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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.

 

Nadal beats Dimitrov, one win from record 31st Masters title

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MONACO (AP) Rafael Nadal remains on course for a record 31st Masters title after beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

The top-ranked Spaniard never looked in trouble as he beat the fourth-seeded Bulgarian for the 11th time in 12 career meetings.

If Nadal wins Sunday’s final, he will earn a 76th career title and also keep his No. 1 ranking. Should he lose, Roger Federer will reclaim the top spot.

Nadal faces either third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany or Kei Nishikori of Japan, who play later Saturday.

In the opening game, Dimitrov came out firing. He pressured Nadal with two superb lobs, forcing a backhand smash wide from the Spaniard for deuce. But Nadal held a tight first game lasting eight minutes, and then broke Dimitrov for 2-0.

Dimitrov found his range, broke Nadal back and held for 3-3. The next two games were even, with Dimitrov matching Nadal in the rallies.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion held for 5-4 and then Dimitrov cracked, serving consecutive double faults and hitting a wild forehand long to trail 15-40. He saved one set point but Nadal was in ruthless mode and took the next chance.

It appeared that Nadal was gaining his usual momentum on clay – and two consecutive love breaks and three easy holds made it 5-0 to the Spaniard in the second set.

Dimitrov explained his collapse this way.

“I think I played smart against him. I kind of know his pattern a little bit better,” Dimitrov said. “But it was my fault when I got broken. Simple as that. Two double-faults, it’s just definitely not acceptable, especially when you play against him on that surface.”

Dimitrov finally held, drawing polite applause, but Nadal served out the match with ease. He clinched victory on his first match point when Dimitrov patted the ball wide following a brief exchange.

“You see me with a smile. I’m a positive person,” Dimitrov said. “Deep down, I’m hurt. I hate losing. Simple as that.”

Nadal shares the Masters record with Novak Djokovic, whose 30 wins include two here.

Nadal’s victory at Monte Carlo last year made him the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times. He then won a 10th title at Barcelona and the French Open.

 

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.