Djokovic beats Monfils to claim second title of season

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EASTBOURNE, England (AP) Novak Djokovic won his second title of 2017 on Saturday as he cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Gael Monfils in the Eastbourne International final.

The Serb remained unbeaten against Monfils on the ATP tour as he extended his head-to-head advantage over the Frenchman to 14-0 in one hour and 16 minutes.

Having ended a trophy-drought stretching back to the Qatar Open in January, Djokovic will begin his Wimbledon campaign on Tuesday full of confidence.

Earlier Saturday, third-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-4, 6-4 to win the women’s event on England’s south coast.

Monfils’s attempt to end his losing streak against the world No. 4 was quickly blunted as he dropped serve in the opening game, before being broken again in the final game of the first set.

Despite his renowned retrieval skills, Monfils was unable to impose his return game as Djokovic made 87 per cent of his first serves during the opening set.

Monfils emerged with renewed intent for the second set, but Djokovic was able to summon the grit that has so often been lacking this season as he fought off three break points.

Equally familiar was the sight of Djokovic increasing his intensity as Monfils served to stay in the match at 4-5, taking victory at the first opportunity.

Pliskova claimed her third title of 2017 and ninth overall as she broke once in each set to defeat 2009 champion Wozniacki.

The Czech was a beaten finalist in this tournament on England’s south coast last year, losing to Dominika Cibulkova.

“I’m really happy I got the trophy this time,” Pliskova said. “I feel quite okay on grass … The serve is definitely my biggest weapon and, if it’s working, then it’s real trouble for the opponent.”

Sixth-seeded Wozniacki had her only break points of the match in the sixth game of the second set but let four opportunities slip by.

“I thought I played really well, I did what I could today,” Wozniacki said. “I had trouble getting the serves back, but it’s great preparation before Wimbledon.”

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.