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Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Cavaliers Shaky Betting Favorite Against Celtics on NBA Opening Night

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While the sample might not be big enough for a true trend, the Cleveland Cavaliers go into opening night with a dubious track record as a narrow favorite at home.

With some uncertainty over whether – or how much – LeBron James will play after missing most of the preseason with a sprained left ankle, the Cavaliers are listed as 3.5-point favorites against the Boston Celtics with a 212.5-point total in their NBA opening night matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Interestingly enough, the OddsShark NBA Database shows that the Cavaliers are 0-6 straight-up and against the spread since January 2016 when favored by four or fewer points in regular-season home games.

Both Boston and Cleveland had offseason turnover that included trading point guards, with Kyrie Irving heading to the East Coast while Isaiah Thomas moved to the shores of Lake Erie. On top of having their new running mates Irving and SG Gordon Hayward, Boston returns only four of its 10 most-used players from last season.

However, under coach Brad Stevens they are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven road games against the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers, who were just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 home games of last season, have eight new players. James has had little practice time with the Cavaliers’ three new starters, PG Derrick Rose, SG Dwyane Wade and PF Jae Crowder, but with James’ talent and court sense chemistry can come pretty quickly (Thomas is out with a hip injury).

The total has gone over in four of the Celtics’ last five road games against the Cavaliers.

Later on Tuesday night, the defending champion Golden State Warriors are 9.5-point favorites against the Houston Rockets with a 230.5-point total in a matchup between the two highest-scoring teams from last season.

Due to new PG Chris Paul’s various injuries (bruised left shoulder, bruised left knee), the Rockets have had scarcely little time to see how Paul and SG James Harden will work together on the floor. If Paul is good to go in this one, though, he will face the Warriors’ Stephen Curry at each end of the court for the entire game.

The Rockets are 1-11 SU and 4-7-1 ATS in their last 12 road games against the Warriors, but any team that shoots threes as frequently – and often efficiently – as Houston is always a threat.

Golden State, with its big four of Curry, PF Kevin Durant, SF Draymond Green and SG Klay Thompson, almost always lays big-time points at Oracle Arena. While the Warriors infamously laid an egg in their home opener last season, they are 19-1 SU and 14-5-1 ATS in their last 20 regular-season home games with a closing line between 8.5 and 10.5 points.

The Warriors, unlike the other three teams in action on Tuesday, had minimal offseason turnover with 12 players returning from their championship team.

The total has gone under in six of the Rockets’ last nine road games against the Warriors.

 

 

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.