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Tiafoe making good on promises at Wimbledon

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LONDON — Frances Tiafoe remembers promising to his parents before he was even a teenager that tennis would change their lives.

As his talent for the sport became obvious at the tennis center in Maryland where his father was a maintenance worker – and lived with his family in an office that served as their apartment – Tiafoe vowed he would use his abilities to better their circumstances.

“I told them when I was about 11, 12 years old, this is what it was going to be,” Tiafoe said Tuesday, sitting in an interview room at the All England Club after a first-round win at Wimbledon. “You guys just have to sit back and wait for it.”

Wait no longer. The now 20-year-old Tiafoe is on the verge of breaking into the top 50 in the rankings. He already has reached a level where his income from the sport has taken his parents a long way from the struggles they faced after arriving in the United States as immigrants from Sierra Leone.

“I’ve still got a long way to go,” Tiafoe said. “But I said, `Look, I’m going to change everybody’s life, I’m going to buy you all a house. I’m going to do X, Y, and Z, and everybody’s going to live nice at the end of my career and no one is going to have to worry about anything.’ `’

If he keeps playing the way he did against Fernando Verdasco – a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist seeded 30th – they won’t have to worry at all.

Tiafoe beat Verdasco 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3 after outplaying the Spaniard on the key points. The American saved 13 of the 15 break points he faced while converting two of the only four he had himself.

“I played to win when it was time to step up,” he said.

Tiafoe has been stepping up all his life. Even though his parents weren’t as sure as he was that tennis was the answer.

“My dad always believed me,” Tiafoe said. “My mom, she wanted me to go to college, (and said) you can do whatever you want after that. I said, it’s not going to go down like that. … There was one plan and that was it. There was no Plan B because that just distracts you from Plan A. I had a vision, and I wanted it every day. I dream chased every day. There was always a purpose to what I was doing on the court, because it’s not about me at the end of the day. Because my parents, they sacrificed for me and my brother, and I had to do it for them.”

His mom, Alphina, didn’t seem unhappy about her son’s career choice as she watched him play on Court 11 on Tuesday.

“That’s my little boy,” she shouted as he wrapped up the victory.

Fognini stuns Nadal 6-4, 6-2 to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s long winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since 2015.

The 13th-seeded Italian had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the U.S. Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.

Not since the 2005 final, a five-setter which Nadal won in four sets, had the 11-time champion Nadal been beaten 6-0 in a set here. And Fognini came so close to doing just that.

He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points – and some pride – by breaking back and then holding.

Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line to clinch victory on his fourth match point.

Nadal’s last defeat here was also in the semifinals, against Novak Djokovic in 2015. He had not lost a set at the clay-court tournament since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.

Fognini next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted happening here.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic earlier staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean.

Serving for the first set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

Lajovic clinched the first set on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.

The 28-year-old Lajovic was ill before the tournament and said he needed antibiotics to recover.

He struggled to describe his surprise run.

“Incredible … Unreal,” he said, before settling on “It’s been a great week.”

Lajovic stages comeback to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic now plays in his first career final against 11-time champion Rafael Nadal or 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

It could have been an all-Serb semi but Medvedev knocked out top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean blowing clay around the court.

Serving for the set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

He had good cause.

The first-set turnaround was complete when Lajovic clinched it on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.