Dominic Thiem

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Thiem grinds past Gojowczyk at Paris Masters

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PARIS — Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem needed four match points to beat lucky loser Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4 in the second round of the Paris Masters on Tuesday.

Having missed three chances to close out the match on his own serve, the Austrian finally won at close to midnight when Gojowczyk – serving to stay in the match – whipped a forehand that sailed just long.

Thiem, a two-time French Open semifinalist, has dropped in form considerably since losing to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in a five-set thriller in the fourth round of this year’s U.S. Open. He next faces either U.S. Open runner-up Kevin Anderson of South Africa or Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the third round.

In Tuesday’s other second-round matches, Frenchman Nicolas Mahut secured an upset 6-4, 6-1 win against eighth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, and another surprise reverse saw No. 10 Sam Querrey of the United States losing 6-4, 6-4 to Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic.

The defeat dents Carreno Busta’s chances of qualifying for the season-ending ATP Finals in London – he is dependent on other results here – while Querrey’s bid to reach London is over.

Overcoming an early break of serve, Mahut took the first set with a forehand winner down the line, breaking Carreno Busta’s serve for the second time.

The 35-year-old Frenchman saved five break points but secured a double break on the Spaniard’s serve to move 4-0 up in the second set.

Querrey dropped his usually reliable serve three times against the 77th-ranked Krajinovic, who next meets Mahut.

In remaining first-round play, Britain’s Kyle Edmund rallied from a set and 3-0 down and saved match point before beating Evgeny Donskoy of Russia 5-7, 7-6 (7), 6-3.

Edmund, who had 10 aces, next faces 16th-seeded American Jack Sock.

There were also first-round wins for Pablo Cuevas, Diego Schwartzman, Feliciano Lopez, Adrian Mannarino, Borna Coric, Joao Sousa and Verdasco.

In Wednesday’s second-round matches, Rafael Nadal can guarantee finishing the year as No. 1 for the fourth time in his career if he beats Hyeon Chung of South Korea. The Spaniard last achieved the feat in 2013, with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray holding the top ranking since then.

Del Potro, a runner-up to Roger Federer at the Swiss Indoors on Sunday, is in second-round action against Sousa. The 13th-seeded Del Potro needs to win here to reach the Finals in London next week.

Federer skipped Paris to stay fresh for London, where he will aim to win his eighth title of the year.

Federer beats Kyrgios as Europe wins first Laver Cup

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PRAGUE — Roger Federer rallied to beat Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 7-6 (6), 11-9 Sunday and clinch the new Laver Cup tournament for Europe on Sunday.

The three-day competition at Prague’s O2 Arena pitted a team of the best six European players against the top six from the rest of the world.

Seen by some as a tennis version of the Ryder Cup in golf, the inaugural Laver Cup was played on an unusual black hard court.

Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem and Tomas Berdych also formed the European team, while Sam Querrey, John Isner, Jack Sock, Denis Shapovalov and Frances Tiafoe played for the world.

The tournament is to honor Rod Laver, an 11-time major champion who won two calendar-year Grand Slams.

Chicago will host it in 2018.

Nadal leads Djokovic, Murray, Thiem on French Open odds

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The overarching presence of Rafael Nadal, who has won a record nine times at Roland Garros, has inflated prices on the other top men at the French Open.

Nadal is listed as a better than even money -125 favorite on the French Open men’s champion board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Spaniard has won 17 of 18 matches on clay this year and will not have to worry about longtime nemesis Roger Federer, who’s saving himself for the grass and hard courts. The event begins in Paris on Sunday.

While Nadal is undoubtedly the most consistent clay-court player in the world, many threats loom. Novak Djokovic (+300) might be ready to come out of his lull now that he has swapped out his support staff, bringing on Andre Agassi as a personal coach. Nadal and Djokovic are on the same side of the draw, so either would benefit if the other falls prey to an upset.

Dominic Thiem (+900) could also be undervalued, given that he defeated Nadal in the Italian Open, one of the tune-ups for the French.

Top seed Andy Murray (+900) has not won an event on clay this season and his place on the tennis betting lines might reflect the notion that some bettors will always go for a big name with a track record of winning Grand Slams. In terms of someone who is coming into the tournament playing well, Stan Wawrinka (+1000) has had an impressive run at the Geneva Open after having so-so output for most of the clay-court season. Wawrinka is also a recent champion, having won in 2015.

It seems like it is just a matter of when 20-year-old Alexander Zverev (+1400) will win his first Grand Slam singles title. Zverev turned heads when he extended Nadal to five sets in a third-round defeat at the Australian Open in January, and he defeated Djokovic in the Italian Open final to become the youngest player in 10 years to win an ATP Masters event.

As far as the women’s champion board goes, Simona Halep (+450) has top odds but is battling an ankle injury. World No. 1 Angelique Kerber (+1600) has also been inconsistent throughout the season. Young Ukrainian Elina Svitolina (+700) is an intriguing possibility by virtue of her results (four singles titles already in 2017) and her strong return game, since the soft clay at Roland Garros dictates having longer rallies.

Garbine Muguruza (+900) is the defending champion, but it’s a little glaring that she has not reached a Grand Slam semifinal in three tries since that 2016 breakthrough.