Djokovic beats Medvedev for record 37th Masters title

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PARIS — The day after ensuring he finishes No. 1 for a record seventh year, Novak Djokovic beat No. 2 Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the Paris Masters final for a record 37th Masters title.

Djokovic moved one clear of fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal for Masters trophies, and nine ahead of Roger Federer, the other tennis great with 20 majors.

It also gave Djokovic a record-extending sixth Paris Masters title and put him 6-4 up overall against the No. 2-ranked Medvedev, who is pushing hard to dethrone him in world tennis.

The veteran Serb had lost to Medvedev in straight sets in the U.S. Open final two months ago and had not played a tournament since.

Medvedev looked strong early on but top-seeded Djokovic, who beat him in straight sets in this year’s Australian Open final, withstood punishing rallies against an opponent nine years younger.

Djokovic’s double break against a tiring Medvedev, the defending champion, gave him a 5-2 lead and the chance to serve for an 86th career title.

Second-seeded Medvedev swiped a ball into the crowd in frustration after a fan yelled just as he was serving at 30-40 down in that game, and he pointed to the crowd in frustration at the changeover.

Some rowdy fans have cheered serving errors and double-faults, or shouted just before serves throughout the week.

Chair umpire Aurelie Tourte finally had enough, after her earlier requests for calm and in previous days from other umpires.

“When you see players on the baseline who are just about to serve,” she said, “stop making noise for nothing.”

A poor service game from Djokovic gifted Medvedev a break back to 5-3.

But on his first match point, Djokovic won a thrilling long rally befitting a great final with a forehand winner deep into the left of the court. He hugged his rival warmly at the net.

“I suffered a lot, well done to you. I really wanted to win but you’re so strong,” Medvedev said on court in near-fluent French. “I hope we play many matches like this, and we win a few each.”

Djokovic seemed overawed by Medvedev’s language skills.

“What a magical level of French you have. My level is not like Daniil’s but I try,” Djokovic responded in French. “I also suffered a lot today and also in New York, but this is a great rivalry developing.”

Djokovic celebrated with his wife, his young son and daughter.

“Today was very special for me because my family is here,” Djokovic said “It’s the first time both of my children are together to watch one of my matches.”

The contest was intense from the outset.

Serving at 30-40 down in the sixth game, Medvedev saved a break point with a forehand winner before holding and then pressuring Djokovic at 0-40 down.

The 34-year-old Serb saved two break points but could only applaud as Medvedev’s sliced backhand drop shot gave him the break.

The 25-year-old Russian served out the set when Djokovic returned long.

Djokovic was in his record-extending seventh final here and found his range to break and then hold 4-1 in the second set.

Serving at 5-3, Djokovic saved three break points in a thrilling 12-minute game featuring tight rallies.

Djokovic hit an ace on his third set point to level a tense match that had the crowd on their feet after improbable retrieves or winners from both.

There was a downside, though.

Earlier, Tourte had already intervened to demand “a bit of respect for the players” after one fan shouted just as Djokovic was about to serve at 15-30 down in the third game.

She also told one fan to stop filming with a phone during play and twice asked for a door to be closed high in the stands as people were walking in and out of it.

“Why not go for a walk outside?” she asked.

Tournament director Guy Forget earlier said that fans sometimes went too far in their exuberance, cheering errors and double-faults from opponents who faced Frenchman Hugo Gaston. During his semifinal match on Saturday, Djokovic was annoyed when his double-fault drew loud cheers.

“There was a real desire to show one’s joy, one’s emotion at being here,” Forget said. “Sometimes, if I may say so, it was borderline toward the opponent.”

But Djokovic’s week was a special one, as he moved one ahead of childhood idol Pete Sampras for No. 1 year-end finishes.

In a stellar year in which he won three majors, Djokovic eclipsed Federer’s all-time mark of 310 weeks at No. 1 on March 8 and will finish 2021 having held the top ranking for 348 weeks.

He now turns his attention toward a record-equaling sixth ATP Finals title to tie with Federer.

The season-ending event starts on Nov. 14 in Turin.

Nakashima takes first ATP Tour title at San Diego

San Diego Open - Finals
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SAN DIEGO – Brandon Nakashima earned his first ATP Tour victory in his hometown, beating friend and fellow Southern Californian Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the San Diego Open final.

“It’s super-special, something you dream of, but to have it happen in my hometown with all my friends and family here, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said Nakashima, who had two previous finals appearances. “I hope there are many more moments like this to come.”

Nakashima, a 21-year-old who grew up in San Diego and trained extensively at the event’s site as a junior, clinched the opening set in only 30 minutes. The second set, filled with lengthy rallies, took nearly an hour.

Giron, the No. 5 seed and former NCAA title winner from UCLA, wasn’t able to fend off Nakashima’s persistent ground strokes and well-placed serves. Nakashima had eight aces, six in the first set.

Serving at 5-4 in the second set, Nakashima tallied the match’s deciding two points when Giron pushed an easy volley into the net, followed by Nakashima’s second-serve ace.

He earned $93,090, about half of what received for reaching the third round of the U.S. Open in early September.

Nakashima, who was ranked No. 69 on the ATP Tour, moved up to 48, his highest ranking in nearly three years on tour. Despite the loss, Giron moved up to 53 from 58.

Not only was the singles title claimed by an American, the doubles title also taken by an American duo as the second-seeded pair of Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow defeated Australians Jason Kubler and Luke Saville 7-6 (5), 6-2.

The $612,00 event was held at Barnes Tennis Center, which next hosts the $757,900 WTA 500 San Diego Open, Oct. 8-16. That will feature 16 of the world’s top-ranked 20 women pros, led by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Frances Tiafoe lifts Team World to 1st Laver Cup win

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LONDON — The last to arrive, befitting his reputation in the locker room, Frances Tiafoe strutted into the post-match news conference after clinching Team World’s Laver Cup victory over Roger Federer’s star-studded Team Europe and shouted, “Champs are here!”

Then the 24-year-old from Maryland joined his teammates at the table where the silver trophy was resting Sunday night, put down a bottle of water, pulled a Budweiser out of his red jacket and smiled that wide smile of his.

Performing with the same infectious showmanship and crunch-time success he displayed en route to his first Grand Slam semifinal at the U.S. Open earlier this month, Tiafoe staved off four match points and came back to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6, 7-6 (11), 10-8, giving Team World its first triumph in five editions of an event founded by Federer’s management company.

“I don’t like losing,” said Federer, a 20-time major champion whose final match before retirement was a loss alongside Rafael Nadal in doubles against Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night. “It’s not fun. It just leaves not the best taste.”

When Tsitsipas put a forehand into the net to end Sunday’s contest – and the three-day competition – Tiafoe dropped his racket and fell to his back on the court, where teammates piled atop him. After getting on his feet, Tiafoe cupped a hand to his ear, asking spectators for more noise, then pointed to his chest and yelled, “I’m him! I’m him!”

“When it becomes a circus out here, and I’m just using the crowd and acting like a little kid and having a bunch of reactions … I end up playing really well and I start building momentum off it,” Tiafoe said. “I’m able to play and function in that better than my opponents, it seems.”

Using the nickname other players gave Tiafoe to reflect the way he embraces big moments, Team World captain John McEnroe said: “Frances is `Prime Time.’ He loves this stuff.”

McEnroe had been 0-4 while leading his squad against his former playing rival, Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg; both indicated they would be back for the 2023 Laver Cup in Vancouver, but that might be their last go-round.

This one served as a celebration of Federer and the 41-year-old Swiss star’s career.

Tiafoe responded with a quip when asked whether he might owe Federer some form of “I’m sorry” for beating him in his finale or for defeating his team, which also included Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray for a total of 66 major singles titles. That, incidentally, is 66 more than Team World, a collection of 20-somethings (Sock turned 30 on Saturday).

“”I’m not going to apologize to him. He’s got a lot to apologize for after the last 24 years – after beating everybody on the tour,” said Tiafoe, who went 0-3 against Federer in singles head-to-head. “I will say thank you for having me in this amazing event, what he’s done for the game. He’s a class act. Happy to know him, happy to call him a friend, happy to call him a colleague, and best wishes in his second act. But I will not apologize.”

Team Europe entered Sunday at O2 Arena with an 8-4 lead; the first team to 13 points would win.

Each match on Day 3 was worth three points, and Team World went ahead thanks to a pair of victories by Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old from Canada. He beat Djokovic 6-3, 7-6 (3), after partnering with Sock to edge Murray and Matteo Berrettini 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 in doubles.

Tiafoe then made it 13-8, but it wasn’t easy.

He went a tournament-record 8-0 in tiebreakers at Flushing Meadows this month and was just as resilient Sunday.

“It’s been a long time that Frances has been playing the big guys close and losing a lot of close battles. It’s great to see lately he’s been winning,” said Taylor Fritz, an American who is the same age as Tiafoe and has known him for years. “It’s about time that he steps up and the matches go the other way. Today was a joke.”

That’s because Tiafoe was a single point from losing to Tsitsipas four times in their second-set tiebreaker, but somehow got through that. Then, at 4-all in the concluding match tiebreaker – first to 10, win by two – Tiafoe sprinted from behind the baseline to near the net and barely got to a drop shot by Tsitsipas, somehow lunging to flick an angled winner.

While most of the 16,365 fans went wild, Tiafoe went around the net and stood still, hands on his hips, relishing the atmosphere.

“We put him in the slot that he was in today for a reason,” said Team World’s Tommy Paul, another 24-year-old American, “and he stepped up for us, big time.”