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Jaziri upsets top-seeded Dimitrov at Dubai Championships

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Tunisian wild-card entry Malek Jaziri earned the biggest victory of his career by stunning top-seeded Grigor Dimitrov 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the opening round of the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.

The 34-year-old Jaziri, ranked 117th in the world, recorded his first win over a top-5 ranked player by beating the Bulgarian No. 4 in 2 hours, 17 minutes.

Fifth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France was also eliminated, losing to Croatia’s Borna Coric 6-4, 6-3. However, second-seeded Lucas Pouille avoided a similar slip-up as the Frenchman ousted Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-4, 6-4.

Jaziri saved three break points in the second game of the opening set but lost his serve in the 10th game. Dimitrov’s intensity then dropped in the second set and Jaziri broke in the 11th game before holding serve to level the match.

In the decider, Jaziri saved two more break points in the sixth game and the Bulgarian then double-faulted to give his opponent three break points in the next game. Jaziri converted the second for the decisive break.

“I was really aggressive today. I tried hard to keep the ball in, tried hard to attack him, to make a lot of variety in the game today,” Jaziri said. “I tried to keep going, kept encouraging myself by saying, `It’s OK, next game is my serve.’ It was most important is to keep winning my serve. That was the objective in the third set.”

Dimitrov refused to blame any injury, or the cold that affected him in the final loss to Roger Federer in Rotterdam recently, for his performance.

“You have days like this when you can’t really do much else. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play my game to the extent that I was looking for. My movement wasn’t good over the court. I thought I served OK for a little bit, but then I lost my rhythm again,” he said.

Jaziri will next face Dutchman Robin Haase for a place in the quarterfinals. Pouille will get a rematch against Russian Karen Khachanov, who beat him in the Marseille final last Sunday.

Karen Khachanov beats Lucas Pouille to win Open 13 final

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) Big-serving Karen Khachanov secured the second ATP title of his career after beating Lucas Pouille 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 in the Open 13 final on Sunday.

The ninth-seeded Russian had 16 aces in a closely fought contest, winning on his second match point when the third-seeded Frenchman hit a forehand into the net from the back of the court. The pair hugged at the net in a show of sportsmanship.

“I hope there are many more finals between us in the future,” Khachanov said to Pouille. “I felt I was playing good here from the first day. It’s nice to play on a full court in the final, and I hope to come back next year.”

Khachanov, ranked 47th, won his second title in as many finals after clinching the Chengdu Open in China two years ago. Pouille missed out on a second title of the season and a sixth overall. The 16th-ranked Pouille was also runner-up at the indoor event in the southern seaport of Marseille last year.

“I’m from Dunkirk, in the north,” he told the crowd. “But I’m starting to feel at home here.”

As Khachanov held aloft the winners’ cheque for 115,150 euros ($141, 570), Pouille cracked a joke in English.

“You’ve got to pay the plane for Dubai now,” he said, looking ahead to next week’s ATP500 tournament. “Congratulations, I hope there are many more wins for you.”

Khachanov broke Pouille in the third game to take an early control. Pouille broke back with a fine backhand winner down the line to make it 5-5, but then lost his next service game as Khachanov whipped a forehand winner down the right side of the court.

It gave the imposing Russian a second chance to serve for the set and he clinched it with a strong service winner.

After saving two break points at 15-40 in the opening game of the second set, Pouille secured the only break of that set to level the match.

Khachanov hit nine aces in the third set and neither faced a break point until the 12th game on Pouille’s serve.

It gave Khachanov a match point but he missed a fairly routine smash at the net following a rally. Pouille double faulted to give him another chance to win.

Chung wins in Paris Masters; will face Nadal

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PARIS — Hyeon Chung of South Korea swept aside Mischa Zverev 6-0, 6-2 at the Paris Masters on Monday to set up a second-round match against Rafael Nadal.

Nadal will begin his quest for a record 31st Masters title – but first in Paris – on Wednesday. The top-ranked Spaniard beat Chung in their only previous encounter on his way to a 10th title at the Barcelona Open in April.

Chung broke Zverev’s serve five times and saved the four break points he faced in a rout lasting less than one hour.

The last two spots for the season-ending ATP Finals in London will be decided in Paris, while Nadal is odds-on to end the year as No. 1 for the fourth time in his career.

David Goffin of Belgium and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain are best placed to qualify for London, while Juan Martin del Potro needs to win here to make it. Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille, American Sam Querrey and U.S Open runner-up Kevin Anderson are in outside contention.

It is much more straightforward for Nadal to keep his top ranking.

He needs just one win to end the year as No. 1 ahead of Roger Federer, who pulled out of Paris after winning the Swiss Indoors in Basel for the eighth time on Sunday. Federer clinched his seventh title of the year, one more than Nadal, but is skipping Paris so he can stay fresh for London.

Nadal was “not happy” about pulling out of the Swiss Indoors, but felt he needed the rest after playing 75 matches this season, winning 65 of them.

By contrast, Federer has played only 53, winning 49. He has beaten Nadal four times this year, including in the Australian Open final.

“He takes his decision and he does it well,” Nadal said on Monday of Federer’s decision to stagger his tournaments. “It (has) worked very well for him.”

After their five-set thriller in Melbourne, Federer did not drop a set against Nadal in the next three wins.

Also in the first round on Monday, there were wins for Frenchmen Richard Gasquet, Jeremy Chardy, Nicolas Mahut and Julien Benneteau. Also through were Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, and Robin Haase of the Netherlands.

Benneteau beat Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-4, 6-4 and next plays Tsonga, while Mahut had a tougher time against another Canadian, Vasek Pospisil, 5-7, 7-5, 76 (4). Gasquet beat Paire for the fifth straight time; and Chardy dispatched countryman Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-0.