Djokovic, Williams set as betting favorites on odds to win U.S. Open

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With Novak Djokovic, there is a question of motivation now that the chance of a calendar-year Grand Slam is long gone.

Djokovic and Serena Williams, respectively, have the top odds on the men’s and women’s champion boards heading into the U.S. Open. The last Grand Slam of the tennis season begins on Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

On the men’s board, Djokovic is listed at even odds, with Andy Murray nipping at his heels at +180 by virtue of winning Wimbledon and the Olympic gold medal.

Since his third-round loss at Wimbledon, Djokovic has also had early exits in both singles and doubles at the Olympics. The flip side of that is Djokovic has played only nine singles matches in three months, meaning he should be fresh.

For his part, Murray has a chance to finish the season with appearances in all four major finals, plus the Olympics. The Scottish star might need help against Djokovic, whom he is 1-4 against in their last five matches on hard courts.

Beyond the big two, there is a big drop down to heavy-serving Canadian Milos Raonic at +1200 on the tennis odds. Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka are both at +1600, while Marin Cilic and Rafael Nadal are each listed at +2000.

Raonic, whose serve is in a class of its own, is seeded fifth. That creates the possibility of a semifinal showdown against Djokovic, whom he is 0-7 against in his career. Cilic is also an intriguing darkhorse. He won the 2014 title but didn’t encounter Djokovic, and was a 2015 semifinalist.

Williams, at +120, is alone at the top of the women’s champion board, with No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber, No. 3 Garbine Mugurza and No. 5 Simona Halep each listed at +800. Promising young American Madison Keys, who is seeded eighth, is listed at +1400.

Halep is only 1-7 in her career against Williams, but the win was on a hard surface at the Indian Wells tournament. Mugurza is 2-3 against Williams, but each win came on clay. The tournament is Williams’ to lose.

Roberta Vinci, Williams’ nemesis in the 2015 semifinal, is listed at +15000 on the tennis betting lines. That upset came in Vinci’s only trip beyond the fourth round of a major.

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.