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Thiem grinds past Gojowczyk at Paris Masters

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PARIS — Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem needed four match points to beat lucky loser Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Tuesday.

Having missed three chances to close out the match on his own serve, the Austrian finally won at close to midnight when Gojowczyk – serving to stay in the match – whipped a forehand that sailed just long.

Thiem, a two-time French Open semifinalist, has dropped in form considerably since losing to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in a five-set thriller in the fourth round of this year’s U.S. Open. He next faces either U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson of South Africa or Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the third round.

In Tuesday’s other second-round matches, Frenchman Nicolas Mahut secured an upset 6-4, 6-1 win against eighth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, and another surprise reverse saw No. 10 Sam Querrey of the United States losing 6-4, 6-4 to Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic.

The defeat dents Carreno Busta’s chances of qualifying for the season-ending ATP Finals in London – he is dependent on other results here – while Querrey’s bid to reach London is over.

Overcoming an early break of serve, Mahut took the first set with a forehand winner down the line, breaking Carreno Busta’s serve for the second time.

The 35-year-old Frenchman saved five break points but secured a double break on the Spaniard’s serve to move 4-0 up in the second set.

Querrey dropped his usually reliable serve three times against the 77th-ranked Krajinovic, who next meets Mahut.

In remaining first-round play, Britain’s Kyle Edmund rallied from a set and 3-0 down and saved match point before beating Evgeny Donskoy of Russia 5-7, 7-6 (7), 6-3.

Edmund, who had 10 aces, next faces 16th-seeded American Jack Sock.

There were also first-round wins for Pablo Cuevas, Diego Schwartzman, Feliciano Lopez, Adrian Mannarino, Borna Coric, Joao Sousa and Verdasco.

In Wednesday’s second-round matches, Rafael Nadal can guarantee finishing the year as No. 1 for the fourth time in his career if he beats Hyeon Chung of South Korea. The Spaniard last achieved the feat in 2013, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray holding the top ranking since then.

Del Potro, a runner-up to Roger Federer at the Swiss Indoors on Sunday, is in second-round action against Sousa. The 13th-seeded Del Potro needs to win here to reach the Finals in London next week.

Federer skipped Paris to stay fresh for London, where he will aim to win his eighth title of the year.

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.