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Nadal and Murray advance to 3rd round in Barcelona Open

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Defending champion Rafael Nadal cruised past Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil 6-1, 6-2 to reach the third round of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday.

Top-seeded Andy Murray also advanced, but without having to play as Bernard Tomic withdrew before their second-round match because of a lower back injury.

Nadal, making his debut at the newly named “Rafa Nadal” center court in Barcelona, had a slow start to the second set against the 69th-ranked Brazilian, but recovered by winning the final six games to secure the victory.

The fifth-ranked Nadal is a nine-time champion at the clay-court tournament. He is coming off his 10th title at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Nadal will next play Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

The top-ranked Murray was originally going to skip the Barcelona Open but decided to play after being eliminated in the third round at the Monte Carlo Masters, when he blew a 4-0 lead in the deciding set to Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Murray is trying to regain his form going into the French Open following a right elbow injury that kept him out of the Miami Open and the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

He will play 40th-ranked Feliciano Lopez of Spain, who defeated Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-2.

It was the final career match for Montanes, who had announced last week that the Barcelona Open would be his last tournament after nearly 20 years on tour.

The 36-year-old Barcelona resident won six ATP titles and was ranked a career-high 22nd in 2010. His first-round victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Monday was the 255th of his career.

In other second round matches, fifth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 7-5, 6-0, while qualifier Hyeon Chung of South Korea beat 12th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-3, 6-4.

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.”

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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.