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Isner earns biggest win, beating Zverev in Miami Open final

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) John Isner won the biggest title of his 14-year career on Sunday, holding every service game and rallying past Alexander Zverev in the Miami Open final, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4.

The 32-year-old Isner previously had been 0-3 in ATP Masters 1000 finals. His breakthrough came in the last singles match on Key Biscayne before the Miami Open moves next year to the NFL Dolphins’ stadium.

Seeded 14th, Isner became the first American man to win the tournament since Andy Roddick in 2010. Isner joined Sloane Stephens, who won the women’s title Saturday, for the first U.S. sweep in the event since 2004, when the champions were Roddick and Serena Williams.

The start of the last game was delayed by the crowd’s chants of “U-S-A!” Isner then held at love, and on the final three points he smacked aces, giving him 18 for the match and 79 for the tournament.

Isner’s title run surprised even him because he arrived at Key Biscayne with a record of 1-6 this year, including losses to players with rankings of 60, 62, 78 and 91. He played an almost flawless match to beat Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals, and was just good enough against the fourth-seeded Zverev, a precocious 20-year-old German who was bidding for his third Masters 1000 title in the past 12 months.

The 6-foot-10 Isner’s serve allowed him to overcome inconsistent returning, a succession of botched volleys and shaky play at crunch time. He converted only two of 12 break-point chances and lost his final three service points in the tiebreaker.

But he gave Zverev only three break-point chances, and Isner’s serve was at its best down the stretch. He made 83 percent of his first serves in the final set.

With little margin for error, Zverev lost serve and fell behind 5-4 in the final set when he dumped a forehand into the net, and his frustration boiled over. He slammed his racket to the concrete, picked it up and slammed it again, and then tossed it gently to the stands as a mangled souvenir.

When Isner sealed the victory four points later, he also tossed his racket – but in celebration. He gave Zverev a warm hug and then skipped across the court, basking in his breakthrough.

As a reflection of the threat his serve poses, Isner improved to 6-2 against top-10 players since the start of 2017. He’ll climb to ninth in the rankings, which matches his career high.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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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.