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Halep advances to semifinals at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Simona Halep fought the wind and a pesky opponent to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday.

The world’s top-ranked woman outlasted Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3 and improved to 18-1 in matches this year.

Winds gusting to 15 mph made shots tricky. Trailing 4-2 in the first set, Martic closed to 5-4 before Halep served it out.

Martic controlled the second set, taking a 5-2 lead before Halep forced the tiebreaker. The Romanian tied it 5-all before Martic won the final two points to force a third set. Halep rallied from a 2-1 deficit to tie it 3-all before winning the last three games.

“I was a little bit frustrated about the game today because the wind didn’t give us the rhythm,” Halep said in an on-court interview. “That’s maybe why I’m here because I refuse to lose.”

Halep next plays the winner of a quarterfinal between No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and Naomi Osaka of Japan.

Roger Federer, the world’s top-ranked man, followed Halep on the main stadium court against Jeremy Chardy of France.

In another fourth-round men’s match, Borna Coric of Croatia outlasted American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-7 (8), 6-4 and No. 31 Phillipp Kohlschreiber of Germany beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France 6-4, 7-6 (7).

Fritz had a chance to serve out the second set at 5-4 and couldn’t do it, but he saved a match point down 6-5 in the tiebreaker before trying it up and letting out a yell.

Fritz broke in the first game of the third set, but Coric tied it in the fourth game. He then saved a break point in the ninth game before breaking Fritz to clinch the match in the next game on his fourth match point overall.

“I stayed calm. It was very, very tough second set,” Coric said. “It was ups and downs and set points, the tiebreak. I could already be in my room watching Netflix and I was out there playing on that wind and that sun.”

No. 23 Chung Hyeon of South Korea beat 30th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-1, 6-3.

Chung has been on a roll since his Grand Slam breakthrough with a semifinal loss to Federer in the Australian Open. He’s reached the quarterfinals or better in four of five tournaments so far and improved to 15-5 this year.

After Chung dominated in racing to a 6-1, 5-0 lead before Cuevas fought off seven match points to break back in the sixth game. Cuevas then broke Chung again to close to 5-3, but the Korean closed out the win.

“It was a really tough match against Pablo,” Chung said. “I have few match points but start (getting) windy and he playing good. Not easy to play with the wind, but I’m just trying to focus all the time.”

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.