
Updated: 1 minute ago
Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

ST. PETERSBURG — Good pitching and hitting go hand in glove, but the Rays did not look like a team that could swing the bats very well until this completed homestand.In their series sweep over the Twins, Tampa Bay scored 8, 10 and 8 runs. ...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Jimmy Butler leads Timberwolves against team he loved

Jimmy Butler leads Timberwolves against team he loved

MINNEAPOLIS — All-Star forward Jimmy Butler comes across as the proudest former resident in the history of tiny Tomball, Texas. What he doesn't advertise in his Twitter biography, but also doesn't dispute, is that he grew up dreaming of becomin...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

Rick Stroud’s takeaways from Rays-Twins

–Yonny Chirinos may be the Rays fourth starter, but it seems to be in name only. He was lifted after pitching 4 2/3 innings against the Twin on Sunday, the shortest start of his career and his second-shortest appearance.  "Going into the g...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosIndyCar: Grand Prix of AlabamanoonNBCSNBaseballAutosIndyCar: Grand Prix of AlabamanoonNBCSNTwins at Yankees7 p.m.ESPNMarlins at Dodgers10 p.m.FSFCollege softballTennessee at Alabama7 p.m.SECLouisville at Florida State7 p.m.ESPNUNBA playoffs...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG — With every swing, there is a chance Carlos Gomez is going to do something extraordinary with the baseball bat.He may swing so violently that he spins himself into the ground as if he were an oil drill. Or, you could see him sna...
Updated: 2 hours ago
District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

Class 9A-8 (higher seed hosts)Tuesday: No. 3 Alonso at No. 2 Palm Harbor University, 4; No. 4 Sarasota Riverview at No. 1 Newsome, 7Thursday: Final, 4 or 7 (depending on who hosts)Class 8A-4 at Strawberry Crest Tuesday: No. 1 Wharton vs. No. 4 Wiregr...
Updated: 6 hours ago
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz at the top of this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the all-time record of six in the first round, set in 1983 with a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Updated: 9 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos is no longer just part of a bullpen day, he's the No. 4 starter and who goes to the mound at 1:10 p.m. against Phil Hughes to try to help Tampa Bay attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Twins.Catcher Wilson Ramos g...
Updated: 11 hours ago