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Novak Djokovic closes in on semifinals at ATP Finals

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LONDON — Novak Djokovic won his second straight match at the ATP Finals, beating Alexander Zverev on Wednesday to close in on a spot in the semifinals.

The five-time champion from Serbia saved two break points at 4-4 in the opening set and then broke Zverev in the following game to take the lead.

Zverev won only one more game.

The only result from Wednesday’s late match that can prevent Djokovic from advancing would be a straight-set victory for Marin Cilic over John Isner.

After defeating Cilic in his opening match, Zverev still has a chance to become the first German since 2003 to advance to the semifinals of the season-ending competition.

The top-ranked Djokovic and third-seeded Zverev engaged in a number of thrilling exchanges early on, but it wasn’t until the ninth game that Zverev earned the first break point of the match, aided by a friendly net cord. Djokovic saved it with a service winner but then double-faulted to give the 21-year-old another opportunity.

Zverev played a great defensive forehand slice to set up a chance to finish the point with a backhand lob, but his attempt drifted just wide and Djokovic held on for 5-4.

Zverev then made a spate of errors in the next game to bring up set point for Djokovic, and double-faulted to hand the Serb the lead.

The 21-year-old Zverev rallied from 0-30 down in his next service game to hold, but that was the last of his resistance.

Djokovic broke for a 3-1 lead and then lost just one more point as he remained on track to equal Roger Federer’s six titles at the tournament.

Victory at the O2 Arena would cap a remarkable season for Djokovic, who has already secured the year-end No. 1 ranking after dropping as low as 22nd in June.

The 31-year-old ended a two-year Grand Slam title drought by winning Wimbledon in July before collecting his 14th major trophy at the U.S. Open two months later.

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.

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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.