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Venus Williams tumbles out of Rogers Cup in Montreal

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MONTREAL — Sixth-seeded Venus Williams tumbled out of the Rogers Cup in the third round Thursday night, falling 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-3 to 10th-seeded Madison Keys in an all-American match.

Playing her last tournament match before the Rio Olympics, the 36-year-old Williams lost seven straight games before holding serve in the third game of the second set. After Williams rallied to tie the match, Keys found her serve in the third set, ending the match with her 12th ace.

The 21-year-old Keys won the Wimbledon tuneup event in Birmingham, England, this year for her second WTA Tour title, then reached the fourth round at Wimbledon. She’ll face 16th-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the quarterfinals.

Williams beat Barbora Strycova – the Czech player Keys topped in the Birmingham final – on Wednesday in her first match since losing to Britain’s Johanna Konta on Sunday in the Bank of the West Classic final. Against Keys, she struggled with her serve.

“Her first serve was definitely slower than normal,” Keys said. “But it was funny, her second serve was a lot slower, but because of the court it was bouncing a lot higher than normal. So while her first serve was a little easier to return, her second serve was really tough.”

Pavlyuchenkova beat fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

“It’s going to be a tough match,” Keys said about Pavlyuchenkova. “She’s always tricky because she definitely fights till the end and she’s going to hit a lot of winners.”

Pavlyuchenkova let two match points slip away while leading 5-4 in the second set and then lost the game on a double fault. She rebounded in the third set to extend her longest run at the hardcourt event.

“I think I’m still recovering from the second set,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “Basically, I thought I had the match in my pocket and lost it, so I’m happy with the mental side.”

Radwanska won in 2014 in Montreal.

The 15th-seeded Konta beat American Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-2 to set up a quarterfinal against Slovakia’s Kristina Kucova, a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard in the late match.

Bouchard was penalized a point for racket abuse in the third set as she struggled to hit the lines to the disappointment of what had been a festive center-court crowd at Uniprix Stadium.

“I played some high-quality tennis this week – I can’t forget those two matches – but two matches is not a whole tournament,” Bouchard said. “I need to learn how to keep it going and deal with the pressure. I just felt I maybe panicked a little bit, tried to finish the points too soon.”

Second-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany beat Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4.

“I’m still improving to playing better tennis, being more aggressive and just going for it,” Kerber said. “I think today I was a little bit too excited to going for it. This is sometimes, I think, the problem.”

Kerber will face Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, a 7-5, 6-3 2 winner over seventh-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 7-5, 6-3.

Fifth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania, a finalist last year in Toronto, beat 14th-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3. Pliskova, the WTA Tour ace leader, had only five in the match.

“I knew that it’s going to be tough because I don’t get rhythm from her,” Halep said. “You never know what to expect for the next point, so there’s a bit of tension. I just had to stay patient for every ball and to keep fighting because I knew that if I stay there for every ball, she can miss more than me.”

Halep will face ninth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, a 7-6 (2), 6-3 winner over 12th-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.

Venus Williams beats No. 1 Kerber in Miami Open quarters

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Venus Williams moved a step closer to her first Key Biscayne title since 2001 when she beat top-ranked Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open.

It was Williams’ 15th career win against a No. 1 player, but her first since 2014. Seeded No. 11, she’s into the tournament’s semifinals for the first time in seven years.

Williams’ opponent Thursday night will be No. 10-seeded Johanna Konta, who became the first British woman to reach a semifinal in the tournament by beating No. 3 Simona Halep 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2. No. 2 Karolina Pliskova will play No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki in the other semifinal.

Williams took charge of her quarterfinal match when Kerber double-faulted on the final two points of the opening set, and broke serve twice more early in the second set. She closed out the victory on her fifth match point with a backhand winner.

It was a matchup of offense against defense, with Williams the more aggressive player, charging the net often. Kerber stayed rooted to the baseline and was on the defensive even when she served, facing 13 break points and losing serve five times.

The German will remain No. 1 next week despite her loss. She reclaimed the top ranking this month after Indian Wells, replacing Serena Williams, who is sidelined by a knee injury.

Venus Williams improved to 61-13 at Key Biscayne, where she is making her 18th appearance. She won the title in 1998, 1999 and 2001 and considers the tournament her hometown event – she lives 90 minutes north in Palm Beach Gardens.

At 36, Williams was the oldest woman to enter the draw, but she hasn’t been taxed physically while winning every set in her four matches.

On the men’s side, Fabio Fognini became the first unseeded player in 10 years to reach the men’s semifinals at Key Biscayne when he beat 2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2. Fognini, 29, who matched his best showing in an ATP Masters 1000 event, will next play the winner of Wednesday night’s match between Rafael Nadal and Jack Sock.

Nishikori was seeded No. 2. Fognini improved to 9-44 against top-10 players, and became the first Italian man to reach a semifinal at Key Biscayne.

Historical marker for tennis great Tilden rejected again

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) A Pennsylvania panel once again rejected a historical marker for Philadelphia tennis great Bill Tilden.

Tilden became the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920 and also won seven U.S. championships. In 1950, The Associated Press voted him the greatest player of the first half of the century.

A year ago, a panel of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission that approves historical markers voted 4-1 against recommending approval of a marker at Philadelphia’s Germantown Cricket Club, citing Tilden’s convictions on charges involving teenage boys in the 1940s.

Karen Galle, coordinator of the historical marker program, confirmed Wednesday that the panel again voted 4-1 against approving the marker in February and that recommendation was among 54 approved by the commission at its March 22 meeting.

“While the significance of this athlete’s tennis career and talent are indisputable, his convictions for sexual misconduct with underage boys preclude recognition,” commission spokesman Howard Pollman said.

Lack of a marker doesn’t diminish Tilden’s accomplishments but approval “may be perceived to dishonor victims of sexual abuse,” Pollman said. Officials have cited the climate in the commonwealth following the sex abuse scandal involving another sports figure, Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky.

Tilden was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, in November 1946, after a 14-year-old boy was caught driving the star’s car erratically. Officers reported that when the teen exited the car, his pants zipper was down. Police charged Tilden with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and he served seven months in jail. He was arrested again in 1949 on allegations that he violated probation by being in the company of another teen boy, and that he groped a third teen. He served 10 months at a prison farm.

Tilden, born to a wealthy Philadelphia family, was featured regularly in magazines, newspapers and newsreels during his career. He was friends with Hollywood elite and played at the White House at the invitation of President Warren Harding. He’s credited with urging children of all economic backgrounds to learn tennis, once a sport only for the wealthy, and modern players still value his manuals on how to play.

After his convictions, Tilden’s Germantown membership was revoked, and his portrait was removed. In recent years, the club has begun to embrace Tilden’s memory, and a group of Philadelphians has been lobbying for a historical marker at the site.