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Kerber beats Mladenovic in 1st match as women’s world No. 1

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WUHAN, China (AP) Playing her first match as the No. 1-ranked player in women’s tennis, Angelique Kerber dropped the first set before recovering to beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4 on Tuesday to reach the third round of the Wuhan Open.

Kerber replaced Serena Williams atop the rankings with her run to the U.S. Open title, and then took time off before heading to China to start her Asian swing in Wuhan, where she had a bye in the first round.

The 28-year-old German didn’t face a breakpoint in the second and third sets as she set up a third-round match against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 win over Elina Svitolina.

Mladenovic “was playing very well today, especially in the first set,” Kerber said. “The first match is always tough. But I’m happy to be back in China and to have won my first match here.”

No. 3-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska won eight of the last nine games in a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Ekaterina Makarova to notch her first win in three trips to the Wuhan tournament.

Radwanska has had success elsewhere in Asia over the last two seasons, picking up titles in Shenzhen, Tianjin, Tokyo and at the season-ending WTA championships in Singapore last year.

“I just hope I can play some more great tennis in China,” Radwanska said.

In other second-round matches, 8th-seeded Madison Keys had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Caroline Garcia, No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Madison Brengle, 6-0, 6-4, Yaroslava Shvedova ousted No. 13 Roberta Vinci 7-5, 6-2 and Barbora Strycova rallied to beat Misaki Doi 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.

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.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.