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Kvitova escapes first-round scare on Day 1

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PARIS — Screaming in anger and hitting her racket on the red clay of Court Philippe Chatrier, Petra Kvitova came close to an early exit at the French Open on the first day of the Grand Slam tournament.

On a rainy Sunday, the two-time Wimbledon champion was pushed to a suspenseful three-set battle by 59th-ranked Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, who served for the match before Kvitova raised her game and eventually prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, taking the last three games.

In the men’s draw, 17th-seeded Nick Kyrgios lost his temper and received a warning for shouting at a ball kid, but the 21-year-old Australian had no problem advancing to the second round with a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 6-4 win over Marco Cecchinalo. Also advancing before rain halted play early in the afternoon was No. 19 Benoit Paire.

Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan led Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-1, 5-4 and No. 23 Jack Sock of the United States was up 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 2-1 against Robin Haase of the Netherlands when covers were brought on all courts.

Facing a player who never got beyond the second round at any major, Kvitova looked set for a comfortable start to her campaign in the French capital after breaking Kovinic twice to seal the first set 6-2 and opening a 3-1 lead in the second.

Kovinic then changed her approach and destabilized Kvitova with her deep groundstrokes.

“I saw in the first set that my balls were very short and she controlled every point,” the 21-year-old Kovinic said. “I tried to play longer points and with more spins in the second set, and it seemed good.”

Kovinic produced a superb lob to even the match at one set apiece and continued to apply pressure on Kvitova with her powerful tennis.

Showing her frustration, Kvitova smacked her racket on the ground after hitting a double fault and fluffing a backhand in the ninth game of the decider. The Czech hit two more double faults in that game to drop her serve. But with her back against the wall, Kvitova recovered with a series of winners including a backhand down the line to break back.

She then won eight of the next 10 points.

“It was a big fight again. I’m happy that I won it,” Kvitova said. “I played a lot of three-set matches, but it’s not my plan when I’m stepping on the court. I think that from the experience which I have already, I still can believe that I still can win it. Even if she’s serving for the match.”

Earlier, 24th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova became the first player to advance to the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 win over qualifier Sara Sorribes Tormo.

About six months after the deadly attacks in Paris, heightened security at Roland Garros was noticeable Sunday, including extra bag checks and pat-downs that led to longer-than-usual waits at the entrance gates.

Historical marker for tennis great Tilden rejected again

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) A Pennsylvania panel once again rejected a historical marker for Philadelphia tennis great Bill Tilden.

Tilden became the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920 and also won seven U.S. championships. In 1950, The Associated Press voted him the greatest player of the first half of the century.

A year ago, a panel of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission that approves historical markers voted 4-1 against recommending approval of a marker at Philadelphia’s Germantown Cricket Club, citing Tilden’s convictions on charges involving teenage boys in the 1940s.

Karen Galle, coordinator of the historical marker program, confirmed Wednesday that the panel again voted 4-1 against approving the marker in February and that recommendation was among 54 approved by the commission at its March 22 meeting.

“While the significance of this athlete’s tennis career and talent are indisputable, his convictions for sexual misconduct with underage boys preclude recognition,” commission spokesman Howard Pollman said.

Lack of a marker doesn’t diminish Tilden’s accomplishments but approval “may be perceived to dishonor victims of sexual abuse,” Pollman said. Officials have cited the climate in the commonwealth following the sex abuse scandal involving another sports figure, Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky.

Tilden was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, in November 1946, after a 14-year-old boy was caught driving the star’s car erratically. Officers reported that when the teen exited the car, his pants zipper was down. Police charged Tilden with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and he served seven months in jail. He was arrested again in 1949 on allegations that he violated probation by being in the company of another teen boy, and that he groped a third teen. He served 10 months at a prison farm.

Tilden, born to a wealthy Philadelphia family, was featured regularly in magazines, newspapers and newsreels during his career. He was friends with Hollywood elite and played at the White House at the invitation of President Warren Harding. He’s credited with urging children of all economic backgrounds to learn tennis, once a sport only for the wealthy, and modern players still value his manuals on how to play.

After his convictions, Tilden’s Germantown membership was revoked, and his portrait was removed. In recent years, the club has begun to embrace Tilden’s memory, and a group of Philadelphians has been lobbying for a historical marker at the site.

Injured Murray to miss Davis Cup quarterfinals

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LONDON —¬†Andy Murray will miss Britain’s Davis Cup quarterfinal series against France next month because of an elbow injury.

Murray sustained the injury in practice and also recently withdrew from the Miami Open.

Britain captain Leon Davis says “not having Andy in the side is obviously a big loss to our team, but most importantly we all wish him well for a speedy recovery back to full health and fitness.”

Dan Evans, Kyle Edmund, Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot will line up for Britain on clay in Rouen from April 7-9.