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Halep withdraws from St. Petersburg event with knee injury

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Simona Halep withdrew from the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Friday because of a knee injury, the same issue that she blamed for her opening-round loss at the Australian Open.

The fourth-ranked Romanian had said she was pain-free after her win over Ana Konjuh this week.

Halep was the top-seeded player in St. Petersburg. Her withdrawal sends Russian wild-card entry Natalia Vikhlyantseva into the semifinals, matching her best showing at a WTA tournament.

Vikhlyantseva, ranked 115th in the world, will next play Kristina Mladenovic, who beat defending champion Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-4.

Also, second-seeded Dominika Cibulkova advanced by beating fifth-seeded Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-3. The Slovak will next face either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Yulia Putintseva.

Andy Murray losses to Thiem in Barcelona Open semifinals

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BARCELONA, Spain — World No. 1 Andy Murray lost to Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the Barcelona Open semifinals on Saturday.

Murray’s defeat came a week after he exited the third round at Monte Carlo. That loss prompted Murray to enter Barcelona to whip up some form for the French Open following a right elbow injury.

Nine-time winner Rafael Nadal played Horacio Zeballaos of Argentina in the other semifinal later Saturday.

Thiem started strong, breaking Murray’s first two service games before adding a third break en route to taking the first set.

The ninth-ranked Thiem had a break point in the second set, but Murray held serve and broke him back to even the match at a set apiece.

Murray was again in trouble at 4-2 down in the decisive set, and folded when he failed to successfully return Thiem’s deep lob on match point.

It was Thiem’s first win in three meetings against Murray.

Sharapova’s return ends in semis at Porsche Grand Prix

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STUTTGART, Germany — Maria Sharapova’s first tournament since her controversial return to tennis is over after losing to Kristina Mladenovic of France in the Porsche Grand Prix semifinals.

Mladenovic beat former top-ranked Sharapova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 Saturday.

In her fourth match following a 15-month doping ban, the Russian was left to rue missing 13 of her 16 break-point opportunities as Mladenovic rallied to win in 2 hours, 38 minutes.

The 19th-ranked Mladenovic, who ousted two-time defending champion Angelique Kerber on Thursday, next plays the winner of the other semifinal between fourth-seeded Simona Halep and last year’s runner-up Laura Siegemund.

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who tested positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open, had been given a wild card to enter the Stuttgart event after losing her ranking because of the ban.