Kyrgios whips Nadal to reach semifinals, Pliskova takes two

Nick Kyrgios, of Australia, returns to Rafael Nadal, of Spain, at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament Friday in Mason, Ohio. (AP)
Updated 19 August 2017
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Kyrgios whips Nadal to reach semifinals, Pliskova takes two

CINCINNATI: Australia’s Nick Kyrgios blasted new world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-2, 7-5 Friday, winning twice in one day to reach the WTA and ATP Cincinnati Masters semifinals.
As defending champion Karolina Pliskova won twice in one day for the third time this season to tighten her grip on the world No. 1 ranking, Kyrgios stole the show by overpowering the 15-time Grand Slam champion after each had won earlier.
“A kid playing Nadal on center court, that’s where your best has to come out,” Kyrgios said. “Performance like today, I’m seeing progress.”
Kyrgios, ranked 23rd, faces Spain’s David Ferrer for a finals berth. Bulgaria’s 11th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov plays American John Isner in Saturday’s other semifinal.
Nadal, who won his 10th French Open title in June, was assured of moving into the top ranking on Monday for the first time since July 2014 when Roger Federer withdrew from Cincinnati with a back injury.
Kyrgios was up a double break in 10 minutes, seizing the chance to make a between-the-legs showoff shot on his way to a 4-0 lead, drawing boos from the crowd.
“I was just doing it for a gag,” Kyrgios said. “I just felt like doing it. My friends who were watching were laughing so they liked it I guess.”
He took the first set in 25 minutes, dropping only three points on his serve, then broke Nadal in the fifth game of the second set. The Aussie served for the match in the 10th game but double faulted on his third match point and Nadal broke back.
“I had the match on my racket and tightened up,” Kyrgios said.
But the 22-year-old broke again to lead 6-5 and this time end matters with his 10th ace after 80 minutes, improving to 2-2 all-time against the 31-year-old Spaniard.
“I started the match very low and I played a very bad game in the second set when he break me,” Nadal said. “I was able to get some points and get back in the match but then I played a terrible game. It was a bad match for me. Congrats to him.”
Nadal took only 6-of-20 second serve points and won only five off his foe’s first serve.
“No excuses. Nothing at all,” Nadal said. “If I don’t play well I can’t win against a player like Nick.”
Earlier, Kyrgios defeated Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3 and Nadal downed compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 in rain-postponed matches.
Kyrgios, who matched his best ATP Masters runs from Miami the past two years, seeks his fourth career title after 2016 trophies at Marseille, Atlanta and Tokyo.
And he served notice for the US Open, where he has never reached the fourth round. The year’s last Grand Slam starts August 28.
Ferrer upset Austria’s eighth-ranked Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-3 while Isner fired 25 aces in beating American wildcard Jared Donaldson 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 and Dimitrov downed Japan’s Yuichi Sugita 6-2, 6-1.
Pliskova, fighting to hold off Romania’s Simona Halep atop the rankings, first ousted Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 in a rain-postponed match.
With only two hours between matches, the 25-year-old Czech defeated Denmark’s fifth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-4 to book a Saturday semifinal against Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.
“I feel pretty good,” Pliskova said. “I recover well, so definitely I will be ready.”
Second-ranked Halep eliminated British seventh seed Johanna Konta 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) to book a semifinal date with US wildcard Sloane Stephens.
“I played the best match so far,” Halep said. “I could move well. So I feel the rhythm. It’s back. So I’m positive again.”
Pliskova’s two-in-one effort, matching feats on her way to Eastbourne and Doha titles, means Halep must capture the crown to swipe the top spot in Monday’s rankings.
“Whatever comes I will just take it,” said Pliskova. “Even if I would be second coming to the US Open, it’s still better than I was last year. So no pressure about being world No. 1 .”
Sixth-ranked Spaniard Muguruza ousted Russian eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 5-7, 7-5.


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 22 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • 'He’s fine, he’s ready to go'

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.