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Novak Djokovic says elbow healed, looking to return to competition

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) With his elbow better and his body rested, Novak Djokovic is ready to get back on court when Serbia faces Spain in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

“I haven’t had too many matches recently, and that’s what I need to get back in shape,” Djokovic said Tuesday.

The Serb has dropped from his No. 1 ranking after a slump in form following his French Open title last year. His most recent match was a loss to Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, in March. He withdrew from Miami Open because of a lingering right elbow injury.

“I skipped Miami and I haven’t done much in Indian Wells, so the start of the season wasn’t ideal,” Djokovic said. “I had luck and pleasure to play at an exceptionally high level for six years and had fantastic results. … Things are a bit different now.

“I needed some rest. But I’m not disappointed because I spent some quality time with my family.”

Spain will be without both Rafael Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut in the best-of-five series starting next Friday.

“Spain is one of the most successful nations in the Davis Cup,” Djokovic said. “Their best players are not here, but we should not underestimate them.”

Spain, a five-time champion, is trying to make the semifinals for the first time since 2012. Djokovic led Serbia to its only title in 2010.

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.