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Zverev signals arrival, beats Djokovic to win Italian Open

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ROME — Alexander Zverev signaled his anticipated arrival among the tennis elite by defeating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 Sunday to win the Italian Open.

The 20-year-old Zverev became the youngest player to win a Masters 1000 event since Djokovic won in Miami a decade ago at 19.

“I don’t know what to say,” Zverev said during the trophy presentation. “Coming in to this week I never thought I could be standing here in the finals or getting this trophy.”

Zverev broke in the very first game and was never really challenged by Djokovic, who appeared drained after having to win two matches Saturday to reach the final.

Djokovic committed nearly twice as many unforced errors as Zverev – 27 to 14.

The match lasted 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Afterward, Djokovic announced that Andre Agassi will coach him at the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“We are both excited to work together and see where it takes us,” Djokovic said. “We don’t have any long-term commitment. It’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little bit.”

The title will move Zverev up to a career-high No. 10 in the rankings Monday and place him among the contenders for Roland Garros. It will also add credibility to the belief by many tennis experts that Zverev will reach No. 1 some day.

“If I have only half of the career Novak has had, I’ll be fine,” Zverev said when asked if he can follow in Djokovic’s footsteps.

Tennis great Rod Laver presented Zverev with the trophy.

“Getting the trophy from Mr. Laver is something very special and something I’ll remember for the rest of my career,” Zverev said.

Earlier, Elina Svitolina surged to No. 1 in the season-long rankings race by beating Simona Halep 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the women’s final.

It was a tour-best fourth title this year for Svitolina and the most prestigious trophy of her young career. The 22-year-old Ukrainian also leads the tour with 31 match wins this season.

“Every day I’m just trying to work on my mental part, my physical, my tennis,” Svitolina said. “Everything just came together and I’m very happy that it’s happened in such a big tournament.”

The fourth-ranked Halep was in full control and serving for the first set at 5-2 when she rolled her right ankle while sliding over what appeared to be a small hole in the Foro Italico stadium court.

While Halep was able to eventually win the opening set, she required treatment to her ankle from a trainer twice and was late getting to shots as the match wore on.

“Sorry guys for third set,” Halep told the crowd. “It was a little tough for me to get through but Elina played great.”

Halep was playing in her second clay-court final in two weeks after winning the title in Madrid last Sunday.

Svitolina also required medical treatment from a trainer midway through the second set, for an apparent problem with her left leg.

“Hopefully we’ll recover, me and Simona, because we’re struggling a bit physically,” Svitolina said.

During the post-match presentation, Svitolina dropped the cover of the silver trophy on to the red clay court, prompting her to say, “Oops.”

The first two sets featured long, nervous baseline rallies in which both players waited for their opponent to commit errors.

“It was very tough first two sets and I’m really happy that it’s all finished,” Svitolina said.


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.”

More AP tennis coverage:

Federer edges Coric in 3 sets in Indian Wells semifinals

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Roger Federer rallied to beat Borna Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, extending his career-best start to 17-0 and putting him in the final with a chance to win his record sixth title.

Federer overcame a slow start in front of a partisan crowd that included Rod Laver and Pete Sampras. He rallied from a 5-7, 2-4 deficit to win the final four games of the second set, breaking Coric twice for the first time in the match.

There were five breaks in the third. Federer trailed 4-3 and then broke after two deuces on his way to winning the last three games of the two-hour, 20-minute struggle.

Coric’s crosscourt forehand was called out on match point. He challenged the call and the line system showed it was just wide of the sideline.

Federer hasn’t started a season so well since 2006, when he won his first 16 matches en route to a 92-5 record.

The Swiss superstar was playing a rare 11 a.m. match. According to the ATP Tour, Federer hadn’t played that early since 2006. And it showed as he sprayed errors all over the court and didn’t break Coric for the first time until late in the second set.

“Really I just woke up,” Federer said in an on-court interview. “It was early today. I had pasta at 9:15. It was yummy.”

Trailing a set and 0-2 in the second, the crowd seemingly tried to will better shots out of Federer with loud applause and shouts of encouragement.

“I needed to fight a little bit to keep the ball in play,” he said. “Borna was incredibly steady and was playing deep and hard shots.”

Coric, a 21-year-old from Croatia, was in his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal. Federer, atop the world rankings again at 36, owns 27 career Masters 1000 titles.

Coric is part of a trio of 20-somethings that have dominated the desert tournament. Daria Kasatkina of Russia and Naomi Osaka of Japan, both 20, will meet in the women’s final on Sunday after knocking out several higher-ranked players along the way.