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Top-ranked Kerber falls to Kvitova at Wuhan Open

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WUHAN, China (AP) Angelique Kerber lost her first match as the No. 1-ranked player, losing to Petra Kvitova in the third round of the Wuhan Open on Wednesday.

Kvitova saved 17 of 22 break points on her way to the 6-7 (10), 7-5, 6-4 win over Kerber, who committed eight double faults.

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

Kvitova last beat Kerber in the 2014 Fed Cup final, and had since lost to the German three times, including in the U.S. Open fourth round.

In the quarterfinals, Kvitova will face Johanna Konta of Britain, who beat seventh-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 7-5, 7-6 (6). Konta saved three set points in a marathon ninth game, and recovered from 6-3 down in the tiebreak.

Svetlana Kuznetsova ousted defending champion Venus Williams 6-2, 6-2.

Kuznetsova dominated Williams from the outset, breaking the American five times. She improved to 5-4 against Williams.

Williams struggled with her serve in the gusty conditions and had seven double faults.

Simona Halep of Romania also advanced past Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-3.

Halep, showing no sign of the hamstring injury that ruled her out of Tokyo last week, will face Madison Keys of the United States in the quarters. Keys beat Russian qualifier Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

2-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova wins return from knife attack

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PARIS —¬†Sweat-soaked and still wearing her match outfit, Petra Kvitova was looking for someone to hug as she wandered into the players’ lounge in the French Open’s main stadium shortly after leaving the court Sunday.

She found her father, Jiri, and her brother, also Jiri, who greeted her with warm embraces and joyous kisses on the cheek. Kvitova’s family members rarely attend her tournaments, but this was different – “special” was the word she, and others, kept using.

Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was back competing, winning the first match of her comeback 6-3, 6-2 at Roland Garros against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States.

“I’m happy with the game, of course,” Kvitova said, “but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Chatrier was a triumph of sorts for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand – the one she uses to hold her racket – after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December. She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.

“For us, it’s amazing. It’s miracle. Not even me or Petra thought she could be ready to come back so soon,” said her coach, Jiri Novak. “The prognosis was, let’s just say, not optimistic.”

During her on-court interview, Kvitova addressed Novak, her family and others in her guest box, saying: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”

Several members of her entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled with a red heart instead of the “O,” is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.

“The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important,” Kvitova said afterward. “So that’s … what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be kind of inspiration for other people, as well.”

There were plenty of opportunities for her to clench a fist and scream “Pojd!” on Sunday against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.

“She’s one of the nicest girls, and we are all really happy to see her back. After what she went through, it’s incredible,” Boserup said. “So it’s a victory for her to be back on court. It was really special.”

Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner on the opening point.

“Amazing,” she said. “I surprised myself.”

Kvitova wound up compiling the match’s first 10 winners and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category. She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points – the only ones she had to deal with in the match – while ahead 3-1.

When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.

“We are happy that she is healthy. The hand is good – and also the head,” her brother Jiri said. “Mentally, she is back.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Venus Williams eases into French Open’s second round after beating Qiang Wang

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In a record 20th appearance at the French Open, Venus Williams eased into the second round with a straight sets victory over Qiang Wang of China.

Williams, who is seeded 10th, saved two set points to win 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The 36-year-old American will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the next round.