Paris Olympic bid leader: Roof at Roland Garros not crucial

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PARIS (AP) While essential for the French Open, a roof over center court at Roland Garros is “not crucial” for Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics, the city’s bid leader said Monday as heavy rain washed out play at the clay-court Grand Slam for the first time in 16 years.

The French Open is the only major tennis tournament without a structure allowing play to go on during rainy days.

After years of delays, the French tennis federation is planning to have one over center court by 2020, but extension works are currently put on hold by legal action from local residents and environmental activists.

Speaking to reporters at Roland Garros, bid co-chairman Bernard Lapasset said “Roland Garros is already a fantastic venue for the Olympics. We can do more, but it’s not crucial.”

Poor weather has been playing havoc with the schedule at the French Open this year but showers are not so frequent in the summer months.

Last week, French Open director Guy Forget said delays in the construction and refurbishment work at Roland Garros could harm Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics.

Environmental groups opposing the extension claim that the construction of a new 5,000-seat court at the Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden will harm the vegetation. The botanical garden’s 19th century greenhouses, a few hundred meters from Court Philippe Chatrier, host a large variety of tropical and local flowers. France’s council of state – the country’s highest administrative authority – is expected to issue a ruling in September.

“It might be easier to do the roof,” Lapasset said. “It’s more complicated for the new court, which won’t be inside (the current facilities of) Roland Garros. It’s important for us that we can propose to IOC members a bid faithful to our environmental values. The zone is protected, and it’s complicated to do something without the agreement of the people (living) around.”

Bid officials are planning to use the venue both for the Olympics and Paralympics, with tennis competitions, wheelchair events in tennis, basketball and rugby as well as five-a-side soccer matches being hosted in the western Paris venue if the city wins the hosting rights.

Paris is competing against Budapest, Rome and Los Angeles for the games. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in September 2017. Paris last hosted the Olympics in 1924.

A new media center will also be constructed as part of revamping of the site, the smallest of the four Grand Slam venues. Roland Garros has been hosting the French Open since 1928, welcoming about 400,000 spectators every year at the congested 21-acre (8 1/2-hectare) site.

“Guy Forget is a very good man, in terms of the values he promotes here,” Lapasset said. “But we all need to be pushing in the same direction. The zone is protected and that’s central in the discussions we are having. If we can do something, why not? But it’s complicated if you don’t have the agreement of the people (living) around.”

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.