Gasquet beats Norrie in Auckland ATP final

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — French veteran Richard Gasquet added another milestone in a career of extraordinary longevity when he beat Cameron Norrie 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 at the ASB Classic to claim his 16th ATP Tour title.

The 36-year-old Gasquet has just begun his 20th year on tour and came into his first Auckland final as a substantial underdog to 12th-ranked Norrie, who was a finalist in Auckland four years ago. Gasquet is ranked 67 and recently passed 900 weeks in the top 100.

Gasquet scrambled for points throughout the match and came up with an outstanding final set to deny Norrie the title in his “home” tournament. Norrie was raised in New Zealand and has dreamed since childhood of winning the Auckland tournament.

Gasquet also has had a long-time dream of playing in New Zealand. As a fan of rugby he has been an admirer of New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team and thought of New Zealand often in another sporting context.

“It’s my first time here in New Zealand but I really love rugby and I’m a big fan,” Gasquet said. “I talked a lot to French (rugby) players about how special it was to play here in New Zealand and in Auckland. I grew up watching the (All Blacks’) haka, even at the Stade de France.

“I always wanted to play here but I couldn’t do it while I was coming through. It’s 20 years on the tour and finally I came here.”

Gasquet said the first set was “crazy” and he couldn’t make a point. He was on the back foot through most of the set after Norrie broke him in the fourth game. But he showed the fight that he kept up throughout the match, breaking back in the ninth game being broken again and conceding the set in 42 minutes.

Norrie again seemed to have the upper hand at the start of the second set. His first serve was potent and he was easily able to move the Frenchman around the court.

But Gasquet chased everything and pulled off some magnificent winners, ripping backhands down the line and eventually breaking Norrie’s serve in the fifth game. He held on, surviving break points, to win the set and level the match.

Norrie seemed to have the crucial advantage when he broke Gasquet in the second game of the third set. Again, Gasquet held on against all odds, breaking back in the seventh game.

He then broke again in the ninth game, coming up with a magnificent cross-court forehand on break point. That allowed him to serve for the set and he clinched the title on his first match point.

“The last time I won was in 2018. I am 37 this year, so when I came last week, if you were to tell me next Saturday I would win here, I wouldn’t believe it,” Gasquet said. “It’s an amazing title for me, especially now at my age. I really didn’t think I would win again.”

The margins in the match were tiny. Gasquet had eight break-point chances in the deciding set and converted four, Norrie had nine and converted three.

“I wanted that one really bad but all credit to Richard, he hung in there and played better than me down the stretch,” the British player said.

“For me, I had an amazing week. I grew up here watching the tournament, a lot of friends and family here and everyone was supporting me which was great. I really wanted to win the title but for me today makes me even more hungry and I’ll be back and hopefully get the title next year.”

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.

Jabeur bounces back at French Open, Ruud and Andreeva advance

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PARIS — Ons Jabeur got a do-over on Court Philippe Chatrier at the French Open and won this time.

A year after her first-round exit, the No. 7 seed Jabeur beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-4, 6-1 to help erase some bad memories and answer questions about a recent calf injury.

The Tunisian, a crowd favorite in Paris, smiled and expressed relief in not repeating last year’s mistake, when she lost to Magda Linette of Poland.

“I’m very happy to win my first match on Philippe Chatrier – because I’ve never won here,” Jabeur said on court about the clay-court tournament’s main stadium.

Now she can focus on trying to win her first major. She was runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.

The 28-year-old Jabeur has also battled injuries this season. She had knee surgery after the Australian Open, and was then sidelined with a calf injury. She had stopped playing against top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the clay-court tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, in late April and then pulled out of the Madrid Open.

“It was a very difficult period for me after Stuttgart,” said Jabeur, adding that she’s beginning to find her rhythm.

Jabeur struck 27 winner’s to Bronzetti’s seven, though with 24 unforced errors she’ll have room to improve.

Mirra Andreeva had a memorable Grand Slam debut by dominating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-2, 6-1. Andreeva’s older sister – 18-year-old Erika – was facing Emma Navarro later in the day.

Later, Swiatek gets her French Open title defense started against Cristina Bucsa, who is ranked 70th.

On the men’s side, No. 4 seed Casper Ruud beat qualifier Elias Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to remind the higher-profile tournament favorites that he was runner-up to Rafael Nadal last year at Roland Garros.