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At French Open, Osaka balances tennis and video games

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PARIS – Rattling through the first two rounds of the French Open without losing a set leaves more time for PlayStation for Naomi Osaka.

And should the next big thing in Japanese tennis turn up late for her next match, it could well be because she lost track of time plugged into her console. Who needs the sights of Paris when you have “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” to distract you? (“It’s OK you don’t know it,” she kindly told a middle-aged journalist).

“It’s sort of consumed my time a little bit,” the 20-year-old Osaka said Wednesday after reaching the third round at Roland Garros. “Literally, if I have 30 minutes then I’ll just sit there and I might be a little bit late. Like I’ll spend 35 minutes and then I’m like, `Oh my God, it’s 30 minutes past,’ and then I have to rush out the door. So if I’m ever late to anything, you know why.”

The French Open marks the first time Osaka has been seeded at a major (at No. 21). That billing and her debut title on tour earlier this year, when she tore through a high-powered field to win at Indian Wells, mark out Japan’s top-ranked woman as a player to watch in this first week when many struggle to find their feet on the red clay of Paris but others make it their home.

Osaka, who also reached the third round at her first French Open in 2016 only to lose to a qualifier in straight sets in the first round last year, said she is concentrating less on the surface than on trying to win her first Grand Slam.

“In my mind, it’s not really clay,” she said. “I just focus more on the tennis part, rather than making up excuses of what the surface is and how my play style isn’t suited for it.”

Osaka’s third-round opponent is Madison Keys, an American seeded 13th. Keys beat Osaka in both of their previous matches. If Osaka has her way, next time will not only produce a different outcome but be quick, too – because she hopes to spend as little time as possible on the tournament grounds.

“I’m only here if I have to be, to be honest,” she said. “When I was younger I used to love walking around and just experiencing the atmosphere. But now, like, I just sort of think of this as my job. So it’s like clocking in and clocking out.”

Those she beat on her way to the Indian Wells title in March included five-time major winner Maria Sharapova and top-ranked Simona Halep. At her next tournament, in Miami, she then overpowered Serena Williams, her tennis idol in childhood, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.

She started traveling with her games console from that point on.

“Sometimes I’m really bored in my room and I feel like I really want to play,” she said. “That’s why I started bringing it.”

Opelka edges top-seeded Isner to reach New York Open final

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Reilly Opelka edged top-seeded John Isner the same way he knocked his fellow American out of the Australian Open, winning a match full of tiebreakers Saturday night in a New York Open semifinal that set a record for combined aces in a three-set match.

Opelka fought off six match points in a marathon second set and went on to win 6-7 (8), 7-6 (14), 7-6 (4) to move within a victory of his first ATP title.

The 6-foot-11 Opelka and 6-10 Isner combined for 81 aces and there were no breaks of serve. Opelka hit 43 aces, Isner had 38, and each had only one double fault.

It was similar to their meeting in Melbourne, when Opelka beat the ninth-ranked Isner in a first-round match that went four tiebreakers.

Opelka will play Canadian Brayden Schnur, a qualifier who had never won a tour-level match before this week.

Schnur recovered after blowing a 3-0 lead and eventually the second set to beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.

Schnur was the final alternate accepted into the tournament’s qualifying draw and was nearly gone from Long Island quickly, eventually overcoming two match points to beat No. 3 seed Steve Johnson in the second round.

There was nothing quick about the second semifinal, which lasted 2 hours, 31 minutes and went well past the previous record of 71 aces, set earlier this year in a match between Nick Kyrgios and Ryan Harrison.

Isner was in good position to win in straight sets, taking a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker when Opelka pushed a forehand long. But he wasted a chance to win the match on his serve, and Opelka then kept erasing the rest of the match points when he served.

Isner had dropped both matches this season, part of a six-match skid dating to the end of last year, before winning his first two matches here in straight sets.

But he was stopped again by Opelka, who fell two aces shy of Ivo Karlovic’s record for most aces in a three-set match.

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Mertens upsets Halep in Qatar Open final

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DOHA, Qatar – Unseeded Elise Mertens came from a set and a break down to beat recent No. 1 Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the Qatar Open final and capture the biggest title of her career on Saturday.

Halep led 6-3, 2-0, then lost a service game for a third time to see the second set back on serve. Mertens continued to pressure, missing two more break chances in the seventh game but finally breaking – to love – in the ninth. The set was the first Mertens took from Halep in three matchups.

Mertens broke again to start the third set, Halep leveled at 2-2, but Mertens finished stronger and won her fifth career title.

The Belgian beat two other top-10 players this week, Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber.

Halep’s first final appearance since August guaranteed she will rise one spot to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday.