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Nishikori, Dimitrov set to meet in Brisbane quarterfinals

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BRISBANE, Australia — Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov had straight-sets wins Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals at the Brisbane International, where they’ll meet in a rematch of the 2017 final.

Second-seeded Nishikori broke at love in the 11th game to seize momentum in a 7-5, 6-2 win over Denis Kudla in the second round, his season-opening match after getting a first-round bye in Brisbane.

“Tough match,” Nishikori said. “After 5-5 I think he dropped a little bit his level and I started playing better, playing more aggressive and started getting more rhythm and my serve got better in the second. So yeah, I think it was good first match.”

Sixth-seeded Dimitrov, who beat Nishikori for the first time here in the 2017 title match, had to withstand a late comeback from local favorite John Millman before winning 6-3, 6-4. He had three points for a 5-1 lead in the second set but was broken as Millman went on a roll before Dimitrov regained control.

Dimitrov said he was distracted for a while despite being up two breaks but “I was not worried to the extent that I was panicking.”

“I managed to keep my composure really good throughout the whole match, especially at 4-4,” he added.

He’s using the quarterfinal against Nishikori as a barometer for where his preparations stand for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14.

“It’s great. I mean it’s right off the blocks. It’s perfect to play a match like that to kind of see where your game is at, how your movement goes,” Dimitrov said. “Kei is the favorite. Right now he’s been playing unbelievable, great finish of the year, a lot of confidence right now, striking the ball, amazing, feels free.

“But, again, I like my chances. We’ve had quite a few battles against each other. I’m just going to try to control things on my terms.”

Defending champion and No. 8-seeded Nick Kyrgios was ousted 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 by Jeremy Chardy a day after saying his preparation was hampered by a spider bite last week on his foot.

Chardy will next play Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama, who upset third-seeded Kyle Edmund 7-6 (6), 6-4. Fifth-seeded Milos Raonic advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Miomir Kecmanovic.

Anett Kontaveit beat fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (1) to advance to the women’s quarterfinals, and Anastasija Sevastova set up a match against U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka when she beat Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-0.

Fognini stuns Nadal 6-4, 6-2 to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s long winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since 2015.

The 13th-seeded Italian had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the U.S. Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.

Not since the 2005 final, a five-setter which Nadal won in four sets, had the 11-time champion Nadal been beaten 6-0 in a set here. And Fognini came so close to doing just that.

He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points – and some pride – by breaking back and then holding.

Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line to clinch victory on his fourth match point.

Nadal’s last defeat here was also in the semifinals, against Novak Djokovic in 2015. He had not lost a set at the clay-court tournament since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.

Fognini next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted happening here.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic earlier staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean.

Serving for the first set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

Lajovic clinched the first set on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.

The 28-year-old Lajovic was ill before the tournament and said he needed antibiotics to recover.

He struggled to describe his surprise run.

“Incredible … Unreal,” he said, before settling on “It’s been a great week.”

Lajovic stages comeback to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic now plays in his first career final against 11-time champion Rafael Nadal or 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

It could have been an all-Serb semi but Medvedev knocked out top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean blowing clay around the court.

Serving for the set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

He had good cause.

The first-set turnaround was complete when Lajovic clinched it on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.