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Radwanska and Bencic both surprised in the first round of Aegon Classic

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BIRMINGHAM, England¬†—¬†Agnieszka Radwanska, the top seed, and Belinda Bencic, the youngest player in the top world’s top ten, both fell at the first hurdle on a day of shocks and rainstorms at the Aegon Classic.

Radwanska, a former Wimbledon runner-up, had intended to use the grass court event as a springboard for another assault on the oldest Grand Slam title, but was halted 7-5,4-6, 6-3 by CoCo Vandewegh, a hard-hitting American ranked outside the top 30.

Vandewegh had never come close to winning a set against Radwanska’s consistently skilful ground strokes in four previous meetings, but used her strength and power to good effect.

Even after the Pole intelligently played her way back to parity, Vandewegh maintained a fierce flat attack and managed to break serve three times in the final set.

“Last week helped me get out of tricky situations because I had done it before,” said Vendewegh, referring to her capture of the den Bosch title on grass last week.

“I don’t think I played so bad today – she was just really good,” said Radwanska, disappointed to have had little practice on grass because of the bad weather. This was her first tournament on this surface this year.

Earlier Bencic, arguably the world’s most promising player, suffered another injury just ten days after a lengthy spell on the side-lines with a bad back.

The 19-year-old Swiss player’s movement had been painful and ponderous before she quit half way through the second set during her first round match against Irina-Camelai Begu.

Bencic’s retirement gave the world number 26 from Romania a victory by 6-4, 4-3 retired, though there was hardly a moment when Bencic had been mobile enough to win the match.

She took a tumble on the damp lush grass in the first game, and as early as the fifth game she was seeking help from the trainer. The injury was later described as a thigh strain. “I continued playing more than I should have,” Bencic admitted.

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.