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Easy going: Williams crushes Beck to reach 4th round

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LONDON —¬†Serena Williams will still get a decent day’s rest on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon.

The defending champion and six-time winner overwhelmed Annika Beck 6-3, 6-0 in just 51 minutes on Centre Court early Sunday afternoon, advancing to the fourth round with her 300th career Grand Slam match win.

Williams, who compiled a 25-2 edge in winners, wasn’t aware of the 300-win milestone until she was asked about it in a post-match interview.

“Was it? Cool. Oh, nice,” she said with a laugh. “I had no idea. That’s awesome, right? That’s good, right? I think that’s a lot of matches.”

Williams’ latest win breaks a tie at 299 wins with Chris Evert and now ranks second in the Open era behind Martina Navratilova, who went 306-49.

For only the fourth time in Wimbledon’s 139-year history, play was scheduled on the middle Sunday, which is the traditional rest day, because of rain delays in the first week that caused a backlog of matches.

“Obviously I love having that Sunday off but I’m a little behind in my matches, so I guess I had to play an extra day,” Williams said.

She didn’t have to work very hard as she completely dominated the 43rd-ranked Beck, who has never been past the third round here.

After falling an early break behind at 2-1, Williams won 11 of the last 12 games and 24 of the second set’s 28 points. She finished the first set with one of her seven aces and served out the match at love.

“I still want to get out to a little bit of a faster start,” Williams said. “But I was really focused and calm today.”

Williams will next face No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who came from behind to beat No. 22 Sloane Stephens 6-7 (1), 6-2, 8-6 to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time since 2008. The 2 1/2-hour match started on No. 1 Court long before Williams and Beck began play on Centre – and finished after.

Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion, has reached the quarterfinals here three times, but the last time was back in 2007.

CoCo Vandeweghe, making a strong run at Wimbledon for the second year in a row, beat No. 7 Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-3, 6-4 in the first match on Centre Court. The 27th-seeded American advanced to the quarterfinals here last year before losing to Maria Sharapova in three sets. This is the first time she’s been seeded at a Grand Slam.

“Roberta’s a really tough opponent,” Vandeweghe said. “She has a lot of craftiness to her game that you don’t see too much. She makes you beat her. So that’s what I tried to do, stay focused and keep pressing.”

Her fourth-round opponent will be 23rd-seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, who downed No. 11 Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2. Bacsinszky made it to the quarterfinals last year, but failed to break serve once on Sunday.

Also advancing was 50th-ranked Elena Vesnina, who beat 225th-ranked American qualifier Julia Boserup 7-5, 7-5. The Russian previously reached the fourth round here in 2009.

All 22,000 tickets for Sunday’s play were snapped up in 27 minutes when they went on sale online on Saturday.

The tournament is still reverberating from the stunning exit of Novak Djokovic, whose bid for a fifth consecutive major title and the third leg of a calendar-year Grand Slam was stopped by American Sam Querrey in the third round.

Naomi Osaka on her way up with first pro tennis title

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Naomi Osaka had just won the first title of her career and was waiting to be introduced for her post-match comments.

The 20-year-old from Japan had prepared, knowing what she was going to say and in what order.

But then her name was called.

“I freaked out,” she said. “I just started saying whatever came into my mind first, which is why I think I kept stopping halfway through my sentences, because I just remembered something else I had to say. That was pretty embarrassing.”

The crowd of 18,347 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Sunday seemed to sense Osaka’s nervousness, something she worked hard to hide during a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the BNP Paribas Open final.

“I was extremely stressed and extremely nervous,” Osaka said. “But my plan was to, like, fake that I’m very calm.”

As hesitant as she was behind the mic, Osaka was polished and professional in dismantling Kasatkina, a fellow 20-year-old who also enjoyed a surprising run to the final.

Osaka dropped just one set in seven matches, knocking off two-time winner Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Karolina Pliskova and top-ranked Simona Halep against whom she won the last nine games of the match.

She arrived at Indian Wells unseeded because of her No. 44 ranking. She left ranked No. 22 and with a $1.3 million check, nearly double her career earnings.

“I really wanted to win this, but also I just tried to think it was a first-round match and just not psych myself out too much,” Osaka said.

She had made it past the quarterfinals at a WTA event just once before, losing in the final at Tokyo 18 months ago. Now, she’s 15-4 this year.

“I feel like I have made it my goal to be more focused every match this year, so I think it’s paid off,” she said.

Born in Osaka, Japan, to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, she moved to the U.S. as a 3-year-old. She holds dual citizenship, living for a time in New York and now in South Florida while representing Japan in Fed Cup.

“I play now for myself,” she said, “but when I was little, I just played because I wanted to make my mom happy, mainly my mom, and also my dad, for him to be proud.”

Her parents and sister Mari, a tennis player, too, weren’t on hand in California.

Osaka and Kasatkina shared a private jet – their first such ride – to South Florida, where they will play in the Miami Open this week. Osaka faces a first-round match against Serena Williams, her idol growing up.

“I feel like I just started winning,” Osaka said. “It’s a new feeling for me to be this consistent, so I’m just trying to be happy about that.”


Del Potro edges Federer in 3 sets to win Indian Wells title

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Juan Martin del Potro keeps surprising himself.

Close to quitting tennis after four wrist surgeries in recent years, the Argentine fought to get back to the ATP Tour even as he was reduced to hitting his backhand with one hand instead of his usual two.

The struggle paid off Sunday, when Del Potro staved off three match points in the third set to beat top-ranked Roger Federer 6-4,7-6 (8), 7-6 (2) for the BNP Paribas Open title.

The win ranks up there with Del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open title, in which he beat Federer, and helping Argentina win the Davis Cup in 2016.

“I cannot believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis,” Del Potro said.

Naomi Osaka of Japan won the women’s title 6-3, 6-2 over Russian Daria Kasatkina in a match-up of 20-year-old rising stars.

Del Potro and Osaka each earned $1.3 million.

Del Potro became the first Argentine champion in the 42-year history of the desert tournament. He handed Federer his first loss of the year, snapping the Swiss superstar’s 17-match winning streak that was the best of his career.

“I feel frustrated that I let an opportunity like this go by,” Federer said.

Del Potro held a match point at 8-7 in the second-set tiebreaker, but he lost the final three points on his own errors that allowed Federer to force a third set.

“It was a lot of frustration after that match point, but then I play well,” Del Potro said.

They were on serve in the third until Federer broke for a 5-4 lead with a backhand winner off del Potro’s serve.

Federer had a chance to serve out the match, holding two match points. But del Potro staved both off to force deuce.

Federer’s forehand went long, giving del Potro a break point. Federer answered with a backhand that hit del Potro at the net and then gained his third match point on del Potro’s forehand error.

Del Potro recovered to deuce with a forehand winner. Federer mis-hit a forehand high into the air beyond the baseline, giving del Potro another break point. The Argentine cashed in with a well-placed forehand in the corner to tie the set, 5-all.

In the tiebreaker, Del Potro raced to a 6-1 lead, helped by two of Federer’s double faults. He closed out the win on his third match point when Federer’s forehand failed.

“I would like to play that tiebreaker again because I don’t know what the hell happened,” Federer said.

Del Potro lost just six points on his serve in the first set.

In the second-set tiebreaker, Del Potro and Federer took turns arguing with chair umpire Fergus Murphy. Del Potro was annoyed the crowd was making noise on his serve and told the umpire he wasn’t warning them enough to be quiet.

“It had no effect on the outcome of the match,” Federer said. “I was just also just trying to pump myself up more, to get energy for me.”

Del Potro survived three-setters against countryman Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals. It was his first win against Federer since last year’s U.S. Open quarters. Del Potro trails in their series 18-7, but owns a 4-2 advantage in finals.

Del Potro arrived at Indian Wells having won a title in Acapulco and back in the top 10.

“I’m really enjoying playing tennis again,” he said. “I’m still surprising myself, and I want to keep surprising the tennis tour.”

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