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Federer upset by qualifier Donskoy in Dubai, Murray wins

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Roger Federer squandered three match points in a shock 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5) second round loss to Russian qualifier Evgeny Donskoy at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

Federer, who has just won his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, failed to take advantage of three match points in the second set tiebreaker, losing two of the three opportunities on unforced errors.

“(I) surprised everyone I think today,” the 116th-ranked Donskoy said. “Whoever win against Roger surprises himself, I think.”

Adding to the challenge for the Russian was playing against Federer for the first time.

“It was really tough in the beginning, because it was too much pressure,” Donskoy said. “Because it’s Roger, and I never even practice with him.”

Federer netted a forehand on Donskoy’s one set point in the second set tiebreaker to extend the match to a third set.

Donskoy’s dream of a quarterfinal berth seemed over when he forfeited his serve in the sixth game of the third set. But Federer wasn’t able to close out the match when serving for it at 5-3 in the third, and then watched the Russian work his way to victory.

Federer led 5-1 in the third set tiebreaker, but Donskoy refused to fold.

“I had my chances,” Federer said. “I should somehow close it out. Don’t know how it got away, but he did very well, and yeah, it’s a rough one, for sure.”

Federer, who skipped last year’s tournament because of arthroscopic knee surgery, was in the hunt for an eighth Dubai title.

The initial excitement in the match occurred with Federer leading 6-3, 3-4 – when one set of the court floodlights went dark. Fans in the crowd turned on their cellphone flashlights and start waving them in the air as if they were at a rock concert.

Both players then agreed to play on despite the problem and by two games later full lighting was restored.

“I felt, if he wants to keep playing, I’m happy to keep playing,” Federer said. “I didn’t want to wait. It wasn’t just, like, dark. It was just darker.”

Donskoy will play seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals. Pouille defeated qualifier Marius Copil 6-1, 6-4.

“It’s tough to judge this one, because I could have won in two and I’d be already almost hitting the pillow now thinking about Pouille,” Federer said. “But now here I’m explaining what didn’t go well.”

The day went a lot better for top-seeded Andy Murray, who earned a place in the last eight with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Murray, playing in his first tournament since a fourth round defeat at the Australian Open last month, is showing no signs of being match rusty despite having to deal with a case of shingles.

The top-ranked Briton needed only 72-minutes to bypass the 97th-ranked Garcia-Lopez, saving the one break point he faced on serve at 30-40 in the first game of the match.

He broke Garcia-Lopez’s serve for the first of five times in the fourth game of the first set.

“When I got the early break, pretty much was almost 30 minutes in and we’d only played four games,” Murray said. “Mentally, that was important for me, you know, to be up at that stage.

“I loosened up a bit after that and played really well.”

Murray, who only dropped one point on serve in the second set, will play Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals. Kohlschreiber posted a 6-4, 6-4 second round win over Daniil Medvedev.

“Every time we have played, we have had a lot of close matches,” Murray said of Kohlschreiber. “He’s a talented guy. He uses the angles of the court well. He plays with a lot of spin.”

Fourth-seeded Gael Monfils struggled with Dan Evans before securing a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win to reach the quarterfinals, where he faces left-hander Fernando Verdasco.

In an all-Spanish second-round outing, Verdasco upset sixth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

Robin Haase upset fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal meeting against Damir Dzhumur, who defeated Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-4.

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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