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Monfils, Berdych earn wins at Rogers Cup

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TORONTO — Gael Monfils of France defeated Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 6-3 and fifth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic beat Croatia’s Borna Coric 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 at the Rogers Cup on Tuesday.

Despite dropping his first set, Berdych said that he wasn’t concerned because it was an early break.

“I mean it was by my mistakes and then it was just basically trying to get used to the conditions because they were quite different,” the world No. 8 said.

“I was just really trying to be patient with myself. Trying also to look for the opportunities. And that’s what paid off.”

Tournament No. 2 seed Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland faced Russian Mikhail Youzhny in the late Tuesday match.

Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu admits he’s a bit nervous about facing hometown star Milos Raonic on Wednesday, but he’s banking on the fourth-seeded Canadian having a few butterflies too.

Lu, who advanced to the second round on Tuesday with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Alexander Zverev of Germany, will have few backers among the expected capacity crowd at the 12,500-seat Aviva Centre.

“All the spectators against you is very tough,” Lu said. “But, I mean, this is what he should get because he comes from the country and he’s one of the best players right now.”

Later Tuesday, Canada’s Vasek Pospisil defeated Jeremy Chardy in first-round action after the Frenchman retired with a right foot injury.

Chardy started to favor his foot after Pospisil went up 30-0 in the first game of the second set. Chardy called for the trainer and waited several minutes before deciding that he couldn’t go on.

Pospisil won the first set 7-6 (3). The Vancouver product will face Monfils in the second round.

Raonic, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Thornhill, will be playing his first match since the Wimbledon men’s final where he lost to Andy Murray.

Lu says that in order to beat the Canadian, he will have to have a strong service game, but he’s also hoping to exploit any nerves that Raonic may have as he returns home.

“If I can try to make more balls into the court to play, I have a little bit better chance,” he said. “I have to focus on my service game to stay with him and to maybe give him a little bit of pressure and waiting for him maybe a little bit getting nervous from the tensions and give me a chance.”

Raonic, who had a bye in the first round of the Rogers Cup, is 2-0 against the 32-year-old Lu, with his last victory coming in 2014 in Monte Carlo. Lu said he’s noticed a lot of improvement in Raonic’s game recently.

“He getting more stable from the baseline,” Lu said. “He plays all different kind of game. He can come in, he’s making (things) difficult.”

In men’s doubles action, Vancouver’s Philip Bester and Adil Shamasdin of Toronto got past world No. 1 singles player Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 7-5, 4-6, 10-2.

Tied at 30-30 in the second set, Bester double-faulted to give the Serbs break point before double faulting again to give Djokovic and Zimonjic the set.

“I wanted to keep things interesting for the crowd,” Bester joked. “That’s just sport, that’s tennis, that kind of stuff happens to me, it happens to everybody and as soon as we went to the change-over, the most important thing for me personally was to have a short memory about it and also to communicate with Adil that I was ready to move on to the tiebreaker.”

Bester and Shamasdin will next play South Africa’s Raven Klaasen and American Rajeev Ram.

Lu, ranked 70th in the world, improved to 3-3 on the ATP World Tour circuit this season with his victory over Zverev. He made headlines at Wimbledon in 2010 when he beat American Andy Roddick in an epic five-set thriller.

The Taiwanese player was ousted in the first round of the Rogers Cup last year by Pospisil.

After right elbow surgery delayed the start of his season, he’s gone on to lose to Djokovic in the first round of Roland Garros and Murray in the second round of Wimbledon.

Lu says he’ll have to stop Raonic’s weapon – his serve – if he’s going to be successful on center court against the world No. 7.

“He’s one of the best players right now,” Lu said. “For me, I really need to stay very strong in my serve and hope I can always catch him and give him some pressure.”

Serena Williams returning to competition for US Fed Cup team

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) The U.S. Tennis Association says Serena Williams will return to competition for the first time in more than a year at the country’s Fed Cup matches against the Netherlands next month.

Williams has not played an official match since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. She was pregnant during that tournament and gave birth to a daughter on Sept. 1.

Joining Williams on U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi’s roster announced Tuesday is older sister Venus, a seven-time major champion. The siblings have not played on the Fed Cup team together in three years.

Also on the team: CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist at the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year. A fourth member of the U.S. squad will be announced next week.

The U.S. won last year’s Fed Cup.

The matches against the Netherlands will be held on an indoor hard court in Ashville, North Carolina, on Feb. 10-11.

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

Injured Nadal out of Australian Open; Cilic into semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) An injured and visibly struggling Rafael Nadal retired while trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic.

Top-ranked Nadal fended off five break points in the last game before Cilic broke his serve, then the 16-time major winner went to shake hands with the umpire and his opponent, and angrily hurled his headband into his equipment bag.

No. 6-seeded Cilic advanced to his first semifinal in Australia since 2010 with a score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 2-0, retired.

Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, will next play No. 49-ranked Kyle Edmund, who beat No. 3-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

Nadal limped into a news conference about a half-hour later, still wincing when he stepped up onto a platform. He said he felt muscle pain in his upper right leg in the third set but played through it. In the fourth set, chasing a drop shot, he felt the pain get worse “but didn’t realize how bad.”

“Tough moments -not (for) the first time here,” he said. “I’m a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinal for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me.

“It’s really tough to accept.”

Nadal said he’d have medical scans Wednesday to determine the exact location and extent of the injury, which he could only describe as being high on his right leg but not in the hip.

“Unbelievable performance from both of us and really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic said. “He’s such an unbelievable competitor. He always gives his best … it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.”

It was only the second time Nadal had retired during a Grand Slam match – the last time was also an Australian Open quarterfinal, in 2010 against Andy Murray.

On Tuesday night, he needed a medical timeout after going down 4-1 in the fourth set for treatment on his leg.

Nadal returned but was clearly bothered by the injury, limping and taking as much time as possible as he tried to stretch between points.

He called the trainer again after losing the fourth set, and lasted only two further games.

Cilic had only previously beaten Nadal once in their six previous matches – in their first match at Beijing in 2009.

Nadal had a delayed start to the season because of an injured right knee, but appeared to be in good form through the first four rounds. He now hasn’t won back-to-back Australian Open quarterfinals since 2008 and ’09, the year he won his only Australian title.

“I worked hard to be here,” said Nadal, who skipped tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, Australia, while his knee recovered at the start of the season. “We did all the things that we believed were the right things to do.”

His absence also means there’s only one of last year’s singles finalists remaining in the tournament. Roger Federer, who beat Nadal in five sets last year, is playing Tomas Berdych in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Serena Williams didn’t defend her title, deciding she hadn’t had enough time to prepare following the birth of her first child last September. Her older sister, Venus Williams, was beaten in the first round.

On top of that, six-time champion Novak Djokovic was upset in the fourth round.

There’ll be a British man in the Australian Open semifinals for the seventh time in nine years, but it won’t be five-time finalist Murray – who skipped the season-opening tournament to have surgery on his hip.

Edmund had never played in a major quarterfinal, had never won five consecutive matches at tour level, had lost both of his previous matches against Dimitrov and had never beaten a top five player.

He checked all those boxes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing,” Edmund said. “My first Grand Slam semifinal. First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world. To beat a quality of player like Grigor. They’re great feelings. So, yeah, I just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

After breaking Dimitrov’s serve in the ninth game of the fourth set, Edmund set up match point with an ace. Then he had to wait before a video challenge confirmed that Dimitrov’s last shot – a floating backhand – was out.

“I just held my nerve in that last game and prayed that last ball would be out,” Edmund said. It was out. And so was Dimitrov, who lost a five-set semifinal here last year to Nadal.

“Everything went his way today,” Dimitrov said. “It’s hard to hide a disappointment. It hurts, and so it should.”

Edmund, who had a first-round upset over U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, is now the center of attention for the tennis-loving British public.

“I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray the last eight years,” he said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve done well on my own, so there’s more attention there. Of course you take it in stride.”

Elise Mertens is facing a similar experience.

Mertens upset fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to extend her winning streak to 10 matches, becoming the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semifinals here.

Mertens, who trains at Clijsters’ academy, said: “Kim, thanks for watching. I’m trying to be in your footsteps this week.”

In the semis, she’ll play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro.