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US tennis player Lepchenko cleared after meldonium positives

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LONDON — American Varvara Lepchenko tested positive four times for meldonium, according to the International Tennis Federation, which cleared her because it was determined she took the substance before its ban went into effect on Jan. 1.

The ITF announced Tuesday that Lepchenko had been provisionally suspended in March but it was later determined that she “bore no fault or negligence for the violation.”

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, is the same substance for which Maria Sharapova tested positive, drawing a two-year ban that she has appealed. She acknowledged taking the drug in January.

The Latvian-made drug is typically used for heart conditions.

The ITF said meldonium was in Lepchenko’s system in decreasing amounts on Jan. 7, Feb. 1, March 1 and April 7. She appealed her provisional suspension, saying she had last taken mildronate tablets “on or around” Dec. 20.

The 30-year-old Lepchenko, who was born in Uzbekistan, is No. 79 in this week’s WTA rankings.

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.