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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

Sharapova, Puig heading to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) Maria Sharapova and Monica Puig will head to Puerto Rico next week to help with recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria.

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, and Puig, who won Puerto Rico’s first Olympic gold medal in any sport at the Rio de Janeiro Games last summer, will go to the island Monday to distribute portable stoves, medicine and other supplies.

The agency that represents both players said Wednesday that Puig has raised more than $125,000 to help storm victims, while Sharapova is donating proceeds from her candy company for the rest of 2017.

The storm swept across Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, causing at least 48 deaths, according to the official tally. It caused widespread flooding and knocked out the entire power grid for the island of 3.4 million people.

 

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.