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Serena withdraws from Indian Wells with knee injury

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. —¬†Serena Williams withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open that begins Wednesday because of a left knee injury, leaving the desert tournament without the world’s top-ranked women’s player.

The withdrawal also cost Williams a chance to retain her top ranking.

Angelique Kerber, a two-time semifinalist and now the highest-seeded woman in the event, will supplant Williams at No. 1 after Indian Wells. Williams needed to reach the semifinals to retain the top spot.

Williams said Tuesday in a statement released through the tournament that she also won’t play the Miami Open, which begins March 21 and isn’t far from her Florida base.

She has been idle since beating sister Venus Williams for the Australian Open title on Jan. 29. Her only other tournament this year was in Auckland, New Zealand, where she lost in the round of 16.

“Sadly, I have to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and the Miami Open,” Williams said. “I have not been able to train due to my knees and am disappointed I cannot be there. I will keep moving forward and continue to be positive. I look forward to being back as soon as I can.”

Williams is a two-time winner at Indian Wells, where she returned in 2015 after a lengthy boycott. She withdrew before her semifinal match that year with a sprained right knee, and lost to Victoria Azarenka in straight sets in last year’s final.

Venus Williams, seeded 12th, returns for the second straight year, having ended her own boycott of the event last year.

Also missing on the women’s side is Azarenka, who gave birth to a son in December; two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova after being attacked in a home invasion late last year; and Maria Sharapova, who is set to return in late April after serving a 15-month doping ban.

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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