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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.

 

Serena Williams returning to competition for US Fed Cup team

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) The U.S. Tennis Association says Serena Williams will return to competition for the first time in more than a year at the country’s Fed Cup matches against the Netherlands next month.

Williams has not played an official match since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. She was pregnant during that tournament and gave birth to a daughter on Sept. 1.

Joining Williams on U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi’s roster announced Tuesday is older sister Venus, a seven-time major champion. The siblings have not played on the Fed Cup team together in three years.

Also on the team: CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist at the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year. A fourth member of the U.S. squad will be announced next week.

The U.S. won last year’s Fed Cup.

The matches against the Netherlands will be held on an indoor hard court in Ashville, North Carolina, on Feb. 10-11.

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

Injured Nadal out of Australian Open; Cilic into semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) An injured and visibly struggling Rafael Nadal retired while trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic.

Top-ranked Nadal fended off five break points in the last game before Cilic broke his serve, then the 16-time major winner went to shake hands with the umpire and his opponent, and angrily hurled his headband into his equipment bag.

No. 6-seeded Cilic advanced to his first semifinal in Australia since 2010 with a score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 2-0, retired.

Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, will next play No. 49-ranked Kyle Edmund, who beat No. 3-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

Nadal limped into a news conference about a half-hour later, still wincing when he stepped up onto a platform. He said he felt muscle pain in his upper right leg in the third set but played through it. In the fourth set, chasing a drop shot, he felt the pain get worse “but didn’t realize how bad.”

“Tough moments -not (for) the first time here,” he said. “I’m a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinal for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me.

“It’s really tough to accept.”

Nadal said he’d have medical scans Wednesday to determine the exact location and extent of the injury, which he could only describe as being high on his right leg but not in the hip.

“Unbelievable performance from both of us and really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic said. “He’s such an unbelievable competitor. He always gives his best … it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.”

It was only the second time Nadal had retired during a Grand Slam match – the last time was also an Australian Open quarterfinal, in 2010 against Andy Murray.

On Tuesday night, he needed a medical timeout after going down 4-1 in the fourth set for treatment on his leg.

Nadal returned but was clearly bothered by the injury, limping and taking as much time as possible as he tried to stretch between points.

He called the trainer again after losing the fourth set, and lasted only two further games.

Cilic had only previously beaten Nadal once in their six previous matches – in their first match at Beijing in 2009.

Nadal had a delayed start to the season because of an injured right knee, but appeared to be in good form through the first four rounds. He now hasn’t won back-to-back Australian Open quarterfinals since 2008 and ’09, the year he won his only Australian title.

“I worked hard to be here,” said Nadal, who skipped tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, Australia, while his knee recovered at the start of the season. “We did all the things that we believed were the right things to do.”

His absence also means there’s only one of last year’s singles finalists remaining in the tournament. Roger Federer, who beat Nadal in five sets last year, is playing Tomas Berdych in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Serena Williams didn’t defend her title, deciding she hadn’t had enough time to prepare following the birth of her first child last September. Her older sister, Venus Williams, was beaten in the first round.

On top of that, six-time champion Novak Djokovic was upset in the fourth round.

There’ll be a British man in the Australian Open semifinals for the seventh time in nine years, but it won’t be five-time finalist Murray – who skipped the season-opening tournament to have surgery on his hip.

Edmund had never played in a major quarterfinal, had never won five consecutive matches at tour level, had lost both of his previous matches against Dimitrov and had never beaten a top five player.

He checked all those boxes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing,” Edmund said. “My first Grand Slam semifinal. First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world. To beat a quality of player like Grigor. They’re great feelings. So, yeah, I just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

After breaking Dimitrov’s serve in the ninth game of the fourth set, Edmund set up match point with an ace. Then he had to wait before a video challenge confirmed that Dimitrov’s last shot – a floating backhand – was out.

“I just held my nerve in that last game and prayed that last ball would be out,” Edmund said. It was out. And so was Dimitrov, who lost a five-set semifinal here last year to Nadal.

“Everything went his way today,” Dimitrov said. “It’s hard to hide a disappointment. It hurts, and so it should.”

Edmund, who had a first-round upset over U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, is now the center of attention for the tennis-loving British public.

“I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray the last eight years,” he said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve done well on my own, so there’s more attention there. Of course you take it in stride.”

Elise Mertens is facing a similar experience.

Mertens upset fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to extend her winning streak to 10 matches, becoming the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semifinals here.

Mertens, who trains at Clijsters’ academy, said: “Kim, thanks for watching. I’m trying to be in your footsteps this week.”

In the semis, she’ll play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro.