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Roger Federer says Laver Cup will be a tough competition

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PRAGUE — The new Laver Cup team tennis tournament is supposed to be a “tough” contest, not an exhibition, according to Roger Federer.

The competition will pit a team of the best six European players against the top six from the rest of the world. The inaugural edition is scheduled for Sept. 22-24 at the O2 Arena in Prague. The following year, it moves to the United States.

“The idea is to absolutely have a tough tournament, tough matches, the better man wins, that’s the idea of the Laver Cup,” Federer said Monday.

To promote the competition, Federer played some rallies against Tomas Berdych on a boat cruising the Vltava river to a crowd watching from the famed Charles Bridge.

Bjorn Bjorg will captain Europe while John McEnroe will do the same for the opponents. The tournament is to honor Rod Laver, an 11-time major champion who won two calendar-year Grand Slams.

No ATP rankings points will be awarded, but Federer insisted that an exhibition “is not how the captains see it, that’s not how Rod Laver sees it. He wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and try our very best and also win for our teammates.”

The teams won’t be named until after the U.S. Open, but it’s not clear yet if all players who will formally qualify via the rankings will be available.

What is for certain, organizers said, is that Federer and Rafael Nadal, the finalists at this year’s Australian Open, will be on the European team.

With Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka possibly on the team, Europe seems to be the one to beat.

“On paper, we look as the big favorites,” Federer said. “We have more depth in Team Europe that we can choose from.”

The tournament will include three singles and one doubles match every day. Federer was clear about his choice of his possible partner for the doubles.

“I guess I would love to play with Rafa just because of our rivalry has been so special,” Federer said.

Nishikori saves three match points in Geneva Open QF win

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GENEVA — Kei Nishikori saved three straight match points in the deciding set before outlasting Kevin Anderson 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6) in the Geneva Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

The second-seeded Nishikori was serving at 4-5, 0-40 before rallying to beat the 62nd-ranked South African, who fired 14 aces without allowing any by his opponent.

Nishikori also trailed in the tiebreaker before creating a second match-point chance with a forehand crosscourt service return for a winner. He clinched with a forehand winner off a looping net-cord ball.

The No. 9-ranked Japanese player will face 33rd-ranked Mischa Zverev of Germany in the semifinals on Friday.

The Russian-born Zverev, who came through qualifying, beat fifth-seeded Steve Johnson of the United States 6-4, 7-5.

Madison Keys aiming to kick start her season at French Open

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PARIS (AP) After a disappointing start to 2017, Madison Keys is ready to kick start her season when the French Open begins on Sunday.

Keys missed the first two months of the year after undergoing surgery on her left wrist in the offseason.

“I’m fully recovered and happy to be back on the tour,” Keys said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Obviously, I haven’t had the perfect start to the season, but really I’m just happy to be back on the court and be pain free.

“I’m very excited to play in Roland Garros. I feel like every year I love it a little bit more and it’s such a beautiful city to play in, so I’m very excited for the start.”

In her first tournament back, Keys reached the third round of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in March. But since then, the American has made first round exits in Charleston, Madrid and Rome – where she reached the final last year.

However, Keys hasn’t gone out in the opening round of a Grand Slam since losing to Sara Errani at Roland Garros in 2014.

“I’m really just trying to have some good matches and looking at it that way and you know that’s all I’m really concerned about,” she said.

Long considered one of the world’s most promising young players, the 22-year-old Keys burst through to the semifinals of the 2015 Australian Open while still a teenager and went on to make the quarterfinals at Wimbledon that year.

The upward trajectory continued last season, with Keys reaching the Olympic semifinals as well as making three finals and winning her second WTA title.

Moreover, Keys became the first American woman to be ranked in the top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999.

That success had Keys targeting the top five and a Grand Slam. But following her injuries, the No. 13 is now taking it one match at a time.

“I’m really just trying to kind of get my match rhythm back and feel more comfortable on the tennis court, so right now that’s kind of my main goal and focus,” Keys said.

Keys was reunited with former coach Lindsay Davenport in the offseason and also recently added Maria Sharapova’s former hitting partner, Dieter Kindlmann, to her team.

“It’s going well,” Keys said. “Lindsey and I have been working together for a couple of months now and I think the addition of Didi is really going well.”