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He’s back: Del Potro beats Wawrinka in 4 sets at Wimbledon

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LONDON — After a three-year absence from Wimbledon, Juan Martin del Potro is making another strong run at a Grand Slam.

Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion who has undergone three surgeries on his left wrist since 2014, beat fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on Friday to reach the third round on another rainy day at the All England Club.

“My hands (are) shaking,” del Potro said after walking off Centre Court to a loud ovation. “It’s a great sensation for me because I’m playing tennis again and I feel alive.”

Wawrinka, a two-time Grand Slam champion, is the highest seeded man eliminated so far.

“It’s great for tennis to see him back,” the Swiss player said of del Potro. “He’s a great guy, a really good player, big champion.”

The match was played with the retractable roof closed over Centre Court, with play on the outside courts delayed and interrupted by scattered rain.

This is del Potro’s first appearance at Wimbledon since 2013, when he reached the semifinals, and his first at any major since the 2014 Australian Open.

“After my third surgery, I’ve been trying to play tennis again,” he said. “It’s like my second or third career in my short life. Now I am in the third round in my first Grand Slam after three years. That means a lot of good things for me.”

The 27-year-old Argentine, who had played just one match against a top-10 player since November 2013, showed flashes of the explosive game that made him one of the most feared men in tennis.

After dropping the first set, del Potro lifted his game and took a 4-1 lead in the second set to take control. He relied on the low, flat and deep forehand that is considered one of the best shots in the game.

Wawrinka, who has reached the quarterfinals twice at Wimbledon, was far from his best, with more unforced errors than winners – 48 to 47. Even del Potro’s stats weren’t great: 23 winners and 25 unforced errors. But he managed four breaks of serve, compared to three for Wawrinka.

“I beat one of the guys who is playing great tennis this season,” del Potro said. “I couldn’t expect this victory for today but I think I played much better after the first set. And I really enjoyed the crowd.”

While rain delayed early matches on the outside courts, Serena Williams and Roger Federer were also playing on Centre Court.

Six-time women’s winner Williams was facing fellow American Christina McHale in a second-round match, with seven-time men’s champion Federer up third against British player Daniel Evans in the third round.

Venus Williams was one point from victory on No. 1 Court, leading 7-6 in the third set against Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, when a heavy shower came, forcing the two off court for the third time.

Wimbledon officials are considering the possibility of scheduling matches on the tournament’s middle Sunday, traditionally a day off.

Only three times in Wimbledon’s 139-year history have matches been played on the middle Sunday: in 1991, 1997 and 2004.

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.