Berdych beats Sousa to reach 3rd round at Paris Masters

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PARIS (AP) Tomas Berdych avoided another early exit by beating Joao Sousa 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 on Tuesday to reach the third round of the Paris Masters.

At 4-4 in the deciding set, Berdych trailed 15-40 and saved two break points.

Although Berdych won the Shenzhen Open in China last month, the Czech player’s form dropped sharply with first-round exits at the Japan Open and the Erste Bank Open in Vienna. In between, there was a second-round loss at the Shanghai Masters.

Losing so many ranking points forced Berdych out of the top 10 for the first time since reaching the 2010 Wimbledon final. It also leaves him needing to reach the semifinals in Paris to have a chance of qualifying for the season-ending ATP finals in London – a difficult task considering he could face Andy Murray in the quarterfinals.

“If you don’t play your best, you don’t really deserve to be there,” Berdych said. “Luckily, I’m healthy. Who would have said that I’d be answering questions about London when I was in the hospital in Cincinnati? This is a nice bonus.”

Berdych was referring to the appendicitis that forced him out of this year’s U.S. Open.

Even though his play looked patchy at times against Sousa, at least his serving was strong with 14 aces, including a couple of booming ones on second serve.

Berdych is hopeful that working with coach Goran Ivanisevic – the big-serving Croat who won Wimbledon in 2001 – will help improve his game.

“I like his approach and how he tries to simplify things for me,” the 31-year-old Berdych said. “Hopefully I can get to the point where I can start to use his experience in all the big matches he’s played.”

Berdych, the 2005 Paris Masters champion, will next face either 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut or Gilles Simon.

Seven players are vying for the two remaining spots in London.

Dominic Thiem and Marin Cilic, who won the Swiss Indoors on Sunday, held the last two places before this week. David Goffin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille and Bautista Agut are the other contenders playing in Paris.

John Isner had 14 aces as he reached the second round by beating Mischa Zverev 7-6 (8), 6-4. Isner saved the only break point he faced in the first set and broke Zverev’s serve early in the second.

Isner will next play 15th-seeded David Ferrer, who has beaten the big-serving American seven times in eight meetings. Isner’s only win, however, was in the quarterfinals in Paris five years ago.

Also in the first round, Jack Sock beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 7-6 (3); Feliciano Lopez defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-6 (3), 6-4; Nicolas Mahut beat Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-4, 6-3; and Viktor Troicki saved two match points before defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

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.