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Anderson thrashes Nishikori, on verge of ATP semis

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LONDON — Kevin Anderson thrashed Kei Nishikori 6-0, 6-1 on Tuesday to move to the brink of the last four at the ATP Finals.

The 32-year-old South African was on the verge of completing just the second whitewash in the competition’s history until Nishikori won the penultimate game.

Anderson, who lost just eight points on serve, could become the first African player to reach the semifinals of the season-ending tournament.

“Among the best I’ve played,” Anderson said. “I think I did a really good job constantly applying the pressure and not letting up.”

The only result from Tuesday’s late match that can prevent the fourth-seeded Anderson from advancing would be a straight-sets victory for Roger Federer over Dominic Thiem.

Despite the resounding defeat, Nishikori’s opening-match victory over Federer means he can still reach the semifinals for the third time.

“I’ll try to forget about today,” Nishikori said. “Something was wrong. I’ve got to fix it tomorrow and try to be positive for the next one.”

Anderson and Nishikori split their last two meetings and the Japanese player held a 5-3 edge in their career head-to-head before this match. However, just as he did in his tournament-opening victory over Thiem on Sunday, Anderson started fast as an aggressive forehand into the corner earned him a 2-0 lead.

Having pledged to donate $100 to the Los Angeles Fire Department, who are fighting deadly wildfires in California, for every ace he struck, Anderson hit three in a row to consolidate the break.

“My coach is from California and so it’s a bit more close to home,” said Anderson, who ended the match with 10 aces. “We thought let’s try – we will donate and do it in a way that is interactive.”

As an increasingly frustrated Nishikori struggled to control his groundstrokes, Anderson displayed relentless accuracy to close out the opening set.

Nishikori took a lengthy break before the start of the second set, but it made no difference as Anderson ruthlessly raced to a 5-0 lead and moved to within one game of joining Federer in the history books. The six-time champion blanked Gaston Gaudio in Shanghai in 2005, but Nishikori finally put together a solid game.

Anderson, the Wimbledon finalist, swiftly completed his 47th win of the season, topping his career-high from 2015.

“Coming into this year I set my goals higher and I have embraced them well,” Anderson said. “I have been able to stay the path throughout the year.”

Opelka edges top-seeded Isner to reach New York Open final

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Reilly Opelka edged top-seeded John Isner the same way he knocked his fellow American out of the Australian Open, winning a match full of tiebreakers Saturday night in a New York Open semifinal that set a record for combined aces in a three-set match.

Opelka fought off six match points in a marathon second set and went on to win 6-7 (8), 7-6 (14), 7-6 (4) to move within a victory of his first ATP title.

The 6-foot-11 Opelka and 6-10 Isner combined for 81 aces and there were no breaks of serve. Opelka hit 43 aces, Isner had 38, and each had only one double fault.

It was similar to their meeting in Melbourne, when Opelka beat the ninth-ranked Isner in a first-round match that went four tiebreakers.

Opelka will play Canadian Brayden Schnur, a qualifier who had never won a tour-level match before this week.

Schnur recovered after blowing a 3-0 lead and eventually the second set to beat American Sam Querrey 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-3.

Schnur was the final alternate accepted into the tournament’s qualifying draw and was nearly gone from Long Island quickly, eventually overcoming two match points to beat No. 3 seed Steve Johnson in the second round.

There was nothing quick about the second semifinal, which lasted 2 hours, 31 minutes and went well past the previous record of 71 aces, set earlier this year in a match between Nick Kyrgios and Ryan Harrison.

Isner was in good position to win in straight sets, taking a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker when Opelka pushed a forehand long. But he wasted a chance to win the match on his serve, and Opelka then kept erasing the rest of the match points when he served.

Isner had dropped both matches this season, part of a six-match skid dating to the end of last year, before winning his first two matches here in straight sets.

But he was stopped again by Opelka, who fell two aces shy of Ivo Karlovic’s record for most aces in a three-set match.

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Mertens upsets Halep in Qatar Open final

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DOHA, Qatar – Unseeded Elise Mertens came from a set and a break down to beat recent No. 1 Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the Qatar Open final and capture the biggest title of her career on Saturday.

Halep led 6-3, 2-0, then lost a service game for a third time to see the second set back on serve. Mertens continued to pressure, missing two more break chances in the seventh game but finally breaking – to love – in the ninth. The set was the first Mertens took from Halep in three matchups.

Mertens broke again to start the third set, Halep leveled at 2-2, but Mertens finished stronger and won her fifth career title.

The Belgian beat two other top-10 players this week, Kiki Bertens and Angelique Kerber.

Halep’s first final appearance since August guaranteed she will rise one spot to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday.