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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 through to third round at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) It was inevitable after such an energetic performance in her second-round win over Stefanie Voegele at the Australian Open that Venus Williams would get asked about transcending the generations in tennis.

The 36-year-old, seven-time major winner played the first of her record 73 Grand Slam tournaments at the French Open in 1997. Back then, she got to play against the likes of Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.

In a 6-3, 6-2 win over the 26-year-old Voegele on Wednesday, Williams mixed up her game, clearly not content on relying purely on the kind of power game that helped her make a mark on the sport.

“I have to talk about this every interview,” Williams said in reply to what has become a regular post-match question to the oldest player in the women’s draw here. “I’ve played some of the greats.

“It’s an honor and privilege to start that young,” she added, laughing, “and play this old.”

Venus and Serena Williams withdrew from a scheduled first-round doubles match later Wednesday, citing an injury to Venus’ right elbow. The sisters have won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles together, including four at the Australian Open.

Venus Williams put plenty into her second-round singles match, which lasted 1 hour, 23 minutes.

In the second set, serving and with a game point, she chased the ball like a teenager from one side of the court to the other, and back, trying to finish off. Her forehand landed too long, but her intention was clear. Get through the round ASAP. She won the subsequent two points to hold.

At 15-15 and 5-2 in the second, she was still remonstrating with herself after missing a point. She finished off the match later in the same game, another break, to reach the third round. Williams lost to eventual semifinalist Johanna Konta in the opening round last year.

In the next round she’ll play Duan Yingying, who beat Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 3-6, 10-8.

Venus is playing her 17th Australian Open, but has never won the title. Her best run was to the final in 2003, when she lost to Serena.

No. 11 Elina Svitolina had a 6-4, 6-1 win over U.S. qualifier Julia Boserup to advance to a third-round match against No. 24 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over fellow Russian Natalia Vikhlyantseva .

In another match, Alison Riske beat No. 20 Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-1.

On the men’s side, fifth-ranked Kei Nishikori reached the third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy.

Frances Tiafoe among young Americans coming of age in Australian Open

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 17:  Frances Tiafoe of the USA plays a backhand during his first round match against Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan on day two of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 17, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) More than 13 years after Andy Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open, the last time an American man triumphed at a Grand Slam, the future of U.S. men’s tennis appears bright.

The next generation of young players, all aged between 18 and 20, is starting to emerge and showing enough promise at this year’s Australian Open to suggest they may be on the cusp of a breakthrough.

Seven made the main draw at Melbourne Park and three were still in contention after the first round.

Frances Tiafoe, who turns 19 on Friday, defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-2 on Tuesday, while 20-year-old Ernesto Escobedo beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1. They joined 20-year-old Noah Rubin, who won his opener a day earlier to set up a second-round match against Roger Federer.

The others failed to advance, but not before serving notice to the tour’s old guard.

Reilly Opelka, 19, lost a tight five-setter to 11th-seeded David Goffin, while Jared Donaldson, 20, lost to Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva after leading two sets to none. Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh, both 19, each put up good fights in defeats to veterans Gilles Muller and Gilles Simon, respectively.

“We’re all really supportive of each other and happy to see all of us doing so well,” Tiafoe said. “Hopefully we can keep going and not stop now.”

Much has been expected of Tiafoe, the son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, since he won the Orange Bowl at age 15, the youngest champion in the prestigious 18-and-under tournament’s history.

Tiafoe just missed out on a career-defining win at last year’s U.S. Open, where as a wild card, he led the long-time top-ranked U.S. player, John Isner, by two sets to none before the match slipped away. It was a heartbreaking loss, but one Tiafoe learned from.

“I was like, the next opportunity I’m definitely going to take it,” he said after his first-round win on Tuesday, flashing a wide grin. “Now, getting through relatively comfortable today means a lot. … I really feel like I belong now.”

He next plays another 19-year-old, his close friend, Alexander Zverev of Germany.

Both Opelka and Donaldson, meanwhile, got their own tastes of Grand Slam agony in Melbourne.

Opelka, a 6-foot-11 (2.11 meter) former Wimbledon junior champion with a booming serve and whip-like forehand, had two break points to go up 4-2 in the fifth set against Goffin, but couldn’t convert either and ultimately lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Opelka had never before played a five-set match and was making his debut in the singles main draw of a Grand Slam. Yet he showed grit – and no hint of nerves – deep into the fifth set against a seasoned pro like Goffin, even as he started to cramp and struggled to move.

“I’ve played some guys in the top 10 before so I wasn’t uncomfortable,” he said. “With the way I play, hopefully it really shouldn’t matter who’s on the other side of the net.”

Donaldson’s loss was less expected. The Rhode Island native made a stunning run to the third round of last year’s U.S. Open, upsetting the 12th-seeded Goffin and Viktor Troicki, a former top-20 player.

And he was well on his way to a commanding win over Dutra Silva before the Brazilian stormed back for a 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

“Losses like this really define your character,” he said. “So I can be upset and sulk about it or I can get back on the practice court and keep working hard and get better so matches like that don’t happen again.”