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Murray to remain outspoken against doping

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LONDON (AP) Andy Murray plans to remain outspoken against doping, despite facing a backlash for some of his recent comments on performance-enhancing drugs in tennis.

The No. 2-ranked player was branded “out of order” by Novak Djokovic’s coach, Boris Becker, for saying in a newspaper interview that he wonders whether some players are doping.

Murray said Friday he has cleared the air with Becker but won’t be deterred from speaking his mind if it means protecting the integrity of tennis.

“I think sport in general over the years has sort of had a distrust really because of everything that’s happened over the years,” Murray told The Associated Press as he launched a new charity initiative.

“It’s obviously our job as tennis players and athletes to try to make sure it is as clean as possible. It’s unlikely you are ever going to have a perfect sport but we want as athletes to be competing in one and I will continue to fight for that.”

Murray will stage an “Andy Murray Live ” event in Glasgow on Sept. 21 to raise money for local charity Young People’s Futures and UNICEF after becoming an ambassador for the U.N.’s children’s agency.

“A lot of the tennis players … try to give back as much as possible,” Murray said. “Hopefully this event will be a good starting point for me.”

Murray will play a singles match against Frenchman Gael Monfils at the SSE Hydro Glasgow arena. He will then team up with brother Jamie, the world’s top-ranked doubles player, to take on Monfils and retired four-time Wimbledon semifinalist Tim Henman.

Half of the 10,000 seats will cost 25 pounds ($36) or less in a bid to make the event accessible for a Scottish audience that doesn’t get to see top-class tennis tournaments.

“I think that’s always been one of the criticisms really with British tennis – that it is too expensive sometimes,” Murray said in an interview at Wimbledon, where he won the singles title in 2013.

“There’s a lot of major tennis events, obviously Queen’s and Wimbledon during the summer, but they can be expensive if you want to see the top players playing. So hopefully making this event a bit more affordable will give the chance for more families and young kids to come along and watch.”

It’s a busy year for Murray, who is grappling with life as a first-time parent after wife Kim Sears gave birth to a daughter, Sophia, two months ago. Murray is trying to make adjustments to his schedule to spend time at home. Before chasing a second Wimbledon title and defending Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, Murray will pursue a first French Open title at the May 22-June 5 tournament.

“I feel good. In Monte Carlo I played well,” Murray said a week after reaching the semifinals, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. “It’s been my best period on clay for my whole career really over the last 12, 18 months or so. I need to keep improving on it obviously. Monte Carlo was a good start.

“I’ve got a couple of tournaments before the French Open begins and I’ll try to have a good run there. I believe I’m in a good position. I feel healthy and pretty fresh and I’m looking forward to it.”

Murray is escaping the chilly spring London climate on Saturday to prepare on the Spanish island of Mallorca for the grueling months ahead. He has little time to think about wading into another divisive national political debate.

British voters will decide in a June 23 referendum whether to remain in the 28-nation European Union. Two years ago, Murray made a high-profile intervention in the Scottish independence debate on the day of the referendum by backing the ultimately unsuccessful “Yes” campaign.

“I haven’t really given it (Brexit) any thought at all,” Murray said. “I’ve had a lot going on this year. I’ve just become a father a few weeks ago. That’s what’s been at the forefront of my thinking this year, rather than anything political.”

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

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

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.