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Novak Djokovic survives scare, tops Gilles Muller in Toronto

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TORONTO (AP) Top-ranked Novak Djokovic survived a scare to beat Gilles Muller 7-5, 7-6 (3) on Wednesday in the Rogers Cup, his final event before the Rio Olympics.

“I actually think that Toronto is a great way for me to prepare for the Olympic Games and what’s coming up after that,” Djokovic said. “But also, you know, I enjoy my time in this tournament that I always love playing.”

The Serbian star noted that he had extra time off after falling in the third round at Wimbledon. The Rogers Cup rotates between Toronto and Montreal, with the women playing in Montreal this week.

“I enjoy Canada, both cities, Toronto and Montreal, and the past results in history show that I have a good time on Canadian soil, so I try to get the best out of it,” said Djokovic, the tournament winner in 2007, 2011 and 2012.

Djokovic struggled against Muller in his first hard-court match since March, both with his serves and his short game. Ultimately, unforced errors were Muller’s undoing, with both sets easily in reach of the unseeded player from Luxembourg.

“Gilles Muller is a very difficult player to play against in quick conditions,” Djokovic said. “He takes away the time of the opponent. He serves and volleys second serve a lot, as well, which he’s one of the rare guys that does that. He likes to play quick, and I think the warm day like today played a lot in his favor.”

Djokovic will face qualifier Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the third round.

Third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan downed American Dennis Novikov 6-4, 7-5; and fourth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 6-3.

American qualifier Ryan Harrison outlasted ninth-seeded countryman John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-7 (4), 6-4, and 10th-seeded Gael Monfils of France topped Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, Canada, 7-6 (6), 6-0. Monfils won the Citi Open on Sunday in Washington.

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.”