Federer returning to top of ATP rankings at 36

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) Roger Federer added another highlight to his age-defying career resurgence Friday, returning to the top of the world rankings for the first time in more than five years and becoming the oldest player to reach the top spot.

“What an amazing run its been and a journey it’s been for me … to clinch world No. 1,” Federer said.

Beating leading Dutch player Robin Haase 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinal at the ABN AMRO World Tournament means the 36-year-old Federer becomes the oldest player – male or female – to top the world rankings, surpassing Andre Agassi, who held the record at age 33.

“Getting to No. 1 and enjoying it right here at 36, almost 37 years old is an absolute dream come true,” Federer said. “I can’t believe it.”

Federer will leapfrog 31-year-old Rafael Nadal to No. 1 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Also a record will be the five-years-plus which have elapsed since Federer was last No. 1, and the 14 years since he first reached the top spot.

On Monday, he will extend his record of 302 weeks at No 1 since the rankings began in 1973. Pete Sampras is a distant second with 286 weeks at the top. Novak Djokovic is the closest currently active player, with 223 weeks at No. 1.

“Reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport,” Federer said.

“Sometimes at the beginning you get there just because you play so well. Later, you sometimes try to fight it back and you wrest it back from somebody else who deserved to be there, and when you’re older you feel like you have to put maybe double the work in. So this one maybe means the most to me throughout my career.”

Federer, the 2005 and 2012 ABN AMRO champion, plays either Andreas Seppi or Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Saturday.

Federer won the Australian Open in January for his 20th Grand Slam title and edged closer to the top of the rankings. He had not originally planned to play in Rotterdam but accepted a wild card when it became clear he might be able to take back the top spot.

Haase made clear he was going to make Federer fight, and broke him in the ninth game and fired an ace to take the set 6-4.

But Federer stepped up a gear and blew Haase away in the second set, reeling off 11 straight points to race to 3-0 in taking the set 6-1.

Federer then broke Haase twice early in the third for 3-0, and swept to the victory.

Earlier, Grigor Dimitrov beat Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semifinals, where he will meet 2017 finalist David Goffin, who progressed when his quarterfinal opponent Tomas Berdych pulled out sick.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.