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Federer reaches Indian Wells final after Nadal withdrawal

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Dominic Thiem outlasted Milos Raonic 7-6 (3), 6-7 (3), 6-4 on Saturday to reach the BNP Paribas Open final after Roger Federer advanced when Rafael Nadal withdrew because of a knee injury.

A somber Nadal announced his withdrawal a couple hours before he was scheduled to take the court at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

“I warm up today in the morning, and I felt that my knee was not enough good to compete at the level that I need to compete,” he said.

Federer was warming up on another court at the same time as Nadal and figured the match was on. However, Nadal soon texted him it wasn’t going to happen.

“It’s a big letdown,” said Federer, who came on court in khaki shorts and a gray cardigan to address fans. “I know the anticipation is there from the crowd and also us players. I’m excited to be in the finals but not this way.”

The 32-year-old Spaniard’s right knee flared up in the second set of his 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) victory over Karen Khachanov on Friday in the quarterfinals. He twice called for a trainer, who applied tape just below Nadal’s knee. It was obvious that Nadal’s movement was hampered.

Nadal said he won’t play again until the Monte-Carlo Masters on clay in mid-April.

“I don’t have doubts today that I will be ready for Monte Carlo,” he said.

It would have been the 39th career meeting between Nadal and Federer, who seeks a record sixth title at Indian Wells and the 101st in his career on Sunday.

“I know every one we have now could be our last,” Federer said. “It’s a special rivalry, maybe the most special with Rafa and Novak (Djokovic).”

Sunday’s women’s final features 18-year-old Canadian wild-card Bianca Andreescu against two-time major champion Angelique Kerber.

Thiem reached the semifinals via walkover after Gael Monfils withdrew from their quarterfinal with a strained left Achilles.

Against Raonic, Thiem earned the only break of the third set in the fifth game. He led 5-3 and served it out, winning on his second match point with a backhand volley.

“The only break point I had to save was in the last game, and that was what I wanted to do, to play my service games well and not let him have too many chances,” Thiem said.

Thiem and Federer have split their four previous meetings, with only one going three sets. Federer won the last time they played at the ATP Finals in London in November.

“It’s always something special to play him,” he said.

Thiem has never won a Masters 1000 title, losing in two previous finals.

Knee problems have dogged Nadal for years, and they cut short his 2018 season after the U.S. Open in September. He was forced to quit two sets into his semifinal against Juan Martin del Potro.

Nadal choked up discussing his withdrawal last fall, and he appeared near tears on Saturday.

He admitted that he sometimes is sad because he feels at a disadvantage against his opponents due to his continued knee issues that force him to limit his practice and playing time.

Then he gathered himself, saying, “It’s not the moment to complain much. With all this stuff, I still where I am today.”

The year began promisingly enough. Nadal didn’t drop a set in reaching his fifth Australian Open final, where he lost to Djokovic. He’s ranked No. 2 in the world and has a match record of 11-2.

“Still tough because I felt more or less OK during this beginning of the season in terms of my knee,” he said. “Now it starts the process that I have to decide what direction we have to take to recover well and to recover as soon as possible.”

Even with all of his injuries, Nadal indicated he has no intention of giving up playing on hard courts, the surface for two of the four Grand Slam events.

“My goal is to play on all the surfaces,” he said.

With time to fill before the women’s and men’s doubles finals, Djokovic and Pete Sampras teamed for a one-set doubles match against John McEnroe and tournament director Tommy Haas. Comedian Jon Lovitz served as chair umpire.

Fognini beats Lajovic to win Monte Carlo Masters

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MONACO (AP) Fabio Fognini won the biggest title of his career after beating Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the Monte Carlo Masters final.

The 13th-seeded Italian’s first title of the year was his ninth overall but first at Masters level.

It came the day after he stunned defending champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets, becoming the first player to beat Nadal here since Novak Djokovic in the 2015 semifinals.

“It has been an incredible week, I will keep working,” Fognini said. “I started the season badly so this is unbelievable.”

After going out in the third round of the Australian Open, Fognini had won only one match and lost six times before this tournament.

Playing here may have given him a boost, however, since he grew up in nearby San Remo – just over the Italian border and a short drive or train ride away along the glittering Mediterranean coast.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic’s run to his first career final was unexpected. But the unseeded Serb rarely threatened in humid, overcast and slightly windy conditions.

Fognini needed a medical timeout to receive treatment to his right foot and right thigh after the fifth game of the second set.

But it did not impede him as he served out the match, clinching victory on his second match point when Lajovic hit a forehand wide.

The players hugged warmly at the net.

The 31-year-old Fognini is only the fourth man to win the clay-court event since Nadal’s first of a record 11 wins in 2005. Djokovic, twice, and Stan Wawrinka also won.

The last Italian before Fognini was Nicola Pietrangeli in 1968.

The 85-year-old Pietrangeli, a two-time French Open winner, stood and applauded as Fognini dropped to his knees to kiss the surface.

Pietrangeli walked gingerly onto the court and the pair hugged. Pietrangeli posed alongside Fognini as he held the trophy

The match started evenly enough, but Fognini broke for a 4-2 lead when Lajovic made an unforced error on forehand. Fognini then held his serve with a typically flamboyant one-handed, cross-court backhand to take control.

Serving for the set, Fognini saved a break point with a forehand winner down the line, and then clinched it with an equally good backhand.

Fognini broke for a 3-2 lead in the second set when Lajovic hit a forehand wide.

After Fognini’s medical timeout, Lajovic missed an easy smash at 30-30 in the next game.

With that miss, his slim hopes faded.

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Fed Cup: Stephens pulls U.S. even with Swiss after Keys upset

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SAN ANTONIO — Sloane Stephens beat Timea Bacsinzsky after Viktorija Golubic upset Madison Keys in straight sets Saturday, leaving the United States and Switzerland tied 1-1 in their Fed Cup World Group playoff.

Stephens, the No. 8 player in the world, won 6-4, 6-3 on the hard court inside Freeman Coliseum. Her win for the Americans was crucial after the 80th-ranked Golubic was in control throughout in a 6-2, 6-3 victory over the No. 14 Keys.

Stephens is scheduled to play Golubic on Sunday, followed by Keys against Bacsinzsky. If necessary, Sophia Kenin and Jessica Pegula of the United States would play Ylena In-Albon and Conny Perrin in doubles.

The winning team moves to the 2020 World Group draw. The losing team is relegated to World Group II next season.

Stephens came back from deficits of 3-1 in the first set and 2-0 in the second against Bacsinzsky.

Stephens broke Bacsinzky in the seventh game of the second set to take the lead, and Bacsinzky became error prone after she was called for a questionable double hit in the eighth game.

In the first match, Keys made 47 unforced errors and was 0 for 4 on break points against the soft serving Golubic.

Golubic broke Keys twice in the first set and never let her wrest the momentum after dropping the first game of the second. With the score 3-3, Golubic rallied from down 40-15 in the seventh game to break Keys, who dropped to 4-5 in Fed Cup singles matches.

The Americans have won all eight meetings against Switzerland in Fed Cup play.