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Federer hopes Laver Cup will be hit on U.S. soil

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CHICAGO — The Laver Cup was a hit last year, and now Roger Federer is hoping it proves popular on U.S. soil.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion made his first-ever visit to Chicago on Monday to promote the second Laver Cup, a team competition that debuted last year in Prague.

Federer, shaking off a three-set loss to Juan Martin del Potro on Sunday in the final at Indian Wells that ended his 17-match winning streak, was joined by tennis legends Rod Laver and John McEnroe, along with young Australian star Nick Kyrgios.

Federer’s management team was instrumental in launching the Laver Cup, which pits Team Europe against Team World. After its third year, he said he’ll entertain possible changes to the format.

“Down the road I’m totally open to anything,” Federer said. “I’ve heard already from women players. They would love to do it as well.”

Four of the six players on each team are chosen on rankings after Wimbledon. The other two are captain’s picks, and captain McEnroe didn’t wait Monday – he announced the talented Kyrgios was already on the World Team.

Kyrgios lost a tight final singles match to Federer in Prague last season, which clinched the cup for Team Europe.

What impact the Laver Cup has on the future of Davis Cup, the long-standing competition between nations, is still debatable. But there is a proposal from the International Tennis Federation to play the top level of Davis Cup in a single-week, 18-nation format. It must be approved by a vote of the membership.

“It just takes so much out of the players to be available four weekends during the year every single year,” Federer said. “I played a lot of Davis Cup when I was younger and happy I did. I was happy it existed, but eventually it was just too much.”

Federer added: “I do believe that the Laver Cup has sparked some change, some inspiration to other cups that maybe we’ll see in tennis. But that’s a good thing. We’ll take that as a sign of flattery.”

McEnroe, once a staple for the U.S. Davis Cup team, said changes in that competition are overdue and certainly the success of the Laver Cup has not gone unnoticed.

“For me, I say, `When’s the last time anyone’s asked me about how many Davis Cup teams I was part of winning?”‘ McEnroe said.

“In the last 10 years, how many people have asked me that? You know how many people? None. Which is sad, ’cause I played a lot of Davis Cup and I loved it.”

The 2018 Laver Cup will be played Sept. 21-23 at United Center before returning to Europe the following year.

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.