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U.S. Open champion Osaka reaches Pan Pacific Open final

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TOKYO — Naomi Osaka relied on a dominant serve to reach the final of the Pan Pacific Open on Saturday with a comfortable 6-2, 6-3 win over Camila Giorgi.

The U.S. Open champion, who upset Serena Williams in the final in New York, overpowered her unseeded opponent and will face fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in Sunday’s final.

Third-seeded Osaka fired nine aces and dropped just eight points in eight service games.

“My serve got me out of a lot of trouble today,” said Osaka. “She was playing really well and my serve helped me. I was a bit nervous because I really wanted to reach the final.”

Two years ago, Osaka lost in the final to Caroline Wozniacki, this year’s top-seeded player who was eliminated by Giorgi on Thursday.

Having not dropped a set over the course of her week, Osaka will next face a player who has needed three dramatic sets in each of her matches to reach her second final of the season.

Pliskova had to dig deep again to beat Donna Vekic 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in Saturday’s other semifinal.

After saving two match points against American qualifier Alison Riske in the last round, and coming back from a set down against Daria Gavrilova earlier in the tournament, Pliskova had to go the distance once again, needing more than two hours to win.

“It was another long one today!” Pliskova said after the match. “I feel like I’m improving in every match, but the opponents are always more tough. That’s normal in semifinals … no easy opponents.”

Osaka and Pliskova will face off Sunday for the third time overall and second this year with a Premier-level title on the line.

Osaka earned a 6-2, 6-3 victory over the Czech in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in March, en route to winning her first career title.

“I know that she’s a great player,” Osaka said of Pliskova. “She has basically every shot and a really good serve, so I know it’s going to be a really difficult match.”

Fognini stuns Nadal 6-4, 6-2 to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s long winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since 2015.

The 13th-seeded Italian had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the U.S. Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.

Not since the 2005 final, a five-setter which Nadal won in four sets, had the 11-time champion Nadal been beaten 6-0 in a set here. And Fognini came so close to doing just that.

He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points – and some pride – by breaking back and then holding.

Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line to clinch victory on his fourth match point.

Nadal’s last defeat here was also in the semifinals, against Novak Djokovic in 2015. He had not lost a set at the clay-court tournament since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.

Fognini next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted happening here.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic earlier staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean.

Serving for the first set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

Lajovic clinched the first set on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.

The 28-year-old Lajovic was ill before the tournament and said he needed antibiotics to recover.

He struggled to describe his surprise run.

“Incredible … Unreal,” he said, before settling on “It’s been a great week.”

Lajovic stages comeback to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic now plays in his first career final against 11-time champion Rafael Nadal or 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

It could have been an all-Serb semi but Medvedev knocked out top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean blowing clay around the court.

Serving for the set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

He had good cause.

The first-set turnaround was complete when Lajovic clinched it on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.