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Kei Nishikori into quarterfinals in return to U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Kei Nishikori was so crushed about missing the U.S. Open last year, he couldn’t even watch the tournament. Nishikori’s season was over with torn tendons in his right wrist, and he knew how much he’d ache to play if he flipped on the TV.

“I didn’t really want to see any matches,” he said.

A year later, Nishikori might want to catch some U.S. Open highlights.

He’s starring in them.

The Japanese standout still has some soreness in the wrist he hurt in August 2017, but it hasn’t slowed him down in his return to Flushing Meadows. Nishikori, the 2014 runner-up, beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 on Monday to reach the final eight for a second straight Grand Slam tournament.

“He pushed me around,” Kohlschreiber said.

Up next, a potential rematch of the `14 final against No. 7 seed Marin Cilic, who faced 10th-seeded David Goffin later Monday.

Either way, the 28-year Nishikori hardly resembles the player he was in 2014 when he became the first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam singles final. He altered his serve in the wake of the wrist injury. His confidence is soaring, too, after he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

Naomi Osaka also reached the quarterfinals Monday, only the second time in the professional era that a Japanese man and woman reached that round at the same Grand Slam event. Shuzo Matsuoka and Kimiko Date did it at Wimbledon in 1995.

“I always thought that if I can keep up with him, that would be really cool,” Osaka said.

Four years ago, Nishikori recalled feeling upbeat before he played Cilic and was surprised he didn’t have a case of nerves.

Once he hit Arthur Ashe Stadium, the magnitude of the moment hit him.

“I wasn’t nervous before the match, but as soon as I got into the court, it was different,” he said. “I remember I wasn’t there for the match. Hopefully, I can come back to that stage.”

Nishikori was worn down by the time he reached the final in a remarkable run where he defeated three of the top five seeds. He beat No. 5 Milos Raonic and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in five sets in back-to-back matches totaling more than 8 1/2 hours. Then he upset No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets.

He’s made quick work of his opponents this year.

Nishikori, coached by Michael Chang, needed four sets to beat Diego Schwartzman, but has two straight-set victories and didn’t even complete two full sets in another match because Gael Monfils retired with a wrist injury.

Short and sweet – and staying strong in a deep run.

“I don’t have any pressure,” Nishikori said. “But (I’m) enjoying playing every match and enjoying playing tennis again a little more than before.”

The No. 21 seed returned to the tour early this year, building his confidence back with a victory in a Challenger Tour event, then reached the final in Monte Carlo and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, where he lost to eventual champion Djokovic.

His success may have eased the pressure, but a country is keeping tabs on him.

Nishikori, the first Japanese man to be ranked in the ATP’s top 10, was a hero in his home country when he played in the U.S. Open final. In his hometown of Matsue, hundreds of fans packed into a convention hall to cheer him on at a standing-room-only public viewing event. Giant banners emblazoned with messages of encouragement hung on the walls.

He feels at home in New York, where scores of Asians root for him, no matter the court or time of match, and he made a return trip to the semifinals in 2016.

“I feel like I have great support here,” he said.

Zverev beats Djokovic to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Alexander Zverev upset Novak Djokovic to claim the biggest title of his career with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at the ATP Finals on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Zverev became the youngest champion of the season-ending event since Djokovic claimed the first of his five titles a decade ago, and the first from Germany since 1995.

Top-ranked Djokovic was attempting to tie Roger Federer’s record of six titles but followed the same path as the Swiss great, who lost to Zverev in the semifinals at the O2 Arena.

Djokovic’s serve hadn’t been broken all tournament until the final. Zverev did it once in the first set and three times in the second, completing the victory with a spectacular backhand winner up the line.

Both players began the match in the same form that had seen them earn straight-sets semifinal victories a day earlier, with few points going against the server.

It was Djokovic, who had lost just two of his previous 37 matches, who began to feel the pressure as consecutive forehand errors gave Zverev a chance to serve out the opening set at 5-4.

Fans gave Zverev a huge ovation as he stepped up to serve, and it appeared to inspire him. Three straight aces brought up three set points, the second of which he took when Djokovic sent another forehand long.

Zverev even began to outlast Djokovic in longer rallies, an area of the game the 14-time Grand Slam champion usually dominates. A 26-shot duel brought up another break point in the opening game of the second set and, although Djokovic saved it, Zverev won another lengthy exchange moments later with a forehand winner to go 1-0 up.

With the biggest win of his career in sight, Zverev began to show some nerves. Although he is the only active player outside of the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to possess three or more Masters titles, the young German has only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Two double faults and two backhand errors gifted Djokovic an immediate break back, but Zverev quickly refocused to win a 28-shot rally on his way to breaking in the following game.

From there he remained solid on serve, before ending with a flourish. Having been pushed wide, a backhand winner on the run drifted past the helpless Djokovic.

Zverev sunk to the ground in tears as Djokovic sportingly crossed the net to embrace the player who will now be considered among the favorites to end the Serb’s run of two consecutive Grand Slam victories in Australia in two months’ time.

Earlier, American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

Bryan, Sock win ATP Finals doubles title

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LONDON — American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker to beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 for their first ATP Finals doubles title together on Sunday.

Having failed to take advantage of five championship points during the first-to-10 match tiebreaker, Bryan and Sock then had to save one against their French opponents before finally closing out victory at the O2 Arena.

“It was a hell of a match,” Bryan said.

The 40-year-old Bryan has now won the season-ending tournament five times. He won four times with his usual partner – and brother – Bob, who has been out with an injured hip since May.

Sock and Bryan have dominated since teaming up, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open before finishing their season in style in London.

“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Bryan said. “This could be our last hoorah because Bob’s training back in Florida.”

After reaching the singles semifinals last year, Sock has endured a torrid season in that format, falling outside the top-100 ranked players. However, he became the first American since John McEnroe to add a doubles final appearance at the tournament to his last-four singles showing.

“This is special because it was a pretty bad year in singles,” Sock said. “This makes up for some of the low moments I’ve had.”

The French duo’s season is not over yet. Herbert and Mahut are part of their nation’s squad for the Davis Cup final against Croatia, which starts in Lille on Friday.