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Zverev beats de Minaur for second Citi Open title

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WASHINGTON — Alexander Zverev’s second Citi Open title in a row is merely the latest sign that he is separating himself from the other up-and-coming youngsters in tennis.

That doesn’t mean he is sure that guys such as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal are worrying just yet.

“You’ve got to ask them. I don’t think Roger’s too concerned about it,” Zverev said with a smile. “He’s somewhere in Switzerland right now, enjoying … his milk from his cow.”

Zverev became the first man in nearly a decade to win consecutive titles at Washington’s hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open, overpowering Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-4 in the final Sunday.

Juan Martin del Potro won the Citi Open in 2008 and 2009.

Zverev hit six aces, and never faced a break point en route to his ninth career ATP title and third of 2018.

“He hit me off the court today,” de Minaur said.

Two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova won the women’s final, erasing four match points in the second set on the way to a 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 victory over Donna Vekic. Kuznetsova also won the title in Washington in 2014.

Germany’s Zverev is 21, and Australia’s de Minaur is 19, making for the youngest final on the ATP World Tour since 20-year-old Rafael Nadal beat 19-year-old Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells, California, in 2007.

“I’m sure these kind of trophies will be in your hands very soon,” Zverev told de Minaur.

Even though Sunday’s finalists are close in age, Zverev held quite an advantage in size and experience.

He is 6-foot-6, ranked No. 3 and one of only five active players with at least three Masters titles (the others are Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray). De Minaur is 5-foot-11, ranked 72nd and yet to win a tour-level title of any sort.

“Sascha Zverev is the future of pro tennis,” said tournament co-founder and chairman Donald Dell, using Zverev’s nickname. “He’s chasing Federer and Nadal for the No. 1 spot.”

Zverev – who beat his older brother, Mischa, in the third round – put on a dominant performance on a steamy afternoon with the temperature hitting 90 degrees. The sun was a contrast to all of the rain during the week that jumbled the schedule and led to Andy Murray’s withdrawal before facing de Minaur in the quarterfinals.

Zverev broke de Minaur’s serve in the opening game and again to lead 4-0 after all of 15 minutes. They would play another full hour, but the outcome seemed rather clear from that moment.

Zverev won 26 of 29 points when he put a first serve in, and 37 of 48 serving points in all. Of the 11 he lost, four came via double-faults. He finished the first set with a flourish, smacking a pair of aces at 123 mph and 114 mph.

When de Minaur was serving, meanwhile, Zverev generated 11 break points, converting three.

Zverev’s booming groundstrokes were too much to handle for de Minaur, whose body language often told the tale of how things were going.

With both at the net early in the second set, Zverev took the point with a crisp volley, and de Minaur rolled his eyes. A couple of points later, de Minaur pushed a forehand long, dropped his head and screamed at himself. After a 125 mph ace flew past, de Minaur nodded.

Zverev was far less demonstrative, although when he struck a down-the-line forehand passing shot to break for a 2-1 edge in the second set, he looked toward his father in the stands and yelled, “Let’s go now!” while shaking his right fist.

Soon enough, the victory was complete and the title defense successful, the latest step Zverev has taken in a steady march toward the top of his sport.

Khachanov beats Mannarino to win Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW — Karen Khachanov breezed past Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-2 to win his third career ATP title at the Kremlin Cup on Sunday.

Khachanov’s powerful serve dictated the match, as it has done all tournament. He fired in six aces and wrapped up the win in 55 minutes.

The 22-year-old Russian was only broken once all week and faced a single break point against Mannarino, which he saved.

Khachanov has won all three of his tour finals to date, including a win in Marseille in February, while Mannarino has lost all six of the finals he has played.

Victory means Khachanov is guaranteed to enter the top 20 in the rankings for the first time, surpassing Daniil Medvedev as the top-ranked Russian.

Svitolina, Pliskova win opening matches at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina secured opening round-robin match wins at the WTA Finals on Sunday.

Pliskova, who now leads the tour with 48 wins this season, defeated defending champion Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-2, 6-4 in the second match.

Pliskova saved all 10 break points she faced in the match, including two when serving for the match in the final game. The Czech closed out the match on a third match point with an ace.

Earlier, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine ended a seven-match losing streak against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic for a 6-3, 6-3 win.

The seventh-ranked Svitolina, making her second consecutive appearance in Singapore, only earned qualification to this year’s tournament last week when Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens failed to reach the Moscow semifinals. Later, Bertens made the final eight when No. 1-ranked Simona Halep withdrew with a herniated disk in her back.

“It’s very nice to be back in Singapore and I’m very, very happy with the match tonight,” Svitolina told the crowd. “I had to stay focused and be strong mentally. I had to play quickly and keep moving my feet so I need a massage now.

“You have to play your best level because everybody is very strong playing here.”

Svitolina, who now holds a 1-0 record in the White Group, had only beaten Kvitova once before in their first match at the 2014 Cincinnati tournament. Sunday’s victory was Svitolina’s first win against a top-10 opponent since May.

The Ukrainian player briefly left the post-match news conference but later returned.

“I’m just not feeling good,” said Svitolina after returning. A WTA spokesperson said Svitolina indicated she was feeling light-headed with slight nausea.

The fifth-ranked Kvitova, who won the year-end title in 2011, never looked settled and struggled with her serve throughout the 1 hour, 29 minutes match. Her first serve percentage was only 55, which made the task of beating Svitolina near impossible.

She double-faulted seven times in the match, including on set point in the first for Svitolina. Six of Kvitova’s seven double faults came in the first set.

“I think she really played very consistent,” Kvitova said. “Overall, yeah, it wasn’t the best start, but the good thing is that there is still a chance to play better and to improve, and maybe go somewhere forward.”

The Czech surrendered her serve in the opening game of the match but managed to recoup the break in the next game. But she was broken twice more in the first set to fall behind.

Svitolina set up the second set win by breaking Kvitova’s serve to go ahead 4-2.

Svitolina said her win was an answer to any suggestions she didn’t deserve to play here, having qualified so late for the draw.

“Winning this match definitely gives me lots of confidence,” Svitolina said. “This win … I want to take as one to go forward, and for all those people and haters that were saying that I don’t deserve to be here and I’m not good.”

Kvitova, who came into Singapore with a tour-leading five titles this season, and Wozniacki now stand at 0-1 in the White Group standings.

Wozniacki came into the late match with a 6-3 career record over Pliskova, including their last meeting in the round-robin portion of last year’s WTA Finals.

Wozniacki’s best effort in the match was saving two match points on her serve in the ninth game of the second set.