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Federer tops Fritz to reach quarterfinals at Mercedes Cup

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STUTTGART, Germany — In his first match in a month, Roger Federer overcame a stiff challenge from American teenager Taylor Fritz to reach the Mercedes Cup quarterfinals with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win on Thursday.

The match began the day before but was halted by rain with the top-seeded Federer leading 4-3 with a break of serve. A return into the net by Fritz gave Federer the first set. Federer saved two set points before a forehand winner by Fritz and a forehand error by Federer gave the middle set to the 18-year-old American.

Federer struggled to hold serve early in the third but broke for 5-4 and clinched the match with a backhand winner.

“It was very difficult, just as I knew before the match,” Federer said. “I was more fortunate at the end.”

A back injury forced the 34-year-old Federer to skip the French Open, the first time he missed a Grand Slam after 65 straight appearances.

“After such a long injury, you need to find your rhythm,” Federer said.

It was Federer’s 1,071st career win on the tour, tying him with Ivan Lendl. Only Jimmy Connors has more, with 1,256. For Fritz, it was only his fourth tour match on grass.

The Stuttgart tournament is on grass as a tuneup for Wimbledon, which Federer has won seven times. Now ranked No. 3 in the world, Federer is next up against Florian Mayer.

While Federer may have been rusty, second-seeded Marin Cilic was completely off, losing to the veteran qualifier Radek Stepanek 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Stepanek won despite firing fewer aces, 10 to 12, and serving more double-faults, 6-1.

Third-seeded Dominic Thiem, who beat Federer in the third round of the Italian Open before Federer took the injury break, edged Sam Groth 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2), and No. 4 Gilles Simon beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Thiem, a semifinalist at the French Open, next plays Mikhail Youzhny, who beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 7-6 (1). Stepanek plays Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Wild card Juan Martin del Porto, coming back from a wrist injury, beat John Millman 6-4, 6-4. He will next play Simon.

John Isner advances to Atlanta Open quarterfinals

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ATLANTA — Second-seeded John Isner beat Canada’s Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday night in the 6-foot-10 former University of Georgia star’s opening match in the BB&T Atlanta Open.

Coming off a victory Sunday in the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Rhode Island, Isner is seeking his fourth Atlanta title in five seasons. He lost to Nick Kyrgios in the final last year.

Isner set up a quarterfinal match at Atlantic Station against Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over sixth-seeded Donald Young. The American has 11 career titles, all at the ATP World Tour 250 level.

Third-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Tommy Paul also reached the quarterfinals. Muller beat France’s Quentin Halys 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-3, and Paul topped Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3.

In the top half of the draw, top-seeded Jack Sock will open play Thursday with a second-round match against Israel’s Dudi Sela.

Top-seeded John Isner wins 3rd Hall of Fame title

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Top-seeded John Isner beat Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Sunday for his third Hall of Fame Open title.

The hard-serving American also won the grass-court event in 2011 and 2012. He has 11th career titles, all at the ATP World Tour 250 level.

“It’s hard to win a tournament,” Isner said. “It’s no small feat to come out here and be the last man standing. I’m very happy about that. It’s been two years since I won a tournament, so I had that weighing on my mind.”

Isner became the second player to win an ATP title without facing a break point since records began in 1991. Tommy Haas also accomplished the feat in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2007.

“I’m very happy with how I played all week,” Isner said. “It was a perfect week and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Ebden was playing his first tour-level final.

“It’s a lot of reward for a lot of hard work, a lot of years of sacrifice,” Ebden said. “It’s disappointing, but at the same time I have to be happy with my week.”