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Without playing a point, Murray seals No. 1 spot in Paris

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PARIS — Andy Murray will hold the coveted No. 1 spot for the first time when the ATP rankings are published Monday after advancing to the Paris Masters final without playing a single point.

Murray benefited from Milos Raonic’s withdrawal from the tournament – just one hour before the big-serving Canadian was scheduled to take on the 29-year-old Briton in the semifinals on Saturday.

Raonic said he withdrew because of a right leg injury he picked up during his quarterfinal win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“This morning I had trouble waking up and getting out of bed… Did some tests. Did an MRI half an hour ago, let’s say. They found that I have a tear, Grade 1 tear in the right quad,” Raonic said. “Unfortunately, I’m not able to compete against Andy today.”

Murray only needed to make the final in Paris to take top spot off Novak Djokovic. He is guaranteed to hold at least a five-point lead over Djokovic, who lost in the quarterfinals in Paris. Their fight for supremacy will resume in London at the ATP finals later this month.

Murray faces John Isner in the Paris Masters final after the American hit 18 aces to defeat Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3.

Murray will become the first Briton to hold the top spot, no matter the result of Sunday’s final. He will also be the oldest first-time No. 1 since John Newcombe at age 30 in 1974, and the 26th player to reach No. 1 since the rankings started in 1973.

Reaching the summit has been a long process for Murray, who has spent 76 weeks at No. 2, a position he reached for the first time in 2009.

A turning point in the Scot’s career came when he hired Ivan Lendl as a coach in 2011. During their first stint together, Lendl managed to turn Murray from a four-time Grand Slam runner-up into a two-time major champion. Murray won Olympic gold in London in 2012 and the U.S. Open title later the same year. In 2013, he became the first British man to triumph at Wimbledon in 77 years.

Before winning the U.S. Open, Murray was 0-4 in Grand Slam finals. Only one other man in the Open era, which began in 1968, lost his first four major titles matches – Lendl. The Czech-born baseline player then went on to win eight Grand Slam singles titles during a 17-year career, spending 270 weeks at No. 1 in the world rankings.

Murray replaced Lendl with Amelie Mauresmo in 2014. Though the Frenchwoman helped him climb back up the rankings following back surgery, the partnership ended in May this year without any new major title. The Scot reunited with Lendl before Wimbledon, a week after Murray lost to Djokovic in the French Open final.

The move paid off immediately as Murray claimed a second title at the All England Club and a second gold medal at the Rio Olympics. Last week in Vienna he won the Erste Bank Open for his third straight tournament and has a 45-3 match record since the French Open.

Djokovic held the top spot for 122 consecutive weeks. But after winning the French Open for the first time in June, his form has taken a dip. He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, and in the first round of the Olympics. At the U.S Open, he won the first set in the final but Stan Wawrinka rallied to beat him.

“He’s definitely a player who deserves that,” Djokovic said about Murray on Friday. “Undoubtedly, much respect for what he has done. We have known each other since very, very early days. We were, I think, 11 years old when we first played against each other. And to see how he has raised his level in the last 12 months is quite extraordinary.”

One person was quick to congratulate Murray on Saturday – his mother Judy.

“You’ve come a long way baby,” Judy Murray tweeted , with an old photo of the two of them on a tennis court.

Nadal-Djokovic semifinal suspended after 3rd set

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LONDON (AP) It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Instead, the two players – and a disappointed audience – were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The two players didn’t even get onto the court until after 8 p.m. because of an earlier marathon semifinal won by Kevin Anderson and when Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker – having saved three of Nadal’s – the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11. That left organizers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.

Most of them will have to watch the rest on TV.

The match will resume at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. At stake is a place in Sunday’s men’s final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. Anderson’s win over John Isner lasted 6 + hours and went to 26-24 in the fifth set.

Djokovic-Nadal had clearly been the headline act of the day – they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final while Anderson and Isner had never made the semifinals before – and their tennis was at another level from the earlier match. Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.

“They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.”

While Anderson-Isner was mostly a serving duel with a few longer rallies thrown in, Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing each other around the court and coming up with spectacular winners from every corner.

Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.

It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.

He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end – for now.

It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation – and applauding the fans in return – but without there being a clear winner or loser.

To be continued.

Former No. 1 Kerber tops Ostapenko; into second Wimbledon final

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LONDON – It was clear right from the opening game of Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon semifinal how things were going to go. She was not going to dictate or control much.

She was, instead, going to employ spectacular defense and solid, steady play, while letting her opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, be the one to determine the outcomes of nearly every point.

It worked. The 11th-seeded Kerber reached her second final at the All England Club by avoiding too many mistakes and using a seven-game run to seize control for a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 12th-seeded Ostapenko on Thursday.

“These are the matches I was working for as a young kid,” Kerber said, “and to stand here again in the final at Wimbledon is great.”

Kerber is a former No. 1 and a two-time major champion, both coming in 2016 at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. That was also the year the German was the runner-up at Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in the title match.

She could find herself up against Williams yet again: The 36-year-old American was scheduled to face No. 13 Julia Goerges of Germany in Thursday’s second semifinal on Centre Court.

Williams took a 19-match Wimbledon winning streak into the day. She won the grass-court tournament the last two times she played it, in 2015 and 2016, before missing it last year while pregnant. Williams gave birth to a daughter in September.

The left-handed Kerber was mainly a passive participant in the early going against Ostapenko. That first game consisted of eight points: Three were unforced errors by Ostapenko, including a double-fault to begin the proceedings; the other five were winners by her, including a 100 mph ace to close the hold.

Five games in, Ostapenko led 3-2, and the numbers were still tilted toward her. She had 14 winners and 10 unforced errors, while Kerber had three winners and – this was key – zero unforced errors.

There were no drawn-out points in the early going, no lengthy baseline exchanges, essentially because Ostapenko wouldn’t allow it. The Latvian plays an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis that carried her to the 2017 French Open title as an unseeded 20-year-old.

Kerber, in contrast, bides her time, working the back of the court to get everything back over the net, often kneeling to get low enough to reach shots.

Eventually, Kerber’s style ruled the day. She went on a half-hour run in which she took the last four games of the first set and took a 3-0 lead in the second. Ostapenko’s strokes were missing and she grew increasingly frustrated, slapping a thigh after a miss or leaning forward and putting her hands on her knees after others. By the time she flubbed a backhand while falling behind 5-1 in the second, she dropped her racket and screamed.

It took Kerber two tries to serve out the victory, getting broken to 5-2. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when she needed seven match points to win, this time it required only two, with the match ending – fittingly enough – on a forehand by Ostapenko that sailed wide.

The final tally told the story: Ostapenko had far more winners, 30-10, but also far more unforced errors, 36-7.