Monday, December 18, 2017
Sports

Top men shaky again but U.S. women rolling

PARIS — Saturday at the French Open was another day when the top men advanced but looked vulnerable and another good day for American women.

For the third time in three matches, claycourt king Rafael Nadal hardly looked himself for a set before winning. Clearly, the owner of a record seven titles at Roland Garros is not the dominant force he usually is here.

"If I want to have any chance," Nadal said after beating 27th-seeded Fabio Fognini 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 6-4, "I really need to play better." He next plays No. 13 Kei Nishikori, who became the first Japanese man in the fourth round here in 75 years.

The man Nadal could meet in the semifinals, No. 1 Novak Djokovic, seemed vulnerable, too. During a changeover at 4-3 in the third set of a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 win against Grigor Dimitrov, Djokovic stretched his right arm and had his shoulder area massaged by a trainer. After the match Djokovic was told that his first coach — Jelena Gencic, who began working with him when he was 6 — had died in Belgrade.

"His team kept the news secret from him until after the match," ATP spokesman Nicola Arzani said. "He just broke down." Djokovic next faces No. 16 Philipp Kohlschreiber.

American women Sloane Stephens, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Hampton joined defending champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round. The unseeded Hampton upset former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 6-1, 7-6 (9-7). The fourth American still in the event, Serena Williams, plays her fourth-round match today. That's the most Americans this far since four made it in 2004; five made it a year earlier.

"Three different players with very unique games, it's cool," said Hampton, who next plays Jelena Jankovic. Stephens has the most intriguing matchup, taking on Sharapova.

Meanwhile, the last American man bowed out when 19th-seeded John Isner, best known for winning a 70-68 fifth set at Wimbledon three years ago, fell to 35-year-old Tommy Haas 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-7 (10-12), 10-8. The match lasted 4 hours, 37 minutes as Isner, a Tampa resident, saved a record 12 match points before succumbing.

"These long matches seem to follow me," said Isner, whose last five Grand Slam appearances ended with losses in five-setters. "In hindsight, probably would have been better to lose in straight sets because I feel terrible right now."

Haas is the oldest man to reach the French Open's fourth round since 2007. "I was definitely hoping it wasn't going to go like in Wimbledon with him and (Nicolas) Mahut. I was probably going to wave the white flag before that," he said.

. KEY MATCHES

Today

Men: Roger Federer (2) vs. Gilles Simon (15); David Ferrer (4) vs. Kevin Anderson (23); Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6) vs. Viktor Troicki

Women: Serena Williams (1) vs. Roberta Vinci (15); Agnieszka Radwanska (4) vs. Ana Ivanovic (14)

TV: 5 a.m., Tennis; 1 p.m., Ch. 8

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