Rafael Nadal grinds out tough win over Russian rival in third round of US Open

Rafael Nadal's knee was bothering him. His decade-younger, barrel-chested U.S. Open foe was bashing the ball.

The defending champion was two points away from falling into a two-set hole. Then he was two points away from dropping the third set. And then he was one point from losing the fourth set and being pushed to a fifth.

As all of those key moments presented themselves, he managed to come through.

The No. 1-ranked Nadal overcame a shaky start today and used his customary relentless style to wear down No. 27 seed Karen Khachanov physically and mentally, eventually getting to the fourth round with an entertaining and back-and-forth 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) victory that took 4 hours, 23 minutes.

"I escaped a very tough situation," Nadal said, "so it's a great thing."

The man he beat in last year's final at Flushing Meadows, No. 5 Kevin Anderson, got through his own tough test against an up-and-coming opponent, edging No. 28 Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

After Nadal ceded the opening set, he had a trainer put tape under his right knee, which has caused problems off-and-on for the Spaniard over the years.

Nadal later got more wrapping there during a 10-minute break at 5-all in the second set while the retractable roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium was shut because of light rain.

Just prior to the delay, Khachanov had served for that set at 5-4, and three times was two points away from taking it. But he couldn't get closer than that. Nadal broke for 5-all and, after the delay, broke again to even it at a set apiece, aided by two double-faults from Khachanov.

When Nadal earned that set with a passing shot that drew an errant volley, he crouched and yelled. Folks sitting in his guest box rose. A chunk of the crowd gave a standing ovation. Khachanov swatted a ball in disgust.

The end of the third set was similar: Khachanov twice was two points from owning it and couldn't get across the line, helping Nadal with three double-faults in the tiebreaker. And while Nadal kept letting set points slip away, four in all, he made No. 5 count, and how. It was a quintessential Nadal point, too: a 40-stroke exchange — yes, 40! — that featured so much defence from Nadal until Khachanov netted a backhand, then tossed his racket on the sideline.

"I needed that set, of course," Nadal said.

He had one more pivotal part to get through: Khachanov's set point in the fourth while ahead 6-5 as Nadal served at 30-40. But Khachanov put a forehand in the net there, and after a thrilling point that featured a drop shot, a lob, a leaping 'tweener by Khachanov and a volley winner by Nadal, they headed to another tiebreaker.

This one was pretty much all Nadal.

In sum, he handled the particularly crucial points better than Khachanov did. Which, really, should come as no surprise given the disparity in age, experience and success.

One man, the 32-year-old Nadal, owns 17 Grand Slam titles, three at Flushing Meadows. The other, the 22-year-old Khachanov, has never been past the fourth round at a major tournament.

The sort of big hitting the 6-foot-6, 192-pound Russian displayed Friday, including 22 aces and booming groundstrokes, bodes well for his future. But Nadal is still at the top of the game.

After they finished, Ashe was the site for Serena Williams vs. Venus Williams, Part 30. It's their earliest meeting at a Grand Slam tournament in 20 years.

Earlier, 2017 champion Sloane Stephens betrayed a lot more emotion on that court than she usually shows anywhere, all of the double fist pumps making perfectly clear just how tight and tense things had been during her 6-3, 6-4 win against two-time runner-up Victoria Azarenka.

Stephens, the No. 3 seed, grabbed the last three games after returning from a brief break while the Ashe roof was shut (it was then reopened before Nadal vs. Khachanov).

Stephens went from up a set and 3-1 in the second to down 4-3 when Azarenka took three games in a row. That's when rain came.

"The man upstairs," Stephens said, "was looking out for me."

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 31:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning his men's singles third round match against Karen Khachanov of Russia on Day Five of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 31, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning his men's singles third round match against Karen Khachanov of Russia on Day Five of the 2018 US Open. Source: Getty


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US Open umpire who gave Nick Kyrgios pep talk gets two tournament ban

The chair umpire who climbed out of his seat to talk with Nick Kyrgios during a US Open match was suspended for two tournaments by the ATP.

Mohamed Lahyani will not officiate at his next two scheduled events — the China Open in Beijing, which starts on October 1, and the Shanghai Masters the following week, the men's tour said in a statement today.

The ATP says Layhani's actions during Kyrgios' second-round victory over Pierre-Hugues Herbert at Flushing Meadows on August 30 were "deemed to have compromised the impartiality that is required of an official."

According to the statement, he is one of seven full-time ATP chair umpires.

As a full-time employee, he is subject to tour discipline, even though what he did came at the US Open, which is under the jurisdiction of the US Tennis Association.

Kyrgios, a 23-year-old Australian, did not appear to be putting forth much effort while dropping the first set and falling behind 3-0 in the second against Herbert.

During a changeover, Lahyani left his chair — a rare sight in Grand Slam tennis — to speak to Kyrgios, leaning with hands on knees while saying, "I want to help you."

The 30th-seeded Kyrgios wound up beating Herbert 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-0, then lost to Roger Federer in his next match.

Herbert said at the time he thought Lahyani should be sanctioned in some way.

"This was not his job," Herbert said. "I don't think he's a coach, he's an umpire, and he should stay on his chair for that."

Kyrgios, meanwhile, laughed at the idea that he had received coaching or a pep talk from Lahyani.

The next day, USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said Lahyani had gone "beyond our protocol," but would be allowed to continue to work matches during the US Open because of his "exemplary track record as an international tennis official."

Lahyani then was assigned to umpire doubles matches during that tournament.

"Mohamed is a world-class and highly respected official. However, his actions during the match crossed a line that compromised his own impartiality as a chair umpire," Gayle Bradshaw, ATP executive vice president of rules and competition, said in today's statement.

"Although well-intended, his actions were regrettable and cannot go without disciplinary action on our own Tour. We know that he will learn from this experience and we look forward to welcoming him back in October."

Lahyani will be able to resume umpiring at the Stockholm Open on October 15.

His suspension was first reported by The New York Times.

Swedish official Mohamed Lahyani has come under fire for his talk with Kyrgios during his second-round match. Source: SKY


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Serena was wrong: New report disproves Williams' 'sexism' claims made during - and after - US Open final meltdown

Serena Williams' claims of sexism from tennis officials have been debunked in spectacular fashion, with an investigation from the New York Times finding that men are hit with nearly three times the amount of conduct violations as their female counterparts.

Williams, 36, a 23-time single grand slam champion, was given three separate code violations in last week's US Open final, resulting in Naomi Osaka being awarded a crucial point penalty which gifted her game seven of the second set, then an even more crucial game penalty to gift her the next game, and a 5-3 second set lead.

In a fiery on court scene, Williams protested that she was a victim of sexism, telling tournament referee Brian Earley, "there are men out here who do a lot worse than me, but because I'm a woman you are going to take this away from me?

"That is not right."

However, the New York Times report finds Williams' claims are well wide of the mark.

In the 20-year period between 1998 and 2018, men have accrued 1,517 separate code violations, while women feature incurred 535.

The only real exception comes in terms of players being cited for coaching, with women being given violations 152 times, compared to men's 87.

Williams' first code violation was for coaching, before also notching up citations for racket abuse, and verbal abuse, calling chair umpire Carlos Ramos a "thief".

As a result of her outburst, Williams was slapped with a fine of NZ $25,700. 

She claimed over $2m in prize money for being the runner-up.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08:  Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her Women's Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for USTA)
Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her women's singles US Open finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan. Source: Getty


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'I just don't understand' - Serena Williams doubles down on claims of sexism in US Open final

Serena Williams is holding her ground on claims of sexism against chair umpire Carlos Ramos, following her explosive outburst at last week's US Open final defeat.

Williams, 36, a 23-time single grand slam champion, was given three separate code violations in her loss in the US Open final, resulting in Naomi Osaka being awarded a crucial point penalty which gifted her game seven of the second set, then an even more crucial game penalty to gift her the next game, and a 5-3 second set lead.

She would later add that the incident was sexist, and that male players are able to get away with worse on-court infringements.

Appearing on Australia's The Project, Williams spoke publicly for the first time about the ordeal.

"I just don't understand … if you're a female you should be able to do even half of what a guy can do," Williams said. 

Williams also hit back at Ramos' claims that she'd received coaching from trainer Patrick Mouratoglou - which he'd admitted to - denying her own involvement.

"He said he made a motion."

"I don't understand what he was talking about. We've never had signals."

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08:  Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her Women's Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for USTA)
Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her women's singles US Open finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan. Source: Getty


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Umpire Carlos Ramos back to work after Serena Williams' US Open final outburst

The chair umpire who penalised Serena Williams in the US Open final is back at work.

Carlos Ramos is working the best-of-five Davis Cup semifinal series between Croatia and the United States.

"I'm just focusing on this tie and working again. That's all I can say," Ramos told The Associated Press.

Ramos officiated the second singles match between Marin Cilic and Frances Tiafoe, which was completed without incident.

Ramos calmed the raucous crowd on several occasions and came down from his chair to check a few ball marks in the clay but otherwise had no impact on the match, which Cilic won in straight sets to give Croatia a 2-0 lead.

"It was great. There were even a few calls where he came to check. Everything was really good," Cilic said. "The atmosphere was also great. I enjoyed every single second of the match."

Tiafoe, who was making his Davis Cup debut, also didn't have any complaints.

"I didn't know Ramos was sitting in the chair. I really wasn't paying attention," Tiafoe said. "I was more worried about the person across the net than the official."

US captain Jim Courier added: "We thought the officiating was excellent all day long."

Ramos gave Williams three code violations in her straight-set loss to Naomi Osaka last weekend, and the American great argued she wasn't being treated the same as some male players.

USTA president and CEO Katrina Adams, who defended Williams, was overheard apologising to Ramos on the sidelines of Thursday's draw ceremony.

Ramos wouldn't go into details over his discussion with Adams, who initiated the conversation.

"You know I cannot talk about that," Ramos said.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 08:  Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her Women's Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for USTA)
Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her women's singles US Open finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan. Source: Getty


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