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Chung wins in Paris Masters; will face Nadal

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PARIS — Hyeon Chung of South Korea swept aside Mischa Zverev 6-0, 6-2 at the Paris Masters on Monday to set up a second-round match against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal will begin his quest for a record 31st Masters title – but first in Paris – on Wednesday. The top-ranked Spaniard beat Chung in their only previous encounter on his way to a 10th title at the Barcelona Open in April.

Chung broke Zverev’s serve five times and saved the four break points he faced in a rout lasting less than one hour.

The last two spots for the season-ending ATP Finals in London will be decided in Paris, while Nadal is odds-on to end the year as No. 1 for the fourth time in his career.

David Goffin of Belgium and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain are best placed to qualify for London, while Juan Martin del Potro needs to win here to make it. Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille, American Sam Querrey and U.S Open runner-up Kevin Anderson are in outside contention.

It is much more straightforward for Nadal to keep his top ranking.

He needs just one win to end the year as No. 1 ahead of Roger Federer, who pulled out of Paris after winning the Swiss Indoors in Basel for the eighth time on Sunday. Federer clinched his seventh title of the year, one more than Nadal, but is skipping Paris so he can stay fresh for London.

Nadal was “not happy” about pulling out of the Swiss Indoors, but felt he needed the rest after playing 75 matches this season, winning 65 of them.

By contrast, Federer has played only 53, winning 49. He has beaten Nadal four times this year, including in the Australian Open final.

“He takes his decision and he does it well,” Nadal said on Monday of Federer’s decision to stagger his tournaments. “It (has) worked very well for him.”

After their five-set thriller in Melbourne, Federer did not drop a set against Nadal in the next three wins.

Also in the first round on Monday, there were wins for Frenchmen Richard Gasquet, Jeremy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau. Also through were Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, and Robin Haase of the Netherlands.

Benneteau beat Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-4, 6-4 and next plays Tsonga, while Mahut had a tougher time against another Canadian, Vasek Pospisil, 5-7, 7-5, 76 (4). Gasquet beat Paire for the fifth straight time; and Chardy dispatched countryman Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-0.

Djokovic loses in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Ashleigh Barty’s chance to move back to No. 1 was only one victory away. At the end of an up-and-down week, she didn’t have another comeback left.

Neither did Novak Djokovic, who went away with yet another disappointment in Cincinnati.

Barty lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday. Djokovic ended the day with another stunner, getting overwhelmed by Daniil Medvedev’s serve as the Russian pulled out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

It’s been that kind of week in Cincinnati, with top players in both brackets either struggling or hurt heading into the U.S. Open.

The women’s bracket has a lot questions with New York just around the corner. No. 1 isn’t one of them.

Barty’s seven-week run atop the field ended when Naomi Osaka edged ahead of her in the latest ranking. A victory Saturday would have moved Barty back ahead for the U.S. Open. Instead, she dropped the opening set for the third straight match and this time, there was no digging out.

“A week that we battled through,” Barty said. “I think at times I played some good stuff. At times, I played some pretty awful stuff.”

Which will it be for Barty at the Open? And will Osaka be in good enough shape to defend her title?

Osaka dropped out of her semifinal match Friday with discomfort in her left knee that caused her worry. She still plans to play in New York, but it’s unclear whether the knee will be a problem.

And then there’s Serena Williams, who retired in the finals at Toronto last Sunday because of back spasms. She also withdrew from Cincinnati before her first match, but stuck around to cheer sister Venus until her loss in the quarterfinals.

A resurgent Kuznetsova gave Barty no openings, knocking off a top-five player for the second time this week to reach her first final of the season. The 153rd-ranked player is recovering from seven-month layoff because of a knee injury.

In her ninth tournament of the season, she got her game together, winning her first Premier-level semifinal since 2017 at Madrid.

“Well, sometimes in life it’s like this,” Kuznetsova said. “It’s like really small things change everything. Definitely it’s different momentum I have now.”

She’ll face Madison Keys , who beat Sofia Kenin 7-5, 6-4 with the help of 14 aces. Keys ended her streak of failing to make it past the second round of her last three tournaments, playing through heat and humidity all week without problem.

“I feel really good” she said. “Every day I’m kind of waking up, hoping that everything still feels like it’s in one piece and it feels really good.”

In the men’s bracket, Djokovic overcame concerns about his right elbow but couldn’t prevail over Medvedev’s 14 aces. Djokovic got the muscles around his right elbow rubbed during his quarterfinal win on Friday night and showed no sign of a problem a day later.

Djokovic won the tournament for the first time last year, getting the only Masters 1000 title that had eluded him. This one slipped away in the second set.

Medvedev reached the final at Montreal last week and lost to Rafael Nadal. He’s back to a title match again after fighting off a break point midway through the second set and closing with a flurry, winning 12 of the last 14 points to even the match and take the momentum.

He’ll face David Goffin, who reached his first Masters 1000 final by beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 . Goffin also is on an upswing after falling to No. 33 in the ATP rankings on June 10, his lowest since September 2014.

“Of course, it was a tough period there,” Goffin said. “I was coming back from injuries. I had some trouble with my confidence. I couldn’t find my rhythm, my game. So it’s great now. I’m feeling great. I’m back at my best tennis.”

The men’s bracket also took several notable hits throughout the week.

Originally billed as a reunion of the Big Four – Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray together for the first time since January – it quickly lost its luster. Nadal dropped out after winning the Rogers Cup, citing fatigue. Murray played singles for the first time since hip surgery in January and lost his opening match.

And Federer, the seven-time champion, failed to reach the weekend, losing in the quarterfinals.

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Barty upset in Cincy semifinals, misses top spot for U.S. Open

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MASON, Ohio — Ashleigh Barty was upset by Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Open semifinals, missing her chance to return to the No. 1 ranking ahead of the U.S. Open.

Barty dropped an opening set Saturday for the third straight match, but couldn’t overcome the slow start this time. A resurgent Kuznetsova earned her third win over a Top 10 player this week and reached the final for the first time this season.

Barty had slipped behind Naomi Osaka in the latest rankings. She would have jumped back ahead by winning Saturday. Osaka, the defending U.S. Open champion, withdrew in the quarterfinals with a sore knee.

Serena Williams dropped out during her first match of the tournament because of back spasms.