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Krajinovic upsets Isner to reach Paris Masters final

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PARIS (AP) Qualifier Filip Krajinovic reached the Paris Masters final after an upset 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5) win against ninth-seeded John Isner on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Serb slid onto his back and sobbed, his arms raised, after sealing victory on his first match point. Krajinovic then knelt and kissed the court.

“The emotions are amazing, big. When I served for the match my hand was shaking,” Krajinovic said. “It was tough to control the emotions. Best day in my life but the tournament is not over yet.”

He will play for his first career title against 16th-seeded American Jack Sock, who comfortably beat home favorite Julien Benneteau 7-5, 6-2. Sock has never won a Masters title and can qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals London if he does so here.

Sock dropped his serve twice but broke the 35-year-old Benneteau’s serve five times. The 25-year-old American will go for his third title of the year and fourth of his career.

For big-serving Isner, the defeat ended his bid to reach London.

“Very disappointing. I had an opportunity here to do some things I’ve never done before,” said Isner, who was also hoping to break into the Top 10.

Isner was a runner-up in Paris last year and again fell short of an elusive first Masters title.

“I have been very close in tournaments, especially Masters events. I just haven’t broken through,” he said. “This one is going to sting because I knew I was the highest-ranked player in the semifinals.”

Krajinovic is the lowest-ranked player in a Masters final since 191st-ranked Andrei Pavel in Paris in 2003.

The 77th-ranked Krajinovic had only won 17 matches in his whole career – thwarted by a wrist injury – before this tournament.

Krajinovic, who looked fresher on court than Isner, is the first qualifier to reach a Masters final since Jerzy Janowicz in 2012, also in Paris.

Krajinovic was helped by not having to play his quarterfinal because top-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out with a right knee injury. Nadal has not said whether he will be fit enough to play in the season-ending ATP Finals, starting Nov. 12 in London.

Serving for the first set, Krajinovic held to love when Isner sent a two-handed backhand into the net.

With Isner serving at 4-4 and 40-30 in the ninth game of the second set, the match was halted for six minutes when several medical staff attended to a female spectator, who was then taken away. She appeared fully conscious and had her eyes open.

Isner dominated the second-set tiebreaker and clenched his fist after leveling the match with an ace.

The 32-year-old Isner forged a break point at the start of the third set, but missed it with a wasteful forehand which went long.

A powerful forehand gave Isner another chance on Krajinovic’s serve at 30-40 in the ninth game, but Krajinovic saved that one, too.

“I actually went after it and I missed the ball by a few inches,” Isner said. “With how well I was serving today, that was essentially a match point.”

In a tense decisive tiebreaker, Isner led 3-0 but Krajinovic rallied to move 5-4 ahead. Isner’s 31st ace steadied him but a superb return to Isner’s feet on the next point gave Krajinovic match point on his serve.

“When I was up 3-0 I was actually feeling very good,” Isner said. “But he hit two unreturnable serves.”

A whipped forehand winner into an open side of the court was enough for victory, prompting wild celebrations from Krajinovic’s coach, Petar Popovic, who was topless as he shook his fists in delight.

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.