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Federer wins to put Switzerland in Hopman Cup final

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PERTH, Australia — Roger Federer relied on his trusted serve to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) Thursday and give defending champion Switzerland a spot in the Hopman Cup final.

The victory assured Switzerland’s advancement, but Greece claimed a consolation 2-1 victory when Maria Sakkari beat Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-4 in women’s singles.

Greece also won the mixed doubles 4-3 (4), 2-4, 4-3 (3) in the Fast4 format.

The 37-year-old Federer’s precision went up against Tsitsipas’ power in the first set of the men’s singles match, and not much separated the two. Eight games were held at love.

“There was very little unforced errors and it was really good quality tennis,” Federer said. “It could have easily gone three sets. For me it is about maintaining a good level of play and I am happy with my game.”

Federer will be going for a record third Hopman Cup title when the Swiss team faces either host Australia or Germany in Saturday’s final.

“I will be excited to watch it tomorrow and see who we play in the final,” Federer said. “This format lends itself to some exciting tennis.”

Federer lost only seven games in wins over Cameron Norrie and Frances Tiafoe but found it tougher in his first match against Tsitsipas.

Federer trailed 4-1 in the first tiebreaker before reeling off consecutive forehand winners to claw back into it. Tsitsipas double-faulted at 5-5 and Federer then won the set with an ace.

The serve continued to dictate play until Federer had break points in the ninth and 11th games but was unable to convert. The 23-time Grand Slam champion, however, raised his game in the tiebreaker with a perfect drop shot to take a 6-3 lead. He closed it out shortly after.

Federer’s appearances at the past two Hopman Cups were followed by Australian Open titles.

Earlier, Serena Williams beat Katie Boulter 6-1, 7-6 (2) to complete an unbeaten Hopman Cup campaign in singles. With daughter Alexis Olympia in attendance, Williams was made to work in the second set before prevailing.

The winless United States, however, lost to Britain 2-1. Norrie upset Tiafoe 7-6 (4), 6-0 in men’s singles and Britain won the mixed doubles 3-4 (2), 4-3 (4), 4-1.

The 37-year-old Williams’ hopes for a record third Hopman Cup title ended when the United States was eliminated after losses to Greece and Switzerland.

Williams has slowly built momentum in her first tournament since the U.S. Open in September as she eyes a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne.

“It was definitely good to play three singles matches here, and the mixed (doubles),” Williams said on-court after her singles match.

The American did not attend a news conference after the match.

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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