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Mike Bryan’s return from Davis Cup retirement helps keep U.S. alive

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ZADAR, Croatia — Doubles specialist Mike Bryan’s decision to come out of Davis Cup retirement gave the United States a much-needed lift.

Bryan teamed with Ryan Harrison for the first time and helped the Americans outlast Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic 7-5, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5) over nearly five hours to cut Croatia’s lead to 2-1 in their semifinal on Saturday.

“It’s great to win one for the country – 7-6 in the fifth, on the road and on dirt – this is right up there and I will never forget this one,” Bryan said.

In Sunday’s reverse singles, sixth-ranked Marin Cilic faces Steve Johnson, and Borna Coric meets Davis Cup rookie Frances Tiafoe.

The winner on the outdoor clay court along the Dalmatian Coast will meet defending champion France in the Nov. 23-25 final. France beat Spain 3-0 in the other semifinal.

Mike Bryan and twin Bob retired from Davis Cup after the U.S. lost to Croatia in the 2016 quarterfinals. But Mike decided to return while enjoying a stellar season with interim partner Jack Sock.

Bryan and Sock won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. However, Sock hurt his hip during the U.S. Open run and was replaced by Harrison on the U.S. team.

While Bryan’s reflex volleys were decisive throughout the match, it was Harrison’s forehand return winner that sealed it on the Americans’ second match point – silencing a raucous crowd featuring fans banging drums and blaring trumpets.

The doubles result was welcome for a U.S. team that failed to win a set in the opening two singles on Friday.

The U.S. is missing its top two singles players – besides No. 17 Sock, No. 10 John Isner is home awaiting the birth of his child.

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.

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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.