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2 years after cancer diagnosis, Duval is back at Wimbledon

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LONDON – Back at Wimbledon for the first time since she found out two years ago she had cancer, Vicky Duval felt her eyes welling with tears.

The 20-year-old American was moved, yes, by merely being on court once again at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. And she also was upset by the way she was playing Monday, dropping the first eight games of what would become a 6-0, 7-5 loss to 29th-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia.

“More than anything,” Duval said, “today was really hard emotionally.”

Asked to explain the feelings racing through her mind out on Court 4, she said: “Obviously happy that I’m back. But tears of disappointment that I know I can be a lot better than this. So it’s just kind of going to be a process. I’m a little bit impatient right now. I’m expecting it to be a long road back, but I want it sooner than later.”

She has reason to be demanding.

At the 2013 U.S. Open, at only 17, Duval showed her promise by stunning 2011 champion Sam Stosur in the first round.

It was less than a year later, while trying to qualify for Wimbledon, that Duval was diagnosed with the blood cancer Hodgkin lymphoma. She played on, making it to the main draw and then surprisingly beating a seeded player, Sorana Cirstea.

After a yearlong break that included treatment for cancer, Duval returned to playing low-level events. Because of her time away from the main tour, Duval’s ranking is 572nd, but she is allowed to use what’s called a “protected ranking” to automatically get into eight tournaments of her choosing.

Her comeback stalled early this season, though, when she had knee surgery.

At the All England Club, simply setting foot on court was a symbolic step forward.

“The first set, I was just really overwhelmed, more than anything,” Duval said. “I couldn’t really play because, you know, it’s a lot of emotions, of the past and stuff.”

She said she put a towel over her head while being outplayed in the first set “in case something was going to happen – I was like, `I don’t want anyone to see me cry.'”

Then, in the second set, when Duval heard plenty of crowd support and made things more competitive, she said she tried to distract herself by singing Drake’s song “One Dance” in her head.

“The biggest thing was for me to come here and prove to myself that I’m past what happened to me. And even though I didn’t feel that physically I was in tiptop shape to be here, it would have killed me if I didn’t play,” Duval said. “I wanted to, more than anything, prove to myself that I’m strong enough to be back here and be past this.”

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Thiem reaches third round at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Dominic Thiem saved a match point and beat Andrey Rublev of Russia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Rublev was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 but hit a forehand narrowly wide. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke him with backhand pass down the line and held for 6-5.

The Austrian was 15-40 up on Rublev’s serve and clinched victory on his first match point, when Rublev double-faulted with a weak serve into the net.

“I was 10 centimeters from being out of the tournament,” a relieved Thiem said. “But I’m happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes).”

Thiem has reached the French Open semifinals for the past two years. He next meets 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric of Croatia, who play their second-round match on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV, and then playing the winner on Thursday,” Thiem said.

In the second round later Tuesday, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced Pierre-Hugues Herbert and seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille played Mischa Zverev.

In remaining first-round play, there were wins for Gilles Simon of France, Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.