Qualifier Basic stuns Kohlschreiber to reach Sofia quarters

Bosnian qualifier Mirza Basic seen in this file photo. — Reuters

SOFIA — Bosnian qualifier Mirza Basic, ranked 129th in the world, upset fourth seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-5, 7-6(7-5) in a pulsating encounter to reach the quarterfinals of the Sofia Open on Wednesday.

The big-serving Basic was stronger on the key points than the German veteran, ranked 35, and moved brilliantly around the court during the one hour and 43 minute contest.

Andreas Seppi was an easy winner, dispatching Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-4 to set up a meeting with world number 28 Gilles Muller in the second round on Thursday.

Top seed Stan Wawrinka, who is looking to play himself back into form after a long lay-off due to a knee injury, will open his campaign against Slovakia’s Martin Klizan on Thursday.

"He is a really dangerous player especially at this time of the year," the 32-year-old three-times grand slam champion told a news conference. "It will be interesting to see how my knee will get that challenge

Romanian Nastase's ITF

ban reduced on appeal

Ilie Nastase, the 71-year-old world number one and ex-Romania Fed Cup captain, has had his ban from International Tennis Federation (ITF) team competitions reduced on appeal by an independent tribunal.

He was banned from acting in an official capacity at ITF team competitions until Dec. 31, 2020, and from attending them until Dec. 31, 2018, after multiple breaches of conduct rules at a Romania-Britain Fed Cup tie in Constanta last April.

The ITF found Nastase guilty of making a "highly inappropriate and racially insensitive” comment about Serena Williams’ then unborn child and of making "advances of a sexual nature” towards Britain's team captain Anne Keothavong.

He was also found guilty of directing "abusive and threatening comments” at Keothavong, British player Johanna Konta, match officials and a member of the press.

Nastase was eventually booted out of the Fed Cup tie after swearing at the referee, Konta and Keothavong. He was later replaced as Romania captain.

Nastase appealed against his sanctions and the independent tribunal announced on Wednesday that it had reduced the bans by eight months each. Nastase can now attend ITF team events from April 23 this year and work at them from April 23, 2020. However, his initial $10,000 fine has been doubled to $20,000.

Nastase can still be involved in men's Association of Tennis Professionals and Women's Tennis Association events as they lie outside of the ITF’s jurisdiction.

Serena 'ready to go' says

Fed Cup captain Rinaldi

Serena Williams will be "ready to go" when she returns to action this week in the United States' Fed Cup first round tie against the Netherlands, captain Kathy Rinaldi said on Wednesday.

Williams has not played a WTA tournament since she won the Australian Open title last year and skipped this year's opening grand slam due to concerns about her fitness four months after giving birth to her first child.

Rinaldi said she expects Williams, who was named in the US squad that will compete on an indoor hard court in Asheville, North Carolina, to make a smooth transition in her return to competitive Tennis.

"Serena's just coming back. She played an exhibition in (December) and it's incredible," Rinaldi told a news conference at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville.

"It's a quick turnaround after having her first child. She's very professional and she has a lot of pride for playing for her country. She'll be ready to go."

Williams, 36, has played once since winning an Open-era record 23rd grand slam singles title in Melbourne last year, losing to Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi last December.

For Williams, this weekend will mark the first time she has competed in a Fed Cup tie since April 2015. She owns a 13-0 singles record and 3-1 doubles record in Fed Cup competition.

She heads a team made up of older sister Venus, world No. 17 CoCo Vandeweghe and world No. 62 Lauren Davis. The United States beat Belarus last year for a record-extending 18th Fed Cup title, their first in 17 years.

The Netherlands squad is comprised of world No. 108 Richel Hogenkamp, Arantxa Rus (124), Lesley Kerkhove (165) and Demi Schuurs, who is ranked 32nd in doubles.

Netherlands captain Paul Haarhuis said his squad would have to pull off what he felt might be "the biggest upset in US Tennis history" to win.

Play begins on Saturday with two singles matches and will continue on Sunday with two reverse singles matches and the doubles match. The winner advances to the April 21-22 semifinals. — Reuters