Stefanos Tsitsipas ousts No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, into French Open semifinals

2021 French Open - Day Ten
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PARIS — Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev both have been viewed as potential future stars of tennis. Both have come close to Grand Slam titles.

Now the pair of 20-somethings will meet each other for a berth in the French Open final after straight-set quarterfinal victories Tuesday. It will be the youngest matchup in the men’s semifinals at Roland Garros since a couple of guys named Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic met in 2008.

The No. 5-seeded Tsitsipas reached his fourth major semifinal — and third in a row — by upending No. 2 Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6 (3), 7-5 at Court Philippe Chatrier in the last no-spectator night session of this year’s tournament.

“I feel privileged that I’m in that position, and I feel obviously I’ve put in a lot of daily hard work (that) has been a key element of me being here,” Tsitsipas said. “But, you know, my ego tells me I want more.”

He escaped two set points held by two-time Slam runner-up Medvedev at 5-4 in the second, but otherwise required only slightly more work than was demanded of 2020 U.S. Open finalist Zverev in his 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 victory over 46th-ranked Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

That put No. 6 Zverev in his third career Slam semifinal, first in Paris.

Tsitsipas is a 22-year-old from Greece. Zverev is a 24-year-old from Germany. Both have won Masters 1000 titles on red clay this year. Both have won the season-ending ATP Finals. Both intend to — and, truthfully, are expected to — claim one of the four biggest prizes in their sport.

“Obviously, the Grand Slams are the tournaments that we want to win the most,” Zverev said. “Before, maybe, the last few years, I was putting too much pressure on myself. … Before Medvedev and Tsitsipas arrived, I was seen as this guy that was going to all of a sudden take over the tennis world.”

Added Zverev: “I was putting pressure on myself, as well. I was not very patient with myself, which I feel like now, maybe, I learned how to deal with the situation a little bit better.”

He showed that quality at a key juncture Tuesday.

Zverev did not want to believe that Davidovich Fokina had saved a break point with a shot that landed on — or was it merely near? — a line in the fourth game.

Zverev crouched down near the mark on the red clay and engaged in a bit of an argument with chair umpire Alison Hughes, repeatedly saying, “No!” and then “How?”

Hughes, whose call was backed up by an unofficial video rendering shown on TV, didn’t budge, and Zverev quickly lost that game, then the next one, too, to fall briefly behind. Could have been the start of an unraveling.

Instead, Zverev grabbed 16 of the remaining 19 games.

“I’m maybe a little bit calmer at the tournaments,” he said. “But the end goal hasn’t changed.”

For Tsitsipas, who goes into Friday with an 0-3 mark in Slam semifinals, the key moment came late in the second set.

Medvedev, who suddenly found his footing on clay this year after arriving in Paris with an 0-4 career record at the French Open, sort of snapped to and made things interesting. Indeed, Medvedev made so much headway that he held a pair of set points after Tsitsipas dumped an overhead into the net and was forced to serve at 15-40 while trailing 5-4.

But Medvedev let Tsitsipas out of the predicament with a bad return of a second serve, followed by a flubbed forehand, and soon enough it was 5-all.

Less than 15 minutes later, Tsitsipas hit a swinging forehand volley winner to close out that set and was on his way to his second win in eight career meetings against Medvedev.

“To be honest, the biggest difference was the surface,” Medvedev said, “but when I say this, I finally do not say it in a way, ‘Oh, I cannot play on clay! Mamma mia!’ or whatever. It’s just that his shots were better on clay.”

While Medvedev briefly led by a break in the third, Tsitsipas pulled even, then broke after being down 40-love in the last game. He closed his victory with a passing shot winner off a return when Medvedev charged the net behind an underarm serve on match point.

“Didn’t work out at all,” Medvedev said.

Tsitsipas’ take?

He called it “a very millennial shot.”

The quarterfinals on the top half of the men’s bracket are Wednesday: Djokovic vs. Matteo Berrettini, and 13-time champion Nadal vs. Diego Schwartzman.

In the women’s quarterfinals Tuesday, No. 31 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and 85th-ranked Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia each earned her first berth in a major semifinal.

Pavlyuchenkova entered the day with an 0-6 record in Slam quarterfinals but edged her doubles partner Elena Rybakina 6-7 (2), 6-2, 9-7. Zidansek got past No. 33 seed Paula Badosa 7-5, 4-6, 8-6.

Zverev was broken three times in the opening set against Davidovich Fokina, but never faced so much as one break point the rest of the way.

Zverev began this French Open in the worst way possible: He lost the initial two sets he played against qualifier Oscar Otte. But Zverev hasn’t dropped a set since, reeling off 15 in a row.

“After the first round, it kind of started to go very smoothly,” Zverev said. “I’m happy about that.”

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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