Pablo Carreno Busta

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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.

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.

Carreno Busta beats Fabio Fognini to win Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW — Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta came back from a set down to beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini and win the Kremlin Cup on Sunday.

Carreno Busta won his second career title 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 despite needing treatment on his ankle midway through the second set.

Fognini saved two match points in the final game before Carreno Busta secured the win, dropping to his knees in celebration.

The victory caps a strong season for the 25-year-old Spaniard, who won his first ATP title at the Winston-Salem Open in August.

He is 2-2 in career finals, while Fognini drops to 4-8.

On Saturday, Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova won the women’s Kremlin Cup title, beating Australia’s Daria Gavrilova 6-2, 6-1.