Getty Images

Andy Murray beats John Isner to win Paris Masters title

Leave a comment

PARIS —¬†Andy Murray celebrated his rise to No. 1 by beating American John Isner 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4 Sunday to win the Paris Masters for the first time.

It was his career-best eighth title this season, his 14th in Masters overall, and ended Isner’s bid for a first Masters title.

Murray, who officially replaces Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings on Monday, now leads Isner 8-0 in their career meetings, dating back to their first match at the Australian Open six years ago.

He recently beat Isner 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, but this was a very different match and thoroughly contested by the big-serving American.

“John played unbelievable tennis,” Murray said on court, moments after his win. “We played last week and the difference was huge.”

Using 18 aces and hitting plenty of inside-out winners on his massive forehand, Isner generated considerable pressure.

But he was also erratic, wasting six break points overall.

In the second set, he was 4-3 ahead and 40-0 up on Murray’s serve, but again failed to punish the Briton – last year’s runner-up to Djokovic.

But in a rare dip, Murray double-faulted during the tiebreaker and Isner profited to take the set.

Isner saved break points on his first two service games of the third set, hanging on as Murray restored his superiority.

Then, serving to stay in the match, the 2.08-meter American double-faulted to trail 0-30. He won a tough first point and then hit yet another ace to make it 30-30.

Isner sank a difficult volley into the net, giving Murray a first match point. With Isner on second serve, Murray dominated a brief rally, pinging a pass down the line that Isner patted into the net with the ball close to his body.

It was a hard-fought victory and Isner stood with his head down at the net, waiting to congratulate Murray.

Murray has won four consecutive tournaments, taking his career tally to 43.

Next up is the season-ending ATP finals in London, beginning next Sunday.

Murray will cross the English Channel to try and take the title there, having secured his top ranking here.

“This has been an incredible journey to get to the top of the rankings,” Murray said, thanking his family back home. “I’ll keep working hard to get better.”

The 31-year-old Isner, playing in the third Masters final of his career, ends the year without a title.

He lost his other final this season to Australian Nick Kyrgios at Atlanta, Georgia, in August.

Some small consolation is that he finishes the year with the most aces: 1,159 – the fourth time he has achieved this.

Murray broke Isner twice, the first time to move 4-2 up in the first set.

Isner fought back, a booming forehand winner giving him two break points in the seventh game.

Murray saved the first one with a lob – an achievement against such a tall player – and volley. He rescued the second by pushing Isner back and forcing an unforced error.

Serving for the first set, Murray won the first point with an extraordinary backhand retrieve from a speedy Isner forehand that he somehow turned into a cross-court winner.

“That was pretty spectacular from him,” Isner said. “He always clamps down on me when I have a bit of an opening. He’s a match for everyone, especially me.”

In the second set, Isner got a deserved ovation in the eighth game when he won a 20-stroke rally.

Showing nimble footwork that belied his size, he traded shots with Murray, winning the point with a superb drop shot and then a forehand winner from Murray’s retrieve.

Isner was playing his best tennis of the match and had Murray 0-40 down.

Murray recovered but gave Isner another chance at deuce.

Isner sent a forehand slightly too long and just about restrained himself from smashing his racket. That, and other missed chances, summed up his match.

“It was very close and I had a few opportunities,” said Isner.

“My game is the best it’s been all year. There’s no question about that,” he said. “It’s important to take that into the offseason and do the right things.”

Azarenka wins first match at new Miami Open site

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Victoria Azarenka won the first match on the stadium court at the new site of the Miami Open by beating Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

The unseeded Azarenka is a three-time Miami Open champion.

After a one-day delay because of rain, the tournament started Wednesday at the Miami Dolphins’ complex. The 13,800-seat stadium was mostly empty for the opening match, but bigger crowds are expected when seeded players begin taking the court. They have first-round byes.

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the first stadium match.

“Standing here in this stadium right now, you see the magnitude, what kind of an arena this is,” Federer said. “I think it’s a big, massive moment in our sport.”

Thiem edges Federer to win Indian Wells title

Getty Images
Leave a comment

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Dominic Thiem edged error-prone Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 to win the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, denying Federer a record sixth title in the desert.

Thiem trailed 4-3 and 5-4 in the third set before breaking Federer with a forehand winner to go up 6-5. Thiem served out the two-hour match that ended with another error from Federer, a forehand dumped into the net.

Federer was in the final for the third straight year and lost for the second year in a row. He was beaten in a third-set tiebreaker by Juan Martin del Potro last year. Federer won his 100th career title in Dubai recently.

Thiem had lost in his previous two ATP Masters 1000 finals. But the 25-year-old Austrian’s solid serve held up against Federer as it had throughout the tournament.

Thiem was broken just four times out of 61 service games in the tournament. He didn’t lose serve during his semifinal win over Milos Raonic, facing only one break point in that match.

Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu upset Angelique Kerber 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to win the women’s title.

Thiem and Andreescu earned $1.3 million each.

Federer and Thiem had split their four previous meetings, but Federer had won both of their hard-court matches without dropping a set.

He cruised through the first set in 36 minutes while getting broken for just the second time during his run to his ninth appearance in the final. But Federer broke back in the next game and served out the set.

Thiem earned the only break of the second set in the fourth game, going up 3-1. Federer won just two more games in the set.

Both players were on serve in the third set until Thiem collected the only break. Federer tried consecutive drop shots that Thiem retrieved for crosscourt forehand winners before the Austrian hit a winning forehand to lead 6-5.

“He did very well when he got up to the ball, stayed calm, made the shot,” Federer said.

Federer won just one point on Thiem’s serve in the final game.

“Just came up against somebody who was on the day a bit better when it really mattered,” Federer said. “I have been in these positions so many times that I get over it very quickly.”

Federer advanced to the final after rival Rafael Nadal withdrew before their semifinal match because of knee pain. Thiem also benefited from a walkover, reaching the semis when Gael Monfils withdrew with an Achilles injury.

Andreescu, an 18-year-old Canadian, became the first wild-card winner and second-youngest to claim the title in tournament history.

“The fricking champion of Indian Wells,” Andreescu said. “It’s crazy.”

She overcame nerves, fatigue, arm and leg issues in the final set to earn the first title of her fledgling career.

Andreescu won on her fourth match point when Kerber netted a backhand. She broke Kerber three times in the third set, rallying from a 3-2 deficit to take four of the final five games.

Andreescu dropped her racket near the baseline and fell on her back, her legs in the air as she covered her face in disbelief. After getting up and exchanging kisses with Kerber, the teen bent down and kissed the sunbaked hard court and dropped to her back again, her arms and legs splayed, before grabbing her head.

“This moment has become a reality so it’s really, really crazy,” Andreescu told the crowd before speaking a bit of Romanian.

Born in Canada, she later moved with her parents to Romania, where she first started playing tennis.

Kerber was the last of five seeded players that Andreescu knocked off in her seven matches.

“When she had the chances, she just go for it,” Kerber said.

The Canadian followed in the footsteps of Naomi Osaka, who was a little-known 20-year-old when she won the title last year. Osaka used it as a springboard to win titles at the U.S. and Australian opens while ascending to the No. 1 ranking in January.

“No pressure,” Andreescu said, joking.

She’s projected to rise 36 spots to No. 24 in the WTA Tour rankings on Monday.

Kerber, ranked eighth, remains without a title since winning Wimbledon last year.

She was a crowd favorite, with fans waving Canadian flags and chanting “Let’s go, Bianca! Let’s go” in the second set.

They clearly enjoyed Andreescu’s fearless style of play. She alternately outpunched opponents from the baseline, tossed up high-arching shots and unleashed well-time drop shots – usually during the same point.

A smiling Andreescu was quick to correct a reporter.

“It’s not moonballing,” she said. “It’s just hitting heavy to her backhand with more spin. We’re not under 12 here.”

Her most dominant win during the 12-day tournament came in the quarterfinals, a 6-0, 6-1 rout of two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza. In all, the teen knocked out four Top 20 players.

Leading 2-1 in the third, Andreescu took a medical timeout and had a trainer massage her tight right shoulder and arm.

Kerber won the next two games, breaking Andreescu to go up 3-2.

Appearing tired and nervous, Andreescu called for her coach, who urged her to make Kerber play every point.

She did just that.

Andreescu won the next three games, ripping off powerful forehands while winning nine straight points during one stretch, including a 40-love service game.

“I just fought till the end because physically I wasn’t feeling too well,” she said.

The trainer reappeared again to ice Andreescu’s cramping legs.

The teen had three match points on her serve before trying one of her patented drop shots. Kerber raced to get it and sent a forehand down the line to get to deuce.

The German led 40-add on Andreescu’s forehand error before the teen made a low-percentage attempt at a drop shot. It landed in the net, leaving Kerber trailing 5-4.

“At the end I was not able to take my chances, but she did,” Kerber said.

Andreescu bounced back, putting away a smash to set up her fourth match point before Kerber’s backhand error ended it after 2 hours and 18 minutes.