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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.

Serena Williams No. 17 seed for US Open, 1 spot behind Venus

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Serena Williams is seeded No. 17 for the U.S. Open, nine spots higher than her current ranking of No. 26.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced the seedings for the main draws of women’s and men’s singles on Tuesday.

Williams was put one place behind her older sister, Venus.

The draw for the tournament is Thursday. Play begins Monday.

This will be the third Grand Slam tournament of Williams’ return to competition since she gave birth to a daughter during the 2017 U.S. Open last September, then dealt with health complications.

The 23-time major champion, who turns 37 next month, was the runner-up at Wimbledon in July.

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Want to vote for the Tennis Hall of Fame? Now you can

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Martina Hingis figures she wouldn’t have needed any help from fans to earn her spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Still, she likes the idea that folks around the world now will have a say in who gets elected.

“I would have hoped that people liked me and liked my game, liked my style, so hopefully that wouldn’t have made a difference to make it in or out,” Hingis said with a laugh during a phone interview. “I would have only hoped that it would only push me more. I would hope that in my case, it would have been pretty clear that I had made it.”

Her sport’s Hall will let fans help select its next inductees. Anyone will be able to submit an online ballot starting in late August for the Class of 2019.

The votes will then become part of the overall tally that determines which players are elected.

As in the past, members of the Hall of Fame, journalists and tennis historians will continue to be the primary selectors.

Inductees still will need to be named on 75 percent of the ballots to get in. But now, the top three recipients of votes from fans will get a “bonus” percentage that will be tacked on to what they are given by the main panel – 3 percent for the most popular candidate among the fans, 2 percent for second place, 1 percent for third.

So in the case of a candidate who is nearly approved by the Hall-chosen voters but did not quite garner enough support, the choices of people who watched from the stands or on TV could matter.

“You can help someone who maybe is close, almost there, with 74 percent, and then with 1 percent of the vote from the fans or 2 percent, you get to be a Hall of Famer, because people liked you and they followed you and they enjoyed your game,” said Hingis, who was a member of the Hall’s Class of 2013 and now serves as an ambassador for the shrine, which is in Newport, Rhode Island. “Without the fans, you wouldn’t have the sport.”

The nominees for the Class of 2019 will be announced this week. The fan vote results will be released in October, and the list of inductees will be announced in January.

Michael Stich and Helena Sukova are this year’s inductees.