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Rafael Nadal beats David Goffin to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO — Defending champion Rafael Nadal beat David Goffin 6-3, 6-1 to move within one more win of a 10th Monte Carlo Masters title on Saturday.

Nadal will play 15th-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas in an all-Spanish final after the latter beat Lucas Pouille of France 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in the other semifinal.

Although the score suggests a comfortable win for Nadal, Goffin’s momentum was halted by a controversial decision by chair umpire Cedric Mourier in the sixth game. Goffin was asked to replay a point after holding his serve for what would have been a 4-2 lead.

Nadal’s celebrations were muted after he clinched victory on his third match point and he sympathetically hugged Goffin at the net. Nadal shook Mourier’s hand, but Goffin did not and walked straight past him to pick up his bags.

Nadal is through to his fourth final of the season. He lost the other three, two of them to Roger Federer, including at the Australian Open.

Nadal and the 10th-seeded Goffin were playing each other for the first time, and the momentum of the semi effectively turned on the over-rule since Goffin was playing the better tennis at the time.

After being taken to deuce three times Goffin finally held – or so he thought – when Nadal hit a return too long.

It seemed evident that the ball landed out, but Mourier overruled and called it in, meaning the point had to be replayed. Goffin could not believe it and nor could the crowd, who jeered loudly.

Video replays showed it was out, but with no Hawkeye technology used on clay, the Belgian player could not challenge the initial call. Still, the umpire effectively overruled a line judge in a far better position than him.

Nadal won the next point with a drop shot and the crowd, incensed by the incorrect call, jeered again. Goffin won the next point for advantage again, but wasted it.

When Nadal forced advantage to him on the next point, boos rang out again. Goffin saved that break point and the crowd chanted “David, David.” But Nadal forged another break-point chance and took it when Goffin patted meekly into the net.

Goffin continued to complain to Mourier after the set. Nadal went off court for a break and jeers filled the air when he came back on – a rarity considering he is a crowd favorite here.

The other finalist, Ramos-Vinolas, has lost his two previous matches against Nadal, has reached his first Masters final, and won only one title. Nadal is bidding for his 70th.

With the sun out and temperature warm, the conditions for both matches were perfect for clay-court tennis on the idyllic center court perched above the glittering Mediterranean sea.

Ramos-Vinolas took the first set from Pouille when he broke the 11th-seeded Frenchman to love, concluding with a smash at the net.

Pouille played his best tennis in the second set, rewarding the crowd’s backing. But he seemed to be struggling physically in the deciding set.

At 3-0 down, Pouille needed treatment to his lower back and hips for about four minutes during the changeover. His power went after that.

Ramos-Vinolas’ only title was on outdoor clay in Bastad, Sweden. He has lost three finals, including this year on outdoor clay at Sao Paulo.

2-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova wins return from knife attack

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PARIS — Sweat-soaked and still wearing her match outfit, Petra Kvitova was looking for someone to hug as she wandered into the players’ lounge in the French Open’s main stadium shortly after leaving the court Sunday.

She found her father, Jiri, and her brother, also Jiri, who greeted her with warm embraces and joyous kisses on the cheek. Kvitova’s family members rarely attend her tournaments, but this was different – “special” was the word she, and others, kept using.

Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was back competing, winning the first match of her comeback 6-3, 6-2 at Roland Garros against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States.

“I’m happy with the game, of course,” Kvitova said, “but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Chatrier was a triumph of sorts for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand – the one she uses to hold her racket – after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December. She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.

“For us, it’s amazing. It’s miracle. Not even me or Petra thought she could be ready to come back so soon,” said her coach, Jiri Novak. “The prognosis was, let’s just say, not optimistic.”

During her on-court interview, Kvitova addressed Novak, her family and others in her guest box, saying: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”

Several members of her entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled with a red heart instead of the “O,” is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.

“The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important,” Kvitova said afterward. “So that’s … what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be kind of inspiration for other people, as well.”

There were plenty of opportunities for her to clench a fist and scream “Pojd!” on Sunday against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.

“She’s one of the nicest girls, and we are all really happy to see her back. After what she went through, it’s incredible,” Boserup said. “So it’s a victory for her to be back on court. It was really special.”

Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner on the opening point.

“Amazing,” she said. “I surprised myself.”

Kvitova wound up compiling the match’s first 10 winners and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category. She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points – the only ones she had to deal with in the match – while ahead 3-1.

When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.

“We are happy that she is healthy. The hand is good – and also the head,” her brother Jiri said. “Mentally, she is back.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Venus Williams eases into French Open’s second round after beating Qiang Wang

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In a record 20th appearance at the French Open, Venus Williams eased into the second round with a straight sets victory over Qiang Wang of China.

Williams, who is seeded 10th, saved two set points to win 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The 36-year-old American will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the next round.