John Isner

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Krajinovic upsets Isner to reach Paris Masters final

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PARIS (AP) Qualifier Filip Krajinovic reached the Paris Masters final after an upset 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (5) win against ninth-seeded John Isner on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Serb slid onto his back and sobbed, his arms raised, after sealing victory on his first match point. Krajinovic then knelt and kissed the court.

“The emotions are amazing, big. When I served for the match my hand was shaking,” Krajinovic said. “It was tough to control the emotions. Best day in my life but the tournament is not over yet.”

He will play for his first career title against 16th-seeded American Jack Sock, who comfortably beat home favorite Julien Benneteau 7-5, 6-2. Sock has never won a Masters title and can qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals London if he does so here.

Sock dropped his serve twice but broke the 35-year-old Benneteau’s serve five times. The 25-year-old American will go for his third title of the year and fourth of his career.

For big-serving Isner, the defeat ended his bid to reach London.

“Very disappointing. I had an opportunity here to do some things I’ve never done before,” said Isner, who was also hoping to break into the Top 10.

Isner was a runner-up in Paris last year and again fell short of an elusive first Masters title.

“I have been very close in tournaments, especially Masters events. I just haven’t broken through,” he said. “This one is going to sting because I knew I was the highest-ranked player in the semifinals.”

Krajinovic is the lowest-ranked player in a Masters final since 191st-ranked Andrei Pavel in Paris in 2003.

The 77th-ranked Krajinovic had only won 17 matches in his whole career – thwarted by a wrist injury – before this tournament.

Krajinovic, who looked fresher on court than Isner, is the first qualifier to reach a Masters final since Jerzy Janowicz in 2012, also in Paris.

Krajinovic was helped by not having to play his quarterfinal because top-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out with a right knee injury. Nadal has not said whether he will be fit enough to play in the season-ending ATP Finals, starting Nov. 12 in London.

Serving for the first set, Krajinovic held to love when Isner sent a two-handed backhand into the net.

With Isner serving at 4-4 and 40-30 in the ninth game of the second set, the match was halted for six minutes when several medical staff attended to a female spectator, who was then taken away. She appeared fully conscious and had her eyes open.

Isner dominated the second-set tiebreaker and clenched his fist after leveling the match with an ace.

The 32-year-old Isner forged a break point at the start of the third set, but missed it with a wasteful forehand which went long.

A powerful forehand gave Isner another chance on Krajinovic’s serve at 30-40 in the ninth game, but Krajinovic saved that one, too.

“I actually went after it and I missed the ball by a few inches,” Isner said. “With how well I was serving today, that was essentially a match point.”

In a tense decisive tiebreaker, Isner led 3-0 but Krajinovic rallied to move 5-4 ahead. Isner’s 31st ace steadied him but a superb return to Isner’s feet on the next point gave Krajinovic match point on his serve.

“When I was up 3-0 I was actually feeling very good,” Isner said. “But he hit two unreturnable serves.”

A whipped forehand winner into an open side of the court was enough for victory, prompting wild celebrations from Krajinovic’s coach, Petar Popovic, who was topless as he shook his fists in delight.

Nadal withdraws; Isner beats del Potro in Paris

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PARIS (AP) John Isner stayed on track for the last spot at the ATP Finals by beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in the Paris Masters quarterfinals on Friday.

The American was the runner-up last year and needs to win the tournament to reach the finals in London this month.

“I’ve given myself a pretty good shot to qualify,” Isner said. “But it’s going to be very tough.”

Meanwhile, top-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out with a right knee injury, and hopes to be fit to lead the London field.

The loss ended del Potro’s hopes of reaching London. The Argentine needed to win to guarantee his place.

“I’m exhausted. But I did all my effort, I don’t have anything to (reproach) myself (for),” del Potro said. “I’ve been playing three sets today without legs, without energy. Now it’s time to get home and enjoy the vacation.”

The eighth and last berth for London is between Isner and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, who is ahead of Isner in the race.

Isner, who played with strapping above his left knee, broke for 2-1 in the third set. With an unreturnable serve on his first match point, Isner topped del Potro for only the third time in nine matches.

Isner will next face Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic, who advanced when Nadal withdrew.

“This week he’s played with a lot of energy,” said Isner, who has been refueling with a rare treat. “After a match like this, any calories are pretty good. I actually had a cheeseburger. I had one yesterday, too. And they cook a good one here.”

Nadal signaled his knee wasn’t right during his third-round win over Pablo Cuevas on Thursday.

“I’m going to do my treatment, do my best to be playing in London,” he said. “But I cannot talk about that now; it is tough enough for me to pull out from here.”

Tournament director Guy Forget praised Nadal for his attitude in trying his hardest to play, despite his evident pain.

“We all know Rafa, once he says he’s going to do something he sticks to it,” Forget said. “He said `I’m sorry’ to me 10 times, like a kid who’s done something wrong. I said, `No, no, I’m sorry for you.”‘

Krajinovic, a qualifier ranked 77, is through to his first Masters semifinal, and the first qualifier to reach the semis since Jerzy Janowicz in 2012.

“My goal this year was to play challengers to pick up points for next year,” he said. “I was already top 100 two or three years ago; then I had bad luck with injuries.”

Krajinovic said his progress was stalled by “an extra bone in the wrist” that needed to be treated.

Unseeded Julien Benneteau continued his unexpected march by knocking out third-seeded Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 7-5.

Benneteau lost their three previous matches but edged a first set where both dropped serve twice.

He sealed victory on his first match point on Cilic’s serve with a cross-court forehand winner and became emotional, dropping his racket, blowing kisses, and tearing up.

“I was looking at my brother, who is my coach, and at my wife. I am so happy to make her proud,” he said. “It’s an indescribable joy.”

In his last Paris Masters before retiring, the Frenchman has a shot at a first career title on home court.

He plays the winner of the last quarterfinal between Fernando Verdasco and Jack Sock.

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.