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Rain slows Djokovic in Cincy, Stephens ousted

CINCINNATI (Agencies): Novak Djokovic’s third-round fightback against defending champion Grigor Dimitrov was interrupted by rain as the pair stood one set each on Thursday at the ATP-WTA Cincinnati Masters.

Former world number one Djokovic is vying to break through for a first Cincinnati win after coming up empty in five finals. He lost the first set 6-2 and won the second 6-3. Cincinnati remains the only one of the nine Masters 1000 events that the Serb star hasn’t won. He has lifted trophies at least twice at each of the other eight events in the elite ATP series.

Djokovic is also trying to avoid an unenviable record of 30 Cincinnati match wins without a title. Bulgaria’s Dimitrov, who has won just one of eight prior encounters with Djokovic, prevailed easily in the opening set and broke early in the second before Djokovic roared back, breaking for a second time to take a 5-3 lead. The 10th-seeded Serb squared the match as the day’s second bout of major rain moved in. Milos Raonic reached the men’s quarter-finals with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 victory over fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov, avenging a loss to his younger compatriot in Madrid three months ago.

In women’s third-round action, reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens was eliminated while Madison Keys, runner-up at Flushing Meadows last year, moved ahead. Belgian Elise Mertens scored the second top five win of her career, beating Stephens 7-6 (10/8), 6-2 while Keys rallied to defeat fourth-seeded Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber 2-6, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4.

Keys fired 55 winners with 44 unforced errors against the German, who is playing her first hardcourt tournament in the buildup to the US Open. “I had to keep it cool, she gets lot of balls back,” Keys said. “I used my forehand and serve well today. I’m really happy and I’m looking to go further.” Keys next faces Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who upset French sixth seed Caroline Garcia 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

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