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Djokovic beats Sousa in straight sets at Paris Masters

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PARIS — Novak Djokovic began his bid for a record-extending fifth Paris Masters title with a 7-5, 6-1 win against Joao Sousa in the second round on Wednesday, and lent a helping hand to a spectator in the process.

Serving for the match at 5-1, Djokovic handed a towel to a man in the crowd who seemed unwell and who wiped his forehead with it.

“It seemed he was sweating and he seemed dizzy, so he just needed help,” Djokovic said. “I just gave him the towel.”

Djokovic revealed he also was not feeling very well out on court.

“I wasn’t,” he said. “I don’t want to get into details but I think it’s a minor thing.”

The second-ranked Serb set up match point with an ace and sealed victory on his third match point when Sousa returned a second serve long.

The U.S. Open champion won four of the last five tournaments he has entered, including Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and most recently the Shanghai Masters.

Djokovic is seeking to reclaim the top ranking from Rafael Nadal at a tournament Nadal has never won. Djokovic next faces Damir Dzumhur.

Fifth-seeded Marin Cilic, the Australian Open runner-up, won his second-round match 6-3, 6-4 against Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

Dzumhur upset 14th-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-3, while big-hitting Russian Karen Khachanov also advanced to the third round. He led 6-2, 2-0 against Matthew Ebden when the Australian retired.

Returning from a right knee injury , Nadal faces Spanish countryman Fernando Verdasco on Wednesday, with 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer also in second-round action against Milos Raonic. Federer leads the big-serving Canadian 11-3 overall.

Federer’s last appearance at the Paris indoor event was a third-round loss to big-serving John Isner in 2015. There were doubts Federer would play after a grueling past week which saw him clinch his ninth victory at the Swiss Indoors and 99th overall.

“I feel good,” Federer told a news conference. “I feel like I recovered well from last week.”

The 37-year-old Federer is selective of when he plays in order to keep his body as fresh as possible, and he skipped the entire clay-court season for the second straight year.

With the season-ending ATP Finals in London starting Nov. 11, he is playing three straight tournaments. But the third-ranked Federer feels comfortable with it.

“I feel like it’s better for me to play matches rather than practice,” Federer said. “As long as I don’t feel like I’m taking a chance on my health prior to London, that’s the key as well.”

Federer showed fighting qualities last week in Basel, where he was twice taken to three sets and went an early break down in three of his last four matches.

“I was a bit bumpy. But I was happy how I was fighting, how I was trying to figure it out in a different manner,” he said. “Last week was special to win the way I did it, in a different manner.”

Federer moved within 10 titles of Jimmy Connors all-time singles record. He is cautious about his chances of success in Paris, where his only tournament victory came in 2011.

The Australian Open champion is drawn in the same half as Djokovic; Cilic and big-serving Kevin Anderson, who upset Federer in the Wimbledon quarterfinals this year.

“I rarely play two or three tournaments in a row now. So starting on Wednesday and winning five matches in a row with this caliber (of players) is very difficult,” Federer said. “If I get close to the last four that would also be great.”

In first-round play Tuesday, there were wins for Mikhail Kukushkin, Gilles Simon, Daniil Medvedev, Marton Fucsovics, Raonic and Verdasco.

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.