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Wozniacki’s miserable year continues with another early loss

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LONDON – For Caroline Wozniacki, just winning a Grand Slam match these days would be nice.

The former No. 1-ranked player came into Wimbledon unseeded at a major for the first time in eight years and with a world ranking of No. 45, her lowest since 2008.

Faced with a tough first-round draw, the 25-year-old Dane departed quickly Tuesday after losing to 14th-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-5, 6-4, leaving her without a Grand Slam match win in 2016.

Wozniacki also fell in the first round at the Australian Open and missed the French Open with a right ankle injury. Her overall record this year is 11-11.

“It’s been a tough year in general,” Wozniacki said, taking a philosophical tone. “It’s been some injuries. It’s been some bad draws. It’s been uphill. But you just have to keep fighting, keep going at it, keep working hard, and hope eventually that’s going to turn and you’re going to take the chances you’re going to get.”

“That’s really all you can do right now,” she said.

Wozniacki was ranked No. 1 for 67 weeks in 2010 and 2011 and reached two Grand Slam finals, finishing runner-up at the 2009 and 2014 U.S. Opens. This was her 10th appearance at Wimbledon, where she has reached the fourth round five times but never made it to the quarterfinals.

Coming off the ankle injury, Wozniacki showed progress at the grass-court warmup tournament at Eastbourne, winning back-to-back matches for the first time since February.

” I thought I played some really good tennis in Eastbourne,” she said. “Obviously (I) was hoping I could step up from there and do more damage today. But it wasn’t enough.”

Wozniacki played well against Kuznetsova, also a former No. 1 player. She pushed the Russian but didn’t have enough to overcome her in a match played with the retractable roof closed over Centre Court because of rain.

“She played aggressively and stepped up when she had to,” Wozniacki said. “She did what she had to do today.”

For now, Wozniacki is planning to play hard-court tournaments in Washington and Montreal.

She’s also awaiting a ruling on the appeal on her eligibility for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Wozniacki has been selected as Denmark’s flag-bearer for the games, but has failed to meet the International Tennis Federation’s Fed Cup requirements.

“Obviously I want to play,” she said. “But if they decide that I’m not going to play, then there’s not much I can do about it.”

In addition to the injuries, losses and drop in the rankings, Wozniacki endured a well-publicized breakup in 2014 with golfer Rory McIlroy.

Referring to the last year-and-a-half in general, she said: “I mean, at one point you’re just like, you know what, it has to turn, it has to go the other way eventually. I’m just going to take the punches I’m getting and just try and learn from it and try and move forward.'”

During her injury layoffs, Wozniacki has kept busy with various off-the-court projects.

“If there’s time left over, then I try and just have fun in life,” she said. “We only live once. We don’t get a mulligan.”

One thing Wozniacki won’t do is read about herself.

“I think if I read everything that was written about me the last 15 years, I think by now I probably would have jumped over a cliff,” she said. “I would rather not.”

Azarenka aims to come back in time for Wimbledon

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MOSCOW — Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka says she is planning to return to competition before Wimbledon.

Azarenka, who was ranked No. 1 for seven months in 2012 and 2013, went on a break last July to have her first child. She had previously been targeting a return at the July 31-Aug. 6 Bank of the West Classic in California.

In a statement on Twitter, the Belarusian says “my training has been progressing well and I feel ready to start competing,” adding that she plans “to play one of the grass court events prior to Wimbledon.”

Wimbledon starts July 3.

Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and has twice reached the Wimbledon semifinals.

Djokovic announces Agassi will coach him at French Open

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ROME —¬†Novak Djokovic is joining forces with Andre Agassi in an effort to return to No. 1.

Djokovic announced Sunday that Agassi will coach him at the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“I spoke to Andre the last couple weeks on the phone, and we decided to get together in Paris,” Djokovic said. “So he’s going to be there. We’ll see what (the) future brings.

“We are both excited to work together and see where it takes us. We don’t have any long-term commitment. It’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little bit,” Djokovic added. “He will not stay the whole tournament. He’s going to stay only to a certain time, and then we’ll see after that what’s going to happen.”

The second-ranked Djokovic split with longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members – fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic – at the start of the month.

Agassi, who retired in 2006, won eight Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slams.

“Andre is someone that I have tremendous respect for as a person and as a player,” Djokovic said. “He has been through everything that I’m going through. On the court he understands the game amazingly well. I am enjoying every conversation that I have with him.

“But also, on the other hand, he’s someone that nurtures the family values, philanthropy work. He’s a very humble man, is very educated. He’s a person that can contribute to my life on and off the court a lot. I’m very excited to see what is ahead of us.”

The pairing is the latest in a series of top players working with former standouts, from Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, and Kei Nishikori and Michael Chang.

Djokovic was coached by Boris Becker the last three seasons, but they split last year.

Vajda started working with Djokovic in 2006.

Djokovic lost his No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray last year after a slump in form following his French Open triumph.

He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, his earliest defeat in a Grand Slam in seven years, lost in the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, reached the final of the U.S. Open, and lost early again at the Australian Open.

Djokovic finished 2016 at No. 2, his current ranking. He’s won only one of his last 11 tournaments.

While Agassi has not coached a top player before, Djokovic said his record as a player and spokesman of the game was enough to convince him.

“He’s a legend of our sport,” Djokovic said. “He’s made a mark in this sport forever. He’s won everything there is to win in tennis.

“He was a revolutionary player because he had this charisma, he had this approach to tennis and to life that was quite different from others. That’s why he was so interesting.”

Agassi has already been offering advice on the phone.

“He’s been definitely following up closely all the matches, the big matches, especially on the TV,” Djokovic said. “So he knows players, he knows everyone that I was playing against in (the) last couple of weeks, so we talked before every match.

Djokovic added, “I already feel like we are very kind of close to each other and creating this nice vibe.”