Federer tops Fritz to reach quarterfinals at Mercedes Cup

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STUTTGART, Germany — In his first match in a month, Roger Federer overcame a stiff challenge from American teenager Taylor Fritz to reach the Mercedes Cup quarterfinals with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win on Thursday.

The match began the day before but was halted by rain with the top-seeded Federer leading 4-3 with a break of serve. A return into the net by Fritz gave Federer the first set. Federer saved two set points before a forehand winner by Fritz and a forehand error by Federer gave the middle set to the 18-year-old American.

Federer struggled to hold serve early in the third but broke for 5-4 and clinched the match with a backhand winner.

“It was very difficult, just as I knew before the match,” Federer said. “I was more fortunate at the end.”

A back injury forced the 34-year-old Federer to skip the French Open, the first time he missed a Grand Slam after 65 straight appearances.

“After such a long injury, you need to find your rhythm,” Federer said.

It was Federer’s 1,071st career win on the tour, tying him with Ivan Lendl. Only Jimmy Connors has more, with 1,256. For Fritz, it was only his fourth tour match on grass.

The Stuttgart tournament is on grass as a tuneup for Wimbledon, which Federer has won seven times. Now ranked No. 3 in the world, Federer is next up against Florian Mayer.

While Federer may have been rusty, second-seeded Marin Cilic was completely off, losing to the veteran qualifier Radek Stepanek 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Stepanek won despite firing fewer aces, 10 to 12, and serving more double-faults, 6-1.

Third-seeded Dominic Thiem, who beat Federer in the third round of the Italian Open before Federer took the injury break, edged Sam Groth 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2), and No. 4 Gilles Simon beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Thiem, a semifinalist at the French Open, next plays Mikhail Youzhny, who beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 7-6 (1). Stepanek plays Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Wild card Juan Martin del Porto, coming back from a wrist injury, beat John Millman 6-4, 6-4. He will next play Simon.

Top-ranked Swiatek, Kvitova reach quarters at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Top-ranked Iga Swiatek advanced to the quarterfinals of the Agel Open after Ajla Tomljanovic retired with an injury during the second set of their second-round match on Wednesday.

The Polish U.S. Open champion was leading 7-5, 2-2 when her Australian opponent retired due to a left knee injury at the indoor hardcourt event in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava.

Swiatek, who also won the French Open in June, will next face American qualifier Catherine McNally or Karolina Muchova.

Home favorite and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova upset second-seeded Paula Badosa of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against this year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who rallied to eliminate Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5.

Czech players also won the last two first-round matches on the schedule.

Muchova knocked out seventh-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-4, 6-4 and Barbora Krejcikova ousted American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-2 for her sixth straight victory after she won the Tallinn Open on Sunday for her first WTA title of the year.

Djokovic near flawless to reach second round in Astana

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan – Novak Djokovic delivered a near-flawless performance to ease into the second round of the Astana Open with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Cristian Garin on Wednesday as he goes for a third straight tournament title.

Djokovic dropped just six points on his serve and won the last five games to seal the win in just 62 minutes.

Djokovic is coming off a victory in Tel Aviv last week and – aside from a match at the Laver Cup – the Wimbledon champion hasn’t lost since the French Open quarterfinals.

“From the start to the end, (it was) a great performance,” Djokovic said. “Playing in a new tournament, different conditions, the first match is never easy. Obviously you are looking to see how you are going to adapt, but I did it perfectly, really, played as well as I can.”

Djokovic will next play Botic van de Zandschulp.

Top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz lost in the opening round on Tuesday in his first match since winning the U.S. Open title to capture the No. 1 spot.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the quarterfinals by beating 19-year-old Luca Nardi of Italy 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3). Nardi was playing just his fifth tour-level main-draw match and impressed the third-seeded Greek, who didn’t earn a single break point.

“He’s a player that can play very well in the future,” Tsitsipas said. “There weren’t any holes. I believe today he was able to sustain that level from the beginning to end, and that was extremely impressive.”

Roberto Bautista Agut also reached the quarterfinals as he followed up his first-round upset of Felix Auger-Aliassime by beating Pavel Kotov 6-1, 7-6 (5).

Marin Cilic, who lost the Tel Aviv final to Djokovic, had to come from behind to beat Oscar Otte 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round to set up a round-of-16 match against Karen Khachanov.