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Jack Sock ends US drought with ATP Finals win over Cilic

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LONDON (AP) The United States has been waiting 10 years for a win at the ATP Finals, few thought Jack Sock would be the man to deliver it.

The No. 8-seeded player defeated Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Tuesday.

Sock lost his debut match at the O2 Arena to Roger Federer, but he is now 1-1 in his round-robin group.

While others might have been surprised at Sock becoming the first American to win at the elite season-ending event since Andy Roddick in 2007, the man himself wasn’t.

“I wouldn’t be out here playing, competing if I didn’t think I could give myself a chance to win tournaments, to be here,” Sock said.

“I’m not the type of guy that will just enter a draw and be happy to make the third round or the quarters or whatever. I’m here to win matches. I think if I do the right things and I play the right tennis, I can give myself a chance to play on the weekend of any tournament.”

Cilic, who has won only one of his eight matches overall at the season-ending tournament, is 0-2 and will be eliminated if Federer beats Alexander Zverev in the late match.

“Definitely not a great record, but I felt that I played even well last year,” Cilic said. “In those three matches that I played, I had good chances at least to win. These two also. So just, you know, couple points away from closing those matches. A little bit unfortunate with that.”

Despite having been forced out of bed in the early hours of Tuesday morning by a fire alarm at his hotel, Sock made a fast start – breaking in the opening game, only to hand it straight back to his opponent.

The next break point didn’t come until the 11th game. A moment of huge fortune saved Cilic as his forehand got a dead net cord, which Sock couldn’t track down.

The Croat made good use of his luck, breaking in the following game to claim the opening set. A visibly frustrated Sock received a code violation as he blasted a ball into the upper tier, but it seemed to work for him. The American broke Cilic in the opening game once more and did so again in fifth to level the match.

Cilic broke for a 2-0 lead in the deciding set, but Sock displayed the fighting spirit that carried him to an unlikely Masters victory in Paris last month, breaking back in the fifth game and force a tiebreak.

With Cilic a 4-3 and a minibreak up, Sock produced the shot of the match as he sprinted forward to retrieve another near-dead net cord and didn’t look back from there, winning the next three points to secure the match.

“As for the tiebreak, just hope he doesn’t hit the net again,” Sock said. “He had a few of those today, but that’s tennis.”

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.