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Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot! Millman's Mid-Match Dash

  • Posted: Sep 06, 2018

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot! Millman’s Mid-Match Dash

Humid conditions mean change of clothing and a six-minute break in play

He grew up in Brisbane, so knows a thing or two about humidity. But on Wednesday night, the hot conditions at the US Open got too much for John Millman.

“I’m not normally like the biggest sweater,” said Millman. “But I was really sweating…”

With temperatures at a relatively cool 70ºF, but humidity above 80 per cent, the Australian was drenched in perspiration as he approached Novak Djokovic at the net at 2-2 in the second set.

“Can I go change my clothes now?” Millman asked Djokovic. “They are saying I can only change now.”

It was a win-win for both. Djokovic smiled, and could be heard saying, “I can take a little rest.” The Serbian soon took off his shirt at his courtside bench.

The chair umpire agreed, invoking the ‘Equipment Out of Adjustment’ provision in the ITF Duties and Procedures for Officials, due to Millman’s excessive sweating and the moisture it was leaving on the court.

“It was a tricky one coming off,” said Millman. “I didn’t really want to come off. Novak was making me run a bit too much, though… I had to change!”

Two-time former US Open champion Djokovic believes it’s the toughest US Open he has contested in the past decade.

The Serbian later admitted, “I personally have never sweat as much as I have here. [It’s] incredible. I have to take at least 10 shirts for every match. It’s literally after two games you’re soaking.”

A similar situation occurred on Tuesday night, between the fourth and fifth sets of Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem quarter-final, when Thiem was allowed to get new shoes from the locker room.

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Djokovic beats Millman to reach US Open semi-final

  • Posted: Sep 06, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Novak Djokovic reached the US Open semi-finals after continuing his flawless record in the last eight with victory over Roger Federer’s conqueror John Millman.

The 31-year-old earned a 6-3 6-4 6-4 victory over the Australian world number 55.

The Serb, twice champion at Flushing Meadows, has now won all 11 of his quarter-final matches in New York.

He goes on to play Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the last four on Friday.

Djokovic missed last year’s tournament with an elbow injury but has now reached at least the semi-finals in every appearance at Flushing Meadows since 2007.

The victory was not as easy for the sixth seed as the scoreline suggested, Australian Millman providing stoic resistance before Djokovic came through to take his first match point after two hours 49 minutes, just before midnight local time.

  • Nishikori edges out Cilic in five sets
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  • Live scores, schedule and results
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Djokovic moves closer to Sampras records

Djokovic has gone on to reach the final seven times from those 11 straight last-four appearances, and victory over Nishikori would move him alongside Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl’s record appearances total in the men’s showpiece.

A bigger piece of history awaits, however, if he can go all the way in New York – a 14th Grand Slam victory would rank him alongside Sampras, and behind only Federer (20) and Nadal (17), in major triumphs.

But first he had to get past the energetic Millman on another stuffy night on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Djokovic had breezed past the Australian on grass at Queen’s Club in June – their only previous meeting – dropping just three games.

This time he was made to work much harder.

The former world number one missed 16 of 20 break points, and was pegged back from 3-1 up in the third set, before winning 12 of the final 15 points to advance.

Heat causes more problems as Millman forced off court

A failure to convert break points was not the only problem faced by Djokovic.

Not for the first time at the tournament he struggled in the conditions which, although still hot and humid, appeared much easier than on previous nights.

He was given some tablets during the second set – but declined to say what they were when asked in his post-match media conference.

“I personally have never sweat as much as I have here. Incredible. I have to take at least 10 shirts for every match. It’s literally after two games and you’re soaking,” Djokovic said.

“I asked the chair umpire whether they are using some form of ventilation or air conditioning down at the court level, and he says that ‘he’s not aware of it’, that, you know, only what comes through the hallway type of thing.

“I think that this tournament needs to address this. I mean, because whether it’s night or day, we just don’t have air down there. It feels like sauna.”

Djokovic was also given time violations in successive points when serving at 3-2 in the third set, meaning he lost his first serve while break point down, and Millman duly capitalised.

The Australian also suffered with the heat, having to disappear off court at 2-2 in the second set to change his sweat-soaked kit.

“[In] these night matches, the humidity goes through the roof,” he said.

“It is tricky, but it’s the same for both people. You’re dripping. But, that’s no excuse or anything. I’d play in a swimming pool if I got to play a quarter-final every week at a Grand Slam.”

Ball boys and girls had to wipe the court with towels between games, and the USTA issued a statement afterwards confirming the chair umpire allowed Millman to leave the court after determining the surface was “dangerous”.

Millman leaves with reputation and ranking enhanced

Millman produced a big shock when he inflicted a four-set defeat on Swiss second seed Federer in the last 16, ending the possibility of a meeting between two of the game’s greats in the quarter-finals.

The affection of the New York crowd followed Millman into his match against Djokovic – and he thrived on the backing.

The 29-year-old, often chatting and interacting with his supporters in the stands, fed off the crowd’s energy as he continued to frustrate Djokovic.

He entertained them with some remarkable retrieving, in addition to clutch serving and the odd brilliant winner, on his way to seeing off 11 break points – between the ones Djokovic did convert for a 2-0 lead in the first set and a 5-4 advantage in the second.

But he was unable to test the Serb’s serve often and when he did, breaking back to level the third set at 3-3, Djokovic hit straight back.

Nevertheless he will leave New York with an enhanced reputation and a career-high ranking of 37 after reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final.


Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent

Millman kept Djokovic on court for as long as he possibly could, and at times drove him to distraction with some breathtaking retrieving.

The Serb could only convert one of his first 13 break points, and again seemed to struggle in the high humidity. At one point he requested a nasal spray.

The frustration of being docked a first serve for slow play late in the match soon passed, and a straight-set victory is always gratefully accepted in a Grand Slam quarter-final. Djokovic won just before the stroke of midnight in less than three hours, a luxury not afforded to Rafael Nadal the previous night.

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Kei Hopes To Hit Rewind Against Novak

  • Posted: Sep 06, 2018

Kei Hopes To Hit Rewind Against Novak

Nishikori to face Djokovic for spot in US Open final (again)

Four years ago in Flushing Meadows, Kei Nishikori earned perhaps the biggest win of his career, defeating top seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals to reach his first Grand Slam final.

“I forgot about it,” Nishikori said on Wednesday, smiling. “I always have good memories here. It was a tough battle against Novak. Yeah, for sure it’s going to give me good confidence, even though I didn’t remember. Maybe I will try to watch the match again, if he wins, and get more confidence.”

In the championship match, which lasted just one hour and 54 minutes, Marin Cilic cruised past the Japanese to lift his maiden major trophy. But now, it’s time to press rewind. Nishikori will try to upset Djokovic in another US Open semi-final. Will the script remain the same?

First thing’s first — the circumstances are different. Nishikori is no longer on the rise, but on the mend. The 28-year-old missed this tournament last year due to a right wrist injury, and he’d start his 2018 campaign by playing two ATP Challenger Tour events.

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But Nishikori is not satisfied having reached one major final and climbing as high as No. 4 in the ATP Rankings. While he’s not putting as much pressure on himself before his injury, he is ambitious. Nishikori doesn’t want to settle for making the semi-finals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert worked with the Japanese from December of 2010 through the 2011 season, and he says he was a little bit surprised when he asked Nishikori about his goals seven years ago.

“I wasn’t sure. But it was to be Top 3 in the world, to win Slams, to compete in Slams,” Gilbert said. “Okay, sometimes you’re not sure and your people say it, but you don’t really believe it. But I think he really believed in it and expected it.”

And perhaps it is that belief that has aided his return to form. First it was a runner-up showing in Monte-Carlo, then his first quarter-final at Wimbledon, and now, after avenging the Cilic loss by ousting the Croatian on Wednesday, he has earned a spot in the US Open semi-finals.

“It’s almost like he willed that win. It was perseverance. It wasn’t pretty. It was brilliant at some times. But the biggest thing in tennis, they said the four most valuable words: game, set, match, Nishikori,” Gilbert said of Nishikori’s victory against Cilic. “That match had like seven, if it was wrestling, it would be reversals. He found a way to win the last point and that’s the only thing that matters in these majors.”

Nishikori didn’t have the best preparation for the US Open, losing three of four matches heading into the final Grand Slam of the year. But that hasn’t stopped him from battling match-in and match-out and, in the crucial moments, being unafraid of taking control and seizing the moment.

“I felt once we were getting into the rallies he was slightly more consistent, and he had in, most of the rallies — not most of them, but maybe 60 per cent of the rallies — that he was the one that was dictating and creating chances,” Cilic said. “I felt that once he had the ball in the middle of the court, he was controlling and playing well what he’s doing usually well.

“He’s playing really well. He’s in the semis, and with these kind of conditions, I think he dealt with it quite good today… I think for him is definitely good challenge coming back to the semis and creating another opportunity. I felt that he was hitting the ball really clean, really well, as he usually does.”

And the scary thing for the remaining field, is that Nishikori did not feel he was at his best against Cilic, who had made two of the past five Slam finals. “It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t feel like I was playing [my] best tennis today, but [I] fought through somehow and [that] gives me big confidence playing semis [in the] next round,” he said.

Nishikori has shown an even higher level this tournament, which is impressive considering he defeated Cilic. The No. 21 seed dominated veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round, a match that Gilbert commentated on.

“I thought he played excellent. He played great in that match,” Gilbert said. “The amazing thing about tennis is sometimes you don’t have to be great to win. Sometimes you can just be ordinary, but you’ve got to win. I don’t think he played that well today, but more importantly, sometimes you can play really well and lose. They said game, set, match, Nishikori. He’s moving on.“

There’s no doubting that Nishikori’s wrist injury was a significant hurdle to leap over. Missing the end of the 2017 season following Montreal, he’d eventually drop to World No. 39 this April, his lowest placement in the rankings since he was 21 years old. But now, Nishikori is working back toward his peak again and into contention for a spot at the Nitto ATP Finals in November.

“In tennis, if you don’t get better, you get worse. And he’s been getting better. He’s had lots of injuries to deal with. But all you can do sometimes is ask yourself and put yourself in the position,” Gilbert said. “He’s put himself in position and now… he’s just got to play the opponent and not the situation.”

All Nishikori has to do is check out video of the last time he played Djokovic in Arthur Ashe Stadium. While he may or may not remember it, the film doesn’t lie: Nishikori’s done it before, and there’s no reason he can’t do it again.

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Williams 'still has a long way to go' – US Open women's semi-final preview

  • Posted: Sep 06, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Serena Williams says she still has a “really long way to go” to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title at the US Open.

Williams plays Anastasija Sevastova in the semi-finals on Thursday and is the only major winner left in the draw.

A seventh US Open title would see the American equal Margaret Court’s Grand Slam haul but Williams has lost her last two semi-finals in New York.

Williams, 36, also lost to Angelique Kerber in this year’s Wimbledon final.

“I’d been a couple of steps away at the last Grand Slam, so I’m definitely not ahead of myself,” Williams said.

“I still know that no matter whether I’m in the semi-finals or the finals, I have a really long way to go to win.”

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Williams is also aiming for a first Grand Slam title since giving birth to her daughter last year.

The semi-final, which starts at starts 0:00 BST on Friday, is Sevastova’s first in a Grand Slam semi-final and comes after her win over defending champion Sloane Stephens in the quarter-finals.

Sevastova retired from the sport in 2013 because of recurring injuries and spent two years studying leisure management before returning in 2015.

“It was an amazing journey, this three, four years,” the world number 18 said. “After I stop, at some point I will look at it and I will be proud of myself, for sure.

“I hope I will enjoy it, playing semi-finals. It’s not every day you play semi-finals of a Grand Slam.”

Williams’ route to the semi-final
First round: Beat Magda Linette 6-4 6-0
Second round: Beat Carina Witthoeft 6-2 6-2
Third round: Beat Venus Williams 6-2 6-1
Fourth round: Beat Kaia Kanepi 6-0 4-6 6-3
Quarter-final: Beat Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-3

Back to ‘business’ for Osaka

The second semi-final sees 2017 runner-up Madison Keys face Japan’s Naomi Osaka, who is making her first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.

Osaka, who has long been tipped as a future star of the women’s game, is the first Japanese woman to reach the last four of a Grand Slam for 22 years.

“It means a lot but I was much more emotional for the quarters and now I feel like it’s sort of business again,” the 20-year-old said.

“Quarters was my mental goal, every time I played a Grand Slam.

“And then after I went into the quarters, I want to keep going, so I feel like I have to be focused again and keep trying really hard.”

  • Live scores, schedule and results
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Nishikori edges out Cilic in five sets to reach US Open semis

  • Posted: Sep 06, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Kei Nishikori overcame seventh seed Marin Cilic in a gruelling five-set match to reach the US Open semi-finals.

Both players struggled in an error-strewn encounter with high temperatures in New York again a factor.

Cilic made a dominant start to lead by a set and a break before his level dropped to allow Japan’s 21st seed Nishikori to take a 2-1 lead.

Cilic recovered to force a decider but Nishikori edged through 2-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 in four hours eight minutes.

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The 28-year-old will play Novak Djokovic, who beat Australian John Millman, in the last four.

After Naomi Osaka reached the women’s semi-finals earlier, Nishikori’s win means there is a Japanese man and woman in the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time in the Open Era.

“It’s great to see,” Nishikori said.

“I hope people were watching us. Hopefully many people were cheering in support.

“Naomi’s doing well, because she has won a Masters (Indian Wells). I think she can win a title now. It’s a big chance for her.”

Errors dominate in New York heat

There was a subdued atmosphere on Arthur Ashe Stadium with the crowd struggling to get into the match which was a repeat of the 2014 US Open final won by Cilic.

Both players hit comfortably more unforced errors than winners with Cilic making 70 unforced errors to 57 winners and Nishikori 45 to 29.

The momentum swung throughout the match with Cilic looking in control when leading 4-2 in the second set before losing six games in a row.

He also lead with a break in the third-set tie-break before hitting two consecutive double faults to gift Nishikori the advantage.

Even in the final set Nishikori looked comfortable with a 4-1 lead before Cilic levelled, only for the Croat to lose the final two games.

“I came back, I had some chances,” said Cilic. “With a great quality player like Kei, he also had his chances, and he converted. So it came down to a couple points.”

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