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Andy Murray eases to first round victory in Dubai

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Andy Murray may be coming off a bout of shingles, but he looked in good shape during a 6-4, 6-1 first round victory over Malik Jaziri at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

The top-ranked Murray was playing his first match since being upset by Mischa Zverev in the Australian Open fourth round last month.

Murray said that his mother-in-law was the first to suggest he had shingles, which a doctor confirmed the next day.

“I had a little bit of a rash basically like on my bum `round to kind of my stomach, and it wasn’t, like, terrible,” Murray said. “I didn’t think much of it at the beginning, and then it was actually my wife’s mum, we were having dinner, and I was, like, `This is really irritating. She was, like, `Pull your pants down. Show me. It might be shingles.”

Jaziri took a brief 2-1 lead with a service break in the first set, but that would be the only time the Tunisian had any control over Tuesday’s match.

“Obviously, the second set was obviously a bit easier,” Murray said. “First set, especially the beginning, was tough.

“I have never hit with him or played against him before. It took a little bit of time to get used to his game.”

The only other unexpected moment in the match came when Murray was leading 6-4, 3-1, 0-40. Jaziri said he was feeling light-headed and asked for the physiotherapist to come to the court. After his pulse was checked, Jaziri returned to the court and played out the match.

Unlike Murray, defending champion Stan Wawrinka didn’t survive the first round, falling to Damir Dzhumur 7-6 (4), 6-3.

It was third-ranked Wawrinka’s first match since bowing out of the Australian Open to Swiss countryman Roger Federer in the semifinals.

“I think I start well, but it was tough match,” Wawrinka said. “I think after coming back one month out, I had to recover from the injury.

Wawrinka was nursing a right knee injury when he left the Australian Open and only started to have regular practice sessions a week ago.

“The positive of the tournament here is that the knee is feeling good now,” Wawrinka said. “I don’t have any pain. I need to still be really careful, but that was the only positive of today.”

Wawrinka started the match very quickly, racing to a 4-1 lead in the first set.

“Three games in, like, six, seven minutes, he was playing outstanding there,” Dzhumur said. “Was just hitting every ball. I couldn’t even touch the ball.”

That was the point when Wawrinka slowed down and showed signs of becoming tentative as the Bosnian settled into the match.

“I was hoping that he’s gonna go down with his level of game, and that’s what happened,” Dzhumur said. “I started to fight, to grind, and I found some way to play, to stay in the game.”

Dzhumur raced into a 5-1 lead in the second set, but became nervous when serving for the match at that point.

In the 10-point seventh game, Dzhumur served three double faults, including to lose the third break point he faced.

He kept his composure when serving for the match two games later, setting up the match point with a forehand crosscourt volley, and then watching Wawrinka sail a forehand long.

Fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych advanced to the second round when fellow Czech qualifier Lukas Rosol retired with a knee injury. Berdych was leading 6-3, 2-1 at the time.

Venus ready for return WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE (AP) Venus Williams returns to the year-end WTA Finals for the first time since reaching the 2009 final, and the fifth time overall, starting on Sunday in Singapore.

Williams joins top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania, second-ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain, third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, sixth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, seventh-ranked Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and ninth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.

They’re all pretty special,” said Williams, of her career appearances in the year-end competition. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

At 37-years-old, Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the year-end championships behind a 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Williams is the oldest player in this draw with 27-year-old Wozniacki the next oldest.

Having played since 1995, Williams has seen the women’s game advance, saying: “The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.”

In 2008, Williams won the WTA Finals title, going 3-0 in the round-robin, and defeating Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the final.

She was also was a semifinalist in her first two appearances in the finals, in 1999 and 2000.

Williams reached two Grand Slam finals this season at the Australian Open, where she lost to what turned out to be an already pregnant younger sister, Serena, and at Wimbledon, where she fell to Muguruza.

Every player but Garcia has a possibility of playing themselves into the year-end No. 1 ranking depending on their result this week. Williams has ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks of her career.

In the round-robin, Williams is situated in the White Group with fellow big-hitters Muguruza and Pliskova, who both ranked No. 1 at some time during this season, and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams opens the competition against Pliskova on Sunday. The two are tied at one match apiece in their head-to-head.

She holds a 3-2 winning record over Muguruza and is 1-0 over Ostapenko.

“I think my group is more aggressive style players in the group and the other one is more defending,” Pliskova said. “I just like to play better these players.

“I start with Venus tomorrow, so I beat her once from match point and once I lost very close match. This one is open.”

Goerges ends 6-year title wait with victory at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Julia Goerges ended her six-year wait for another WTA singles title Saturday with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina in the Kremlin Cup final.

Goerges cruised to victory against her Russian opponent, who was ranked one place below her at 28th.

The German swept the first five games of the first set before Kasatkina could even get on the board.

Kasatkina put up more resistance at the start of the second, forcing three break points in Goerges’ first service game, but couldn’t convert them and was broken next game.

Goerges is now 3-7 in career singles finals, with her last title in Stuttgart in 2011. Before Saturday’s match, she had lost six straight finals, including three in the space of two months this summer.