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.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.