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Australia downs U.S. in Davis Cup quarterfinals

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BRISBANE, Australia — Australia advanced to the Davis Cup semifinals after Nick Kyrgios beat late substitute Sam Querrey of the United States 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in the first reverse singles match on Sunday, clinching the quarterfinal 3-1.

On a hard court at Pat Rafter Arena, Kyrgios and his singles partner Jordan Thompson gave Australia a 2-0 lead on Friday before the American team staved off elimination on Saturday when Jack Sock, who lost to Thompson on Friday, and partner Steve Johnson beat Sam Groth and John Peers 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.

Querrey was supposed to be Johnson’s doubles partner, but American captain Jim Courier, who said it would take “monstrous effort” for the Americans to win the tie, pulled a swap, putting Sock into doubles and allowing Querrey to be fresh for Kyrgios.

That worked for a while during an evenly-played first set, but Kyrgios gradually overpowered the American with his strong serves and backhand. Querrey broke Kyrgios’ serve in the fourth game of the third set, and held to lead 4-1.

But Kyrgios stepped it up a notch and won the last five games of the match, jumping up and hugging Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt and his teammates when the match ended.

The often-volatile Kyrgios was mostly at his best behavior and won both his singles matches in straight sets, although the final two sets against John Isner on Friday were in close tiebreakers, 7-5 each time, after Kyrgios prevailed in the opening set 7-5.

Australia will play either Belgium or Italy in September’s semifinals, with Belgium leading that quarterfinal 2-1 ahead of Sunday’s reverse singles. If Belgium wins, they will host the semifinal, if Italy comes back to claim victory, they will have to travel Down Under.

The U.S. has won the title a leading 32 times, with Australia second with 28. But the U.S hasn’t won the Davis Cup since 2007, and Australia not since 2003.

Keys sends U.S. into second straight Fed Cup final

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France — Defending champion United States will play in a second consecutive Fed Cup final after defeating France on Sunday.

Madison Keys secured the decisive point for the visiting team by beating Pauline Parmentier 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the second reverse singles. Keys’ victory gave the defending champions an unassailable 3-1 lead over France in their semifinal.

The 13th-ranked Keys, a late replacement for CoCo Vandeweghe, came back from a 4-1 deficit in the first set and made the decisive break in the ninth game of the second set with two consecutive winners.

“The girls did so well, both today and yesterday. We are very fortunate to have such a strong group and now we are looking forward to what is going to be a great final,” U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said.

Parmentier fought hard until the end and saved two set points in the opener, but ultimately surrendered to Keys’ deep groundstrokes. The Frenchwoman had the chance to break back while trailing 5-4 in the second set but Keys used her big serve to win the next three points and seal the match.

The U.S. will play the Czech Republic in the final.

Earlier, Sloane Stephens had given a 2-1 lead to the U.S. with a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing of Kristina Mladenovic.

The U.S. Open champion delivered a ruthless display against the 20th-ranked Mladenovic and prevailed in 54 minutes. Stephens hit 16 winners and converted five of six break chances at the 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix on indoor clay.

“That was a really good one. You never anticipate a scoreline like the way it turned out but it was really solid,” Stephens said. She also won her first singles match on Saturday.

The Americans extended their winning record to 12-2 against the French.

The Czech Republic qualified for the final by defeating Germany 4-1 in Stuttgart.

Nadal beats Nishikori to win Monte Carlo Masters

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MONACO — Rafael Nadal won a record 31st Masters title after beating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2 in the Monte Carlo Masters final on Sunday.

Nadal also became the first man in the Open era to win the same title 11 times – 13 years after his first title here – and moved one ahead of rival Novak Djokovic for career Masters titles.

“It’s great to have this trophy in my hands again,” Nadal said.

It gave him a 76th title overall and ensured the Spaniard keeps his top ranking ahead of Roger Federer.

Nishikori was chasing a first Masters title, but the Japanese player took 11 minutes to hold for 1-1.

He got some brief hope, breaking Nadal with a superb passing shot at full stretch to lead 2-1, but meekly surrendered the next four games.

“I knew it was going to be tough even though I was up break,” said Nishikori, who complained of tiredness. “My legs were very heavy today, playing three sets (for) three days in a row (before the final). It wasn’t easy physically.”

The second set was a procession and Nadal won on his first match point with a stinging backhand winner.

Nadal’s celebration was brief and low key. He thrust both hands into the air, and then jogged over to offer Nishikori a sympathetic hug after beating him for the 10th time in 12 meetings.

Nishikori saved a set point with a sharp, angled volley at the net. But Nadal was in relentless mood and sealed it on his next chance with a crisp forehand winner.

“It’s not easy to describe when you are coming back from injury and you start the clay-court season in this way,” Nadal said.

Nishikori is still working his way back to form and full fitness, after missing the 2017 U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open because of a torn tendon in his right wrist.

“It was a great week for me, I had an injury and couldn’t play for a long time,” said Nishikori, whose ranking has slipped to 36.

Nadal has not dropped a set in seven matches since coming back from a recurrence of a right hip injury that forced him to abandon during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

The injury relapse subsequently forced him out of the Mexico Open and Masters tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami, but Nadal now looks back to his ruthless best on clay.

He has his sights firmly set on an 11th title at Barcelona next week and then an 11th French Open title at Roland Garros.