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Del Potro edges Federer to win Indian Wells title

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Juan Martin del Potro keeps surprising himself.

Close to quitting tennis after four wrist surgeries in recent years, the Argentine fought to get back to the ATP Tour even as he was reduced to hitting his backhand with one hand instead of his usual two.

The struggle paid off Sunday, when Del Potro staved off three match points in the third set to beat top-ranked Roger Federer 6-4,7-6 (8), 7-6 (2) for the BNP Paribas Open title.

The win ranks up there with Del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open title, in which he beat Federer, and helping Argentina win the Davis Cup in 2016.

“I cannot believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis,” Del Potro said.

Naomi Osaka of Japan won the women’s title 6-3, 6-2 over Russian Daria Kasatkina in a match-up of 20-year-old rising stars.

Del Potro and Osaka each earned $1.3 million.

Del Potro became the first Argentine champion in the 42-year history of the desert tournament. He handed Federer his first loss of the year, snapping the Swiss superstar’s 17-match winning streak that was the best of his career.

“I feel frustrated that I let an opportunity like this go by,” Federer said.

Del Potro held a match point at 8-7 in the second-set tiebreaker, but he lost the final three points on his own errors that allowed Federer to force a third set.

“It was a lot of frustration after that match point, but then I play well,” Del Potro said.

They were on serve in the third until Federer broke for a 5-4 lead with a backhand winner off del Potro’s serve.

Federer had a chance to serve out the match, holding two match points. But del Potro staved both off to force deuce.

Federer’s forehand went long, giving del Potro a break point. Federer answered with a backhand that hit del Potro at the net and then gained his third match point on del Potro’s forehand error.

Del Potro recovered to deuce with a forehand winner. Federer mis-hit a forehand high into the air beyond the baseline, giving del Potro another break point. The Argentine cashed in with a well-placed forehand in the corner to tie the set, 5-all.

In the tiebreaker, Del Potro raced to a 6-1 lead, helped by two of Federer’s double faults. He closed out the win on his third match point when Federer’s forehand failed.

“I would like to play that tiebreaker again because I don’t know what the hell happened,” Federer said.

Del Potro lost just six points on his serve in the first set.

In the second-set tiebreaker, Del Potro and Federer took turns arguing with chair umpire Fergus Murphy. Del Potro was annoyed the crowd was making noise on his serve and told the umpire he wasn’t warning them enough to be quiet.

“It had no effect on the outcome of the match,” Federer said. “I was just also just trying to pump myself up more, to get energy for me.”

Del Potro survived three-setters against countryman Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals. It was his first win against Federer since last year’s U.S. Open quarters. Del Potro trails in their series 18-7, but owns a 4-2 advantage in finals.

Del Potro arrived at Indian Wells having won a title in Acapulco and back in the top 10.

“I’m really enjoying playing tennis again,” he said. “I’m still surprising myself, and I want to keep surprising the tennis tour.”

 

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.

Chung wins in Paris Masters; will face Nadal

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PARIS — Hyeon Chung of South Korea swept aside Mischa Zverev 6-0, 6-2 at the Paris Masters on Monday to set up a second-round match against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal will begin his quest for a record 31st Masters title – but first in Paris – on Wednesday. The top-ranked Spaniard beat Chung in their only previous encounter on his way to a 10th title at the Barcelona Open in April.

Chung broke Zverev’s serve five times and saved the four break points he faced in a rout lasting less than one hour.

The last two spots for the season-ending ATP Finals in London will be decided in Paris, while Nadal is odds-on to end the year as No. 1 for the fourth time in his career.

David Goffin of Belgium and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain are best placed to qualify for London, while Juan Martin del Potro needs to win here to make it. Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille, American Sam Querrey and U.S Open runner-up Kevin Anderson are in outside contention.

It is much more straightforward for Nadal to keep his top ranking.

He needs just one win to end the year as No. 1 ahead of Roger Federer, who pulled out of Paris after winning the Swiss Indoors in Basel for the eighth time on Sunday. Federer clinched his seventh title of the year, one more than Nadal, but is skipping Paris so he can stay fresh for London.

Nadal was “not happy” about pulling out of the Swiss Indoors, but felt he needed the rest after playing 75 matches this season, winning 65 of them.

By contrast, Federer has played only 53, winning 49. He has beaten Nadal four times this year, including in the Australian Open final.

“He takes his decision and he does it well,” Nadal said on Monday of Federer’s decision to stagger his tournaments. “It (has) worked very well for him.”

After their five-set thriller in Melbourne, Federer did not drop a set against Nadal in the next three wins.

Also in the first round on Monday, there were wins for Frenchmen Richard Gasquet, Jeremy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau. Also through were Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, and Robin Haase of the Netherlands.

Benneteau beat Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-4, 6-4 and next plays Tsonga, while Mahut had a tougher time against another Canadian, Vasek Pospisil, 5-7, 7-5, 76 (4). Gasquet beat Paire for the fifth straight time; and Chardy dispatched countryman Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-0.