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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.”

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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