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Djokovic seeks 6th Miami Open title

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Basking in cheers following his latest victory, a weary but happy Novak Djokovic kissed his hand and patted the stadium court concrete, celebrating his return to the Miami Open final.

In sweltering semifinal sunshine Friday, Djokovic won a thrilling tiebreaker to beat David Goffin 7-6 (5), 6-4. The margin was so slim a blown overhead by Goffin might have made all the difference.

Djokovic needs one more victory to match Andre Agassi’s tournament record of six men’s titles, which is why he showed his affection for the court.

“A little kiss for goodbye and see you in two days,” Djokovic said. “I wanted to make the court feel my love. It’s one of my favorite courts.”

His opponent Sunday will be steady Kei Nishikori, who committed only eight unforced errors in 119 points and beat big-swinging Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5.

Seeded No. 6, Nishikori saved five match points in a quarterfinal victory over Gael Monfils, and built a more comfortable margin against Kyrgios by breaking serve four times.

Nishikori is bidding for his first ATP Masters title, while Djokovic will try for his 28th, which would break the record he shares with Rafael Nadal.

“It’s going to be tough, for sure,” Nishikori said. “He has been playing well. I hope I can play another good match.”

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka plays 2006 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women’s final Saturday.

Djokovic reached set point in the tiebreaker and worked hard to win it with a frantic 16-shot exchange typical that typified the entertaining match. He dug out shots in both corners and chased down a pair of volleys, finally switching from defense to offense by flicking a lob too high for the 5-foot-11 Goffin to handle.

That clinched the set, and as fans roared, the world’s No. 1 player walked to his chair with his index finger aloft.

The tiebreaker turned four points earlier, at 4-all. Goffin had an easy putaway overhead near the net and inexplicably hit it directly to a surprised Djokovic, who invented a shot in response, raising the racket strings in front of his face to patty-cake a deep lob. Goffin chased the ball down and the rally continued until Djokovic tapped a drop volley for a winner.

“I was a bit fortunate in the tiebreaker,” Djokovic said. “But I made him play always an extra shot.”

Djokovic also earned points for sportsmanship. When Goffin challenged a call while returning serve, Djokovic waved off the replay, indicating it was unneeded because the linesman’s ruling was correct.

“Really fair play,” Goffin said, before noting with a chuckle that Djokovic went on to win the point anyway.

Eager to avoid a third set on an 87-degree afternoon, Djokovic earned the only break of the second set to take a 4-3 lead and lost only one point in his final two service games.

“Physically it was a great battle with a lot of exchanges from the baseline,” Djokovic said. “We were both trying to catch our breath at some points.”

Djokovic showed no signs of lingering issues from the back spasms that bothered him in the quarterfinals. He improved to 27-1 this year as he closed in on his fourth title of 2016.

On Key Biscayne, where he has won 15 consecutive matches, he’s bidding for his third title in a row. He has reached the final of his past 11 Masters tournaments.

Karen Khachanov beats Lucas Pouille to win Open 13 final

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) Big-serving Karen Khachanov secured the second ATP title of his career after beating Lucas Pouille 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 in the Open 13 final on Sunday.

The ninth-seeded Russian had 16 aces in a closely fought contest, winning on his second match point when the third-seeded Frenchman hit a forehand into the net from the back of the court. The pair hugged at the net in a show of sportsmanship.

“I hope there are many more finals between us in the future,” Khachanov said to Pouille. “I felt I was playing good here from the first day. It’s nice to play on a full court in the final, and I hope to come back next year.”

Khachanov, ranked 47th, won his second title in as many finals after clinching the Chengdu Open in China two years ago. Pouille missed out on a second title of the season and a sixth overall. The 16th-ranked Pouille was also runner-up at the indoor event in the southern seaport of Marseille last year.

“I’m from Dunkirk, in the north,” he told the crowd. “But I’m starting to feel at home here.”

As Khachanov held aloft the winners’ cheque for 115,150 euros ($141, 570), Pouille cracked a joke in English.

“You’ve got to pay the plane for Dubai now,” he said, looking ahead to next week’s ATP500 tournament. “Congratulations, I hope there are many more wins for you.”

Khachanov broke Pouille in the third game to take an early control. Pouille broke back with a fine backhand winner down the line to make it 5-5, but then lost his next service game as Khachanov whipped a forehand winner down the right side of the court.

It gave the imposing Russian a second chance to serve for the set and he clinched it with a strong service winner.

After saving two break points at 15-40 in the opening game of the second set, Pouille secured the only break of that set to level the match.

Khachanov hit nine aces in the third set and neither faced a break point until the 12th game on Pouille’s serve.

It gave Khachanov a match point but he missed a fairly routine smash at the net following a rally. Pouille double faulted to give him another chance to win.

Top-seeded defending champion Thiem tumbles out of Rio Open

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Top-seeded defending champion Dominic Thiem of Austria tumbled out of the Rio Open on Friday, falling 6-4, 6-0 to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals of the clay-court event.

Thiem won the Argentina Open on Sunday for his ninth career title.

Verdasco will play fifth-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy or Alijaz Bedene of Slovenia.

In the other semifinal at Jockey Club Brasileiro, sixth-seeded Diego Schwartzman of Argentina will face Chile’s Nicolas Jarry. Schwartzman beat France’s Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-4, and Jarry topped Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-3.