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Del Potro advances to 2nd round at Shanghai Masters

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SHANGHAI (AP) Juan Martin del Potro needed all three sets to reach the second round at the Shanghai Masters, beating Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 on Monday.

Del Potro, a Shanghai semifinalist in 2013, struggled with his second serve. Although he won 40 of 49 points on his first serve, he only captured 13 of 30 second-serve points.

American qualifier Frances Tiafoe advanced to the second round by beating Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4. The 92nd-ranked Tiafoe was playing in his first main draw match since a five-set loss to Roger Federer at the U.S. Open.

Tiafoe will play either 10th-seeded Sam Querrey or Yuichi Sugita in the second round.

“I hope I play Sam, two Americans, so their will be an American in the third round,” Tiafoe said.

Chung Hyeon also advanced, defeating ninth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3. Chung saved all four break points he faced against last year’s finalist.

“Today, I was trying to stay calm all the time in the match,” said Chung, who only won one game when he played Bautista Agut in Dubai in 2016. “I won today so I did everything good.”

Also, Feliciano Lopez advanced by beating Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6), while Andrey Rublev and Greek qualifier Stefanos Tsitsipas also made it through.

Federer, who won the title in Shanghai in 2004, will play his opening match on Wednesday. The Australian Open and Wimbledon champion hasn’t played at an official tournament since losing in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

“I’m playing just the big tournaments now,” Federer said. “I’ve been practicing for hours on the Centre Court. I’m here for a reason. I’m here for a purpose. Hopefully to do well and winning the tournament.

Federer will play either Diego Schwartzman or Australian qualifier Jordan Thompson in his first match.

Keys sends US into second straight Fed Cup final

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) 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.