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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.

Wozniacki still in frame for return to No. 1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Caroline Wozniacki had just been beaten by Kim Clijsters in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, causing her to lose her No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and she had some fighting words.

“I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said. “The media talks to me like I’m finished … the fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.”

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open, where Wozniacki’s win in the third round on Friday leaves her with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking – six years later.

If so, it would be the longest gap between stints at the top since the WTA’s computer rankings were introduced in 1975. She might take some solace from the fact that the current longest streak between players returning to No. 1 is held by Serena Williams at 5 years, 29 days.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki also faced criticism during her first stay at No. 1 – which included year-end top rankings in 2010 and 2011 – that she’d never won a major, unlike Williams’ current 23. And that hasn’t changed either.

Maybe this year.

On Friday, two days after she came back from a 5-1 deficit and saved two match points in the third set to beat Jana Fett in the second round, she had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens that wasn’t without late drama, both with closing out the match, and with her criticism of the chair umpire.

Wozniacki had to save four break points while serving for the match but clinched it on her fourth match point.

After coming so close to being knocked out of the tournament, she sounded like a gambler with cash in her pocket.

“Right now, playing with house money,” Wozniacki said in an on-court television interview. “Nothing to lose. I got a second chance. I’m just going to try and take it and see how far I can go.”

Wozniacki wasn’t happy with chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. She had complained about a few line calls, and that the court was slippery in several areas.

“I’ve never had this guy before … but I think he did a poor job today,” Wozniacki said. “If the court is wet, I think it’s normal to ask for a towel. I don’t think someone needs to be rude, and I told him so. I think there were some questionable calls, as well.”

Watching from Wozniacki’s support section was former NBA player David Lee. In November, the former New York Knicks forward proposed to her during a holiday on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora.

“All I’ll say is it was a surprise, it was amazing,” Wozniacki said earlier this week of Lee’s proposal. “Had the best off-season. We had a great time traveling a little bit, exploring some new places. I was really recharged when I finally got back on the court again.”

Perhaps enough to get her back to No. 1.

Roger Federer through to Australian 3rd round

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Roger Federer is through to the Australian Open’s third round after beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a night match at Rod Laver Arena.

Federer maintained his record of always reaching the third round at Melbourne Park, and this is his 19th appearance. Five of his 19 Grand Slam singles titles have been in Australia.

Despite his straight-sets win, Federer was only able to convert three of his 11 break-point chances, and only one of six in the third set.

The 36-year-old Federer will next play French veteran Richard Gasquet. Federer has beaten Gasquet 16 of the 18 times they’ve played.