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While Djokovic, Williams wait, Wawrinka gets going in Paris

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PARIS — Thanks to rain, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams must wait an extra day to start their bids for history at the French Open.

The two No. 1-seeded players originally were slated to play first-round matches on Monday, the second day of the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

But the schedule already is being shuffled because of showers that created a delay of more than 2 1/2 hours in the afternoon and returned to halt all play in the early evening, allowing a total of only 10 out of 32 matches to be completed.

So the soonest Djokovic – who is trying to complete a career Grand Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four consecutive major titles – and Williams – hoping to equal Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 major championships – will get started is Tuesday, which is Day 3 at Roland Garros.

Instead, some of the players considered possible challengers will be in action on Monday. If the weather holds up, that is, because there is more rain in the forecast for Day 2.

Among those scheduled to play Monday: No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, the defending champion, who beat Djokovic in the 2015 French Open final.

“Novak is the favorite, for sure,” Wawrinka said. “But I think it’s going to be interesting to see what’s going to happen with the other players.”

Wawrinka is coming off a confidence-boosting title last week on red clay in Geneva, where he defeated his first opponent in Paris, Lukas Rosol, in the semifinals.

That victory made Wawrinka 4-0 against Rosol, a player best known for stunning Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon in 2012.

Here’s a look at what else is happening at the French Open on Monday:

MURRAY STARTS: No. 2-seeded Andy Murray’s first-round match comes against Radek Stepanek, who qualified for the main draw at the age of 37. They’ve played eight times in the past, dating to 2005, and Murray is 6-2 in those matches. Murray is coming off a clay title at the Italian Open, where he defeated Djokovic in the final. Murray is also without a full-time coach at the moment, having recently split with Amelie Mauresmo. “I had the impression that we’d reached the end of what we could do professionally together,” Mauresmo said in an interview with L’Equipe magazine. “Andy is complex. On a court, he can be the opposite to how he is in life. It can be disconcerting.” As for when he’ll hire a replacement, Murray said: “Things obviously are going well just now, so no need to sort of rush into anything.”

TOP WOMEN: Some past Grand Slam runners-up who hope to supplant Williams as the champion in Paris get their tournament started, including No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska against 120th-ranked Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia, No. 4 Garbine Muguruza against 38th-ranked Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, and No. 6 Simona Halep against 71st-ranked Nao Hibino of Japan. Radwanska lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final in 2012, Muguruza did the same last year, and Halep lost to Maria Sharapova in the French Open final in 2014.

RESUMING: The half-dozen matches that were suspended in progress Sunday are to resume Monday. Those involve players such as No. 5 Kei Nishikori, who has a two-set lead against Simone Bolelli; No. 23 Jack Sock, headed to a fifth set against Robin Haase of the Netherlands; and 2009 French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, up a break at 3-1 in the third set against Yaroslava Shvedova.

 

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.