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Isner ousts Kudla at US clay court championships

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HOUSTON (AP) Top-seeded John Isner had a two-set tournament-record 24 aces to knock out fellow American Denis Kudla 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) in the second round of the U.S. men’s clay court championships on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old Isner, ranked 15th in the world, had 12 aces in each set and was never pushed despite failing to break Kudla’s serve in the match.

Earlier this year, he had 49 aces in a Davis Cup victory over Australia’s Bernard Tomic, when he unleashed a serve clocked at an unofficial record 157 mph.

Isner lost only four of his 46 first-serve points.

“Too good,” the 5-foot-11 Kudla said, shaking his head. “I tried everything. … His serve is a joke. “Some guys can handle it. But I’m not one of the taller guys. It’s just enough out of my strike zone for me to do anything about it when he’s serving like that.”

In the day’s final match, South Korea’s Hyeon Chung, 19, defeated 18-year-old American Tommy Paul 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 to become the third teenager since the tournament moved to Houston in 2001 to advance to the quarterfinals.

The first, Andy Roddick, did it in 2001 and 2002 and went on to win the championship both years. Ryan Harrison was the other in 2012.

Chung made it difficult on himself, though. He was a point from taking the first set and let it slip away. But he gave Paul, the French Open junior champion in 2015, no further openings and advanced to his second ATP World Tour quarterfinal.

Juan Monaco, the tournament’s 2012 champion who has been bothered by wrist problems, fell out of the top 100 three weeks ago – all the way to 148th – for the first time in nearly a decade and had only three match victories this year before arriving in Houston.

But he looked more like his old self again in a 6-3, 7-5 victory over the second-seeded Benoit Paire of France.

Also, Sam Querrey earned an easy 6-3, 6-3 victory over Germany’s Benjamin Becker for his 13th match win in the tournament, the most of any player in the draw. Querrey is through to the quarterfinals for the fourth time and he has been the clay courts runner-up twice.

2-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova wins return from knife attack

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PARIS —¬†Sweat-soaked and still wearing her match outfit, Petra Kvitova was looking for someone to hug as she wandered into the players’ lounge in the French Open’s main stadium shortly after leaving the court Sunday.

She found her father, Jiri, and her brother, also Jiri, who greeted her with warm embraces and joyous kisses on the cheek. Kvitova’s family members rarely attend her tournaments, but this was different – “special” was the word she, and others, kept using.

Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was back competing, winning the first match of her comeback 6-3, 6-2 at Roland Garros against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States.

“I’m happy with the game, of course,” Kvitova said, “but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Chatrier was a triumph of sorts for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand – the one she uses to hold her racket – after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December. She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.

“For us, it’s amazing. It’s miracle. Not even me or Petra thought she could be ready to come back so soon,” said her coach, Jiri Novak. “The prognosis was, let’s just say, not optimistic.”

During her on-court interview, Kvitova addressed Novak, her family and others in her guest box, saying: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”

Several members of her entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled with a red heart instead of the “O,” is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.

“The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important,” Kvitova said afterward. “So that’s … what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be kind of inspiration for other people, as well.”

There were plenty of opportunities for her to clench a fist and scream “Pojd!” on Sunday against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.

“She’s one of the nicest girls, and we are all really happy to see her back. After what she went through, it’s incredible,” Boserup said. “So it’s a victory for her to be back on court. It was really special.”

Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner on the opening point.

“Amazing,” she said. “I surprised myself.”

Kvitova wound up compiling the match’s first 10 winners and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category. She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points – the only ones she had to deal with in the match – while ahead 3-1.

When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.

“We are happy that she is healthy. The hand is good – and also the head,” her brother Jiri said. “Mentally, she is back.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Venus Williams eases into French Open’s second round after beating Qiang Wang

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In a record 20th appearance at the French Open, Venus Williams eased into the second round with a straight sets victory over Qiang Wang of China.

Williams, who is seeded 10th, saved two set points to win 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The 36-year-old American will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the next round.