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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.

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.