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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.”

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

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

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Thiem reaches third round at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Dominic Thiem saved a match point and beat Andrey Rublev of Russia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Rublev was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 but hit a forehand narrowly wide. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke him with backhand pass down the line and held for 6-5.

The Austrian was 15-40 up on Rublev’s serve and clinched victory on his first match point, when Rublev double-faulted with a weak serve into the net.

“I was 10 centimeters from being out of the tournament,” a relieved Thiem said. “But I’m happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes).”

Thiem has reached the French Open semifinals for the past two years. He next meets 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric of Croatia, who play their second-round match on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV, and then playing the winner on Thursday,” Thiem said.

In the second round later Tuesday, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced Pierre-Hugues Herbert and seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille played Mischa Zverev.

In remaining first-round play, there were wins for Gilles Simon of France, Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.