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Nick Kyrgios edges Stefanos Tsitsipas at Citi Open

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WASHINGTON — Nick Kyrgios hammed it up by delivering a repaired sneaker to his opponent, No. 1-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas. He celebrated one key shot with a shimmy. He marked the last point by shaking a fan’s hand.

The Nick Kyrgios Experience was in full effect at the Citi Open on Saturday night – and he played well, too, hitting 19 aces, saving a match point and edging Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7) in a semifinal about as even as can be and filled with all manner of memorable moments across its 2 hours, 7 minutes.

How close was it? Each man took a total of 91 points. Each won 48 of his 58 first-serve points; each won 16 of his 33 second-serve points.

“Nick, in my opinion, is underrated. I guess the rivalry between me and him – it looks bright,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to face each other plenty of times in the future.”

The 52nd-ranked Kyrgios will seek his sixth ATP title Sunday, when he faces No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev or Peter Gojowczyk in the final.

That match will be hard-pressed to compete with Kyrgios vs. Tsitsipas, which had some fantastic shotmaking by both men, two creative players in their early 20s. The most GIF-worthy interlude came during a changeover early in the third set, when the shoe issues that have been plaguing Tsitsipas cropped up again, creating a comical scene.

Tsitsipas says friction from the way he slides on hard courts leads to problems with his sneakers’ laces, which is why he has been changing footwear during matches. That bothered his quarterfinal foe, Benoit Paire, so much that Paire went and yanked off a shoe himself in a sort of protest.

This time, a ball boy brought a problematic shoe to Tsitsipas’ father – who is also his coach – up in the stands for fixing. Kyrgios waited out the process by leaning on a screen at the back of the court, then decided to speed things along by getting that sneaker from Dad and carrying it across the court to Tsitsipas. Kyrgios presented it on bended knee, with head bowed, as if to say, “Here, my lord.”

Kyrgios smiled. Tsitsipas gave him a thumbs-up. Spectators reveled in it all.

These two never had faced each other and, in the past, they’ve had their differences. But the duo played doubles together in Washington earlier in the week and apparently hit it off.

The concluding tiebreaker was a roller-coaster. Kyrgios led 5-1. Tsitsipas, who had his right thigh taped by a trainer after skidding to an awkward stop in the opening game, seized five consecutive points to lead 6-5 and hold a match point. Kyrgios erased that with a 132 mph service winner.

On Kyrgios’ first match point of his own, at 7-6, he flubbed a slice forehand. Before the second, he spoke to a front-row spectator, as though seeking advice, closed out the victory with a big serve followed by a forehand winner, then raced back to shake the man’s hand.

Kyrgios is most definitely a showman, someone who does the sorts of things few, if any, other tennis players do, for better or for worse.

“Some people love him. Some people hate him. I believe we need people like him in the game,” Tsitsipas said. “Otherwise, everything becomes too serious. He’s fun.”

Earlier, American teens Coco Gauff and Caty McNally won their first pro tournament as a doubles team by beating the fourth-seeded duo of Maria Sanchez and Fanny Stollar 6-2, 6-2.

“For both of us,” Gauff said, “it means a lot.”

McNally’s impressive showing in Washington included a run to the semifinals in singles – but that’s where it ended for her in that event Saturday with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 loss to Camila Giorgi of Italy.

In Sunday’s final, Giorgi will face Jessica Pegula, whose parents own the NFL’s Bills and NHL’s Sabres.

Djokovic loses in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio (AP) Ashleigh Barty’s chance to move back to No. 1 was only one victory away. At the end of an up-and-down week, she didn’t have another comeback left.

Neither did Novak Djokovic, who went away with yet another disappointment in Cincinnati.

Barty lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday. Djokovic ended the day with another stunner, getting overwhelmed by Daniil Medvedev’s serve as the Russian pulled out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

It’s been that kind of week in Cincinnati, with top players in both brackets either struggling or hurt heading into the U.S. Open.

The women’s bracket has a lot questions with New York just around the corner. No. 1 isn’t one of them.

Barty’s seven-week run atop the field ended when Naomi Osaka edged ahead of her in the latest ranking. A victory Saturday would have moved Barty back ahead for the U.S. Open. Instead, she dropped the opening set for the third straight match and this time, there was no digging out.

“A week that we battled through,” Barty said. “I think at times I played some good stuff. At times, I played some pretty awful stuff.”

Which will it be for Barty at the Open? And will Osaka be in good enough shape to defend her title?

Osaka dropped out of her semifinal match Friday with discomfort in her left knee that caused her worry. She still plans to play in New York, but it’s unclear whether the knee will be a problem.

And then there’s Serena Williams, who retired in the finals at Toronto last Sunday because of back spasms. She also withdrew from Cincinnati before her first match, but stuck around to cheer sister Venus until her loss in the quarterfinals.

A resurgent Kuznetsova gave Barty no openings, knocking off a top-five player for the second time this week to reach her first final of the season. The 153rd-ranked player is recovering from seven-month layoff because of a knee injury.

In her ninth tournament of the season, she got her game together, winning her first Premier-level semifinal since 2017 at Madrid.

“Well, sometimes in life it’s like this,” Kuznetsova said. “It’s like really small things change everything. Definitely it’s different momentum I have now.”

She’ll face Madison Keys , who beat Sofia Kenin 7-5, 6-4 with the help of 14 aces. Keys ended her streak of failing to make it past the second round of her last three tournaments, playing through heat and humidity all week without problem.

“I feel really good” she said. “Every day I’m kind of waking up, hoping that everything still feels like it’s in one piece and it feels really good.”

In the men’s bracket, Djokovic overcame concerns about his right elbow but couldn’t prevail over Medvedev’s 14 aces. Djokovic got the muscles around his right elbow rubbed during his quarterfinal win on Friday night and showed no sign of a problem a day later.

Djokovic won the tournament for the first time last year, getting the only Masters 1000 title that had eluded him. This one slipped away in the second set.

Medvedev reached the final at Montreal last week and lost to Rafael Nadal. He’s back to a title match again after fighting off a break point midway through the second set and closing with a flurry, winning 12 of the last 14 points to even the match and take the momentum.

He’ll face David Goffin, who reached his first Masters 1000 final by beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-4 . Goffin also is on an upswing after falling to No. 33 in the ATP rankings on June 10, his lowest since September 2014.

“Of course, it was a tough period there,” Goffin said. “I was coming back from injuries. I had some trouble with my confidence. I couldn’t find my rhythm, my game. So it’s great now. I’m feeling great. I’m back at my best tennis.”

The men’s bracket also took several notable hits throughout the week.

Originally billed as a reunion of the Big Four – Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray together for the first time since January – it quickly lost its luster. Nadal dropped out after winning the Rogers Cup, citing fatigue. Murray played singles for the first time since hip surgery in January and lost his opening match.

And Federer, the seven-time champion, failed to reach the weekend, losing in the quarterfinals.

More AP tennis: http://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Barty upset in Cincy semifinals, misses top spot for U.S. Open

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MASON, Ohio — Ashleigh Barty was upset by Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-4 in the Western & Southern Open semifinals, missing her chance to return to the No. 1 ranking ahead of the U.S. Open.

Barty dropped an opening set Saturday for the third straight match, but couldn’t overcome the slow start this time. A resurgent Kuznetsova earned her third win over a Top 10 player this week and reached the final for the first time this season.

Barty had slipped behind Naomi Osaka in the latest rankings. She would have jumped back ahead by winning Saturday. Osaka, the defending U.S. Open champion, withdrew in the quarterfinals with a sore knee.

Serena Williams dropped out during her first match of the tournament because of back spasms.