Djokovic, Azarenka roll to easy title wins at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Novak Djokovic rolled past Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-0 to win the BNP Paribas Open for a record fifth time Sunday, while improving to 22-1 in matches this year.

It was the Serb’s third consecutive title in the California desert, breaking a tie with four-time champion Roger Federer, who lost to Djokovic the past two years in the final and skipped this year because of a knee injury.

The women’s final was equally one-sided.

Victoria Azarenka defeated error-prone Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4, returning Azarenka to the world’s top 10 for the first time since August 2014.

Djokovic needed an hour, 17 minutes to dispatch Raonic, whose big serve got broken five times. The 25-year-old Canadian served just four aces and had 27 unforced errors. His first serve averaged 128 mph – much faster than Djokovic’s 111 mph – but he connected on only 55 percent. The Serb landed 68 percent of his first serves and was never broken.

Clearly the crowd favorite, Williams gave fans little to cheer about on an unseasonable 91-degree (32 C) day while making 33 unforced errors. After getting broken to trail 3-0 in the second set, Williams returned to her seat and smashed her racket.

Trailing 5-1, Williams won three straight games and held two break points on Azarenka’s serve in the last game. But Williams ended the match with three straight errors.

It was Azarenka’s first victory over the top-ranked Williams since the Cincinnati final in August 2013. She will move up seven spots to No. 8 in the WTA Tour rankings Monday.

Azarenka, who won here in 2012, hit just 10 winners and had 20 unforced errors in the 2-hour match. She connected on 60 percent of her first serves and broke Williams’ serve three times. Williams converted just 1 of 12 break chances.

Williams was back at Indian Wells after ending her 14-year boycott last year, and the crowd, including Queen Latifah, was eager to support her. One fan held up a sign reading, “Go Serena. We straight outta Compton,” in a nod to the gang-infested Los Angeles suburb where the Williams sisters learned to play tennis.

But there was none of Williams’ trademark fist-pumping and screams of “Come on!” She hit just 22 winners.

Azarenka and Williams met for the 21st time in their careers, with Williams now owning a 17-4 edge. The only player she has faced more in her career is older sister Venus, who watched grim-faced from a box after losing early in her return to Indian Wells for the first time since 2001.

Williams was bidding to become the first woman to win three titles at Indian Wells, where she won in 1999 and 2001. After getting booed heavily while beating Kim Clijsters for her last title here, she vowed never to return. That year the sisters were supposed to meet in a semifinal, but Venus withdrew shortly before the match with a knee injury. The crowd reacted harshly and their father Richard said he heard racial taunts.

Williams was warmly welcomed back last year only to withdraw with a knee injury before her semifinal.

She got emotional while accepting the runner-up trophy, tears welling in her eyes, after tournament officials thanked her and Venus for ending their boycotts.

“Thank you so much for the cheers,” Williams said. “I can’t tell you how much it means to me.”

Azarenka was gracious in victory, thanking Williams for her hard work that motivated the Belarussian to raise her game.

Williams playfully stuck out her tongue as she walked past Azarenka posing with the winner’s crystal trophy on her way off the court.

Tiafoe beats Tsitsipas to give Team World 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — Frances Tiafoe staved off four match points to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8 and clinch victory in the Laver Cup for Team World over Roger Federer’s Team Europe for the first time.

Tiafoe, a 24-year-old American, performed with the same crunch-time success and wide-smiling showmanship he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open this month.

The victory over 2021 French Open runner-up Tsitsipas allowed the group of 20-somethings on Team World to go up 13-8 in the three-day competition against Team Europe, which in addition to Federer – the 20-time major champion who just retired – featured Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Djokovic had wins in singles and doubles to put Team Europe up 8-4. The last day’s matches were worth three points each, with the first squad to 13 earning the trophy named for Rod Laver, the only man to win the calendar-year Grand Slam twice.

Team World took the lead on the final day at the O2 Arena, thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He defeated 21-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Jack Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Team Europe came into the week having won all four previous editions of the Laver Cup, which was founded by Federer’s management company.

This one served as a celebration of the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career. His final match before retirement came when he and Nadal lost in doubles to Tiafoe and Sock.

Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker. On the first, at 6-5, Tsitsipas netted a forehand to close a 22-stroke exchange. Tiafoe erased the second, at 9-8, with a volley winner. And Tsitsipas sailed backhands long on each of his last two chances to close it out, at 10-9 and 11-10.

Tiafoe went a record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient in the big moments this time. When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end the match – and the competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket, then fell to his back on the court, where his teammates piled on top of him.

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.