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Finally in full match, Djokovic wins at Open despite elbow

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NEW YORK — Novak Djokovic was not interested in discussing in any detail why he needed a trainer to work on his right elbow during an otherwise matter-of-fact 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kyle Edmund on Sunday night that put the defending champion in the U.S. Open quarterfinals for the 10th consecutive year.

Much as he did after having that same arm treated on Day 1 of the tournament – the last time he was forced to play a full match – Djokovic deflected questions about the elbow at his post-match news conference.

At one point, he said: “It was good. Everything was fine.”

Djokovic said he doesn’t have pain in the elbow. Later, when a reporter asked why he asked for the medical visit, Djokovic said with a smile, “I needed a little bit of a massage.”

He had competed for a total of only 31 minutes over the preceding five days because of injuries to his opponents in the second and third rounds.

“Obviously I haven’t played too much tennis. So I’m really glad to be back,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview. “I thought I came out, really, from the blocks very good, playing with a high intensity.”

That he did. Yet while Djokovic looked quite good for the first two sets against the 84th-ranked Edmund, and again at the very end, there was that interlude that included the trip from the trainer at 2-1 in the last set.

That came right after Djokovic got broken for the first time in the match and was part of a stretch of three games in a row for Edmund.

“I’m feeling very good, to be honest. I really wanted to start the match well today,” Djokovic said, “because I didn’t have much time on the court overall before the fourth round, and considering I had some struggles before the tournament.”

His left wrist had been bothering him since early August, so Djokovic arrived in New York without much recent match play, having lost in the first round of the Rio Olympics and pulled out of a hard-court tuneup tournament.

Until the issue with the right arm resurfaced in the third set against Edmund, Djokovic appeared rather rested and ready.

After about 75 minutes Djokovic led by two sets and a break. He produced various bits of magic along the way: a jumping, head-fake drop shot at an impossible angle; a stretching angled cross-court backhand pass that drew an errant volley from Edmund; a body-contorting defense-to-offense forehand that drew a roar from spectators.

“I made Kyle work for each point,” said Djokovic, whose quarterfinal opponent is No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the man he beat in the 2008 Australian Open final for the first of his 12 major championships. “I wanted to move him around the court.”

Djokovic even cracked a smile after one effortless exchange in which he ran Edmund this way and that before dropping a backhand winner right near the baseline early in the third set.

And yet it was in that same game that Edmund began his mini-run. At the ensuing changeover, Djokovic was visited by the trainer, who pressed a thumb just above the back of the player’s right elbow, while manipulating that joint in various ways. Edmund broke for a second consecutive time to suddenly lead 3-2 as Djokovic’s coach, Boris Becker, looked on from the stands, grim-faced.

That, though, was that. Djokovic broke back to 3-all, and after a trade of service holds, he took the last two games. He has reached at least the quarterfinals at 29 of the past 30 Grand Slam tournaments – the exception was his loss in the third round of Wimbledon in June against Sam Querrey.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.

Federer beats Nadal to win Shanghai Masters title

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SHANGHAI (AP) Roger Federer extended his winning streak over Rafael Nadal this year to four matches after beating the top-ranked Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 to win the Shanghai Masters on Sunday.

The Swiss 19-time grand slam winner, who still trails Nadal 23-15 in their overall head-to-head record, didn’t face a break point and started and ended the match with service breaks.

“I don’t know what my expectations were going in,” Federer said. “I thought I might struggle early on because it was a late finish last night.

“I had no nerves before the match, surprisingly. I think I was pretty clear about how I wanted to play the match. I started off very well and relaxed from then on.”

Despite his dominance in 2017, Federer doesn’t rate his chances of catching Nadal in their head-to-head record.

“It’s not going to happen. We don’t have enough years left on the tour. We ranked too good so we play each other only in finals at the moment… You can’t win them all against Rafa, to be honest. He’s too good of a player,” Federer said.

Federer took advantage of three of seven break point opportunities in the match to snap Nadal’s 16-game winning streak, which included his China Open victory last week.

Federer, who has won the last five encounters between the pair dating back to the 2015 Basel final, also beat Nadal in the Australian Open final, a round of 16 match at Indian Wells and the Miami final this year.

“Have been a very difficult match for me,” Nadal said. “He played very fast and he played well.

“Of course was not the best match for me of the week. When somebody plays better than you, sport is not very difficult. That’s the real thing, no? When you play against somebody that is better than you in most of the things that really matters in this sport, in this kind of surface, then it’s tougher.”

The Shanghai Masters is Federer’s 94th career title, moving him into a tie with Ivan Lendl in second place on the Open era list.

Nadal arrived on court with a bandage under his right knee, the same leg he twice smacked with his racket after losing his serve for the first time this week in the semifinal.

Federer said he was surprised to see the wrap and didn’t feel Nadal was struggling with his movement.

In his post-match press conference, Nadal elected not to discuss the knee injury, saying, “I don’t want to talk about that now, sorry, but after losing final is not the moment.”

When asked if he would play upcoming tournaments in Basel, Switzerland and Paris, Nadal refused to confirm his participation.

Federer took advantage of a third break point in the first game of the match with a winning backhand passing shot. He broke Nadal’s serve again on a second break point in the fifth game of the second set when Nadal sailed a backhand crosscourt wide. In the final game, Nadal netted a forehand at 15-40 to end the 72-minute match.