John Paschall

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Goffin beats Thiem to set up ATP Finals semi with Federer

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LONDON (AP) David Goffin is into the last four of the ATP Finals, to go any further he’ll have to do something he’s never done before: beat Roger Federer.

The No.7-seeded Goffin beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1 at the O2 Arena on Friday to set up a semifinal meeting with Federer.

From 0-3, 0-15 down in the opening set, Goffin won 15 consecutive points to take control of the match, and never looked back.

“I’ve never found a key to beat Roger,” said Goffin, who has lost all of his six meetings with the 19-time Grand-Slam champion. “Honestly, I don’t know what to do tomorrow. But I’m going to try something, something different, something that I’ve never done in the past.”

The victory took Goffin to 2-1 in the round-robin stage of the elite season-ending tournament after a win over Rafael Nadal and defeat to Grigor Dimitrov, who will meet Jack Sock in Saturday’s other semifinal.

Dimitrov plays Pablo Carreno Busta later, with qualification already secured after two wins.

Unlike during his 74-minute thrashing by Dimitrov on Wednesday, Goffin was able to recover from a slow start.

Thiem produced some blistering groundstrokes to break in the second game of the match and held for a 3-0 lead, but from there his game disintegrated.

“Well, I had a very, very good start obviously,” Thiem said. “Again, some very bad mistakes. I let him back into the game. Somehow after the 3-0, I lost it until the end.”

When Thiem finally ended his opponent’s run of five straight games, Goffin kept his composure to serve out the set. Thiem then received treatment on his left knee, but it didn’t seem to help.

He was broken again in the third game of the second set and then twice more as Goffin cruised to victory.

Goffin was far from faultless himself, with both players’ unforced error totals doubling their winner counts.

However, in the major moments Goffin was able to keep his game under control, taking five of his seven break point opportunities. Thiem was wasteful, completing just one of his six.

“As soon as I came back at 3-3 with a good service game, I knew that he was struggling a little bit with his groundstrokes,” Goffin said. “He was hitting too hard maybe a little bit. He lost his timing in his backhands. He started to think about how to hit the ball.”

Goffin is making his full debut at the event, having stepped in as an alternate for one match last year.

Reaching the semifinals in London is the latest step in a groundbreaking season for the Belgian. He broke into the top 10 for the first time in February and reached a career high No. 8-ranking earlier in November.

Late owner of Secretariat to receive Big Sport of Turfdom

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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Penny Chenery, who owned Triple Crown winner Secretariat, will be presented posthumously with the Big Sport of Turfdom award given to a person who enhances coverage of thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists.

The Turf Publicists of America said Monday that Chenery will receive the award for the second time. She was the winner in 1973, when Secretariat swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

Chenery died Sept. 16 at age 95. For years after Secretariat’s Triple Crown win, she was a careful steward of the colt’s legacy.

The award will be presented to Chenery’s daughter, Kate Tweedy, at the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program’s luncheon on Dec. 5 in Tucson.

Chenery joins two-time winners jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., and trainers Bob Baffert and Carl Nafzger.

Nadal withdraws from ATP Finals after loss to Goffin

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LONDON (AP) Rafael Nadal will have to wait another year to win the ATP Finals.

The world No. 1 withdrew from the elite, season-ending tournament after losing his opening match to David Goffin 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-4 on Monday at the O2 Arena.

Nadal pulled out of the Paris Masters at the quarterfinal stage 10 days ago and admitted ahead of the ATP Finals on the indoor hard-court he struggles on, that his knees, which have caused him trouble throughout his career, were still “not perfect.”

Despite having qualified 13 consecutive times for the ATP Finals, only eight of which he’s been fit enough to compete in, Nadal has never won the event. Spain will still be represented, as Nadal will be replaced by U.S. Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta.

“My season is finished,” Nadal said. “Yeah, I had the commitment with the event, with the city, with myself. I tried hard. I did the thing that I had to do to try to be ready to play. I tried, but seriously was miracle to be very close in the score during the match.”

After two breaks of serve each, Goffin claimed an ugly opening set via a tiebreak and was on the verge of victory in the second, but Nadal’s fighting spirit saved four match points to force another tiebreaker and draw level.

However, the third set proved a step too far for the 16-time Grand Slam champion, who began to struggle with his movement and was in visible pain. Goffin secured a double break to be 4-1, but Nadal rallied once more. He could retrieve only one of the breaks.

“It was tough even if he was not moving 100 percent,” Goffin said. “He was hitting the ball really hard. It’s never easy to finish a match, to finish a set against him. Even if I lost four match points in the second, I had no regret. I kept going in the third.”

Nadal ominously waved goodbye as he left the court, bringing to an end another auspicious season. He won his 10th French Open in June, added a third U.S. Open in September and, at 31, became the oldest man to end the year atop of the rankings.

With the Australian Open still over two months away, Nadal was confident playing in London wouldn’t have done any lasting damage.

“The good thing is (this injury is) nothing new,” Nadal said. “Everybody of my team, we have the right experience on this thing. We hope to manage it well, to have the right rest, the right work, and try to be ready for the beginning of the next season.”

Nadal’s exit simplifies Federer’s path to a seventh ATP Finals title. The winner of 2017’s other two Grand Slams returns to action against Alexander Zverev on Tuesday after defeating Jack Sock on Sunday.

Making his debut at the ATP Finals earlier, Grigor Dimitrov withstood a comeback attempt from Dominic Thiem and held on for a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 victory.

The sixth-ranked Dimitrov maintained his focus despite being narrowly denied a chance to serve out the match in the second set, and then being broken at his first chance in the third.

“Every year you learn more about yourself, about the game, about the players,” Dimitrov said. “I’ve done also a lot of work on and off the court. It’s finally starting to kind of, like, come together.”