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Sock beats Krajinovic to win Paris Masters

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PARIS — Jack Sock beat Filip Krajinovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 Sunday to win the Paris Masters and qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals.

It was the 16th-seeded American’s third title of the year, fourth overall and first at a Masters. It sends him through to the finals in London for the first time. He will break into the top 10, climbing to ninth.

“Incredible week. Hard to describe, honestly. I don’t think it’s really hit or soaked in yet,” said Sock, who was one game away from losing in the second round. “To come back from the deficit I was down and to have this trophy next to me now has been an incredible achievement.”

He sealed victory on his first match point when Krajinovic, a Serbian qualifier ranked No. 77, sent a backhand long. Sock fell onto his back with his hands on his face, then jumped into the seating area to celebrate with his team.

“I had some anxious sleep last night,” Sock said. “I was able to find that groove in the second and third (sets) and kind of turn things around.”

He is the first American winner here since Andre Agassi in 1999; and the first American winner of a Masters tournament since Andy Roddick at Miami in 2010.

“I’ve had a rough season pretty much since, since March,” Sock said. “Coming in this week I had no idea I could even make London. It wasn’t in my head. I just wanted to play some good tennis my last week and go start my offseason.”

With a wry smile, Sock said he would be celebrating the biggest win of his career with “just a water on the rocks.”

Krajinovic was the first qualifier in a Masters final since Jerzy Janowicz, also here, in 2012.

After losing, the 25-year-old Serb sat slumped in his chair, shaking his head in disappointment.

He had only played finals on the challenger circuit before, winning all five of them, and came through the qualifying rounds. He seemed to run out of energy in the third set, which Sock controlled completely.

“I was not aggressive enough. I have to be against him,” Krajinovic said. “He started to play better and better and I didn’t serve well.”

Still, he will climb to No. 33 next week.

“It’s an amazing week with a lot of good wins. From (qualifying) I beat so many good guys, better ranking than me,” Krajinovic said. “So it’s all positive coming home, finally having holidays after playing so many matches this year.”

The first set was even, with Krajinovic looking a little sharper than Sock, who is also 25.

Sock was 30-40 down in the 12th game, and Krajinovic had his first set point. He took it when Sock went for a typical cross-court winner on forehand and whipped his shot into the net.

He responded well, upping his level in the second set as the momentum started to turn.

“I lost energy,” Krajinovic said. “But it was a great week for me. Well done to him.”

Sock secured a crucial break in the third game of the decider with a superb forehand winner on the run, and then held for 3-1.

By this stage, Krajinovic was reeling and dropped his next service game when Sock hit a backhand crosscourt winner that flew past Krajinovic’s outstretched racket. He was broken again when he served to stay in the match.

Sock had nine aces and broke Krajinovic’s serve six times to compensate for the three times he dropped his.

His other titles this year were at Delray Beach, Florida and Auckland, New Zealand – both on outdoor hard courts.

This one gives him a considerably bigger winners’ check of 853,430 euros – almost $1 million – and a ticket to London.

“It’s a good Sunday for sure,” Sock said. “The only thing that would make it better would be if the Kansas City Chiefs win as well back home, my favorite NFL team.”

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.