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Chinese wildcard Zhang secures spot in Elite Trophy semis

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ZHUHAI, China (AP) Chinese wild-card entry Zhang Shuai became the first player to secure a semifinal spot at the WTA Elite Trophy tournament, beating Timea Babos 7-6 (2), 6-4 on Thursday to secure the top spot in her group with two wins.

After a 6-1, 6-1 opening win over Timea Bacsinszky, Zhang needed to win just four games against Babos to win the group. She fell behind 4-1 before recovering to level at 4-4 and then held on to win the first set in a tiebreaker.

She rebounded from a break down in the second set to clinch the win in 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Caroline Garcia beat Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-3 to set up a Friday encounter against top-seeded Johanna Konta for a spot in the semifinals in their group.

The tournament in Zhuhai features the 12 players on the tour who didn’t qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore last week.

Two-time champ Azarenka gets Australian Open wild card

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card for the Australian Open.

Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born last Dec. 19.

She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10. The dispute with her former partner started shortly after Wimbledon ended.

Azarenka has played only six matches this year and is ranked 208th.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday that every assistance would be provided to the former No. 1, adding “Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can.”

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 15.

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.”