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Jack Sock ends US drought with ATP Finals win over Cilic

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LONDON (AP) The United States has been waiting 10 years for a win at the ATP Finals, few thought Jack Sock would be the man to deliver it.

The No. 8-seeded player defeated Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Tuesday.

Sock lost his debut match at the O2 Arena to Roger Federer, but he is now 1-1 in his round-robin group.

While others might have been surprised at Sock becoming the first American to win at the elite season-ending event since Andy Roddick in 2007, the man himself wasn’t.

“I wouldn’t be out here playing, competing if I didn’t think I could give myself a chance to win tournaments, to be here,” Sock said.

“I’m not the type of guy that will just enter a draw and be happy to make the third round or the quarters or whatever. I’m here to win matches. I think if I do the right things and I play the right tennis, I can give myself a chance to play on the weekend of any tournament.”

Cilic, who has won only one of his eight matches overall at the season-ending tournament, is 0-2 and will be eliminated if Federer beats Alexander Zverev in the late match.

“Definitely not a great record, but I felt that I played even well last year,” Cilic said. “In those three matches that I played, I had good chances at least to win. These two also. So just, you know, couple points away from closing those matches. A little bit unfortunate with that.”

Despite having been forced out of bed in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a fire alarm at his hotel, Sock made a fast start – breaking in the opening game, only to hand it straight back to his opponent.

The next break point didn’t come until the 11th game. A moment of huge fortune saved Cilic as his forehand got a dead net cord, which Sock couldn’t track down.

The Croat made good use of his luck, breaking in the following game to claim the opening set. A visibly frustrated Sock received a code violation as he blasted a ball into the upper tier, but it seemed to work for him. The American broke Cilic in the opening game once more and did so again in fifth to level the match.

Cilic broke for a 2-0 lead in the deciding set, but Sock displayed the fighting spirit that carried him to an unlikely Masters victory in Paris last month, breaking back in the fifth game and force a tiebreak.

With Cilic a 4-3 and a minibreak up, Sock produced the shot of the match as he sprinted forward to retrieve another near-dead net cord and didn’t look back from there, winning the next three points to secure the match.

“As for the tiebreak, just hope he doesn’t hit the net again,” Sock said. “He had a few of those today, but that’s tennis.”

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.