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Federer wins first match since winning Australian Open

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Back on court, Roger Federer won his first match since claiming his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

The third-seeded Federer beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3 Monday to move into the second round of the Dubai Tennis Championships. Federer, a seven-time Dubai champion who holds a 48-5 record in 13 appearances, missed last year’s tournament with a knee injury.

“It’s incredible to be back after the knee,” Federer said. “I’m standing and I’m here.”

Federer was cheered as he walked on court. He maintains a home in Dubai and is viewed as a part-time local in the city.

“It’s nice as you’re warming up you hear the crowd as they’re getting pumped up,” Federer said. “You hear music and hear the roars.

“And when you walk out, I don’t know, it’s a nice feeling to have,” he added. “It’s mutual, because I missed playing here last year.”

Federer saved all three break points he faced in the match, with all three coming in the fifth service game of the first set.

“There were some break points to be saved,” Federer said. “I think I returned very well for a first round. I was able to get my second serves in deep, was able to go into the offensive quickly.”

Also, Philipp Kohlschreiber beat eighth-seeded Gilles Muller 6-4, 7-6 (1) and sixth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Karen Khachanov 6-1, 7-6 (4).

The 32nd-ranked Kohlschreiber is now two matches away from his 400th career victory.

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire