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Sock beats Krajinovic to win Paris Masters

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PARIS — Jack Sock beat Filip Krajinovic 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 Sunday to win the Paris Masters and qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals.

It was the 16th-seeded American’s third title of the year, fourth overall and first at a Masters. It sends him through to the finals in London for the first time. He will break into the top 10, climbing to ninth.

“Incredible week. Hard to describe, honestly. I don’t think it’s really hit or soaked in yet,” said Sock, who was one game away from losing in the second round. “To come back from the deficit I was down and to have this trophy next to me now has been an incredible achievement.”

He sealed victory on his first match point when Krajinovic, a Serbian qualifier ranked No. 77, sent a backhand long. Sock fell onto his back with his hands on his face, then jumped into the seating area to celebrate with his team.

“I had some anxious sleep last night,” Sock said. “I was able to find that groove in the second and third (sets) and kind of turn things around.”

He is the first American winner here since Andre Agassi in 1999; and the first American winner of a Masters tournament since Andy Roddick at Miami in 2010.

“I’ve had a rough season pretty much since, since March,” Sock said. “Coming in this week I had no idea I could even make London. It wasn’t in my head. I just wanted to play some good tennis my last week and go start my offseason.”

With a wry smile, Sock said he would be celebrating the biggest win of his career with “just a water on the rocks.”

Krajinovic was the first qualifier in a Masters final since Jerzy Janowicz, also here, in 2012.

After losing, the 25-year-old Serb sat slumped in his chair, shaking his head in disappointment.

He had only played finals on the challenger circuit before, winning all five of them, and came through the qualifying rounds. He seemed to run out of energy in the third set, which Sock controlled completely.

“I was not aggressive enough. I have to be against him,” Krajinovic said. “He started to play better and better and I didn’t serve well.”

Still, he will climb to No. 33 next week.

“It’s an amazing week with a lot of good wins. From (qualifying) I beat so many good guys, better ranking than me,” Krajinovic said. “So it’s all positive coming home, finally having holidays after playing so many matches this year.”

The first set was even, with Krajinovic looking a little sharper than Sock, who is also 25.

Sock was 30-40 down in the 12th game, and Krajinovic had his first set point. He took it when Sock went for a typical cross-court winner on forehand and whipped his shot into the net.

He responded well, upping his level in the second set as the momentum started to turn.

“I lost energy,” Krajinovic said. “But it was a great week for me. Well done to him.”

Sock secured a crucial break in the third game of the decider with a superb forehand winner on the run, and then held for 3-1.

By this stage, Krajinovic was reeling and dropped his next service game when Sock hit a backhand crosscourt winner that flew past Krajinovic’s outstretched racket. He was broken again when he served to stay in the match.

Sock had nine aces and broke Krajinovic’s serve six times to compensate for the three times he dropped his.

His other titles this year were at Delray Beach, Florida and Auckland, New Zealand – both on outdoor hard courts.

This one gives him a considerably bigger winners’ check of 853,430 euros – almost $1 million – and a ticket to London.

“It’s a good Sunday for sure,” Sock said. “The only thing that would make it better would be if the Kansas City Chiefs win as well back home, my favorite NFL team.”

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.