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Federer starts grass-court season with win in Stuttgart

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Roger Federer rallied to beat home favorite Mischa Zverev 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 at the Stuttgart Open on Wednesday in his first match in nearly three months.

The Swiss great converted four of his 10 break points to end a two-match losing streak and start his grass-court season with a win.

Federer hadn’t played since March, when he lost to Thanasi Kokkinakis and Juan Martin del Potro in Miami and Indian Wells, respectively. He skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row.

Zverev had never won a set against Federer in their five previous meetings, but he took the first before the second-ranked Swiss upped his game and broke the German twice to force the decider.

Federer lost to another German, Tommy Haas, in his Stuttgart opener last year, but will now face Guido Pella or Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the quarterfinals.

Indian qualifier Gunneswaran upset sixth-seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-3 in their first-round match.

There were also wins for Milos Raonic and Maximilian Marterer in the first round, while Denis Istomin defeated Florian Mayer 6-3, 6-4 in the second round.

Defending champion Lucas Pouille faced German wild-card entry Rudolf Molleker later Wednesday.

Djokovic wins a record fourth Shanghai Masters title

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SHANGHAI (AP) Novak Djokovic won a record fourth Shanghai Masters title with a 6-3, 6-4 win over 13th-seeded Borna Coric on Sunday.

The second-seeded Djokovic has won all four Shanghai finals he’s contested in his career (2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018). He previously shared the record of winning three Shanghai titles with Andy Murray.

Djokovic holds an 11-0 overall record in finals played in China, where he also won the Beijing tournament six times and the 2008 year-end Tennis Masters Cup held in Shanghai.

“Maybe I was Chinese in the past life,” said Djokovic, smiling, in explaining impressive record in the country. “I wouldn’t be surprised, to be honest, with the way I feel here and the way I communicate and have relationship with the people.

“It’s all very, very positive, for more than ten years that I have been coming to China. There is something special about this place that makes me feel like at home.”

Djokovic dominated opponents behind his powerful serve, winning all 47 of his service games during the tournament.

“Well, to be honest, I’m not sure whether it has happened ever, you know, that I go through a tournament without dropping one service game,” Djokovic said. “I’m sure that it hasn’t happened too many times if it did. So this was definitely one of the best service weeks that I had in my career.

“But for me serve was always, so to say, a hidden weapon, the shot in the game that is obviously very important, “the” most important. But I always try to use it with an accuracy and efficiency rather than speed and power.”

The Serb offered 13th-seeded Coric one break point in the match, in the sixth game of the second set. Coric, who has yet to win a set against Djokovic in three matches played, sailed a forehand wide to miss out on the rare opportunity.

“It was really tough,” Coric said. “I didn’t know what to do exactly. I thought I was playing actually really well, which is in that moment not good because if I play bad, okay, I know I need to start playing better, need to change something.

“I’m just happy with the whole week. I think it was a really good week for me.”

Djokovic, who has now won four titles this season, will move up one ranking spot to No. 2, pushing Roger Federer back to No. 3.

The victory extended his winning streak to 18 matches, the longest of the season by any male player. Federer and Nadal both had 17-match winning streaks during the year.

Coric, who had his right thigh wrapped throughout the match, saved three match points on his own serve in the ninth game of the second set.

But the Croatian couldn’t prevent Djokovic from snatching the title on a fourth match point in the next game. Djokovic won the final game to love when Coric sailed a backhand long.

Federer battles, Djokovic cruises, del Potro out in Shanghai

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SHANGHAI — Roger Federer was stretched to three sets for a second consecutive match to reach the Shanghai Masters quarterfinals on Thursday. Nevertheless, the top seed insisted he was content with how he’s playing.

Federer defeated Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, a day after being taken the distance by Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

“I’m actually quite happy,” Federer said. “Bautista really had to raise his level of play in that second set to stay with me. I mean, he really caught fire, I thought. I served, I think, 80 percent in that second set and got broken twice.”

Novak Djokovic cruised through his second-round match, but Juan Martin del Potro had to retire after hurting his right knee in a fall.

Federer led Bautista Agut by a set and a service break when he became entangled in a fight that lasted until the second-to-last game of the third set.

Bautista Agut, a finalist here in 2016, finally offered Federer an opening to take control by surrendering his serve in the ninth game of the third set.

Federer will play eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori, a finalist in Tokyo last week, in the quarterfinals. Nishikori ousted Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 6-4 on Thursday.

Third-seeded Del Potro, who has been playing with a cold throughout the week, was playing Borna Coric when he fell near the end of the first set. Del Potro had the knee wrapped but called it quits after losing the first set 7-5.

Djokovic earned partial revenge when he beat Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-0. The only other time the second-seeded Djokovic played Cecchinato was in the French Open quarterfinals, where the Italian upset him in four sets.

A Masters event is a level below a Grand Slam, but Djokovic was rapt to crush Cecchinato.

“I was making him play always an extra shot,” Djokovic said. “I was aggressive when I needed to be. The second set was perfect, really.”

Since Djokovic lost that French Open match to Cecchinato, he’s won 28 of his 30 matches. The Serb is on a 15-match winning streak, which includes title runs at Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. He’s bidding to win a record fourth Shanghai title this week.

He will take on seventh-seeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa, whom he leads 6-1 on head-to-head. Djokovic defeated Anderson in straight sets in the Wimbledon final in July.

Anderson ousted 10th-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 7-6 (1).

Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany also advanced to the quarterfinals by pasting Alex de Minaur of Australia 6-1, 6-4.

Zverev will play Kyle Edmund after the Briton defeated Nicolas Jarry of Chile 7-6 (5), 6-3.