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Heavy rain drenches France, disrupts French Open

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PARIS — Heavy rain drenched parts of France on Tuesday, prompting flood warnings near the English Channel, causing more delays at the French Open and soaking tourists in Paris.

Floods or heavy rain were forecast for about a quarter of the country Tuesday, from Normandy in the west to Burgundy southeast of Paris.

Rescue workers evacuated homes or ordered people to higher floors in the Pas-de-Calais region in the far north as rivers rose more than a meter (3 feet) in some spots, according to local authorities.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged people to exercise the “greatest caution.” He said rescue services were deployed 4,500 times overnight and Tuesday morning to help people affected by rising water. No casualties were reported.

The national meteorological service, Meteo France, warned of possible exceptionally dangerous floods in the Loiret region, south of Paris.

France has seen rain and storms now for several days. During a sudden storm Saturday, a lightning bolt struck a children’s birthday party at a Paris park. Five of the 11 people hit remained hospitalized Tuesday.

All matches at the French Open were cancelled Monday, the first all-day shutdown in 16 years. Matches got underway on Tuesday, but play was soon disrupted again by rain.

Canadian tourist Helene Gazaille, who was visiting Paris to celebrate her 50th birthday, was determined to have a good trip even if that meant stuffing plastic bags into her sneakers in the morning and using a hair dryer to dry them out at night.

Others like Tang Jiru, a 26-year-old Chinese groom-to-be, looked on the bright side of the gray weather. Posing for photos with his fiancee in the Trocadero’s Warsaw fountains, across from the Eiffel Tower, he said he was pleased despite – or maybe even because of – the driving rain.

“The weather, it’s like blue. Blue means romantic,” he said, his white tie-tuxedo-and-waistcoat combo becoming increasingly wet as his 27-year-old bride-to-be, Liu Yuan Yuan, smiled in her rain-sodden wedding dress.

“Every time you take a photo, it’s a sunny day. But it’s a rainy day, (so) oh it’s special!” said Tang, who is getting married in September in Shanghai but had flown to Paris for the express purpose of taking romantic photos.

Raphael Satter in Paris contributed to this report.

Venus ready for return WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE (AP) Venus Williams returns to the year-end WTA Finals for the first time since reaching the 2009 final, and the fifth time overall, starting on Sunday in Singapore.

Williams joins top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania, second-ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain, third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, sixth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, seventh-ranked Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and ninth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.

They’re all pretty special,” said Williams, of her career appearances in the year-end competition. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

At 37-years-old, Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the year-end championships behind a 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Williams is the oldest player in this draw with 27-year-old Wozniacki the next oldest.

Having played since 1995, Williams has seen the women’s game advance, saying: “The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.”

In 2008, Williams won the WTA Finals title, going 3-0 in the round-robin, and defeating Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the final.

She was also was a semifinalist in her first two appearances in the finals, in 1999 and 2000.

Williams reached two Grand Slam finals this season at the Australian Open, where she lost to what turned out to be an already pregnant younger sister, Serena, and at Wimbledon, where she fell to Muguruza.

Every player but Garcia has a possibility of playing themselves into the year-end No. 1 ranking depending on their result this week. Williams has ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks of her career.

In the round-robin, Williams is situated in the White Group with fellow big-hitters Muguruza and Pliskova, who both ranked No. 1 at some time during this season, and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams opens the competition against Pliskova on Sunday. The two are tied at one match apiece in their head-to-head.

She holds a 3-2 winning record over Muguruza and is 1-0 over Ostapenko.

“I think my group is more aggressive style players in the group and the other one is more defending,” Pliskova said. “I just like to play better these players.

“I start with Venus tomorrow, so I beat her once from match point and once I lost very close match. This one is open.”

Goerges ends 6-year title wait with victory at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Julia Goerges ended her six-year wait for another WTA singles title Saturday with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina in the Kremlin Cup final.

Goerges cruised to victory against her Russian opponent, who was ranked one place below her at 28th.

The German swept the first five games of the first set before Kasatkina could even get on the board.

Kasatkina put up more resistance at the start of the second, forcing three break points in Goerges’ first service game, but couldn’t convert them and was broken next game.

Goerges is now 3-7 in career singles finals, with her last title in Stuttgart in 2011. Before Saturday’s match, she had lost six straight finals, including three in the space of two months this summer.