Djokovic reaches Paris Masters final; Nadal injured

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PARIS (AP) Novak Djokovic reached his sixth Paris Masters final with a 7-6 (5), 6-4 win Saturday against Grigor Dimitrov, beating him for the ninth time in their 10 career matches.

The top-ranked Serb remains on course for a fifth title at Bercy Arena and faces hard-hitting Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the final after second-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out injured moments before his match against Shapovalov.

It was not immediately clear why Nadal had to pull out.

Djokovic and Dimitrov won more than 80% of first serve points in a tight opening set where neither faced a break point.

But when it mattered, Dimitrov cracked in the tiebreaker.

With Dimitrov 5-4 up and controlling the exchanges, a 32-stroke rally ended when he advanced to the net and tried an extravagant forehand volley to the left. He could have played an easier shot with a controlled backhand to the vacant right side of the court.

The ball landed out and Djokovic punched the air, roaring in relief.

Then, on set point, a 35-stroke rally ended when Dimitrov chopped a backhand long.

Djokovic broke him in the fifth game of the second set, the unseeded Bulgarian mis-hitting a forehand and sending it long.

Serving for the match, Djokovic held to love and clinched victory when Dimitrov sent a return wide at full stretch.

Djokovic won his first title here 10 years ago and then three straight from 2013-15. He lost his only final, last year, to Karen Khachanov.

Djokovic is bidding to finish the year as No. 1 for the sixth time, which would move him one ahead of Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors in a tie with all-time leader Pete Sampras.

Nadal is looking to seal the year-end top ranking for the fifth time.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.