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Without playing a point, Murray seals No. 1 spot in Paris

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PARIS — Andy Murray will hold the coveted No. 1 spot for the first time when the ATP rankings are published Monday after advancing to the Paris Masters final without playing a single point.

Murray benefited from Milos Raonic’s withdrawal from the tournament – just one hour before the big-serving Canadian was scheduled to take on the 29-year-old Briton in the semifinals on Saturday.

Raonic said he withdrew because of a right leg injury he picked up during his quarterfinal win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“This morning I had trouble waking up and getting out of bed… Did some tests. Did an MRI half an hour ago, let’s say. They found that I have a tear, Grade 1 tear in the right quad,” Raonic said. “Unfortunately, I’m not able to compete against Andy today.”

Murray only needed to make the final in Paris to take top spot off Novak Djokovic. He is guaranteed to hold at least a five-point lead over Djokovic, who lost in the quarterfinals in Paris. Their fight for supremacy will resume in London at the ATP finals later this month.

Murray faces John Isner in the Paris Masters final after the American hit 18 aces to defeat Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3.

Murray will become the first Briton to hold the top spot, no matter the result of Sunday’s final. He will also be the oldest first-time No. 1 since John Newcombe at age 30 in 1974, and the 26th player to reach No. 1 since the rankings started in 1973.

Reaching the summit has been a long process for Murray, who has spent 76 weeks at No. 2, a position he reached for the first time in 2009.

A turning point in the Scot’s career came when he hired Ivan Lendl as a coach in 2011. During their first stint together, Lendl managed to turn Murray from a four-time Grand Slam runner-up into a two-time major champion. Murray won Olympic gold in London in 2012 and the U.S. Open title later the same year. In 2013, he became the first British man to triumph at Wimbledon in 77 years.

Before winning the U.S. Open, Murray was 0-4 in Grand Slam finals. Only one other man in the Open era, which began in 1968, lost his first four major titles matches – Lendl. The Czech-born baseline player then went on to win eight Grand Slam singles titles during a 17-year career, spending 270 weeks at No. 1 in the world rankings.

Murray replaced Lendl with Amelie Mauresmo in 2014. Though the Frenchwoman helped him climb back up the rankings following back surgery, the partnership ended in May this year without any new major title. The Scot reunited with Lendl before Wimbledon, a week after Murray lost to Djokovic in the French Open final.

The move paid off immediately as Murray claimed a second title at the All England Club and a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Last week in Vienna he won the Erste Bank Open for his third straight tournament and has a 45-3 match record since the French Open.

Djokovic held the top spot for 122 consecutive weeks. But after winning the French Open for the first time in June, his form has taken a dip. He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, and in the first round of the Olympics. At the U.S Open, he won the first set in the final but Stan Wawrinka rallied to beat him.

“He’s definitely a player who deserves that,” Djokovic said about Murray on Friday. “Undoubtedly, much respect for what he has done. We have known each other since very, very early days. We were, I think, 11 years old when we first played against each other. And to see how he has raised his level in the last 12 months is quite extraordinary.”

One person was quick to congratulate Murray on Saturday – his mother Judy.

“You’ve come a long way baby,” Judy Murray tweeted , with an old photo of the two of them on a tennis court.

Naomi Osaka on her way up with first pro tennis title

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Naomi Osaka had just won the first title of her career and was waiting to be introduced for her post-match comments.

The 20-year-old from Japan had prepared, knowing what she was going to say and in what order.

But then her name was called.

“I freaked out,” she said. “I just started saying whatever came into my mind first, which is why I think I kept stopping halfway through my sentences, because I just remembered something else I had to say. That was pretty embarrassing.”

The crowd of 18,347 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Sunday seemed to sense Osaka’s nervousness, something she worked hard to hide during a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the BNP Paribas Open final.

“I was extremely stressed and extremely nervous,” Osaka said. “But my plan was to, like, fake that I’m very calm.”

As hesitant as she was behind the mic, Osaka was polished and professional in dismantling Kasatkina, a fellow 20-year-old who also enjoyed a surprising run to the final.

Osaka dropped just one set in seven matches, knocking off two-time winner Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Karolina Pliskova and top-ranked Simona Halep against whom she won the last nine games of the match.

She arrived at Indian Wells unseeded because of her No. 44 ranking. She left ranked No. 22 and with a $1.3 million check, nearly double her career earnings.

“I really wanted to win this, but also I just tried to think it was a first-round match and just not psych myself out too much,” Osaka said.

She had made it past the quarterfinals at a WTA event just once before, losing in the final at Tokyo 18 months ago. Now, she’s 15-4 this year.

“I feel like I have made it my goal to be more focused every match this year, so I think it’s paid off,” she said.

Born in Osaka, Japan, to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, she moved to the U.S. as a 3-year-old. She holds dual citizenship, living for a time in New York and now in South Florida while representing Japan in Fed Cup.

“I play now for myself,” she said, “but when I was little, I just played because I wanted to make my mom happy, mainly my mom, and also my dad, for him to be proud.”

Her parents and sister Mari, a tennis player, too, weren’t on hand in California.

Osaka and Kasatkina shared a private jet – their first such ride – to South Florida, where they will play in the Miami Open this week. Osaka faces a first-round match against Serena Williams, her idol growing up.

“I feel like I just started winning,” Osaka said. “It’s a new feeling for me to be this consistent, so I’m just trying to be happy about that.”


Del Potro edges Federer in 3 sets to win Indian Wells title

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Juan Martin del Potro keeps surprising himself.

Close to quitting tennis after four wrist surgeries in recent years, the Argentine fought to get back to the ATP Tour even as he was reduced to hitting his backhand with one hand instead of his usual two.

The struggle paid off Sunday, when Del Potro staved off three match points in the third set to beat top-ranked Roger Federer 6-4,7-6 (8), 7-6 (2) for the BNP Paribas Open title.

The win ranks up there with Del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open title, in which he beat Federer, and helping Argentina win the Davis Cup in 2016.

“I cannot believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis,” Del Potro said.

Naomi Osaka of Japan won the women’s title 6-3, 6-2 over Russian Daria Kasatkina in a match-up of 20-year-old rising stars.

Del Potro and Osaka each earned $1.3 million.

Del Potro became the first Argentine champion in the 42-year history of the desert tournament. He handed Federer his first loss of the year, snapping the Swiss superstar’s 17-match winning streak that was the best of his career.

“I feel frustrated that I let an opportunity like this go by,” Federer said.

Del Potro held a match point at 8-7 in the second-set tiebreaker, but he lost the final three points on his own errors that allowed Federer to force a third set.

“It was a lot of frustration after that match point, but then I play well,” Del Potro said.

They were on serve in the third until Federer broke for a 5-4 lead with a backhand winner off del Potro’s serve.

Federer had a chance to serve out the match, holding two match points. But del Potro staved both off to force deuce.

Federer’s forehand went long, giving del Potro a break point. Federer answered with a backhand that hit del Potro at the net and then gained his third match point on del Potro’s forehand error.

Del Potro recovered to deuce with a forehand winner. Federer mis-hit a forehand high into the air beyond the baseline, giving del Potro another break point. The Argentine cashed in with a well-placed forehand in the corner to tie the set, 5-all.

In the tiebreaker, Del Potro raced to a 6-1 lead, helped by two of Federer’s double faults. He closed out the win on his third match point when Federer’s forehand failed.

“I would like to play that tiebreaker again because I don’t know what the hell happened,” Federer said.

Del Potro lost just six points on his serve in the first set.

In the second-set tiebreaker, Del Potro and Federer took turns arguing with chair umpire Fergus Murphy. Del Potro was annoyed the crowd was making noise on his serve and told the umpire he wasn’t warning them enough to be quiet.

“It had no effect on the outcome of the match,” Federer said. “I was just also just trying to pump myself up more, to get energy for me.”

Del Potro survived three-setters against countryman Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals. It was his first win against Federer since last year’s U.S. Open quarters. Del Potro trails in their series 18-7, but owns a 4-2 advantage in finals.

Del Potro arrived at Indian Wells having won a title in Acapulco and back in the top 10.

“I’m really enjoying playing tennis again,” he said. “I’m still surprising myself, and I want to keep surprising the tennis tour.”

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