Djokovic downs Nadal to reach French Open final

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PARIS — Novak Djokovic stopped Rafael Nadal’s bid for a 14th French Open title and handed the King of Clay just his third loss in 108 matches at the tournament by coming back to win their thriller of a semifinal 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Terrific as the play was for most of the four hours, the match ended with a bit of a whimper: Djokovic grabbed the last six games.

So Djokovic will be seeking his second trophy at Roland Garros and a 19th major championship overall when he plays in Sunday’s final.

The top-seeded Djokovic’s opponent will be fifth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas.

It will be the 29th career Grand Slam final for Djokovic, and the first for Tsitsipas. Tsitsipas beat Alexander Zverev in the semifinals.

Nadal had won the past four titles in Paris, part of his collection of 20 Slams, tied with Roger Federer for the most by a man in tennis history.

The 35-year-old Spaniard is 105-3 for his career — and Djokovic is responsible for two of those defeats.

The masterpiece of a third set lasted 1 hour, 33 minutes alone, and an 11 p.m. nationwide curfew in place because of COVID-19 was approaching. Djokovic’s previous match had been delayed more than 20 minutes while the audience — limited to 5,000 people under coronavirus restrictions — was cleared out of the stadium, but an announcement was made Friday to let everyone know they would be allowed to stay until the end of the match.

Earlier chants in French of “We won’t leave! We won’t leave!” were replaced by choruses of the national anthem and cheers of thanks for President Emmanuel Macron.

Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia, will face Tsitsipas, a 22-year-old from Greece, who edged Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.

Tsitsipas already had given away all of a two-set lead in his semifinal earlier Friday when he double-faulted to trail love-40 in the opening game of the fifth. But Tsitsipas steeled himself to win five consecutive points, including one with a cross-court forehand passing shot he celebrated by shaking his racket as the crowd chanted his last name.

That hold pushed the No. 5-seeded Tsitsipas back in the right direction.

“I’m someone who fights. I was not willing to give up yet. I think I did few things right that worked in my favor,” said Tsitsipas, who entered the day 0-3 in major semifinals.

“It was a breath of fresh air, that first game,” he said. “I felt revitalized.”

Tsitsipas broke to go up 3-1 in the fifth with plenty of help from Zverev, who double-faulted and flubbed a trio of groundstrokes. Eventually, Tsitsipas served out the biggest win of his career, ending it after more than 3 1/2 hours on his fifth match point.

“It was a match full of emotions, full of so many different phases that I went through,” Tsitsipas said. “So at the end, it was just such a big relief I was able to close it in such a good way. It was just exhausting.”

Tiafoe beats Tsitsipas to give Team World 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — Frances Tiafoe staved off four match points to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8 and clinch victory in the Laver Cup for Team World over Roger Federer’s Team Europe for the first time.

Tiafoe, a 24-year-old American, performed with the same crunch-time success and wide-smiling showmanship he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open this month.

The victory over 2021 French Open runner-up Tsitsipas allowed the group of 20-somethings on Team World to go up 13-8 in the three-day competition against Team Europe, which in addition to Federer – the 20-time major champion who just retired – featured Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

Djokovic had wins in singles and doubles to put Team Europe up 8-4. The last day’s matches were worth three points each, with the first squad to 13 earning the trophy named for Rod Laver, the only man to win the calendar-year Grand Slam twice.

Team World took the lead on the final day at the O2 Arena, thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He defeated 21-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Jack Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Team Europe came into the week having won all four previous editions of the Laver Cup, which was founded by Federer’s management company.

This one served as a celebration of the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career. His final match before retirement came when he and Nadal lost in doubles to Tiafoe and Sock.

Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker. On the first, at 6-5, Tsitsipas netted a forehand to close a 22-stroke exchange. Tiafoe erased the second, at 9-8, with a volley winner. And Tsitsipas sailed backhands long on each of his last two chances to close it out, at 10-9 and 11-10.

Tiafoe went a record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient in the big moments this time. When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end the match – and the competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket, then fell to his back on the court, where his teammates piled on top of him.

Sonego beats Bublik at Moselle Open to win 1st title of 2022

Winston-Salem Open - Day 5
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METZ, France – Lorenzo Sonego clinched his first title of the season by beating Alexander Bublik 7-6 (3), 6-2 in the Moselle Open final.

The 27-year-old Italian did not drop a set all tournament as he won the third title of his career and first on hard courts.

The unseeded Sonego recovered from 0-40 down in the fifth game of the match and secured victory when the seventh-seeded Bublik sent a backhand return long.

He then danced on court as he celebrated a perfect tournament where he also beat defending champion Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinals.

Sonego’s win will move him up 21 places in the ATP rankings and into 44th place.