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Cilic saves match point vs. Djokovic to win Queen’s Club final

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LONDON (AP) Marin Cilic has gone from Queen’s Club runner-up 12 months ago to being the 2018 champion. Now he wants to do the same at Wimbledon.

The top-seeded Croat saved match point on his way to defeating Novak Djokovic 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the final on Sunday to claim his second title at the west London tournament.

Cilic was on the losing end of a similar result in last year’s final, as he spurned a match point in a loss to Feliciano Lopez, before greater disappointment followed as he lost to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final.

Cilic said he was “feeling really confident about Wimbledon,” which starts July 2. “Hopefully,” said Cilic of a potential double grass-court triumph. “You know, if those things go like that every single time, that would be great.”

Although it was Djokovic’s first final in just short of a year, Cilic faced a formidable challenge as the Serb produced the kind of tennis that helped him amass 12 Grand Slam titles.

Having saved six break points, Djokovic struck with the first chance of his own to clinch a draining 67-minute first set, before a reversal of fortunes in the second.

The three-time Wimbledon champion wasted an early opportunity to break before Cilic saved a match point at 4-5 and then won six points from 4-1 down in the tiebreaker to level the match.

Despite soaring temperatures, neither player backed off in a tense deciding set, with Cilic finally earning the first break point opportunities in the eighth game.

Djokovic saved the first but Cilic quickly earned a second with the shot of the match, a dipping forehand passing shot up the line, and Djokovic then wilted with a tame backhand into the net.

Cilic’s 2012 Queen’s Club triumph came in bizarre circumstances as David Nalbandian was disqualified for injuring a line judge, but this time he finished in style, producing a nerveless service game to seal victory in just under three hours.

“I felt that when I’m going to raise my level of the serving, I’m going to be the one who can even take control of the match,” Cilic said.

Despite a rare grass-court defeat to Borna Coric in the final at Halle, Germany, earlier on Sunday, Cilic isn’t counting on any let up from Federer.

“I think Roger’s motivational level is just slightly better and higher on Grand Slams,” said Cilic, “and you can see that throughout so many years that he’s been showing the best tennis at Grand Slam levels.”

 

Osaka opens clay campaign by beating Hsieh in Stuttgart

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Top-ranked Naomi Osaka opened her clay-court season by beating Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan 6-4, 6-3, on Thursday to reach the Porsche Grand Prix quarterfinals.

Osaka hit 22 winners and converted three of her six break points to seal the win in 1 hour, 24 minutes and set up a meeting with Donna Vekic of Croatia.

After saving two break points early, it was an unusually smooth victory for Osaka over Hsieh. She needed three sets to get past the Taiwanese veteran en route to her Australian Open victory and then lost to her at the Miami Open last month.

“I felt like this surface is more suited for me (than Hsieh),” Osaka said. “I was sort of in my plan. So, I just felt like I executed what I was trying to do.”

Two-time Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber also advanced by beating fellow German Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4. The fifth-seeded Kerber saved two break points to hold for 2-2 in the first set and then reeled off the next four games to take control. She then earned a decisive break for 4-3 in the second before closing out the win with her fourth match point.

Kerber will face sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens, who served 20 aces to rally for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Belinda Bencic.

No. 7 Anastasija Sevastova also advanced by beating former champion Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-4, 6-3 to set up a quarterfinal against Petra Kvitova, who advanced on Wednesday.

Vekic dispatched Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-1, 7-5, earlier on Thursday.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Nadal rallies to beat Mayer in Barcelona Open

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BARCELONA, Spain – Rafael Nadal recovered from a slow start to defeat Leonard Mayer 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-2 and advance to the third round of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday, keeping alive his streak of never losing consecutive matches on clay.

The second-ranked Nadal was coming off defeat to Fabio Fognini in the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Open.

An 11-time champion in Barcelona, Nadal will next play fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. The 37-year-old Ferrer, who is playing in Barcelona for the last time, defeated Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-1 in his second-round match.

The top-seeded Nadal squandered two set points after exchanging breaks late in the first set. He rebounded quickly by breaking Mayer’s serve in the first game of the second set, then cruised to victory against the 63rd-ranked Argentine.

Fognini won’t be able to add to his Monte Carlo win after withdrawing from the Barcelona tournament because of a hamstring injury. He was replaced by 104th-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena, who opened with a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2 win over Nicola Kuhn.

Seventh-seeded Daniil Medvedev reached the third round by defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, while American Mackenzie McDonald advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 11th-seeded Gilles Simon.