AP

Murray wins his first title of the year in Dubai

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Andy Murray captured his first title of the year and became the first British man to win the Dubai Tennis Championships in its 25-year history when he defeated Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-2 on Saturday.

This was Murray’s seventh final in his last eight tournaments, and 14th in his last 16 dating to last May in Madrid.

The only two tournaments he failed to make the final in that period were the 2016 U.S. Open and 2017 Australian Open.

“It’s been a great run. Can’t complain about much,” Murray said.

“Giving yourself a lot of matches gives you confidence to go into those big events (Grand Slams).”

Dubai was the first tournament Murray’s played since he lost in the Australian Open fourth round. Since that defeat he’s been recuperating from a bout with shingles.

“After the break that I have had, to get five matches in, six if you include the doubles, in six days is a really positive thing physically,” he said.

The top-ranked Murray, who was a Dubai finalist in 2012, improved his career record to 13-1 over Verdasco.

The first three games were service breaks as the players attempted to find their range in the final.

Verdasco had the service break until the Spaniard was broken by Murray in the sixth and then the eighth games to take the first set.

Murray broke Verdasco’s serve twice in the second set, in the third game with a forehand winner, and in the seventh on a third break point.

The 35th-ranked Verdasco, a former top-10 player, has never beaten a No. 1-ranked player in 12 career attempts.

“He pushes you,” Verdasco said. “At the same time, I didn’t really feel, of course, as comfortable or hitting the ball as clean as days before.”

Murray became the fourth player this year to win a title having saved match points en route to the title. He faced a career high seven match points in defeating Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals.

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.”