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Djokovic returns with a victory

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Novak Djokovic beat Slovakia’s Martin Klizan 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the opening round of the Mexican Open on Tuesday.

The win was Djokovic’s first since his shocking loss in the second round of the Australian Open.

“It’s always tough to win the first match but I’m happy with my game, especially in the first set, hopefully I can keep playing like that”, Djokovic said.

The 29-year-old Serbian, ranked No. 2, played his first tournament since Jan. 19, when he suffered an unexpected loss to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin. Djokovic, making his debut in Acapulco, saved four break points to take the first set Tuesday, struggled in the second set and needed a tiebreaker to take down Klizan in about 1 1/2 hours.

Djokovic, the top seed in Mexico, will play the winner of the later match between Juan Martin Del Potro and American Frances Tiafoe.

“`Delpo’ plays tonight but I’m going to go to my bed”, added Djokovic.

Djokovic, who skipped Dubai for the first time in seven years, is the first favorite in Mexico. The second is Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who had a comfortable 6-4, 6-3 win over Mischa Zverev.

Nadal, a two-time winner in Acapulco, will play Italian Paolo Lorenzi in the next round.

The Spaniard has an 11-0 record in Mexico.

Earlier, third-seeded Marin Cilic reached the second round with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 win over Alexandr Dolgopolov, a wild-card entry.

The 28 year-old Cilic is struggling this year with a 4-4 record. He was ousted in the second round in the Australian Open and Montpellier and reached the quarterfinals in Rotterdam.

Another player who*s struggling this year is Australian Bernard Tomic, who retired in the first set of his match against American Donald Young.

Tomic, who lost the Acapulco final a year ago when he was a top-20 player in the world, is in a downward spiral in 2017 and lost in the first round for the fourth time in five tournaments so far.

Also on Tuesday, Ernesto Escobedo defeated Stefan Kozlov 6-1, 2-6, 6-0, in a duel between Americans and will play against Steve Johnson in the second round.

Another American that moved on was Sam Querrey, who took care of Kyle Edmund, from Great Britain, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Querrey, who reached the semifinals in Acapulco in 2016, will face Belgian David Goffin, the fifth-seed in Mexico.

Duckhee Lee downplays deafness, wins ATP tournament debut

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Duckhee Lee tossed the ball into the air for his first serve in an ATP tournament match, and blasted it past his opponent with a loud pop.

The 21-year-old South Korean never heard it. He was born deaf.

The tour’s first deaf professional player says he doesn’t want to be defined by the disability that he has overcome well enough to play at the sport’s highest level.

His first appearance in a top-level tournament will last at least until the second round. Lee beat Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open on Monday, earning a matchup with No. 3 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

As much as the opening-round victory meant to Lee and his career, it might have meant even more to hearing-impaired athletes in all sports.

“Don’t be discouraged and if you try hard, you can do anything, you can achieve anything you want,” Lee said through an interpreter, adding that he “doesn’t want people to get discouraged and get down about their disability.”

The ability to hear carries a particular importance in tennis. Players often insist on silence during points so they can hear the ball off their opponent’s strings and identify the spin in a split-second.

Lee makes up for it with his eyes, sharpening his focus on his opponent’s swing, how that player makes contact and the speed and spin of the ball as it’s racing toward him.

Complicating things further, he also doesn’t speak English, reads lips instead of using sign language, and relies on hand gestures from umpires making calls.

Because he can’t hear the score announcements, he keeps track of points and games in his head – which can be more difficult in smaller events that don’t have courtside scoreboards. It led to a hiccup early during his main-draw debut when he lined up to serve after a game had been decided.

“I think (the umpire) forgot to give the signal” at times during the match, he said, adding that he “was hoping he would give in and out signals.”

The debut in Winston-Salem marked the next step up the tennis ladder for Lee, who started playing tennis at age 7 – the year after he realized he was deaf, though doctors had diagnosed his condition as a toddler.

“People made fun of (me) because of the disability and said (I) shouldn’t be playing,” Lee said, adding that his motivation was to “enjoy (my) life by overcoming my disability.”

Lee made his debut on the ITF Futures Tour at 14 and won eight titles before he turned 18, then reached three finals of the ATP Challenger Tour, including one in June, falling to Dudi Sela at the Baptist Health Little Rock Open in Arkansas. He brought a No. 212 world ranking to the central North Carolina hardcourts.

He’ll always remember his first ATP-level victory – and not just because of the result. Lee was two points away from sealing the victory when thunderstorms forced a weather delay of nearly 5 hours. He and Laakonsen came back to the court at roughly 10:15 p.m. – and wrapped up their match in 87 seconds.

When he was asked how he spent the delay, Lee got his point across with pantomime, mimicking someone playing table tennis and shooting basketball, because there was both a pingpong table and pop-a-shot machine in the players’ lounge. He smiled as his translator said how “he loves the facility here.”

Amanda Anisimova out of U.S. Open after father’s death

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NEW YORK — American teenager Amanda Anisimova withdrew from the U.S. Open on Tuesday because of the recent death of her father and coach, Konstantin.

A statement from family members, released by Anisimova’s representatives, said: “We are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our father. We appreciate the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time and ask that you respect our privacy.”

The U.S. Tennis Association announced that Anisimova had pulled out of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, where main-draw play begins Monday.

Anisimova, who was born in New Jersey to Russian parents and moved to Florida when she was 3, is currently ranked 24th and would have been seeded for the U.S. Open.

She is an up-and-coming star in women’s tennis who reached the semifinals at the French Open in June at age 17.

Anisimova upset defending champion Simona Halep in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, before losing to eventual champion Ash Barty in three sets.

Her first WTA title came in April at Bogota, Colombia.

As a junior, Anisimova won the 2017 U.S. Open girls’ title, beating Coco Gauff in the final.