US tournament titles for Kyrgios, Zheng, Pegula

Published by AAP / Reuters / AP

Nick Kyrgios celebrates his victory at the Citi Open in Washington DC (Getty Images)
Nick Kyrgios and Jessica Pegula scoop the Washington DC singles titles while Zheng Saisai claims her first WTA title in San Jose.

Unseeded Nick Kyrgios has capped off a brilliant week at the Washington Open with victory over Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev in the final.

The Australian looms as a danger at the US Open after securing his second ATP Tour 500 series title of the year.

American Jessica Pegula won the women’s tournament, claiming her first WTA title with a 6-2 6-2 win over Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

Despite a troublesome back, Kyrgios fired 18 aces on his way to a 7-6(6) 7-6(4) victory over Medvedev in Sunday’s final.

Kyrgios backed up his semi-final victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas with a second career win over Medvedev – the result improving his win-loss record against top-10 opponents this year to 5-1, with a winning percentage of 83 the best on tour in 2019.

“It’s amazing. Where I was six months ago, some of the things I was doing, I was just putting myself in a really tough situation and to respond like this, having incredible support, it’s amazing,” Kyrgios said in his post-match interview on court.

“I’ve had people behind me, backing me and never lost faith in me, even though I lost it in myself.”

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He will rise 25 spots to world No.27 when the rankings are updated on Monday — returning to the position of Australia’s No.1 male player, ahead of Alex de Minaur — and is in line for a seeding at the year’s final Grand Slam event later this month.

Kyrgios arrived in Washington with a record of 13-10 for the year and has only made it past the round of 16 at two tournaments – winning them both.

Neither Kyrgios nor Medvedev faced a break point as serve dominated their 97-minute encounter, with the Australian taking advantage of some unforced errors from his opponent in the tiebreakers.

Pegula a first-time WTA champion

Before Kyrgios and Medvedev took to the court, home favourite Pegula made quick work of Giorgi.

The 25-year-old American claimed her first WTA trophy in just 59 minutes, claiming the first two games in both sets to set the tone on Sunday.

After Giorgi fought back to 3-2 in the first set, Pegula took the next three games as the Italian’s errors mounted.

The second set was even more one-sided as Pegula marched to a 5-1 advantage before Giorgi, on the comeback trail after wrist and ankle injuries, won a second game.

Pegula, the daughter of the owners of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills and National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres, closed out the match with a stunning service winner and sank to her knees in celebration.

She won 81 per cent of her first serves and saved the only break point she faced against the 2018 Wimbledon quarterfinalist.

Doubles delight for Gauff, McNally

A day earlier in Washington DC, teen phenom Coco Gauff and fellow teenaged partner Caty McNally won their first pro tournament as a doubles team by beating the fourth-seeded duo of Maria Sanchez and Fanny Stollar 6-2 6-2.

Crowds packed the stands to watch the 15-year-old Gauff and 17-year-old McNally stage an unlikely victory.

“For both of us,” Gauff said, “it means a lot.”

McNally’s impressive showing in Washington included a run to the semifinals in singles — but that’s where it ended in that event on Saturday with a 7-6(5) 6-2 loss to Giorgi.

Zheng the champion in San Jose

On the West Coast, Zheng Saisai of China stayed steady and patient to capture her first career singles title, beating Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 6-3 7-6(3) in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Sunday.

“It brings out so much confidence,” Zheng said. “I wasn’t winning, and this week, I beat many seeds. This gives me confidence, but still I’m just going to play my tennis.”

Zheng, who is ranked 55th and played one more match than Sabalenka to reach Sunday’s championship, topped three seeded players — Danielle Collins, Amanda Anisimova and Maria Sakkari — on the way to her second career final and then another for her first victory at age 25.

With her big topspin shots landing deep and the defensive ability to chase down balls all over the court, Zheng flustered opponents all week with her consistency and level-headed play — and the emotional Sabalenka was no different.

Not that Zheng was paying attention to her opponent’s outbursts, saying she stayed focused on her own game plan.

“The tactic is put the ball deep, and whenever I see a space, let her run and change if I can flies or high balls because if I give her the same pace, the same ball, she will hit winners on any corner, so I was just trying to mix it up,” Zheng said.

Zheng’s victory could propel her to world No.38 — matching her career best — when Monday’s new singles rankings are released.

Schwartzman takes Los Cabos title

Further south in Mexico, Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman beat American Taylor Fritz 7-6(6) 6-3 to win the Los Cabos ATP tournament for his third career title.

He saved three early set points before going on to beat Fritz for his first career title on hard court.

The 26-year-old dropped to the ground in jubilation after completing Saturday’s win in an hour and 43 minutes.

After a trade of service breaks in the opening set, Schwartzman had to dig deep at 6-5 40-0 down but some big serves and forehands steered him out of trouble and he forced a tiebreak.

Fritz’s serve let him down at crucial moments in the match and a couple of double faults in the tiebreak helped to hand the opening set to Schwartzman.

The 21-year-old American received a point penalty to go down 3-1 in the second set but he fought back to lead 4-2 before Schwartzman regrouped to break his opponent again for a 5-3 lead and served out the match.

Thiem triumphs in Kitzbuhel

Meanwhile, Dominic Thiem joined Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer as the only players to win three ATP titles this year with his success at the Austrian Open.

Dominic Thiem has won his 14th career ATP title and first in his home country by beating Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the final.

World No.4 Thiem didn’t drop a set all week in the last clay-court event of the season and after a tough first set put his Spanish opponent away 7-6(0) 6-1.

He called it “a big childhood dream of mine” to win the high-altitude tournament in the Austrian Alps on Saturday.

“It is absolutely incredible, one of my biggest dreams since I play tennis,” said Thiem, adding he always wanted to win the event since visiting the venue as a six-year-old.

“I got my first wildcard here and now to finish the tournament as the champion is incredible. I reached one big childhood goal today.”

Thiem had reached the final in Kitzbuehel once before, in 2014, but lost to David Goffin.

Thiem ended the successful run of Ramos-Vinolas, who reached the semifinals in the Swedish city of Bastad two weeks ago before winning the second title of his career in Gstaad, Switzerland.

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