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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.

Opelka edges top-seeded Isner to reach New York Open final

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Reilly Opelka edged top-seeded John Isner the same way he knocked his fellow American out of the Australian Open, winning a match full of tiebreakers Saturday night in a New York Open semifinal that set a record for combined aces in a three-set match.

Opelka fought off six match points in a marathon second set and went on to win 6-7 (8), 7-6 (14), 7-6 (4) to move within a victory of his first ATP title.

The 6-foot-11 Opelka and 6-10 Isner combined for 81 aces and there were no breaks of serve. Opelka hit 43 aces, Isner had 38, and each had only one double fault.

It was similar to their meeting in Melbourne, when Opelka beat the ninth-ranked Isner in a first-round match that went four tiebreakers.

Opelka will play Canadian Brayden Schnur, a qualifier who had never won a tour-level match before this week.

Schnur recovered after blowing a 3-0 lead and eventually the second set to beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.

Schnur was the final alternate accepted into the tournament’s qualifying draw and was nearly gone from Long Island quickly, eventually overcoming two match points to beat No. 3 seed Steve Johnson in the second round.

There was nothing quick about the second semifinal, which lasted 2 hours, 31 minutes and went well past the previous record of 71 aces, set earlier this year in a match between Nick Kyrgios and Ryan Harrison.

Isner was in good position to win in straight sets, taking a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker when Opelka pushed a forehand long. But he wasted a chance to win the match on his serve, and Opelka then kept erasing the rest of the match points when he served.

Isner had dropped both matches this season, part of a six-match skid dating to the end of last year, before winning his first two matches here in straight sets.

But he was stopped again by Opelka, who fell two aces shy of Ivo Karlovic’s record for most aces in a three-set match.

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

Mertens upsets Halep in Qatar Open final

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DOHA, Qatar – Unseeded Elise Mertens came from a set and a break down to beat recent No. 1 Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the Qatar Open final and capture the biggest title of her career on Saturday.

Halep led 6-3, 2-0, then lost a service game for a third time to see the second set back on serve. Mertens continued to pressure, missing two more break chances in the seventh game but finally breaking – to love – in the ninth. The set was the first Mertens took from Halep in three matchups.

Mertens broke again to start the third set, Halep leveled at 2-2, but Mertens finished stronger and won her fifth career title.

The Belgian beat two other top-10 players this week, Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber.

Halep’s first final appearance since August guaranteed she will rise one spot to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday.