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Two top women lose in Paris, complain about rain

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PARIS — Yes, they actually managed to complete a match on this wettest of weeks at the French Open. Two, even. And both involved surprises: Two of the top half-dozen seeded women lost within minutes of each other, No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 6 Simona Halep.

After their fourth-round exits Tuesday, both Radwanska and Halep complained firmly about tournament organizers’ decision to make them play through drizzles – or worse – that made courts slippery and clay-caked tennis balls heavy.

“I mean, it’s not a (low-tier) tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. How can you allow players to play in the rain?” said Radwanska, the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up.

“I don’t think they really care what we think. I think they care about other things,” Radwanska added, saying her racket-wielding right hand gave her problems because she had surgery on it years ago.

Halep sounded a similar tone, noting it was “impossible to play,” and saying: “No one cares about the players, in my opinion. I don’t care that I lost the match today, but I was close to (getting) injured.”

Radwanska dropped 10 consecutive games while being beaten 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 by 102nd-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria. Shortly before that, Halep lost 7-6 (0), 6-3 to No. 21 Sam Stosur in a contest between two past finalists at Roland Garros.

Alas, of the 12 singles matches on Tuesday’s schedule, those were the only two that finished. Four men’s fourth-rounders – including No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut – were suspended in progress. Four women’s fourth-rounders – including two involving the Williams sisters – never started at all, nor did two men’s quarterfinals.

Halep wondered aloud whether those in charge of the French Open insisted on going forward with matches in the rain because they “are scared” about completing the tournament on time. All play was washed out Monday, the first full day lost at the event in 16 years.

“Not their fault,” she said. “But the decisions were not, I think, the best.”

Radwanska vs. Pironkova originally began Sunday, and Radwanska was three games from victory at 3-0 in the second set when play was suspended. They didn’t make it back on court until Tuesday, began more than an hour late because of more rain, played for about a half-hour, then were halted by a 2 1/2-hour delay.

There were stretches when action proceeded despite drops falling, and – perhaps not surprisingly, given that she won – Pironkova was OK with that.

“Well, it happened before, of course. We have played in all sorts of conditions. Usually if the court is not fit for play, like if it’s slippery, they would cancel the match right away,” said Pironkova, who reached her first French Open quarterfinal. “But today the court was still hanging in. It was OK. We could have played, and so we did.”

The Stosur-Halep match was suspended Sunday during the first set. And 2011 U.S. Open champion Stosur – wearing a green long-sleeved shirt against the chill of temperatures in the 50s (about 15 degrees Celsius) – was better throughout Tuesday.

“It’s not good out there,” Stosur said, “but it was fine for us.”

She is into the quarterfinals in Paris for the fourth time.

“It was really tough, obviously, with the start-stop and having a day off and everything,” Stosur said. “Once you’re out there and it’s raining, it’s not so nice, but that’s the way it is.”

Four of the top 11 players remain in the women’s tournament: No. 1 Serena Williams, No. 4 Garbine Muguruza, No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky and No. 9 Venus Williams. Only Muguruza is already into the quarterfinals; the other three will wait until Wednesday to try to join her.

Djokovic split the first two sets with Bautista Agut as they went on and off court, able to get a total of only 2 hours of playing time.

Djokovic was leading 4-1 in the third when they were interrupted for good Tuesday, along with the other men’s fourth-round matches: Tomas Berdych vs. David Ferrer, David Goffin vs. Ernests Gulbis, and Dominic Thiem vs. Marcel Granollers.

During one break, Djokovic, seeking to win a fourth consecutive major title and complete a career Grand Slam, wandered around Court Philippe Chatrier to check the weather, borrowing a green-and-orange Roland Garros umbrella from a fan.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Nadal, Dimitrov advance to Australian Open quarterfinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) After snuffing out local hopes for yet another Australian Open, Grigor Dimitrov huddled with Nick Kyrgios at the net and the pair exchanged encouraging words.

It was Kyrgios, having just lost 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4) in the fourth round in a typically tempestuous performance, who left No. 3-ranked Dimitrov with this message: “Believe.”

Dimitrov has never won a major, coming closest here last year before losing a semifinal to Rafael Nadal in five sets, but is enhancing his credentials as a next generation champion.

Nadal secured his spot in a 10th Australian Open quarterfinal earlier Sunday on Rod Laver Arena, beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in 3 hours and 51 minutes.

The 16-time major winner draped an arm around his Argentine friend and patted him on top of the head. If he needed a fitness test in the first week in his comeback from an injured right knee, he got it.

“A great battle … he’s a good friend of mine,” Nadal said. “This is the first big match that I played in 2018. That’s confidence for myself … confidence I can resist for four hours on court at a good intensity.”

Nadal will next play 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, who collected his 100th Grand Slam match win with a 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (3) victory over No. 10 Pablo Carreno Busta.

“I had the 300th win of my career at the U.S. Open in 2014, so this is also beautiful one,” Cilic said of his latest major milestone. “I hope I’m going to continue and gather three more here.”

Nadal lost last year’s Australian Open final to Roger Federer, but went on to regain the No. 1 ranking and win the French and U.S. Open titles before bringing his season to a premature end because of an injured right knee.

Despite not playing any competitive matches in his Aussie Open preparation, Nadal advanced through three rounds without dropping a set.

That streak finished when Schwartzman took the second set, rebounding three times after dropping serve to break back and win the tiebreaker.

Nadal lifted to win the third, but Schwartzman didn’t relent.

The second game of the fourth set lasted almost 13 minutes, with Nadal finally holding after saving five break points.

He broke again in the next game to regain control.

“It was a good test for me. It was a lot of hours on court. Moments under pressure,” Nadal said.

Britain’s Kyle Edmund reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 afternoon win over Andreas Seppi and could relax and watch the night-time entertainment featuring Dimitrov and Kyrgios. They all played two weeks ago in Brisbane, where Edmund lost to Dimitrov, who lost to eventual champion Kyrgios.

Both Dimitrov and Kyrgios got tense at key times in the night match. Dimitrov was broken while serving for the match. Kyrgios was called for a foot fault, double-faulted on a set point and smashed an easy overhead into the net on a break point after dominating the rally. He had 36 aces, and some second serves recorded at faster than 202 kph (125 mph).

“Only a couple points in it, you know. It wasn’t like I got demolished out there,” said Kyrgios, who missed the chance to end the drought for local men that dates back to the 1976 Australian Open. “I had a lot of chances to win the match and I just came up short.”

He tipped his mate Dimitrov to go far.

“He hasn’t even found his best form yet and he’s still getting through all those matches, which is pretty frightening,” Kyrgios said. “Once he finds his feet and he has more confidence, he’s got a real chance at winning it.”

Dimitrov thanked him for the support, and said he’s growing more confident in his game.

Caroline Wozniacki continued to cash in on her second chance, reaching the quarterfinals here for the first time since 2012 with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Magdalena Rybarikova.

After saving match points and coming back from 5-1 down in the third set of her second-round win, No. 2-ranked Wozniacki said she was “playing with the house money” and had nothing to lose.

Wozniacki next plays Carla Suarez Navarro, who rallied from a set and 4-1 down to beat No. 32 Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.

The other quarterfinal will feature the winners of two tune-up events. Brisbane International champion Elina Svitolina beat Denisa Allertova 6-3, 6-0 in a match that started just before midnight.

Fourth-seeded Svitolina next plays Hobart International winner Elise Mertens, who beat Petra Martic to reach the quarterfinals in her Australian Open debut.

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More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen

Kerber beats Sharapova in 3rd round; Halep in long-haul win

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Angelique Kerber is the only major winner remaining in the Australian Open women’s draw after ending Maria Sharapova’s comeback tour to Melbourne Park.

The 2016 champion routed Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the third-round match on Saturday night to extend her winning streak to 12 matches, including winning the Sydney International title last week.

Five-time major winner Sharapova was back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2016, when a failed test for meldonium led to a 15-month doping ban.

It was all over in one hour and four minutes, a vast contrast to top-ranked Simona Halep’s 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 win in three hours, 45 minutes over American Lauren Davis in the opening match on Rod Laver.

The third set took 2:22 and momentum swung. Halep wasted chances to serve for the match in the ninth, 11th and 15th games, then had to save three match points in the 22nd. There were 11 service breaks and two medical timeouts – for Davis to get treatment on both feet – before Halep converted on her first match point.

“I never played the third set so long, so I’m really happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead,” Halep said of the match which equaled Chanda Rubin’s win over Arantxa Shanchez Vicario in 1996 – also 48 games – for the Australian Open record in terms of most games.

“I just feel that my muscles are gone,” said Halep, who badly twisted her left ankle in the first round. “My ankle is, I don’t know how it is because I don’t feel it anymore! But … it was nice to win this match.”

Halep will play Naomi Osaka, who beat 18th-seeded Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-2 in a match that was moved from the center court to Margaret Court Arena because of the two long matches on Rod Laver.

No. 20 Barbora Strycova beat U.S. qualifier Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-2, leaving U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys as the only American woman to reach the fourth round.

Keys advanced 6-3, 6-4 over Ana Bogdan and will next play No. 8 Caroline Garcia, who beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat No. 29 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 in a match featuring just one service break.

On the men’s side, Hyeon Chung took out a Zverev for the second time this week. Chung beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 six days after a win over No. 32 Mischa Zverev in the first round.

Another unexpected loss at a major had the highly-touted Zverev admitted he may have a problem.

“Definitely not physical, so… I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slam,” he said.

The 20-year-old Zverev has five titles on the elite tour but his fourth-round exit at Wimbledon last year remains his best run at a major.

Tomas Berdych ended 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro’s return to Melbourne Park for the first time since 2014 with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to set up a fourth-round match against Tennys Sandgren, who continued his career-best run by beating Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Former world junior No. 1 Marton Fucsovics beat Nicolas Kicker 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 and No. 25 Fabio Fognini overcame Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

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More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen