Djokovic seeks 6th Miami Open title

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Basking in cheers following his latest victory, a weary but happy Novak Djokovic kissed his hand and patted the stadium court concrete, celebrating his return to the Miami Open final.

In sweltering semifinal sunshine Friday, Djokovic won a thrilling tiebreaker to beat David Goffin 7-6 (5), 6-4. The margin was so slim a blown overhead by Goffin might have made all the difference.

Djokovic needs one more victory to match Andre Agassi’s tournament record of six men’s titles, which is why he showed his affection for the court.

“A little kiss for goodbye and see you in two days,” Djokovic said. “I wanted to make the court feel my love. It’s one of my favorite courts.”

His opponent Sunday will be steady Kei Nishikori, who committed only eight unforced errors in 119 points and beat big-swinging Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 7-5.

Seeded No. 6, Nishikori saved five match points in a quarterfinal victory over Gael Monfils, and built a more comfortable margin against Kyrgios by breaking serve four times.

Nishikori is bidding for his first ATP Masters title, while Djokovic will try for his 28th, which would break the record he shares with Rafael Nadal.

“It’s going to be tough, for sure,” Nishikori said. “He has been playing well. I hope I can play another good match.”

Two-time champion Victoria Azarenka plays 2006 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the women’s final Saturday.

Djokovic reached set point in the tiebreaker and worked hard to win it with a frantic 16-shot exchange typical that typified the entertaining match. He dug out shots in both corners and chased down a pair of volleys, finally switching from defense to offense by flicking a lob too high for the 5-foot-11 Goffin to handle.

That clinched the set, and as fans roared, the world’s No. 1 player walked to his chair with his index finger aloft.

The tiebreaker turned four points earlier, at 4-all. Goffin had an easy putaway overhead near the net and inexplicably hit it directly to a surprised Djokovic, who invented a shot in response, raising the racket strings in front of his face to patty-cake a deep lob. Goffin chased the ball down and the rally continued until Djokovic tapped a drop volley for a winner.

“I was a bit fortunate in the tiebreaker,” Djokovic said. “But I made him play always an extra shot.”

Djokovic also earned points for sportsmanship. When Goffin challenged a call while returning serve, Djokovic waved off the replay, indicating it was unneeded because the linesman’s ruling was correct.

“Really fair play,” Goffin said, before noting with a chuckle that Djokovic went on to win the point anyway.

Eager to avoid a third set on an 87-degree afternoon, Djokovic earned the only break of the second set to take a 4-3 lead and lost only one point in his final two service games.

“Physically it was a great battle with a lot of exchanges from the baseline,” Djokovic said. “We were both trying to catch our breath at some points.”

Djokovic showed no signs of lingering issues from the back spasms that bothered him in the quarterfinals. He improved to 27-1 this year as he closed in on his fourth title of 2016.

On Key Biscayne, where he has won 15 consecutive matches, he’s bidding for his third title in a row. He has reached the final of his past 11 Masters tournaments.

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.