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Djokovic beats Cilic to reach Paris Masters semifinals

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PARIS — Novak Djokovic remains on course for a fifth Paris Masters title after beating Marin Cilic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the semifinals on Friday.

Djokovic, who is guaranteed to take the No. 1 ranking on Monday, struggled on his serve for much of the first set.

Cilic had chances to break him in the fifth and seventh games and finally did so in the ninth when Djokovic hit a backhand long.

An ace gave Cilic set point and he took it when Djokovic sent a backhand wide.

Djokovic broke for 3-1 in the second set and did not look back.

In the third set, a Cilic cross-court forehand winner saw him break the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion for 2-1.

Djokovic broke his racket in frustration and then broke Cilic straight back, after which the momentum shifted back in his favor as Cilic lost to him for the 16th time in 18 meetings.

Roger Federer, who is seeking a 100th career title, was playing the last quarterfinal later Friday against Kei Nishikori.

Earlier, Dominic Thiem beat defending champion Jack Sock 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The Austrian served out the match and clinched victory on his first match point when Sock hit a big forehand long.

“I’m in the semifinals of a Masters 1000 only for the fourth time,” Thiem said. “It means a lot for me because I didn’t do too well in the previous years in this part of the season. So it’s something really special to reach the semifinals.”

Thiem broke the American in the fifth game of the third set, and then showed good composure to save two break points of his own at 15-40 in the eighth game.

“We always have to be aware of getting broken here. Somehow a lot of breaks are happening,” Thiem said. “It’s a little bit comfortable to return here.”

The sixth-seeded Thiem, meanwhile, next faces unseeded Karen Khachanov of Russia in their first career meeting.

Khachanov, who won the Kremlin Cup in Moscow last month, broke fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev’s serve six times in a 6-1, 6-2 win.

Zverev had treatment on his right shoulder late in the first set and made a string of unforced errors. He took exception to some comments made in Khachanov’s box and spoke to his opponent at the end of the first set.

“I told him my shoulder is hurting and that his uncle, or something, that he’s going a bit crazy,” Zverev said. “I told him to tell him to keep it down a little bit because he was going a little bit too much over the edge.”

Zverev said he was struggling all week with his troublesome right shoulder.

Benedetti wins 12th stage; Polanc takes Giro lead

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PINEROLO, Italy (AP) Cesare Benedetti won the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday for his first victory as a professional while Jan Polanc took the overall leader’s pink jersey from UAE Emirates teammate Valerio Conti.

Benedetti, an Italian with the Bora team who has been a support rider for his entire career, was part of an early breakaway then accelerated from a select group of riders in a sprint finish.

“I’ve worked a lot for the others in the past but today I got my opportunity,” Benedetti said. “I’m not (usually) a winner.”

Benedetti required 3 hours, 41 minutes to complete the 158-kilometer (98-mile) leg from Cuneo to Pinerolo, which featured one major climb and another shorter but steeper ascent just before the finish.

Damiano Caruso crossed second and Eddie Dunbar came third, each with the same time as Benedetti. Polanc, a Slovenian who was also in the breakaway, finished 25 seconds behind.

In the overall standings, Polanc leads Primoz Roglic by 4 minutes, 7 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali, one of the pre-race favorites, is fifth overall, 5:51 behind.

“It was a team tactic that I would go in the breakaway so we could have a better control over the race,” Polanc said. “It was also a way to keep the pink jersey in the team.”

Mikel Landa and Miguel Angel Lopez attacked on the first-category climb to Montoso and gained about 30 seconds on the other overall favorites.

Before the stage began, sprinters Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani withdrew from the race. Ewan won two stages, including the 11th leg a day earlier, while Viviani posted three second-place finishes.

Stage 13 on Friday is one of the race’s toughest, with two category one climbs and one category ascent, along with an uphill finish at the end of the 196-kilometer leg from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale.

The Giro ends June 2 in Verona.

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Tsonga rallies past qualifier to reach quarterfinals in Lyon

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LYON, France (AP) Former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rallied past Canadian qualifier Steven Diez on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals and extend his perfect record at the Lyon Open.

Tsonga, the 2017 champion, came within two points of losing but finally prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on his sixth match point after 2 hours, 42 minutes.

The clay-court event serves as a warmup for the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“It was good for me to play a long match like this,” Tsonga said. “I haven’t played a match this long for a while. I am not playing my best level, but I am giving everything mentally and that gives me confidence.”

Tsonga will next take on top-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat lucky loser Tristan Lamasine 7-5, 7-5.

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