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Simona Halep secures top ranking, Nadal vs Kyrgios in Beijing final

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Simona Halep will take over the top ranking after reaching the China Open final on Saturday, and Rafael Nadal will play Nick Kyrgios for the men’s title.

Halep beat French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4, ensuring that when the WTA rankings are updated on Monday she will be the first women’s No. 1 from Romania.

Halep could have reached No. 1 earlier but was upset in the French Open final by Ostapenko in their first career meeting.

“Of course it’s the best moment in my life, and I want just to keep it,” Halep said in Beijing. “And I have a few more dreams in my career. I tell you one, only one. To win a Grand Slam.”

Halep only had to reach the final this week – and not lose to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the final – to knock Garbine Muguruza from the top spot. Muguruza retired during her opening match on Monday because of a cold.

Top-seeded Nadal defeated third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the semifinals, his tour-leading 60th match win.
Dimitrov’s only victory against the Spaniard in 10 matches came last year in the China Open quarterfinals. On Saturday, his backhand cross-court winner secured the second set, on a second set point, on Nadal’s serve in the 10th game.

But Nadal took immediate control of the third set, racing to 4-0.

Kyrgios didn’t drop his serve in ousting second-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-3, 7-5 in the other semi. The Australian had an impressive 70 percent first-serve percentage and posted 11 aces to none for Zverev, who is normally known for his serving prowess.
Nadal and Kyrgios are tied at two matches apiece in their head-to-head, but the Australian won their latest outing in August in straight sets in the Cincinnati quarterfinals.

Nadal is one of three players, along with Roger Federer and Zverev, to win five titles this year. He won the China Open 12 years ago.

“It’s very important for me to continue with the positive feelings after winning the U.S. Open,” Nadal said. “To be back here and be in the final with that very tough draw I had since the beginning is a great effort.”

Looking for her second title of the year after winning in Madrid, Halep will play Caroline Garcia of France in the Beijing final. Garcia beat Petra Kvitova 6-3, 7-5 in the second semifinal.

Ostapenko entered the semis without dropping a set. But Halep dominated the first set, breaking Ostapenko’s serve in the first game at love. She cemented her lead with another break in the seventh game for 5-2 to serve out the set.

In the second, Halep surrendered a 3-2 lead with a service break in the sixth game, but went on to break serve again in the ninth. At 40-0 in the final game, Halep won with a clean forehand winner down the line.

Garcia, who saved a match point against Svitolina, is on a 10-match winning streak. Garcia lost in straight sets to Halep in the Montreal quarterfinals in their last meeting.

“That’s the kind of match I want to play, against the top players,” Garcia said of Sunday’s final against Halep. “She’s a very tricky player.”

Nadal beats Dimitrov, one win from record 31st Masters title

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MONACO (AP) Rafael Nadal remains on course for a record 31st Masters title after beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

The top-ranked Spaniard never looked in trouble as he beat the fourth-seeded Bulgarian for the 11th time in 12 career meetings.

If Nadal wins Sunday’s final, he will earn a 76th career title and also keep his No. 1 ranking. Should he lose, Roger Federer will reclaim the top spot.

Nadal faces either third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany or Kei Nishikori of Japan, who play later Saturday.

In the opening game, Dimitrov came out firing. He pressured Nadal with two superb lobs, forcing a backhand smash wide from the Spaniard for deuce. But Nadal held a tight first game lasting eight minutes, and then broke Dimitrov for 2-0.

Dimitrov found his range, broke Nadal back and held for 3-3. The next two games were even, with Dimitrov matching Nadal in the rallies.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion held for 5-4 and then Dimitrov cracked, serving consecutive double faults and hitting a wild forehand long to trail 15-40. He saved one set point but Nadal was in ruthless mode and took the next chance.

It appeared that Nadal was gaining his usual momentum on clay – and two consecutive love breaks and three easy holds made it 5-0 to the Spaniard in the second set.

Dimitrov explained his collapse this way.

“I think I played smart against him. I kind of know his pattern a little bit better,” Dimitrov said. “But it was my fault when I got broken. Simple as that. Two double-faults, it’s just definitely not acceptable, especially when you play against him on that surface.”

Dimitrov finally held, drawing polite applause, but Nadal served out the match with ease. He clinched victory on his first match point when Dimitrov patted the ball wide following a brief exchange.

“You see me with a smile. I’m a positive person,” Dimitrov said. “Deep down, I’m hurt. I hate losing. Simple as that.”

Nadal shares the Masters record with Novak Djokovic, whose 30 wins include two here.

Nadal’s victory at Monte Carlo last year made him the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times. He then won a 10th title at Barcelona and the French Open.

 

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.