Zverev tops Nadal, sets up Paris Masters final vs. Medvedev

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PARIS — Alexander Zverev advanced to the Paris Masters final for the first time by beating top-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday, denying Nadal the chance to win a tournament that continues to elude him.

The fourth-seeded Zverev faces No. 3 Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final, and leads him 5-1 in career meetings. Zverev goes for his fourth Masters title and 14th overall, while 2019 U.S. Open runner-up Medvedev is seeking his third Masters crown, eighth career title and first of this year.

“We’re not going to give each other anything tomorrow and we’ll see who can win. I’m looking forward to it,” Zverev said. “I think we are both extremely hungry, it will be our first title here.”

All of the semifinalists stood to win this tournament for the first time, but it won’t be Nadal.

Although he has won 86 titles in his glittering career, including a record-equaling 20 Grand Slams and 35 Masters events, he lost his only final here in 2007 to David Nalbandian.

Serving for the match at an empty Bercy Arena because of the coronavirus pandemic, the imposing Zverev opened with his 13th ace.

He double-faulted on his first match point at 40-0. But on the next one, Nadal’s forehand down the line went wide to give the 23-year-old German only his second win in seven matches against the Spanish veteran.

“I have just beaten Rafa, so that is never easy to do,” Zverev said. “I think the whole world will agree with me on that.”

Nadal was broken to love in the third game and dropped the opening set for the third time in his four matches. Zverev won 78% of points on first serve compared to 60% for Nadal and led 9-1 in aces in that set. He clinched it with a sliced shot at the net which Nadal could not reach.

“He’s in the final serving huge. I think I returned better than the other days, but was impossible at the beginning. He was serving bombs and hitting the right spots all the time,” Nadal said. “So I decided to go eight meters behind the baseline later on in the match and I think worked better for me.”

Zverev broke Nadal again in the third game of the second set.

A frustrated Nadal punched his racket head when he failed to convert two break points in the sixth game, but held his nerve to save four break points in the next game and then finally broke Zverev to make it 4-4.

But an erratic and agitated Nadal was conceding too many chances on his serve and, after Zverev broke him for a third time, he sat shaking his head during the changeover.

Earlier, Medvedev reached the Paris Masters final for the first time after beating Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a contest between big servers. He secured the win with a smash at the net.

The 10th-seeded Raonic has never won a Masters event and missed out on a second final here, having lost to Novak Djokovic in 2014. The Canadian had 12 aces compared to seven for Medvedev and both players won around 80% of their points on first serves.

“I don’t think it was the best tennis I have played this year, but it was definitely one of the best matches,” Medvedev said. “I was playing good in the beginning of the year, and then there was a stop (because of the pandemic).”

Raonic missed a chance in the second set when Medvedev saved three break points at 0-40 down in the eighth game, but Raonic finally broke him on his fourth break point in the 12th game to make it 6-6.

“I think in some key moments he found a way to be a bit more the aggressor. He was dictating a bit more, I was trying to change the pace up,” Raonic said. “He was a lot more efficient at creating his opportunities.”

Medvedev raced into a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker and sealed victory on his first match point.

Top-ranked Swiatek, Kvitova reach quarters at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Top-ranked Iga Swiatek advanced to the quarterfinals of the Agel Open after Ajla Tomljanovic retired with an injury during the second set of their second-round match on Wednesday.

The Polish U.S. Open champion was leading 7-5, 2-2 when her Australian opponent retired due to a left knee injury at the indoor hardcourt event in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava.

Swiatek, who also won the French Open in June, will next face American qualifier Catherine McNally or Karolina Muchova.

Home favorite and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova upset second-seeded Paula Badosa of Spain 7-6 (4), 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against this year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina, who rallied to eliminate Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5.

Czech players also won the last two first-round matches on the schedule.

Muchova knocked out seventh-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-4, 6-4 and Barbora Krejcikova ousted American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-2 for her sixth straight victory after she won the Tallinn Open on Sunday for her first WTA title of the year.

Djokovic near flawless to reach second round in Astana

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan – Novak Djokovic delivered a near-flawless performance to ease into the second round of the Astana Open with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Cristian Garin on Wednesday as he goes for a third straight tournament title.

Djokovic dropped just six points on his serve and won the last five games to seal the win in just 62 minutes.

Djokovic is coming off a victory in Tel Aviv last week and – aside from a match at the Laver Cup – the Wimbledon champion hasn’t lost since the French Open quarterfinals.

“From the start to the end, (it was) a great performance,” Djokovic said. “Playing in a new tournament, different conditions, the first match is never easy. Obviously you are looking to see how you are going to adapt, but I did it perfectly, really, played as well as I can.”

Djokovic will next play Botic van de Zandschulp.

Top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz lost in the opening round on Tuesday in his first match since winning the U.S. Open title to capture the No. 1 spot.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the quarterfinals by beating 19-year-old Luca Nardi of Italy 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3). Nardi was playing just his fifth tour-level main-draw match and impressed the third-seeded Greek, who didn’t earn a single break point.

“He’s a player that can play very well in the future,” Tsitsipas said. “There weren’t any holes. I believe today he was able to sustain that level from the beginning to end, and that was extremely impressive.”

Roberto Bautista Agut also reached the quarterfinals as he followed up his first-round upset of Felix Auger-Aliassime by beating Pavel Kotov 6-1, 7-6 (5).

Marin Cilic, who lost the Tel Aviv final to Djokovic, had to come from behind to beat Oscar Otte 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the first round to set up a round-of-16 match against Karen Khachanov.