Serena and Federer rally to win, Djokovic hurt at rainy US Open

Serena Williams during her second round of women's singles match against Caty McNally. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2019

Serena and Federer rally to win, Djokovic hurt at rainy US Open

  • Serena Williams, seeking her 24th career Grand Slam title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record

NEW YORK: Serena Williams nearly crashed out of the rain-hit US Open on Wednesday while top-ranked defending champion Novak Djokovic battled through shoulder pain and Roger Federer advanced despite a weak start.

US eighth seed Serena Williams, seeking her 24th career Grand Slam title to match Margaret Court’s all-time record, got a scare before ousting 17-year-old US wildcard Caty McNally 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

McNally, who had not been born when Williams won her first Slam at the 1999 US Open, threatened a struggling Williams from the start before the six-time US Open champion won nine of the last 11 games to escape under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“I survived tonight. I’m not too pleased with the way I played at all,” Williams said.

“‘Serena, you made way too many errors today. What were you thinking?’ But I’m alive. I’m happy. I’ll do better next time. I promise.”

Djokovic, winner of four of the past five Slam titles and 16 in all, was treated for a sore left shoulder throughout his 6-4, 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 victory over Argentina’s 56th-ranked Juan Ignacio Londero.

“It was definitely affecting my serve and backhand,” Djokovic said of his shoulder injury. “I was definitely tested.”

Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam winner who last won the US Open in 2008, rallied to beat 99th-ranked Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

The 38-year-old Swiss third seed, who also dropped the first set against Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal in his opener, answered the wake-up call despite 17 first-set unforced errors.

“It’s just a bit frustrating more than anything, especially when the level is that low and there are that many errors and the energy is not kind of there,” Federer said. “But can only do better, which is a great thing moving forward. “I clearly have to play better from the get-go.”

What the year’s final Grand Slam event lacked in quantity, with 22 singles matches postponed by showers, it overcame with quality in amazing matches that challenged three of the greatest stars in tennis history.

One point from surrendering a break into a tie-breaker, McNally won six of the final seven points, the last on a service winner, to capture the first set. Both players made 15 unforced errors.

“I couldn’t play too much worse at that point,” Williams said. “I was making so many errors off my forehand. I knew I could play better.”

Williams broke on a forehand winner in the sixth game of the second set and, after being denied on four set points on McNally’s serve, hit a backhand volley winner to force a third set. Williams opened the third set with a break on the way to a 4-0 edge and cruised home from there.

Djokovic’s injury casts grave doubts on his bid to be the first US Open repeat winner since Federer won from 2004-2008, admitting he wondered if he would even get through the first set.

“This is something I’ve been carrying for quite a while now,” Djokovic said. “It wasn’t easy to play with the pain, but you have to hope you will get some opportunities and some lucky shots.

 Five-time US Open winner Federer, who lost to Djokovic in last month’s epic Wimbledon final, started poorly but broke early in each of the last three sets and held serve to the end.

 Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori, the 2014 US Open runner-up, beat 108th-ranked American Bradley Klahn 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, the second seed from Australia, eliminated 73rd-ranked American Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).

Czech third seed Karolina Pliskova, seeking her first Grand Slam title, ousted 202nd-ranked Georgian qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze 6-1, 6-4.

Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina defeated seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 and US 10th seed Madison Keys, the 2017 US Open runner-up, trounced China’s Zhu Lin 6-4, 6-1.


‘Loved and appreciated’ Bale starts as Spurs win, Celtic undone by Milan

Updated 23 October 2020

‘Loved and appreciated’ Bale starts as Spurs win, Celtic undone by Milan

PARIS: Gareth Bale said it felt good to be “loved and appreciated” after helping Tottenham to a 3-0 win over LASK of Austria in the Europa League on Thursday.
The Welsh international started his first match since his return from Real Madrid and played for an hour before Jose Mourinho gave him a break.
Bale had come on as a substitute last Sunday with Tottenham 3-0 up against West Ham before his team collapsed to give up a 3-3 draw.
“It is amazing to be back,” Bale told BT Sport on Thursday.
“It is a big reason why I play well and why I came back. You want to be loved and appreciated. I will give everything for this shirt.”
However, he admitted it will take time to find his feet.
“I am a bit stiff. It is like a mini pre-season for me and I am trying to get minutes into the legs,” he said.
Despite Bale starting, it was on-loan Carlos Vinicius who made an impressive debut in the Group J opener.
Vinicius started in place of the resting Harry Kane and he made goals in either half for Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min, while he would have also netted himself had Andres Andrade not scored an own goal.
Bale made that goal where Andrade put through his own net.
Leicester made the perfect start in Group G with a comfortable 3-0 win over Zorya Luhansk of Ukraine.
James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho were on the scoresheet.
In Glasgow, Celtic struggled against Serie A leaders AC Milan who were 2-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Rade Krunic and Brahim Diaz.
Mohamed Elyounoussi reduced the arrears after the break, but Jens Petter Hauge broke clear to secure Milan’s Group H 3-1 win in stoppage time.
Milan were so comfortable that they could afford to take off Zlatan Ibrahimovic just after the hour.
Earlier Thursday, Arsenal came from behind to down Rapid Vienna 2-1 and Rangers beat Standard Liege 2-0.
After a goalless first half Arsenal went behind when keeper Bernd Leno fluffed a clearance on a night he will want to forget.
Taxiarchis Fountas capitalized on Leno’s clanger, much to the joy of the 3,000 home fans allowed in to watch under coronavirus safety protocol, but the Gunners then turned the game around in four second half minutes.
David Luiz put them level with a deft glancing header off Nicolas Pepe’s free-kick, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang then tapping home to bag the three Group B points.
It was an eventful night for Mikel Arteta’s side.
Alongside eight yellow cards, there was an eye-catching display from Thomas Partey on his first start since his transfer deadline day move from Atletico Madrid.
A frustrated follower of the game from his London sofa was Mesut Ozil, who has been left out of both Arsenal’s Europa League and Premier League squad.
“When I can’t support on the pitch tonight, I will support in front of the TV in London.” tweeted Ozil.
The other Group B game was being played out in Dublin where Dundalk, only Ireland’s third ever representative in the group stage, were beaten 2-1 by Norwegians Molde.
In Belgium, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers took on Standard Liege fresh from their Old Firm derby win over Celtic which moved them four points clear in the Scottish Premiership last weekend.
James Tavernier scored from the spot after Noe Dussenne handled in the area to put them into a 19th minute lead.
Then three minutes into stoppage time Kemar Roofe produced a wonder goal from the halfway line, the ball flying over the head of bewildered keeper Arnaud Bodart.
Benfica had claimed the first goal of the night and they went on to beat Lech Poznan in Poland 4-2 in the other Group D game.
Elsewhere, Bayer Leverkusen ran riot 6-2 against French side Nice and Spanish side Granada, in their first ever European campaign, beat PSV Eindhoven 2-1.