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Novak Djokovic beats Kei Nishikori for 4th Rogers Cup title

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TORONTO —¬†Novak Djokovic paused after accepting the Rogers Cup trophy for the fourth time, scanned the stands Sunday at York University’s Aviva Centre and asked everyone in the crowd to hug the person beside them.

A small chuckle circulated the capacity crowd and then Djokovic said he would lead by example, turning to public announcer Ken Crosina and wrapping his arms around the emcee. Fans laughed and followed suit.

“It was a really wonderful moment,” Djokovic said. “I did feel that it was just the right moment for me to ask politely the crowd to do that, because in the end of the day, we are all here for the same thing. We are all here to connect through tennis, through passion for the sport.

“It’s nice that we got to sense and feel that kind of energy around the stadium.”

The top-ranked Serb beat third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 7-5 after a short rain delay. Djokovic also won the hardcourt event that rotates between Toronto and Montreal 2007, 2011 and 2012. Ivan Lendl holds the tournament record with six titles.

The 29-year-old Djokovic has seven victories this year and 66 overall, a record 30 in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events such as the Canadian stop. He has 12 Grand Slam titles, winning this year in Australia and France.

“After Grand Slams, these are the biggest events we have in sport of tennis,” Djokovic said. “Naturally, I’m going to be very disciplined, committed, and focused to do well.”

Djokovic has won his last nine matches against Nishikori and leads the series 10-2.

“I had too many unforced errors especially during important points,” Nishikori said. “He was returning really well today, I think. I was hitting some good first serves, but he was making returns in deep.”

In April in their previous match, Djokovic won the Key Biscayne final. Nishikori won his fourth straight Memphis title in February for his 11th ATP Tour victory.

In the doubles final, Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Brazil’s Marcelo Melo topped Britain’s Jamie Murray and Brazil’s Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-4.

Kasatkina upsets Venus Williams to reach Indian Wells final

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Daria Kasatkina upset Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a nearly three-hour baseline struggle to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night.

Kasatkina was two points from defeat, trailing 4-5 and 0-30 in the third set when Williams committed four straight errors as the 20-year-old Russian tied it 5-all.

Williams won just two more points as Kasatkina took the last two games to close out the match in 2 hours, 48 minutes. Kasatkina dropped her racket near the baseline and covered her face with her hands as she walked to the net.

After shaking hands, Kasatkina pumped her fists and shook her head slightly as if in disbelief at beating the 37-year-old American and advancing to the biggest final of her young career.

Top-ranked Simona Halep took on Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old from Japan, in the other semifinal.

After losing the first set, Kasatkina was visited by her coach on court. Philippe Dehaes told her, “She’s 37, you’re 20. Make her work a lot.”

When she wasn’t trading shots from the baseline, a nervy Kasatkina fooled Williams with drop shots, including two that landed just over the net near the sideline. The Russian tossed up lobs over the 6-foot-1 American – some worked, some didn’t, but she was undeterred.

There were 14 service breaks in the match.

Williams rallied from 3-1 down to win the first set. She trailed 3-1 again in the second and tied it 3-all when Kasatkina was broken on a double fault.

Kasatkina won the last four games in a row to take the second set. The players dueled through eight deuces in an epic eighth game, with the Russian turning back six break points against her. Williams pulled a forehand wide to lose the game.

Kasatkina’s coach visited her again before the third set.

“You go for it?” he asked her.

“Sure,” she replied, and they slapped hands.

Williams served a love game to go up 5-4. She led love-30 on Kasatkina’s serve in the next game before her forehand deserted her.

Williams double-faulted twice in a row to drop serve and trail 6-5. Kasatkina won on her second match point when Williams netted a backhand.

Kasatkina now owns a 2-1 record against Williams, who won 10-8 in the third round at Wimbledon in 2016.

Juan Martin del Potro defeated No. 31 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and Milos Raonic beat 18th-seeded American Sam Querrey 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the men’s semifinals.

More AP tennis coverage:

Maria Sharapova withdraws from Miami with forearm injury

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the Miami Open that begins next week because of a left forearm injury.

Sharapova announced the decision on Friday. She’ll be replaced in the main draw by American Jennifer Brady.

Sharapova lost in the first round at Indian Wells last week and in the third round of the Australian Open in January. She returned to the tour last year after a 15-month doping ban.

The women’s field includes eight-time Key Biscayne champion Serena Williams and No. 1-ranked Simona Halep. The men’s field includes defending champion Roger Federer and six-time Key Biscayne champ Novak Djokovic.