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Nadal withdraws; Isner beats del Potro in Paris

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PARIS (AP) John Isner stayed on track for the last spot at the ATP Finals by beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in the Paris Masters quarterfinals on Friday.

The American was the runner-up last year and needs to win the tournament to reach the finals in London this month.

“I’ve given myself a pretty good shot to qualify,” Isner said. “But it’s going to be very tough.”

Meanwhile, top-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out with a right knee injury, and hopes to be fit to lead the London field.

The loss ended del Potro’s hopes of reaching London. The Argentine needed to win to guarantee his place.

“I’m exhausted. But I did all my effort, I don’t have anything to (reproach) myself (for),” del Potro said. “I’ve been playing three sets today without legs, without energy. Now it’s time to get home and enjoy the vacation.”

The eighth and last berth for London is between Isner and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, who is ahead of Isner in the race.

Isner, who played with strapping above his left knee, broke for 2-1 in the third set. With an unreturnable serve on his first match point, Isner topped del Potro for only the third time in nine matches.

Isner will next face Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic, who advanced when Nadal withdrew.

“This week he’s played with a lot of energy,” said Isner, who has been refueling with a rare treat. “After a match like this, any calories are pretty good. I actually had a cheeseburger. I had one yesterday, too. And they cook a good one here.”

Nadal signaled his knee wasn’t right during his third-round win over Pablo Cuevas on Thursday.

“I’m going to do my treatment, do my best to be playing in London,” he said. “But I cannot talk about that now; it is tough enough for me to pull out from here.”

Tournament director Guy Forget praised Nadal for his attitude in trying his hardest to play, despite his evident pain.

“We all know Rafa, once he says he’s going to do something he sticks to it,” Forget said. “He said `I’m sorry’ to me 10 times, like a kid who’s done something wrong. I said, `No, no, I’m sorry for you.”‘

Krajinovic, a qualifier ranked 77, is through to his first Masters semifinal, and the first qualifier to reach the semis since Jerzy Janowicz in 2012.

“My goal this year was to play challengers to pick up points for next year,” he said. “I was already top 100 two or three years ago; then I had bad luck with injuries.”

Krajinovic said his progress was stalled by “an extra bone in the wrist” that needed to be treated.

Unseeded Julien Benneteau continued his unexpected march by knocking out third-seeded Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 7-5.

Benneteau lost their three previous matches but edged a first set where both dropped serve twice.

He sealed victory on his first match point on Cilic’s serve with a cross-court forehand winner and became emotional, dropping his racket, blowing kisses, and tearing up.

“I was looking at my brother, who is my coach, and at my wife. I am so happy to make her proud,” he said. “It’s an indescribable joy.”

In his last Paris Masters before retiring, the Frenchman has a shot at a first career title on home court.

He plays the winner of the last quarterfinal between Fernando Verdasco and Jack Sock.

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.