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Harrison beats Basilashvili to win Memphis Open

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —¬†Ryan Harrison served up the ace that won him his first career ATP World Tour title, then stuck both hands over his head pointing index fingers skyward in celebration.

A tour title.

Finally.

Better yet, Harrison won before family, friends and supporters who watched him grow up in Shreveport, Louisiana, on a court at the tennis club he knew intimately before ever playing his first professional match here.

Harrison beat Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday to win the Memphis Open at The Racquet Club.

“It’s always special to win a title, and especially your first one,” an emotional Harrison said. “But when you’re winning it like this in front of our family and friends and people who’ve come out and supported you ever since I was playing 10 and under events … it definitely means a lot to win that in front of everybody like that.”

Harrison, 24, took the first set in 27 minutes before fighting off 10 break points in the second to win the match in 1 hour, 16 minutes. For the match, Harrison saved all 12 break points faced.

He took home the winner’s check of $114,595 and 250 points. This victory is expected to move Harrison to No. 43 in the world, matching his career-best ranking reached in July 2012. Since then, the American had dipped to as low as 197 in the rankings as recently as Oct. 20, 2014. Last March, Harrison was just 168th to make this climb back even more special.

“For me to be where I am now and where I was seven, eight months ago and feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s surreal,” Harrison said. “I honestly can’t believe it. It’s just so amazing to me.”

He joined Gilles Muller (Sydney) as a first-time winner on tour this year and is the first to make Memphis his inaugural ATP title since Joachim Johansson in 2004. Harrison also became the 14th American to win Memphis in the 41-year history of this indoor event and first since Andy Roddick in 2011.

With a Challenger title won in Dallas two weeks ago, Harrison is the first since David Goffin in 2014 to win a Challenger event and then an ATP title in back-to-back tournaments. He teamed with Steve Johnson in the doubles final after a quick turnaround and lost 6-3, 6-4 to American Brian Baker and Nikola Mektic of Croatia.

This was Basilashvili’s second career ATP final and first since Kitzbuehel last year. He knocked off top-seeded Ivo Karlovic in the second round. He upset Dominic Thiem, ranked eighth in the world, to reach the semifinals in Sofia last week. Basilashvili said he just didn’t have the energy to cover the court as he had in matches over the past two weeks.

Harrison handled Basilashvili’s powerful strokes by moving way back from the baseline, often playing shots a step behind the Memphis logo on either end of the court.

In the first set, Basilashvili had his best chance to break Harrison in the first game at 15-40. Basilashvili crashed to the court moving to his right on his first break point as Harrison pushed the game to deuce and held serve when Basilashvili put a backhand into the net. Harrison broke Basilashvili to go up 3-1 and again in the sixth game on his way to winning the set.

Basilashvili had a chance to break Harrison in each of the American’s five service games in the second set. Each time, Harrison fought back starting in the second game as the American served up an ace that just caught the line. He forced deuce where Basilashvili hit a forehand long to give the American the advantage, then Harrison served up his second ace to hold serve.

“Ryan played unbelievable on his break points,” Basilashvili said.

Harrison broke Basilashvili to go up 3-2, then fought back from 0-40 to force deuce and hold serve for a 4-2 lead. He had to battle back to force deuce in the eighth game and trailed again 15-40 in the final game. Harrison finished off the win with an ace to start celebrating.

Victoria Azarenka misses direct entry for U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is ranked just below the cutoff for direct entry into the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Azarenka, a former No. 1 and twice the champion at the Australian Open, is No. 108 this week, seven spots outside of an automatic spot in the main draw.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Wednesday that defending champion and top-ranked Rafael Nadal is one of six past male singles champions in the U.S. Open field, along with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. Another past title winner at Flushing Meadows, Stan Wawrinka, is ranked 199th this week.

The women’s winners with direct entry based on this week’s rankings are six-time champion Serena Williams, two-time champ Venus Williams, defending champ Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur.

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.