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Kevin Anderson defeats Dominic Thiem in ATP Finals

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LONDON – Kevin Anderson made a confident start to his ATP Finals debut with a 6-3, 7-6 (10) victory over Dominic Thiem on Sunday.

Having qualified for the season-ending tournament for the first time, the 32-year-old Anderson produced a dominant serving display to take the first set at the O2 Arena, before saving two set points to come through a tense tiebreaker in the second.

In Sunday’s late match, 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer plays Kei Nishikori.

The fourth-seeded Anderson, who was runner-up at Wimbledon this year, was taken to deuce in his opening service game, but dropped only one more point on serve in the first set – and wasn’t punished for taking just one of seven break point opportunities on Thiem’s delivery.

Anderson’s groundstrokes were almost as impressive as his serve, particularly in the first set, and drew a series of errors from Thiem in the fourth game, which resulted in the crucial break.

Thiem was struggling for consistency as he made just 48 per cent of his first serves with 12 unforced errors, compared to just five winners.

The 25-year-old Austrian rallied in a far more competitive second set but couldn’t force a break point despite taking Anderson to deuce on two occasions.

Thiem was showing glimpses of the form that took him to the French Open final earlier this year, but his unforced errors continued to bail out Anderson and the set went to a tiebreaker.

A rare triumph for Thiem in a lengthy rally gave him the first mini-break and a 2-1 lead, but Anderson quickly hit back before the pair exchanged mini-breaks once more to leave the score at 5-5.

Both players raised their level as 10 consecutive points, which included three match points for Anderson and two set points for Thiem, went with serve.

Anderson, who saved a match point before knocking Federer out in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in July, once more displayed his ability to thrive under pressure.

Forced wide by Thiem, Anderson slapped a forehand winner up the line to bring up a first match point on his own serve at 11-10.

He didn’t waste it, hitting a 13th ace of the match to ensure that the sixth-seeded Thiem has now lost his opening round-robin match on all three of his appearances at the tournament.

Bencic beats 2-time defending champ Svitolina in Dubai semi

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic stopped Elina Svitolina’s bid for a third consecutive title at the Dubai Championships by beating her 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in the semifinals Friday.

The 45th-ranked Bencic won her third match in a row against a top-10 opponent and will face yet another, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, in Saturday’s final at the hard-court tournament.

Kvitova advanced to her third final of 2019 by edging Hsieh Su-wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The No. 2-seeded Kvitova picked up her tour-high 17th victory of 2019.

Bencic is seeking her third career title, Kvitova her 27th.

Against No. 6 seed Svitolina, Bencic trailed 5-3 in the third set. This was her latest in a string of comebacks. She saved six match points against eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, then erased a set deficit to beat third-seeded Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

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Bencic upsets Halep to reach Dubai semifinals

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic rallied to beat second-ranked Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday to reach the Dubai Championships semifinals.

Bencic, who saved six match points in the previous round against Aryna Sabalenka, failed to capitalize on an early break in the first set but Halep continued to struggle with her serve and was broken seven times in total. Bencic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and then raced out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, having won six games in a row. Halep, who was playing her ninth match in 13 days after reaching the final in Qatar last week, got one break back but Bencic broke again for a 5-2 lead before converting her third match point.

Second-seeded Petra Kvitova had no such problems, winning the last eight games to oust Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-0 to book her spot in the last four. Kvitova, the 2013 Dubai champion, needed just 62 minutes to wrap up the win. She will next face Su-wei Hsieh of Taiwan, who came from 5-1 down in the final set to beat fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. It was the latest upset for Hsieh, who ousted Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Wednesday.

In the final quarterfinal, Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain was playing Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

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