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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.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Kerber beats Sharapova in 3rd round; Halep in long-haul win

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Angelique Kerber is the only major winner remaining in the Australian Open women’s draw after ending Maria Sharapova’s comeback tour to Melbourne Park.

The 2016 champion routed Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the third-round match on Saturday night to extend her winning streak to 12 matches, including winning the Sydney International title last week.

Five-time major winner Sharapova was back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2016, when a failed test for meldonium led to a 15-month doping ban.

It was all over in one hour and four minutes, a vast contrast to top-ranked Simona Halep’s 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 win in three hours, 45 minutes over American Lauren Davis in the opening match on Rod Laver.

The third set took 2:22 and momentum swung. Halep wasted chances to serve for the match in the ninth, 11th and 15th games, then had to save three match points in the 22nd. There were 11 service breaks and two medical timeouts – for Davis to get treatment on both feet – before Halep converted on her first match point.

“I never played the third set so long, so I’m really happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead,” Halep said of the match which equaled Chanda Rubin’s win over Arantxa Shanchez Vicario in 1996 – also 48 games – for the Australian Open record in terms of most games.

“I just feel that my muscles are gone,” said Halep, who badly twisted her left ankle in the first round. “My ankle is, I don’t know how it is because I don’t feel it anymore! But … it was nice to win this match.”

Halep will play Naomi Osaka, who beat 18th-seeded Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-2 in a match that was moved from the center court to Margaret Court Arena because of the two long matches on Rod Laver.

No. 20 Barbora Strycova beat U.S. qualifier Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-2, leaving U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys as the only American woman to reach the fourth round.

Keys advanced 6-3, 6-4 over Ana Bogdan and will next play No. 8 Caroline Garcia, who beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat No. 29 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 in a match featuring just one service break.

On the men’s side, Hyeon Chung took out a Zverev for the second time this week. Chung beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 six days after a win over No. 32 Mischa Zverev in the first round.

Another unexpected loss at a major had the highly-touted Zverev admitted he may have a problem.

“Definitely not physical, so… I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slam,” he said.

The 20-year-old Zverev has five titles on the elite tour but his fourth-round exit at Wimbledon last year remains his best run at a major.

Tomas Berdych ended 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro’s return to Melbourne Park for the first time since 2014 with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to set up a fourth-round match against Tennys Sandgren, who continued his career-best run by beating Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Former world junior No. 1 Marton Fucsovics beat Nicolas Kicker 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 and No. 25 Fabio Fognini overcame Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

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More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen

Top-seeded Halep survives marathon match

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Top-seeded Simona Halep served for the match four times before prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 over American Lauren Davis in a marathon match at Rod Laver Arena.

Halep saved three match points in the 22nd game of the third set at 0-40 and Davis saved five break points in the 23rd game in the 3 hour, 45-minute match. The final set took 2 hour, 22 minutes and Halep won on her first match point when Davis hit a forehand wide along the sideline.

Davis twice had medical timeouts in the final set to have blisters on both feet treated.

Halep will play the winner of Saturday’s later match between local hope Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.

In other women’s third-round matches, sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 and No. 8 Caroline Garcia beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Garcia will play Madison Keys in the fourth round.

 

More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen