Federer, Djokovic reach Paris Masters quarterfinals

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PARIS — Roger Federer’s bid for a 100th career title remains on as he beat Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the Paris Masters quarterfinals.

If he wins that, against Kei Nishikori, he could face Novak Djokovic in the semifinals – but Federer is thinking more about winning the season-ending ATP Finals, which start Nov. 11.

“My objective is London. If I can do well here in Paris and beat (Djokovic), all the better,” Federer said. “But I’m not there yet. We’ll see.”

Federer, 37 and returning to the tournament for the first time since 2015, was hardly tested as he beat Fognini for the fourth time in four matches. He was fresh after Milos Raonic pulled out injured before their second-round match on Wednesday.

“It was welcome because my body needed it,” Federer said. “I needed an extra day and this is what I got. It was a lot of luck.”

A double break of serve put Federer 4-1 up before Fognini broke back with a backhand winner down the line. Fognini had a chance to pressure Federer in the 10th game when the 20-time Grand Slam champion was 15-40 down on serve.

But Federer, who got through a few difficult situations last week on his way to winning the Swiss Indoors for the ninth time, saved both and then held to clinch the first set.

Federer responded well in the eighth game of the second set, again saving two break points at 15-40 down on his way to leading 5-3. Fognini cracked in the next game and was broken to love, double faulting on match point.

Federer was given a standing ovation after his win.

“It was wonderful to have such a welcome from the French public,” he said. “The atmosphere was wonderful.”

Djokovic also feels at home in Paris.

He is chasing a record-extending fifth Paris Masters title and advanced toward that when Damir Dzumhur retired trailing 6-1, 2-1.

Dzumhur had a lengthy massage on his lower back late in the first set. But Djokovic was in total control and did not face a break point, breaking Dzumhur’s serve three times.

Djokovic, who will reclaim the No. 1 ranking next week regardless of where he finishes, faces Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals.

“I’m obviously very proud of the achievement,” said Djokovic, whose ranking slipped to No. 22 in May as he struggled to shake off a persistent elbow problem. “Five months ago, if you told me that (I would be No. 1 now), it was highly improbable at that time considering my ranking and the way I played and felt on the court.”

Although Djokovic leads Cilic 15-3 overall, Cilic won two of their past three matches – including two years ago in the Paris Masters quarterfinals.

“He has a big serve and big game from back of the court. It’s just a very powerful style of tennis,” Djokovic said. “Tough to receive his missiles. You know, first serves are really, really fast, and he uses a lot of rotation and variation with his serve.”

The 10th-seeded Nishikori did not face break points in beating the seventh-seeded Anderson – the Wimbledon runner-up to Djokovic – 6-4, 6-4.

Earlier, fifth-seeded Cilic beat ninth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (5), 6-4, needing six set points to win the first set.

Cilic trailed 5-4 during the tiebreaker but won both points on Dimitrov’s serve before serving out the first set.

Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev saved all four break points he faced in beating Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-2.

Zverev next faces unseeded Karen Khachanov.

Khachanov beat John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (8) in a match in which the eighth-seeded Isner had 19 aces but missed two match points.

Defending champion Jack Sock did not face a break point and needed less than one hour to beat lucky loser Malek Jaziri 6-0, 6-4.

Sock next faces No. 6 Dominic Thiem, who used 14 aces as he rallied to beat No. 11 Borna Coric 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-5.

Nick Bollettieri, coach to many tennis stars, dies at 91

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Nick Bollettieri, the Hall of Fame tennis coach who worked with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Andre Agassi and Monica Seles, and founded an academy that revolutionized the development of young athletes, died at 91.

Bollettieri died at home in Florida after a series of health issues, his manager, Steve Shulla, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“When he became sick, he got so many wonderful messages from former students and players and coaches. Many came to visit him. He got videos from others,” Shulla said. “It was wonderful. He touched so many lives and he had a great send-off.”

Known for his gravelly voice, leathery skin and wraparound sunglasses – and a man who called himself the “Michelangelo of Tennis” despite never playing professionally – Bollettieri helped no fewer than 10 players who went on to be No. 1 in the world rankings. That group includes sisters Serena and Venus Williams, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Agassi and Seles.

“Our dear friend, Nick Bollettieri, graduated from us last night. He gave so many a chance to live their dream,” Agassi wrote on Twitter. “He showed us all how life can be lived to the fullest. Thank you, Nick.”

Bollettieri remained active into his 80s, touring the world to drop in on the top tournaments and, in 2014, became only the fourth coach to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. That was the same year another one of his proteges, Kei Nishikori, reached the final of the U.S. Open.

Six of his pupils already are in the Hall of Fame, a number sure to grow once others are eligible.

“I forged my own path, which others found to be unorthodox and downright crazy,” Bollettieri said in his induction speech at the hall in Newport, Rhode Island. “Yes, I am crazy. But it takes crazy people to do things that other people say cannot be done.”

The Bollettieri Tennis Academy opened in 1978 in Bradenton, Florida, and was purchased by IMG in 1987.

The IMG Academy now spans more than 600 acres and offers programs in more than a half-dozen sports in addition to tennis.

Bollettieri was an educator who would brag he never read a book, never mind that he majored in philosophy in college and even gave law school a try, albeit for less than a year.

He also was an adept self-promoter – one who would publish a pair of autobiographies – no matter that detractors dismissed him as a hustler and huckster. The truth is, any criticism was no match for the astounding success of his pupils.

His teaching methods were widely copied and tennis academies dot the globe today.

“Our sport lost one of its most passionate coaches & advocates,” Hall of Fame member Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. “Nick was always positive & was able to get the best out of everyone fortunate enough to work w/him.”

Bollettieri’s first student to reach No. 1 was Boris Becker in 1991. Then came others, such as Martina Hingis, Marcelo Rios and Jelena Jankovic.

Just as rewarding, Bollettieri said, were the successes of less accomplished players.

“The fuel that has sustained me to the summit is, without a doubt, my passion to help others become champions of life, not champions just on the tennis court,” he said. “Nothing makes me more happy than when I run into a past student or receive a kind note telling me how I changed their lives, that they are better parents, lawyers, doctors, CEOs and people because of the impact I made on their lives.”

Bollettieri’s devotion to his players came at a cost. For much of his career, he was on the road nine months out of every year, and he cited his travel schedule as one reason he was married eight times.

Survivors include his wife, Cindi, seven children and four grandchildren, according to Shulla, who said a celebration of Bollettieri’s life is planned for March.

Nicholas James Bollettieri was born July 31, 1931, in Pelham, New York. He earned a philosophy degree and played tennis at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and was a paratrooper in the Army before enrolling in law school at the University of Miami.

For spending money, Bollettieri began teaching tennis for $1.50 an hour, according to the Hall of Fame. More than 60 years later, his fee was $900.

After a few months, he dropped out of law school to concentrate on coaching. At first, he conceded, knowledge of tennis technique wasn’t his forte.

“I didn’t know much about teaching the game,” he said. “The gift God gave me was the ability to read people.”

Bollettieri won praise for his motivational skills, yelling when he deemed it necessary. He had an eye for talent and was a visionary regarding boot-camp training for young athletes who lived together.

He bought a club in 1978, and students lived in his house. Two years later, he borrowed $1 million from a friend to build a first-of-its-kind complex in what had been a tomato field.

The site now has a boarding school, 55 tennis courts and facilities for seven other sports, including football, basketball and baseball.

Running a business wasn’t Bollettieri’s strong suit, and he sold the academy to IMG but continued to work there, stressing a tactical approach that transformed tennis. He urged players to take advantage of modern racket technology, emphasizing power over finesse.

The academy churned out big hitters who relied on their serve and forehand to overpower opponents. That approach worked for Agassi, Seles, Courier and many others.

“In my dreams,” Bollettieri confessed with a grin, “I say, `Nick, you’re darn good.”‘

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

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LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.