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Venus Williams wins singles, loses doubles with Serena

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ROME (AP) Singles was the easy part for Venus Williams on Monday. The difficult part came with younger sister Serena in doubles.

After Venus comfortably beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-4, 6-3 in the first round of the Italian Open, the Williams sisters lost to Andreja Klepac and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 6-1, 7-5.

It was the first time the sisters played doubles together since the 2014 U.S. Open. They are preparing for an attempt at a fourth Olympic gold medal in doubles in Rio de Janeiro.

“We didn’t play our best at the same time,” Venus said. “That’s not typical. Usually one of us is playing well. That helps the team a lot. Two of us are playing well, it usually goes our way.”

In other first-round matches, Sara Errani was slowed by physical problems in losing to Heather Watson of Britain 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, and Lucia Safarova of the Czech Republic defeated former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 6-2.

On a rough day for the home players even in the men’s tournament, Fabio Fognini of Italy was beaten by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-1, 7-6 (2).

Also, Milos Raonic overcame two breaks of his serve to get past Italian wild card Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Raonic will next face Nick Kyrgios, who eliminated Salvatore Caruso, another Italian wild card, 6-1, 6-2.

Seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew due to a muscle problem and was replaced in the draw by fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille. He doesn’t have much time to recover before the French Open, which begins in two weeks.

“It’s not something good to be a little bit injured before this event,” Tsonga said. “I hope I will have the chance to recover.”

The big four – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal – are all entered.

Playing two matches in one day could have been particularly taxing for Venus, who has Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that can cause joint pain and sap energy.

“I haven’t done that in a long time. But I knew what was going to happen going into it. Even if you get tired, you have to try to ignore it. I felt OK,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll have that problem for two weeks in the French. That would be an awesome problem to have.”

Venus won the singles title at the Foro Italico in 1999, and is playing this clay-court event for the 12th time.

“I imagine that on the clay I have a little bit more advantage, just having played more matches on clay,” 35-year-old Venus said after facing fellow American Vandeweghe for the first time. “That helped a lot.”

Top-ranked Serena has a first-round bye. A three-time Rome champion, she’ll open against 51st-ranked Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany on Tuesday.

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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.

Federer beats Nadal to win Shanghai Masters title

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SHANGHAI (AP) Roger Federer extended his winning streak over Rafael Nadal this year to four matches after beating the top-ranked Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 to win the Shanghai Masters on Sunday.

The Swiss 19-time grand slam winner, who still trails Nadal 23-15 in their overall head-to-head record, didn’t face a break point and started and ended the match with service breaks.

“I don’t know what my expectations were going in,” Federer said. “I thought I might struggle early on because it was a late finish last night.

“I had no nerves before the match, surprisingly. I think I was pretty clear about how I wanted to play the match. I started off very well and relaxed from then on.”

Despite his dominance in 2017, Federer doesn’t rate his chances of catching Nadal in their head-to-head record.

“It’s not going to happen. We don’t have enough years left on the tour. We ranked too good so we play each other only in finals at the moment… You can’t win them all against Rafa, to be honest. He’s too good of a player,” Federer said.

Federer took advantage of three of seven break point opportunities in the match to snap Nadal’s 16-game winning streak, which included his China Open victory last week.

Federer, who has won the last five encounters between the pair dating back to the 2015 Basel final, also beat Nadal in the Australian Open final, a round of 16 match at Indian Wells and the Miami final this year.

“Have been a very difficult match for me,” Nadal said. “He played very fast and he played well.

“Of course was not the best match for me of the week. When somebody plays better than you, sport is not very difficult. That’s the real thing, no? When you play against somebody that is better than you in most of the things that really matters in this sport, in this kind of surface, then it’s tougher.”

The Shanghai Masters is Federer’s 94th career title, moving him into a tie with Ivan Lendl in second place on the Open era list.

Nadal arrived on court with a bandage under his right knee, the same leg he twice smacked with his racket after losing his serve for the first time this week in the semifinal.

Federer said he was surprised to see the wrap and didn’t feel Nadal was struggling with his movement.

In his post-match press conference, Nadal elected not to discuss the knee injury, saying, “I don’t want to talk about that now, sorry, but after losing final is not the moment.”

When asked if he would play upcoming tournaments in Basel, Switzerland and Paris, Nadal refused to confirm his participation.

Federer took advantage of a third break point in the first game of the match with a winning backhand passing shot. He broke Nadal’s serve again on a second break point in the fifth game of the second set when Nadal sailed a backhand crosscourt wide. In the final game, Nadal netted a forehand at 15-40 to end the 72-minute match.