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Andy Murray beats John Isner to win Paris Masters title

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PARIS —¬†Andy Murray celebrated his rise to No. 1 by beating American John Isner 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4 Sunday to win the Paris Masters for the first time.

It was his career-best eighth title this season, his 14th in Masters overall, and ended Isner’s bid for a first Masters title.

Murray, who officially replaces Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings on Monday, now leads Isner 8-0 in their career meetings, dating back to their first match at the Australian Open six years ago.

He recently beat Isner 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, but this was a very different match and thoroughly contested by the big-serving American.

“John played unbelievable tennis,” Murray said on court, moments after his win. “We played last week and the difference was huge.”

Using 18 aces and hitting plenty of inside-out winners on his massive forehand, Isner generated considerable pressure.

But he was also erratic, wasting six break points overall.

In the second set, he was 4-3 ahead and 40-0 up on Murray’s serve, but again failed to punish the Briton – last year’s runner-up to Djokovic.

But in a rare dip, Murray double-faulted during the tiebreaker and Isner profited to take the set.

Isner saved break points on his first two service games of the third set, hanging on as Murray restored his superiority.

Then, serving to stay in the match, the 2.08-meter American double-faulted to trail 0-30. He won a tough first point and then hit yet another ace to make it 30-30.

Isner sank a difficult volley into the net, giving Murray a first match point. With Isner on second serve, Murray dominated a brief rally, pinging a pass down the line that Isner patted into the net with the ball close to his body.

It was a hard-fought victory and Isner stood with his head down at the net, waiting to congratulate Murray.

Murray has won four consecutive tournaments, taking his career tally to 43.

Next up is the season-ending ATP finals in London, beginning next Sunday.

Murray will cross the English Channel to try and take the title there, having secured his top ranking here.

“This has been an incredible journey to get to the top of the rankings,” Murray said, thanking his family back home. “I’ll keep working hard to get better.”

The 31-year-old Isner, playing in the third Masters final of his career, ends the year without a title.

He lost his other final this season to Australian Nick Kyrgios at Atlanta, Georgia, in August.

Some small consolation is that he finishes the year with the most aces: 1,159 – the fourth time he has achieved this.

Murray broke Isner twice, the first time to move 4-2 up in the first set.

Isner fought back, a booming forehand winner giving him two break points in the seventh game.

Murray saved the first one with a lob – an achievement against such a tall player – and volley. He rescued the second by pushing Isner back and forcing an unforced error.

Serving for the first set, Murray won the first point with an extraordinary backhand retrieve from a speedy Isner forehand that he somehow turned into a cross-court winner.

“That was pretty spectacular from him,” Isner said. “He always clamps down on me when I have a bit of an opening. He’s a match for everyone, especially me.”

In the second set, Isner got a deserved ovation in the eighth game when he won a 20-stroke rally.

Showing nimble footwork that belied his size, he traded shots with Murray, winning the point with a superb drop shot and then a forehand winner from Murray’s retrieve.

Isner was playing his best tennis of the match and had Murray 0-40 down.

Murray recovered but gave Isner another chance at deuce.

Isner sent a forehand slightly too long and just about restrained himself from smashing his racket. That, and other missed chances, summed up his match.

“It was very close and I had a few opportunities,” said Isner.

“My game is the best it’s been all year. There’s no question about that,” he said. “It’s important to take that into the offseason and do the right things.”

Nishikori saves three match points in Geneva Open QF win

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GENEVA — Kei Nishikori saved three straight match points in the deciding set before outlasting Kevin Anderson 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the Geneva Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

The second-seeded Nishikori was serving at 4-5, 0-40 before rallying to beat the 62nd-ranked South African, who fired 14 aces without allowing any by his opponent.

Nishikori also trailed in the tiebreaker before creating a second match-point chance with a forehand crosscourt service return for a winner. He clinched with a forehand winner off a looping net-cord ball.

The No. 9-ranked Japanese player will face 33rd-ranked Mischa Zverev of Germany in the semifinals on Friday.

The Russian-born Zverev, who came through qualifying, beat fifth-seeded Steve Johnson of the United States 6-4, 7-5.

Madison Keys aiming to kick start her season at French Open

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PARIS (AP) After a disappointing start to 2017, Madison Keys is ready to kick start her season when the French Open begins on Sunday.

Keys missed the first two months of the year after undergoing surgery on her left wrist in the offseason.

“I’m fully recovered and happy to be back on the tour,” Keys said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Obviously, I haven’t had the perfect start to the season, but really I’m just happy to be back on the court and be pain free.

“I’m very excited to play in Roland Garros. I feel like every year I love it a little bit more and it’s such a beautiful city to play in, so I’m very excited for the start.”

In her first tournament back, Keys reached the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in March. But since then, the American has made first round exits in Charleston, Madrid and Rome – where she reached the final last year.

However, Keys hasn’t gone out in the opening round of a Grand Slam since losing to Sara Errani at Roland Garros in 2014.

“I’m really just trying to have some good matches and looking at it that way and you know that’s all I’m really concerned about,” she said.

Long considered one of the world’s most promising young players, the 22-year-old Keys burst through to the semifinals of the 2015 Australian Open while still a teenager and went on to make the quarterfinals at Wimbledon that year.

The upward trajectory continued last season, with Keys reaching the Olympic semifinals as well as making three finals and winning her second WTA title.

Moreover, Keys became the first American woman to be ranked in the top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999.

That success had Keys targeting the top five and a Grand Slam. But following her injuries, the No. 13 is now taking it one match at a time.

“I’m really just trying to kind of get my match rhythm back and feel more comfortable on the tennis court, so right now that’s kind of my main goal and focus,” Keys said.

Keys was reunited with former coach Lindsay Davenport in the offseason and also recently added Maria Sharapova’s former hitting partner, Dieter Kindlmann, to her team.

“It’s going well,” Keys said. “Lindsey and I have been working together for a couple of months now and I think the addition of Didi is really going well.”