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Steve Johnson wins Hall of Fame Open on Newport grass

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Steve Johnson continued his long road back and success this year by capturing the Hall of Fame Open on Sunday.

The 28-year-old American defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan, of India, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, on Newport’s grass court for his fourth career ATP title and second this season.

When it was over, Johnson pointed to the sky and pumped his fist before going over to the far corner of the court to give his coach, Craig Boynton, a handshake and hug.

“He’s seen me when I was (ranked) 200 and losing first rounds of challengers, questioning playing tennis and now he’s seen me winning titles and finals of 500s,” Johnson said. “The highs and lows, he’s stuck with it.”

Ranked 48th coming into the week, Johnson added to his title in Houston this year. It’s been a nice rebound after he lost his father, Steve Sr. to a heart attack last year. His Dad, who had been his coach until Johnson went to college, traveled and watched him at all his tourneys.

“It’s been an emotional couple of years,” he said to the crowd during an interview at the end of the match.

Now, Johnson, who reached as high as No. 21 in the world in 2016, will be ranked 34th beginning the week.

Asked if he could crack the Top 25, he said: “(I’ve) done it before.”

Johnson broke in the second game of the final set, hitting a forehand-cross winner to close the game.

“Steve was best, hitting some forehands today,” said the 23-year-old Ramanathan, who was seeking his first ATP title. “He played a good third set and had the better of me.”

Up 2-0 in the third, Johnson closed the game with a hard serve that Ramanathan was barely able to get his racket on. Leading 4-2, Johnson yelled out loud “Focus!” to himself before closing out the seventh game.

The match was moved from a 3 p.m. starting time yesterday to a scheduled start 11 a.m. start with the forecast for heavy rain. It began just before 1 p.m. after heavy rain in the morning and was played in misty, windy conditions.

“Misting, raining for the majority of the match, but never hard enough for us to stop,” said Johnson, who injured his right shoulder diving for a return shot in the first game of the second and called for the trainer later.

Play was stopped just before the first game of the second set when they brushed the court, but never halted after that.

“These things have a funny way of working out and I’m glad it did,” he said.

The match ended when Johnson hit a forehand winner down the line, breaking Ramanathan for the third time in the match. The other came in the 11th game of the first set.

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.