Nishikori books spot in Rakuten Japan Open semis

first_img Kei Nishikori, Rakuten Japan Open Kei Nishikori continued his march toward the Rakuten Japan Open final on Friday afternoon with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over unseeded Jeremy Chardy of France in the quarterfinals.The seventh-ranked player in the world, Nishikori put on another fine display with an array of shots in the win on the hardcourt at Ariake Colosseum. He served well and relied on his powerful forehand at key points in the match. Kei Nishikori | KYODO KEYWORDS RELATED PHOTOS Reach out: Kei Nishikori hits a shot during his quarterfinal win over Jeremy Chardy at the Japan Open on Friday. | AFP-JIJI IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES Nishikori, the runnerup at last month’s U.S. Open, will face unseeded Benjamin Becker of Germany in the semifinals on Saturday. Becker beat Jack Sock of the United States 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the day’s last quarterfinal.The Shimane Prefecture native is gunning for his second straight title and fourth of the season. Nishikori has triumphed in Memphis, Barcelona and Kuala Lumpur in 2014.Chardy, ranked 34th, had beaten Nishikori in two of their three previous matches, but both wins came on clay.“It was a tough match today with the windy conditions,” said Nishikori. “This was my first match with the roof open, so it took me some time to adjust.”The fourth-seeded Nishikori got off to a slow start before another packed crowd, as Chardy broke him in the second game of the opening set to take a 2-0 lead.But Nishikori responded by breaking back in the next game, then held serve to level 2-2. He settled down from there and broke Chardy again for a 5-4 advantage, then claimed the set on serve.Nishikori, the champion here in 2012, broke Chardy in the first game of the second set, then won the fourth game with an ace to take a 3-1 lead. Nishikori ripped a return winner to break again to move ahead 4-1.Nishikori then took an injury timeout to have his lower back worked on by a trainer.He got up and held serve again for 5-1, then closed it out on his next service game.“He started very aggressively,” stated Nishikori. “He was getting to a lot of balls. I just hung in there and tried to use the wind to my advantage.”The result keeps Nishikori on track for a showdown with Canada’s Milos Raonic, the third seed, in Sunday’s final.Nishikori believes his fitness will hold up through the rest of the tournament.“I’m a little tired, but I should be OK for the rest of the week,” he commented.Raonic beat unseeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 7-6 (10-8), 6-3 to move into the semifinals.Raonic put on an amazing show by winning 97 percent (38 of 39) the first serves that he got in.So strong was the serving by both players that there was not a break point until the 21st game of the match.The first set was on serve until the tiebreaker, where Raonic outlasted Istomin in a tight battle.Raonic finally broke the service break drought in the eighth game of the second set to go up 5-3, then took the match on serve when Istomin netted a forehand.Raonic pounded away from the baseline, but also exhibited a deft touch with an array of shots in the contest. He had 15 aces in the victory.“I struggled finding myself at the beginning, then started to impose my will as the match went on,” said Raonic.Raonic said he was not surprised that it took so long for a break point to arrive in the match.“I’ve played him before and it always goes to the tiebreak in the first set,” he noted.The win keeps Raonic on course for his third straight trip to the final here, where he has lost the past two years.“I’ve done well in this tournament,” he said. “I want to keep doing better.”The eighth-ranked Raonic, will play France’s unseeded Gilles Simon in the semifinals. Simon downed Steve Johnson of the United States 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 to advance. last_img read more

Belgian youngster Evenepoel wins Tour of Burgos

first_imgIt was the third Tour win of the season for the former footballer tipped for the very top and who will race his first Grand Tour at the Giro d’Italia in October.Saturday’s stage, which ended with a summit finish at Lagunas de Neila, was won by Ineos’s Colombian climber Ivan Sosa, who crossed the line alone after an attack in the last kilometre.Local challenger Mikel Landa almost grabbed overall victory with a relentless attack on Evenepoel, who hung on in the last stretch of the climb to win the race he has led since stage three.Earlier in the season, Evenepoel won the Tour of the Algarve and the Tour of San Juan.last_img

What roadside bomb takes away, guide dogs return tenfold

first_imgLOS ANGELES | Michael Jernigan lost his eyesight and part of his brain in Iraq in 2004. But he insists, thanks to a couple of dogs, he found more than he lost.His confidence, hopes, dreams, independence — they were shattered on a roadway. He couldn’t even go to games for his favorite team, the Tampa Bay Rays. Then Brittani, a Labrador and golden retriever mix, became his “battle buddy.” She boosted his confidence and independence and taught him to forget his disabilities and concentrate on his capabilities, he said. They got a history degree together and even went to the ballpark.Jernigan was a Marine corporal on patrol with four others on Aug. 22, 2004, on the outskirts of Mahmudiyah, between Baghdad and Kuwait. A roadside bomb ripped into their Humvee, killing one and injuring most of the rest. Jernigan was thrown 60 feet from the gun turret.In this Aug. 18, 2015, photo provided by Southeastern Guide Dogs, Michael Jernigan strokes the head of his guide dog Treasure as he navigates the streets of Tampa, Fla., with Southeastern Guide Dogs training director Rick Holden. Jernigan lost his eyesight and part of his brain when a roadside bomb ripped into his Humvee in Iraq in 2004. He has undergone more than 30 surgeries. But he insists, thanks to a couple of dogs, he found more than he lost. (Esther McFarland/Southeastern Guide Dogs via AP)Surgeons removed both eyes, the front of his brain and his forehead — leaving the rest of his brain to be supported by titanium mesh. His left kneecap was fractured and his right hand had to be rebuilt. He has undergone more than 30 surgeries, and he can only see black. Through it all, Jernigan said, the hardest part of all was being alone.But before the surgeries were done, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc., in Palmetto, Florida, contacted Jernigan’s mom and told her they would have a dog for her son when he needed one.Jernigan is still learning to handle large crowds, but Brittani helped him control anxiety attacks caused by post-traumatic stress disorder. One day when they got caught in a crowd and Jernigan became “frazzled,” Brittani went to work.She “started hitting my hand with her cold, wet nose,” Jernigan recalled. “I started petting her neck. She was wagging her tail and kissing my face. She realized I was at my breaking point and stopped me and helped me release all that tension to get me to a better place.” It felt, he added, like “I had a Marine to the right and a Marine to the left of me at all times.”Earlier this year, Brittani retired and is living with a friend. It took several months to find a replacement, a Labrador named Treasure, who could match Brittani’s speed, gait and size. But Treasure has taken over where Brittani left off.“Brittani was the longest and most successful female relationship I have ever had,” Jernigan joked. He adds that he “will never be able to replace Brittani. It doesn’t mean Treasure won’t have a tremendous impact on my life — just different.”After training with Treasure for 26 days on Southeastern’s campus, Jernigan graduated in August and began a new phase of his life. He turns 37 in October.Only in the last two or three years has he started to understand how great his recovery was. “What I have been able to accomplish post-recovery is amazing, unbelievable. It wasn’t too many years ago I thought I might have to live in a nursing home having somebody take care of me.”In some ways, he thinks “getting blown up was the best thing that ever happened to me because it changed the trajectory of my life. Before, I was a failed student. Wounded, I made a comeback and am a better son now than before.”There are things he can’t do: “You wouldn’t want me driving a car, would you?” But he is writing a book, organizing a motivational speaking tour and working at Southeastern.“If you used one word to describe Michael it would be inspirational,” said Titus Herman, Southeastern’s CEO. “The fact that he has found the commitment and courage to create a life of meaning is inspirational to all of us. We are in awe of his accomplishments. He pushes all of us to try harder.”last_img read more