ACAPULCO: Australia’s Nick Kyrgios survived three match points to beat top-seeded Rafael Nadal 3-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (8/6) on Wednesday and reach the quarter-finals of the Mexico Open.
Kyrgios, out of sorts as he dropped the first set, complained to trainers that he was feeling ill.
But he steeled himself to continue and all distractions were forgotten as he rallied from 6-3 down in the third-set tiebreaker to subdue the 17-time Grand Slam champion from Spain.
Nadal, winner in Acapulco in 2005 and 2013, was playing his first event since falling in the Australian Open final to Novak Djokovic.
He had chances to break Kyrgios in both the second and third sets but was unable to convert as both sets went on serve to the tiebreakers.
Kyrgios leveled his head-to-head record with Nadal at 3-3 and will play three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka for a place in the semi-finals.
Switzerland’s Wawrinka, seeded third, defeated American Steve Johnson 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
Women’s top seed Sloane Stephens also bowed out Wednesday, stunned by Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-3, 6-3.
Haddad Maia’s victory over the fourth-ranked American was her first over a top-10 player in seven opportunities.
“It was just a tough match, obviously she played well,” said Stephens, who is playing in Acapulco for the first time since winning the 2016 title. “A tough day. But I’m not too sad about it.
“I’m just going to go back and work some more, practice some more and get ready for Indian Wells.”
Haddad Maia, 22, next faces China’s Want Yafan, who was leading Monica Puig 4-1 when the Puerto Rican retired with an injury.
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus sailed into the quarter-finals, downing Tatjana Maria 6-2, 6-1.
Azarenka fired 20 winners to Maria’s 10, and took full advantage of the German’s 28 unforced errors.
Federer hails ‘wonderful’ Laver Cup addition to ATP Tour
PARIS: Roger Federer on Friday hailed the “wonderful” addition of the Laver Cup, one of three men’s tennis team events, to the official ATP calendar.
The tournament, inspired by golf’s Ryder Cup, pits teams from Europe and the ‘rest of the world’ against each other and was first held in 2017.
It will be in competition with the revamped Davis Cup and the ATP World Team Cup.
“As I come closer to the end of my playing career, it’s wonderful to know that the Laver Cup will be part of the tour that I’ve dedicated more than 20 years of my life to,” said the 37-year-old Federer in a statement after the announcement that the Laver Cup would be added to the ATP Tour.
This year’s edition will be held in Geneva from September 20-22, with Bjorn Borg’s Team Europe the defending champions after defeating the John McEnroe-led Team World in 2018 in Chicago.
World number one Novak Djokovic played in the Laver Cup last year, but has also been one of the driving forces behind bringing back the ATP World Team Cup.
“The Laver Cup is a true celebration of tennis that is loved by the fans and embraced by the players,” said the 15-time Grand Slam champion.
The inaugural Davis Cup finals — which have replaced the World Group after funding from Barcelona footballer Gerard Pique’s investment company Kosmos — will be held in November in Madrid, while Sydney will host the first World Team Cup finals next year.
South Africa unveil England cricket tour dates
JOHANNESBURG: South Africa on Friday announced the dates for a tour by England which will include four Tests, three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 internationals.
The Test series will start in Centurion on December 26, followed by South Africa’s traditional New Year Test at Newlands in Cape Town, starting on January 3.
The remaining Tests will be in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.
England will play two warm-up matches before the Tests, a two-day game against an Invitation XI and a three-day match against South Africa A. Both fixtures will be in Benoni.
Cricket South Africa chief executive Thabang Moroe said the series would have special significance, “as this will be our first home series in the ICC World Test championship following our away series in India in October.”
South Africa will also host Australia for three Twenty20 internationals and three one-day internationals, starting five days after England’s final fixture on February 16.
Ahead of women’s World Cup, female fans struggle in Middle East
DUBAI: Two weeks ahead of a potentially game-changing women’s World Cup, football remains completely male-dominated in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa, where female fans are still battling for a level playing field.
Women fans face obstacles in many parts of the region where rival powers Iran and Saudi Arabia have traditionally enforced rules banning women from entering stadiums.
No countries from the region will be among the 24 teams taking part in the tournament in France from June 7, but at least there are signs of flexibility in the region toward a sport igniting more and more female interest across the globe.
In Iran, rules have been relaxed since the 1979 Islamic revolution and women are selectively allowed to attend some matches.
But the fact that a ban has yet to be officially lifted indicates there is still disagreement over the issue among senior figures in the Islamic republic.
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia allowed women into a football stadium for the first time in January 2018 for a regular domestic football league match.
The move was part of reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that included allowing women to drive and take part in other sporting and artistic events.