Djokovic, Williams roll in straight sets at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Defending champion Novak Djokovic continued his dominance of Philipp Kohlschreiber, winning 7-5, 7-5 in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday.

Rafael Nadal survived a wild tiebreaker to beat Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 7-6 (9), while two-time champion Serena Williams fired seven aces in a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kateryna Bondarenko in the fourth round.

Djokovic, seeking his fifth title in the desert, beat Kohlschreiber for the eighth time in nine career matches against the German, who had 29 unforced errors. Djokovic had triple match point leading 5-3, 40-love when he missed an easy overhead. He was up a break in the first set when he also dropped serve.

“I cannot allow myself any more to react that way in those particular circumstances,” he said. “It does stay (in your mind). But it’s not the first time that it happens to me, so I think that kind of experience helps.”

Nadal, a three-time Indian Wells winner, saved five set points in the tiebreaker and finally closed it out on his second match point when Verdasco’s backhand sailed beyond the baseline.

“Feel lucky to win the tiebreak, and at the same time I think at the end of the tiebreak I played well with not many mistakes and going for the points,” Nadal said.

Verdasco has had the upper hand against his fellow Spaniard and doubles partner in the last few years, having won three of their previous four matches, including a five-setter in the first round of the Australian Open in January after Nadal beat him 13 straight times to start the rivalry.

Verdasco owned triple set point, but frittered away his advantage with consecutive errant forehands and could only stab in the air as Nadal’s crosscourt backhand whizzed by to tie it 6-all.

Verdasco’s backhand error set up Nadal’s first match point and his first serve was called out, but he successfully challenged it and the review showed it ticked the line, tying it 7-all.

It was tied twice more before Verdasco’s double fault gave Nadal a second match point and it ended on another error. Verdasco’s 19 winners were just one more than Nadal. He averaged 115 mph on his first serve to 108 for Nadal.

“Normally he serve better than me,” Nadal said. “In this kind of match I have more to lose than him, so he’s able to play very aggressive. He has amazing shots. He arrives to the tiebreak and you know you’re in trouble.”

Nadal advanced to the fourth round against Alexander Zverev, who beat 16th-seeded Gilles Simon, 6-2, 6-2. No. 5 seed Kei Nishikori edged Steve Johnson, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6) and next plays another American, John Isner, who beat Adrian Mannarino, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Williams hit 26 winners offset by 22 unforced errors to go with seven aces in her second Indian Wells appearance since 2001. She has yet to drop a set in three matches.

Five of the top 10 women’s seeds women have been knocked out, seemingly clearing the way for Williams to win her third career title here and first since 2001.

“So far I think my consistency has been well; being aggressive has been well; everything that I’ve wanted to do I’ve kind of been doing,” she said.

Williams will play defending champion Simona Halep in the quarterfinals, a year after she withdrew before their semifinal match with a knee injury. Halep beat Williams at the 2014 WTA Tour finals.

“I like how she’s aggressive. She’s a fighter,” Williams said. “She killed me at one point, so I definitely have to be ready.”

Halep advanced when Barbora Strycova retired because of illness trailing 6-3, 1-0. Also retiring was No. 9 Roberta Vinci, who trailed Magdalena Rybarilova 6-2, 2-0 when she quit with a left ankle injury.

In another all-Spanish match, Feliciano Lopez outlasted Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (5), 6-7 (10), 6-4. Dominic Thiem earned his ATP Tour-leading 22nd win of the year, beating Jack Sock 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-1.

In other women’s fourth-round matches, Agnieszka Radwanska defeated 2010 winner Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-3, and Petra Kvitova defeated qualifier Nicole Gibbs 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. No. 12 Timea Bacsinszky lost to Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 6-2.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.