No. 1 Djokovic and No. 2 Medvedev reach Paris Masters semis

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PARIS — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat unseeded American Taylor Fritz 6-4, 6-3 to reach the Paris Masters semifinals and remain on course for a record-extending sixth title at the tournament.

Djokovic is also vying for a record 37th Masters title. He is tied on 36 with fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic, who next faces seventh-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, is playing in his first tournament since losing the U.S. Open final in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev in September.

“I felt good, considering that it was only second match back on the tour from almost two months of not playing a competitive match,” said Djokovic, who had a walkover in the third round after Gael Monfils pulled out injured. “I have to be satisfied, but also there are things that need to improve, and I know that.”

He could face Medvedev, the defending Paris Masters champion, in the final again this Sunday. The second-seeded Russian saved three set points at 5-4 and 0-40 in the first set before beating French qualifier Hugo Gaston 7-6 (7), 6-4.

He next plays fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev, whom he beat in last year’s final. Zverev was largely untroubled in a 7-5, 6-4 win against No. 6 Casper Ruud of Norway.

Zverev leads Medvedev 5-4 in career meetings, although Medvedev won the past three contests.

A double break of serve put Medvedev 4-0 up in the second set against Gaston.

But Gaston, who won seven straight games from 5-0 down in the second set against Spanish teen Carlos Alcaraz in the third round, rallied to 4-3.

Medvedev’s 12th and 13th aces made it 5-3.

As they did against Alcaraz, the home crowd at times cheered Medvedev’s errors on serve and they roared in delight when he double-faulted on his first match point. They were silenced when he clinched victory on his next attempt.

“It was a tough match, I have to say, in front of a very difficult crowd. … Hugo played very well, he’s very good,” Medvedev said. “He’s able to put spin on the ball and to also have drop shots on the same ball. You never know what he’s about to do, so it’s not easy for your footwork.”

Earlier, Hurkacz beat Australian James Duckworth 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-5 to secure the last spot for the season-ending ATP Finals.

Following him onto court, Djokovic secured an early break for 2-0 but Fritz broke the Serb at love in the next game.

Djokovic had a love break of his own in the eighth game but slipped to 0-40 when serving for the first set after Fritz won a 26-shot rally, and then won the next point to pull back to 5-4.

But a rushed backhand into the net gave Djokovic a set point in the next game. Fritz saved it when Djokovic sent a forehand long, but Djokovic took his next chance when the 26th-ranked Fritz’s shot landed out.

After they traded breaks at the start of the second set, Djokovic needed to save two break points in the third game before a much-needed ace on the way to a hold for 2-1.

Djokovic took control with a forehand winner to break Fritz and then held at love for 5-2.

Serving for the match, Djokovic cruised to 40-0 and sealed the victory on his first match point with a backhand volley at full stretch that just dropped over the net.

He is 2-0 against Hurkacz, who was thrilled at making the ATP Finals, which start in the Italian city of Turin on Nov. 14.

“It feels incredible. Growing up as a kid, seeing all those top guys playing in the Finals, it’s inspiring,” the 24-year-old said. “Now being among them, it’s very special because it’s just eight spots there.”

Hurkacz reached the Wimbledon semifinals this year, beating 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the quarters. He then broke into the Top 10 for the first time last month.

The 29-year-old Duckworth, ranked 55th, was in his first quarterfinal at Masters level.

Mikael Ymer fined about $40K after default for hitting umpire stand with racket

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PARIS — Swedish tennis player Mikael Ymer was docked about $40,000 after being disqualified for smashing his racket against the umpire’s chair at a tournament the week before he competed at the French Open.

An ATP Tour spokesman said Ymer forfeited about $10,500 in prize money and 20 rankings he earned for reaching the second round of the Lyon Open. Ymer also was handed an on-site fine of about $29,000.

The spokesman said the ATP Fines Committee will conduct a review of what happened to determine whether any additional penalties are warranted.

The 56th-ranked Ymer, who is 24 and owns a victory over current No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, was defaulted in Lyon for an outburst late in the first set against French teenager Arthur Fils last week.

Ymer was upset that the chair umpire would not check a ball mark after a shot by Fils landed near a line. As the players went to the sideline for the ensuing changeover, Ymer smacked the base of the umpire’s stand with his racket twice – destroying his equipment and damaging the chair.

That led to Ymer’s disqualification, making Fils the winner of the match.

After his 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 loss to 17th-seeded Lorenzo Musetti in the first round at Roland Garros, Ymer was asked whether he wanted to explain why he reacted the way he did in Lyon.

“With all due respect, I think it’s pretty clear from the video what caused it and why I reacted the way I reacted. Not justifying it at all, of course,” Ymer replied. “But for me to sit here and to explain? I think it’s pretty clear what led me to that place. I think that’s pretty clear in the video.”

Debutant Stearns beats former champ Ostapenko to reach French Open 3rd round

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PARIS — French Open debutant Peyton Stearns produced the biggest win of her career by defeating former champion Jelena Ostapenko to reach the third round at Roland Garros.

Stearns, a former player at the University of Texas, only turned professional in June last year.

Ostapenko won the 2017 French Open but has since failed to advance past the 3rd round. The 17th-seeded Latvian dropped her serve five times against Stearns and hit 28 unforced errors in her 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 loss.

The 21-year-old Stearns has been climbing the WTA rankings and entered the French Open at No. 69 on the back of an encouraging clay-court campaign.

Third-seeded Jessica Pegula also advanced after Camila Giorgi retired due to injury. The American led 6-2 when her Italian rival threw in the towel.

Only hours after husband Gael Monfils won a five-set thriller, Elina Svitolina rallied past qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

In the men’s bracket, former runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas ousted Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2. The fifth-seeded Greek was a bit slow to find his range and was made to work hard for two sets but rolled on after he won the tiebreaker.

No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic are on court later. Alcaraz meets Taro Daniel on Court Philippe Chatrier, where Djokovic will follow against Martin Fucsovics in the night session.