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Chung wins in Paris Masters; will face Nadal

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PARIS — Hyeon Chung of South Korea swept aside Mischa Zverev 6-0, 6-2 at the Paris Masters on Monday to set up a second-round match against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal will begin his quest for a record 31st Masters title – but first in Paris – on Wednesday. The top-ranked Spaniard beat Chung in their only previous encounter on his way to a 10th title at the Barcelona Open in April.

Chung broke Zverev’s serve five times and saved the four break points he faced in a rout lasting less than one hour.

The last two spots for the season-ending ATP Finals in London will be decided in Paris, while Nadal is odds-on to end the year as No. 1 for the fourth time in his career.

David Goffin of Belgium and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain are best placed to qualify for London, while Juan Martin del Potro needs to win here to make it. Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille, American Sam Querrey and U.S Open runner-up Kevin Anderson are in outside contention.

It is much more straightforward for Nadal to keep his top ranking.

He needs just one win to end the year as No. 1 ahead of Roger Federer, who pulled out of Paris after winning the Swiss Indoors in Basel for the eighth time on Sunday. Federer clinched his seventh title of the year, one more than Nadal, but is skipping Paris so he can stay fresh for London.

Nadal was “not happy” about pulling out of the Swiss Indoors, but felt he needed the rest after playing 75 matches this season, winning 65 of them.

By contrast, Federer has played only 53, winning 49. He has beaten Nadal four times this year, including in the Australian Open final.

“He takes his decision and he does it well,” Nadal said on Monday of Federer’s decision to stagger his tournaments. “It (has) worked very well for him.”

After their five-set thriller in Melbourne, Federer did not drop a set against Nadal in the next three wins.

Also in the first round on Monday, there were wins for Frenchmen Richard Gasquet, Jeremy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau. Also through were Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, and Robin Haase of the Netherlands.

Benneteau beat Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-4, 6-4 and next plays Tsonga, while Mahut had a tougher time against another Canadian, Vasek Pospisil, 5-7, 7-5, 76 (4). Gasquet beat Paire for the fifth straight time; and Chardy dispatched countryman Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-0.

Keys sends U.S. into second straight Fed Cup final

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France — 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.