Novak Djokovic opens ATP Finals beating Casper Ruud

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TURIN, Italy — Five-time champion Novak Djokovic reopened his ATP Finals account and beat Casper Ruud 7-6 (4), 6-2.

He’s attempting to match Roger Federer’s record of six titles at the elite season-ending event for the top eight players.

In the other group match, Andrey Rublev topped 2018 champion Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4.

Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev won their group singles on Sunday.

After his match, Djokovic was presented with the trophy for finishing the year ranked No. 1, a feat he accomplished for a record seventh time – breaking a tie with childhood idol Pete Sampras.

In an on-court interview, Djokovic recounted how he fell in love with tennis watching Sampras when he was “4 or 5 years old” and asked his dad to buy him a racket.

“Now I’m here and I’ve won this (trophy) seven times, one more than (Sampras) – incredible,” Djokovic told the crowd in Italian. “The dream continues. I hope to play this great sport for a couple of years.”

Later, when asked about his on-court comments, the 34-year-old Djokovic said he doesn’t have a number in mind for how many more years he wants to play.

“I don’t want to impose a limit to myself at all, because I still enjoy playing tennis, and I really enjoy competition and playing at the highest level,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said. “Being No. 1 in the world, there is no reason for me yet to think about leaving tennis. I really am in a good place at the moment.”

Following a two-month break after his loss to Medvedev in the U.S. Open final, which ended his pursuit of a calendar-year Grand Slam, Djokovic returned this month and won the Paris Masters. He’s won six straight matches.

Ruud, a first-time qualifier, broke serve in their opening game when Djokovic fell and dropped his racket as he changed direction to run down a lob. Djokovic managed to pick his racket back up and hit a weak reply but Ruud quickly finished off the point.

A double-fault from Ruud handed Djokovic the break back and evened the set at 3-3. Djokovic then began holding easily and putting pressure on Ruud’s serve, enabling him to wear down the Norwegian during the tiebreaker.

Helped by fast conditions inside the Pala Alpitour, Djokovic won a near-perfect 20 of 21 points with his first serve in the opening set, and 35 of 39 throughout the match.

Djokovic served 10 aces and Rudd nine.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.