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Djokovic beats del Potro to reach Italian Open semifinals

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ROME — Four-time champion Novak Djokovic picked up right where he left off in a rain-delayed Italian Open quarterfinal against Juan Martin del Potro, closing out a 6-1, 6-4 win Saturday to set up a semifinal later against Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic was leading 6-1, 1-2 before heavy rain Friday night caused the conclusion of the match to be postponed by a day.

In clearer conditions at the Foro Italico, Djokovic held serve when the match resumed and then got the decisive break in the next game with a drop-shot winner.

Djokovic waved his arms to get the crowd behind him as the set wore on, dictating play from near the baseline while del Potro stood further back retrieving balls in the corners.

In the other semifinal, 16th-seeded Alexander Zverev was playing big-serving John Isner.

In the women’s tournament, fourth-ranked Simona Halep advanced to the final and extended her clay-court winning streak to 10 matches with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Kiki Bertens.

After dropping five set points while serving for the opening set at 5-4, Halep started knocking her head with her finger as if saying, `Wake up.” After getting broken in that game she held at love in her next service game to end the set.

Halep then cruised past her 20th-ranked Dutch opponent amid intermittent rain.

Bertens committed 31 unforced errors to Halep’s nine.

Halep is looking for back-to-back clay-court titles after taking the title in Madrid last weekend.

The Romanian will face either Garbine Muguruza or Elina Svitolina in Sunday’s final.

 

Wozniacki beats Pavlyuchenkova for Pan Pacific title

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TOKYO — Caroline Wozniacki overwhelmed Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-0, 7-5 to retain her Pan Pacific Open title on Sunday.

The victory gives Wozniacki, also champion in Tokyo in 2010, her first title of the year. The Dane had lost all six of her previous finals in 2017.

“This was my seventh final of the year – it gets harder to get that last win,” said world No. 6 Wozniacki, who has now won at least one title every year since 2008. “I’ve been putting myself in a position to win all year. It was really important for me to stay focused and positive.”

Wozniacki had crushed world No.1 Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals and a similar score looked on the cards here Sunday.

“The court suits my game. She plays powerfully so it was important for me to make her move around early on. In the first set everything was going my way. In the second set she served better, so it was tricky for me to break.”

The first set lasted only 20 minutes as Pavlyuchenkova struggled to get a foothold.

“I was really disappointed in the first three games,” said the Russian. “I felt I was a bit unlucky and really believe if I had turned those points round and won the games, it may have been a different match. I was a little down on myself and missed more than I should.”

The Russian fought harder in a second set that went with serve until the 12th and final game.

Yet she failed to earn a break point in the match and appeared outclassed in her first Premier-level final since Moscow in 2015. Semifinal opponent Angelique Kerber was the only seed she faced this week before third-seeded Wozniacki.

“It’s disappointing to lose no matter which round it is, even more disappointing in the final,” said Pavlyuchenkova, who needed three sets to win all four of her matches en route to the final.

“I felt a little flat due to the previous matches. I didn’t have so much energy left.”

Federer beats Kyrgios as Europe wins first Laver Cup

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PRAGUE — Roger Federer rallied to beat Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 7-6 (6), 11-9 Sunday and clinch the new Laver Cup tournament for Europe on Sunday.

The three-day competition at Prague’s O2 Arena pitted a team of the best six European players against the top six from the rest of the world.

Seen by some as a tennis version of the Ryder Cup in golf, the inaugural Laver Cup was played on an unusual black hard court.

Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych also formed the European team, while Sam Querrey, John Isner, Jack Sock, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe played for the world.

The tournament is to honor Rod Laver, an 11-time major champion who won two calendar-year Grand Slams.

Chicago will host it in 2018.