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Top-seeded Isner beaten in second round of ASB Classic

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Top-seeded John Isner was eliminated in the second round of the ATP Tour’s ASB Classic on Wednesday, losing 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) to fellow American Taylor Fritz.

On a good day for young Americans, Tennys Sandgren of the United States beat third-seeded Marco Checchinato of Italy 6-3, 6-3.

Isner’s defeat was another blow to a tournament already deprived of star power by the withdrawals of Gael Monfils, Roberto Bautista Agut and Tomas Berdych and the first-round losses of Hyeon Chung and Denis Shapovalov.

Fritz had lost to Isner in their two previous meetings but prevailed Wednesday in the face of Isner’s barrage of 26 aces. The 21-year-old Fritz, ranked 50th, managed to beat his 10th-ranked compatriot for the first time by winning a handful of key points in both tiebreaks.

“It feels great,” Fritz said. “John’s beaten me twice before and it was close.

“I really wanted to get the win on him and I knew I could. We had a lot of close points and it just feels really good to get through that.”

Fritz achieved the rare feat of breaking Isner’s serve in the fifth game of the first set. He earned three break points and Isner saved the first two with aces but Fritz converted the third for a 3-2 lead. Isner broke back immediately and held for the rest of the set to set up the tiebreak.

Fritz immediately grabbed a mini break and took a 3-0 lead. Isner battled back with two aces but couldn’t disrupt Fritz’s serve – he served 12 aces of his own – and the younger American took the set in 53 minutes.

The second set went to a tiebreak without a service break, Fritz saving the only break point of the set in the third game. Fritz again took the early advantage, gaining a mini break on the third point and serving for a 4-1 lead.

This time Isner broke back for 4-4 but Fritz took a point against serve again at 6-4, sweeping a backhand winner across court as Isner advanced on the net.

Fritz won more tiebreaks in 2018 than any other player and he put that ability to good use Wednesday to claim his fourth win over a top-20 player.

“I like to think that one of the strengths of my game is playing under pressure and playing the big moments well,” Fritz said. “More often than not in the matches I lose that’s where I get let down.

“So I’m happy to start every year and today as well playing well under pressure and handling those big moments well.”

Matteo Berrettini breaks through on grass to win Stuttgart Open

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STUTTGART, Germany — Matteo Berrettini beat Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-6 (11) to win the Stuttgart Open and his third tour-level title on Sunday.

The Italian saved five set points in a second-set tiebreaker and clinched his first title on grass. His other titles came at Budapest in April, and Gstaad, Switzerland, last year.

The 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime previously reached championship matches in Rio de Janeiro in February and the Lyon Open in May – both on clay.

Berrettini won all 50 of his service games during the week in Stuttgart. He did not face a break point against Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime progressed to the final in his first professional grass tournament without playing Saturday as compatriot Milos Raonic withdrew ahead of their semifinal due to back problems.

Playing on two surfaces, Vekic reaches Nottingham semis

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NOTTINGHAM, England — Former champion Donna Vekic finally got to play on grass at the Nottingham Open on Friday but had to overcome multiple rain delays and another switch indoors before reaching the semifinals.

The second-seeded Vekic defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-4 in a match played on two surfaces as rain again played havoc with the schedule.

The opening two days were completely washed out before organizers decided to switch the first and second rounds indoors as rain fell for four consecutive days.

Vekic, who won the tournament in 2017, will play Germany’s Tatjana Maria in her third straight semifinal in Nottingham. Maria earlier defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 7-6 (7) in the only match completed on grass so far at the tournament.

Also Friday, American Jennifer Brady defeated fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-5, 6-3 to set up a semifinal against top-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Garcia rallied to beat Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 in the last quarterfinal.