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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.

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.

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