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Stephens, Kerber headline WTA Elite Trophy field

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ZHUHAI, China — A year after finishing the season as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Angelique Kerber will be playing at the WTA Elite Trophy with an eye on 2018.

Kerber won the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year, but has struggled in 2017 and has dropped to No. 19.

“I’m not trying to look back at the year. I’m trying to look ahead and trying to end the year as well as I can by putting everything on the court, winning as many as matches as I can and going to my holidays with a good feeling,” Kerber said. “It’s a tough tournament but it’s an opportunity to get better, have good competition and maybe also going with a good feeling to next season.”

The WTA Elite Trophy is a round-robin tournament for the top players who failed to qualify for the WTA Finals. The tournament splits 12 players in four groups of three, with the group winners reaching the semifinals.

Kerber is in a group with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ashleigh Barty.

Other players at the tournament include U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, who is in a group with Anastasija Sevastova and Barbora Strycova.

“I just want to compete well because obviously every match is really important,” Stephens said. “I just hope to play well and get in a few matches out there.”

In the other groups, it’s: CoCo Vandeweghe, Peng Shuai and Elena Vesnina; and Julia Goerges, Kristina Mladenovic and Magdalena Rybarikova.

The 12 players at the tournament won a combined 11 WTA singles titles in 2017.

Dimitrov defeats Goffin to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Grigor Dimitrov claimed the biggest title of his career at the season-ending ATP Finals on Sunday, prevailing on his fifth match point to beat David Goffin of Belgium 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

“It’s such an honor to play here,” Dimitrov said. “This week has been one of the best I’ve ever had.”

The sixth-seeded Bulgarian won in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds for the longest final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008.

Dimitrov won all five of his matches at the O2 Arena to become the first player to win the elite tournament on debut since 1998, when Alex Corretja of Spain triumphed in Hanover.

Goffin saved three match points on his own serve, but Dimitrov kept his cool, taking the second opportunity on his own delivery to close it out.

By reaching the final, Dimitrov had already secured a career-high No. 3-ranking to end the year. Goffin also moves up to a career-best No. 7.

The final lasted more than 11 minutes longer than Roger Federer took to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011. It was a nervous start as both players failed to hold serve in the opening three games before Goffin settled down to control the opener as Dimitrov struggled with his timing.

However, Dimitrov fought his way back into the set. He leveled in the eighth game before breaking once more in the 12th to snatch the set in which Goffin hit eight more winners.

Dimitrov’s confidence carried into the second set, where he brought up the first break point in the sixth game, only for Goffin to produce a stunning cross-court backhand winner to save it. The momentum back with him, Goffin broke the following game for a 4-3 lead and calmly closed out the set.

Having come from behind to beat Federer in Saturday’s semifinal, Goffin had every reason to be confident and could have gone ahead. But he wasted four break points in the opening game – they would turn out to be his only chances in the decider.

Dimitrov was more clinical, striking in the sixth game to take control. Goffin tested Dimitrov’s nerve by saving three match points on his own serve, before saving one on Dimitrov’s. However the Belgian’s resistance came to an end as he netted a backhand volley, leaving Dimitrov in tears.

(This story has been corrected to show it was the longest three-set final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008, not longest three-set final ever.)

Goffin ousts Federer in ATP Finals semis

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LONDON — David Goffin ended Roger Federer’s bid for a seventh ATP Finals title by stunning the favorite 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Belgian claimed the biggest win of his career and qualified for the final on Sunday, when he will face Grigor Dimitrov or Jack Sock. They play later Saturday.

Federer looked to be heading toward his 11th final at the elite season-ending tournament when he cruised through the first set, but Goffin took advantage of a drop in his play to level.

Despite having lost all six of his previous encounters with Federer, Goffin was able to execute better in the deciding set, breaking in the third game and producing a nerveless display of serving to seal victory.