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Djokovic, Nadal, Murray reach 2nd round at French Open

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PARIS (AP) Novak Djokovic treated the Roland Garros crowd with some great tennis shots on Tuesday. His charm offensive continued after the match.

Interviewed on court by former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli, the top-ranked Serb pleased the fans on Court Philippe Chatrier with a few words in French.

Djokovic is craving a career Grand Slam at the French Open after losing in the final three times over the past four years. A fans’ favorite in Paris, he has dramatically improved his level of French in recent years.

“These two weeks might be the most important in the whole season (for me),” Djokovic said after defeating 95th-ranked Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.

Djokovic was in complete control, broke his opponent seven times, and closed the match with a drop shot. He joined his main rivals Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in the second round.

Seeded No. 2 in Paris for the first time, Murray rallied to win from two sets down for the ninth time, and beat Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.

While Murray needed two days to progress, nine-time champion Nadal had a much easier time, easing past Sam Groth 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

In the women’s draw, Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber lost in the first round. Hampered by a left shoulder injury, the third-seeded Kerber was upset by 58th-ranked Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion, was also eliminated, losing to Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-4.

Stepanek, the oldest man in the field at 37, hit 57 winners in his suspenseful encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Murray was leading 4-2 in the fourth set when play was suspended on Monday because of darkness. He was twice two points from losing while serving and trailing 5-4 in the fifth. But he held there, then broke Stepanek, and served out after wasting his first match point with a double-fault.

“It’s unbelievable what he is doing,” Murray said. “At 37 years old, coming out and fighting like that. I don’t expect to be doing that myself at that age.”

Murray, who will be 37 in eight years, progressed with Aljaz Bedene and Kyle Edmund to ensure three British men in the second round at Roland Garros for the first time since 1975.

Also advancing were seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych, No. 13 Dominic Thiem, No. 15 John Isner and No. 20 Bernard Tomic.

Kerber received treatment on her shoulder during a changeover while trailing 3-0 in the deciding set. The left-handed Kerber briefly left the court and returned to win her service game but could not break again and lost.

She arrived in Paris following early losses in Madrid and Rome. Last week, she pulled out of the Nuremberg tournament because of her shoulder injury.

“It’s getting worse and worse, but I hope it’s not too bad,” Kerber said.

She’s the fifth Australian Open women’s champion to lose in the first round at Roland Garros, after Chris O’Neil (1978), Barbara Jordan (1979), Lindsey Davenport (2000), and Li Na (2014).

Schiavone was surprised to receive a standing ovation after her loss, and was annoyed at tournament organizers for prematurely announcing this was her last French Open.

“Roland Garros announced my retirement but I didn’t,” Schiavone said. “So you can stand up all of you and go back to work in the office because I didn’t say that. I will announce when I will want to stop.”

Later, Serena Williams faced 77th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova to start the defense of her title.

The weather should remain dry, good news for tournament organizers who had a backlog of matches because of rain during the first two days.

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.