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Wozniacki still in frame for return to No. 1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Caroline Wozniacki had just been beaten by Kim Clijsters in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, causing her to lose her No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and she had some fighting words.

“I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said. “The media talks to me like I’m finished … the fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.”

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open, where Wozniacki’s win in the third round on Friday leaves her with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking – six years later.

If so, it would be the longest gap between stints at the top since the WTA’s computer rankings were introduced in 1975. She might take some solace from the fact that the current longest streak between players returning to No. 1 is held by Serena Williams at 5 years, 29 days.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki also faced criticism during her first stay at No. 1 – which included year-end top rankings in 2010 and 2011 – that she’d never won a major, unlike Williams’ current 23. And that hasn’t changed either.

Maybe this year.

On Friday, two days after she came back from a 5-1 deficit and saved two match points in the third set to beat Jana Fett in the second round, she had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens that wasn’t without late drama, both with closing out the match, and with her criticism of the chair umpire.

Wozniacki had to save four break points while serving for the match but clinched it on her fourth match point.

After coming so close to being knocked out of the tournament, she sounded like a gambler with cash in her pocket.

“Right now, playing with house money,” Wozniacki said in an on-court television interview. “Nothing to lose. I got a second chance. I’m just going to try and take it and see how far I can go.”

Wozniacki wasn’t happy with chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. She had complained about a few line calls, and that the court was slippery in several areas.

“I’ve never had this guy before … but I think he did a poor job today,” Wozniacki said. “If the court is wet, I think it’s normal to ask for a towel. I don’t think someone needs to be rude, and I told him so. I think there were some questionable calls, as well.”

Watching from Wozniacki’s support section was former NBA player David Lee. In November, the former New York Knicks forward proposed to her during a holiday on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora.

“All I’ll say is it was a surprise, it was amazing,” Wozniacki said earlier this week of Lee’s proposal. “Had the best off-season. We had a great time traveling a little bit, exploring some new places. I was really recharged when I finally got back on the court again.”

Perhaps enough to get her back to No. 1.

Manchester City’s odds halved in EPL futures after first loss

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Manchester City looking human — to the point it came away empty-handed in a league match for the first time in 2017-18 — has restored some value to English Premier League futures.

Manchester City is now a -3300 favorite on the EPL futures boards, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Citizens still have a 12-point cushion with 15 matches left in the season, so it would have to collapse in order to be overtaken by second-place Manchester United (+3300) or Liverpool (+4500) and Chelsea (+10000), who are level in third place at 15 points back.

Manchester United being the apparent winner of the Alexis Sanchez sweepstakes as the forward prepares to leave Arsenal does alter Top 4 odds. United (-600) is likely a shoo-in and Liverpool (-500) showed in its win against City that it can adapt to life after Philippe Coutinho.

However, losing out on Sanchez, or losing him period, respectively puts Chelsea (-450) and Arsenal (+700) on shaky ground. Tottenham Hotspur (even) could be poised for a run.

Matchweek 24 commences early Saturday with Brighton and Hove Albion (+525), which has just one win in five games, hosting Chelsea (-170, +275 odds on the draw), who will need Michy Batshuayi to cover the scoring with Alvaro Morata and Pedro Rodriguez serving suspensions. Chelsea might have to grind for the win, which is why the under on the 2.5 total is deep into minus money at -150.

West Ham United (-110), with Marko Anautovic having five goals in as many games, hosts Bournemouth (+290, +250 draw), which also been in good form. West Ham should have no reason for a letdown playing at home against a just slightly lower-placed team. The 2.5 total seems low for a game where it’s unlikely anyone plays for the 0-0 or 1-1 draw.

Arsenal (-210) has likely seen the last of Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette is mired in a goal drought, so Crystal Palace (+575, +350 draw) could create some interesting results if it strikes on the counter-attack. The over on the 3.0 total is priced at -110.

Leicester City (-125) is on an upward tick with a four-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, while Watford (+330, +275 draw) has regressed. Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez has four goals in as many games against Watford. Neither team is a great candidate for a clean sheet, so the over (-135) on the 2.5 total is a good pick.

Stoke City (even) will try to get the new-manager bump under the command of Paul Lambert is it hosts Huddersfield Town (+295, +225 draw). Dollar-store sports psychology might suggest that between Stoke’s fragile confidence and 14th-placed Huddersfield knowing the teams between them and Stoke all have tough matches this weekend, a draw and the under (-150) on the 2.5 total are pragmatic plays.

And Southampton (+450) is winless in 10 matches, while Tottenham Hotspur (-165, +290 draw) and Harry Kane are on a strong run where they have won six of eight games and scored 23 goals coming into their Sunday betting matchup. Tottenham pays +110 for the minus-1.0 goal line and the over on the 2.5 total is even money. Until a team stymies Kane (eight goals in his last five), he’s a strong play in goal scorer props.

Roger Federer through to Australian 3rd round

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Roger Federer is through to the Australian Open’s third round after beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a night match at Rod Laver Arena.

Federer maintained his record of always reaching the third round at Melbourne Park, and this is his 19th appearance. Five of his 19 Grand Slam singles titles have been in Australia.

Despite his straight-sets win, Federer was only able to convert three of his 11 break-point chances, and only one of six in the third set.

The 36-year-old Federer will next play French veteran Richard Gasquet. Federer has beaten Gasquet 16 of the 18 times they’ve played.