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Tennis elite going to Rio, not put off by Zika virus

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LONDON- While the Zika virus and family concerns have notably deterred some of golf’s best players from going to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, the tennis elite isn’t put off.

Defending men’s champion Andy Murray said at Wimbledon on Saturday, “My plan is still to play.”

Roger Federer was also full steam ahead. “I’ll put mosquito spray on my body and take the precautions I have to,” said Federer, the runner-up to Murray in the London Games four years ago and a doubles gold medalist in the 2008 Beijing Games.

“I’m not afraid of Zika,” said Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champ from the Czech Republic. “I will definitely go there.”

Rafael Nadal headlined the Rio Open in February and has said he will go to the Olympics, if fit.

Then there was the blissful ignorance of French Open champion Garbine Muguruza.

“I don’t really know what is Zika,” she said. But the Spaniard was sure the Olympics would not proceed if the virus posed a serious threat.

The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to severe birth defects in infants born to infected women, and possible neurological problems in adults, but to Kvitova the Olympics outweigh the risks.

She said she receives updates from a doctor with the Czech Olympic team, but admits she doesn’t read them all. But there was no way she was missing the games. “For me,” she said, “it’s like another Grand Slam.”

Federer, the father of four kids, respected the choices by the likes of golfers Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel to be unavailable for Rio selection because of the virus. Other absentees, such as Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and Graeme McDowell, did not cite Zika.

“I have never reconsidered my decision,” Federer said at Wimbledon. “I know I will play. I will try everything I can to be there. For me, it’s always been a big deal, the Olympics, regardless of (tournament) points or not, or where it is.”

Murray, who had his first child in February, has always been positive about going to Rio, but has always sought the latest medical advice.

“The doctor in British tennis, who has been working there for 35-40 years, he thinks (Rio is) pretty safe, and we should be OK,” Murray said. “When I’m done here (at Wimbledon), I’ll have another chat to make sure.”

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.

Federer beats Nadal to win Shanghai Masters title

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SHANGHAI (AP) Roger Federer extended his winning streak over Rafael Nadal this year to four matches after beating the top-ranked Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 to win the Shanghai Masters on Sunday.

The Swiss 19-time grand slam winner, who still trails Nadal 23-15 in their overall head-to-head record, didn’t face a break point and started and ended the match with service breaks.

“I don’t know what my expectations were going in,” Federer said. “I thought I might struggle early on because it was a late finish last night.

“I had no nerves before the match, surprisingly. I think I was pretty clear about how I wanted to play the match. I started off very well and relaxed from then on.”

Despite his dominance in 2017, Federer doesn’t rate his chances of catching Nadal in their head-to-head record.

“It’s not going to happen. We don’t have enough years left on the tour. We ranked too good so we play each other only in finals at the moment… You can’t win them all against Rafa, to be honest. He’s too good of a player,” Federer said.

Federer took advantage of three of seven break point opportunities in the match to snap Nadal’s 16-game winning streak, which included his China Open victory last week.

Federer, who has won the last five encounters between the pair dating back to the 2015 Basel final, also beat Nadal in the Australian Open final, a round of 16 match at Indian Wells and the Miami final this year.

“Have been a very difficult match for me,” Nadal said. “He played very fast and he played well.

“Of course was not the best match for me of the week. When somebody plays better than you, sport is not very difficult. That’s the real thing, no? When you play against somebody that is better than you in most of the things that really matters in this sport, in this kind of surface, then it’s tougher.”

The Shanghai Masters is Federer’s 94th career title, moving him into a tie with Ivan Lendl in second place on the Open era list.

Nadal arrived on court with a bandage under his right knee, the same leg he twice smacked with his racket after losing his serve for the first time this week in the semifinal.

Federer said he was surprised to see the wrap and didn’t feel Nadal was struggling with his movement.

In his post-match press conference, Nadal elected not to discuss the knee injury, saying, “I don’t want to talk about that now, sorry, but after losing final is not the moment.”

When asked if he would play upcoming tournaments in Basel, Switzerland and Paris, Nadal refused to confirm his participation.

Federer took advantage of a third break point in the first game of the match with a winning backhand passing shot. He broke Nadal’s serve again on a second break point in the fifth game of the second set when Nadal sailed a backhand crosscourt wide. In the final game, Nadal netted a forehand at 15-40 to end the 72-minute match.