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WTA Finals: Stephens rallies to reach final vs Svitolina

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SINGAPORE (AP) Sloane Stephens overcame a terrible start against Karolina Pliskova to win 0-6, 6-4, 6-1 at the WTA Finals on Saturday, setting up a championship match against Elina Svitolina.

“I came out here a little bit nervous and I wasn’t quite feeling the ball,” said the fifth-seeded Stephens, who is making her debut at the tournament this year. “I just tried to stay in it. I was very proud of my effort today.”

Both Svitolina and Stephens posted 3-0 round-robin records before winning their semifinals.

Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, let out a huge yell on breaking her Czech opponent’s serve in the third game of the second set after trailing 6-0, 2-0.

From there Stephens found her footing and seventh-seeded Pliskova began to derail.

After Stephens had lost the first eight games, the American said she was thinking “I made it all the way to the semifinal, and I’m going to lose? … I was, like, I’m going to lose 0-0. It’s like I’m trying so hard. Nothing’s working. But then I won one game. Then you know the rest.”

Stephens reached her second Grand Slam final at the French Open in June. She has won one title at Miami this season.

Pliskova was only a point away from a 3-0 lead in the second set.

“I think set and a half I was playing very well,” said Pliskova.

Last year Svitolina became the first Ukrainian woman to play singles at the WTA Finals. This year Svitolina became the first woman from her country to reach the season-ending final after beating Kiki Bertens 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-4.

“It feels amazing and it was such a tough battle today,” said Svitolina, who pumped her fists and then blew kisses to the crowd after winning.

“I think physically in the end it was just about running and chasing every ball.”

Bertens played too risky a brand of tennis, posting 41 winners to 12 for Svitolina, but also making 63 to 36 unforced errors.

“There’s still lots of work ahead,” said sixth-seeded Svitolina. “It’s the last match of the season, definitely now, and I’m going to give my best and leave everything on court.”

Svitolina is chasing her fourth title this season, having already won at Brisbane, Dubai and Rome.

Svitolina qualified for a second consecutive WTA Finals this year only because her Dutch opponent on Saturday failed to reach the Moscow semifinals. The eighth-seeded Bertens eventually qualified for the eight-player field when No. 1 Simona Halep withdrew from the tournament with a back injury.

Bertens saved one set point on her serve in the 10th game of the first set, but couldn’t repeat that trick in the 12th game, double-faulting at 15-40 to surrender the set.

Bertens failed to capitalize on four set points ahead of the second set tiebreaker, but pushed the match into a decisive third set with a return winner on her next set point.

Serving for her place in the final, Svitolina saved two break points before shutting Bertens down.

This year is the first time since the round-robin format was reintroduced in 2003 that none of the top four seeded players – No. 1 Angelique Kerber, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 3 Osaka and No. 4 Petra Kvitova – reached the semifinals.

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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.