Helped by key double-fault, Murray tops del Potro in Paris

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PARIS — Andy Murray benefited from a double-fault by Juan Martin del Potro in the opening tiebreaker and then looked more and more like the No. 1 player that he is during a 7-6 (8), 7-5, 6-0 victory at the French Open on Saturday.

The third-round match between a pair of past major champions was much tighter than the straight-set scoreline might indicate.

“Yeah, I expected a very tough match. And the first set was very, very important, I think, for the rest of the match. Whoever had won that first set had big momentum,” Murray said. “In these conditions, when it’s slow and heavy, to be coming back is difficult.”

He needed nearly 3 hours to get past the 29th-seeded del Potro at Court Philippe Chatrier under a cloud-filled sky. It was a rematch of the 2016 Rio Olympics gold-medal final won by Murray.

Del Potro had four set points in the opening set but lost each one, including that key double-fault while ahead 7-6 in the tiebreaker. After Murray converted a third set point of his own when his opponent’s big forehand landed barely wide, del Potro rested his head on the net and stayed put for several seconds, the very picture of disappointment.

“Too much frustration,” del Potro said. “I couldn’t believe I lost that set.”

Murray is a three-time Grand Slam title winner and was the runner-up at Roland Garros a year ago. He has not had a great season so far, though, particularly on the clay-court circuit leading up to the French Open, but he now has reached the fourth round for the eighth time in 10 appearances in Paris.

“I’m starting to feel better. I was really looking forward to the French Open,” Murray said. “I had struggled the last six or seven weeks coming in.”

Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, was playing at his first French Open since 2012 because of a series of operations on his left wrist. Under constant pressure from an aggressive foe, del Potro had some trouble from Murray’s drop shots and wound up making far more unforced errors, 43-28.

Also on Day 7, 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic beat Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-3, 6-3, and next meets big-serving Kevin Anderson, who edged Kyle Edmund 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. Fernando Verdasco easily got past No. 22 Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.

Victories by Alize Cornet and Caroline Garcia gave France three women in the fourth round of this tournament for the first time since 1994. Kristina Mladenovic advanced to that round by winning Friday.

The unseeded Cornet was a surprisingly easy winner against No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-2, 6-1, while No. 28 Garcia edged Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan 6-4, 4-6, 9-7.

France, which last put a trio of women into the final 16 at any major at the 2008 U.S. Open, is guaranteed at least one quarterfinalist this time, because Garcia now meets Cornet.

“I think the crowd is going to be excited,” Cornet said. “We will try to give them a good show, a good game. The crowd support is like a bonus, an extra energy.”

Simona Halep, the 2014 runner-up, said the torn ligament in her right ankle is no longer an issue and proved that by defeating 26th-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-0, 7-5.

“Well, now, it’s pretty OK,” Halep said about her ankle. “I can run. I can slide everywhere. I can move pretty well.”

In other third-round action, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki beat 18-year-old CiCi Bellis of California 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in a match suspended late in the second set Friday night; and No. 21 Carla Suarez Navarro eliminated No. 14 Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-4.

Muguruza upsets No. 1 Pliskova, reaches Cincinnati final

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MASON, Ohio — Garbine Muguruza reached her first Western & Southern Open final with a 6-3, 6-2 upset of defending champion Karolina Pliskova on Saturday.

The Wimbledon champion will meet on Sunday the winner of the later semifinal between Simona Halep and Sloane Stephens.

The final will be the first on American soil for Muguruza, who lost to Pliskova in last year’s W&S semifinals. The Spaniard had lost six straight matches against Pliskova since winning their first in 2013.

Muguruza clinched the win when the top-ranked Pliskova sailed a forehand long on the fifth match point. Pliskova, who played part of one match and all of another on Friday after rain forced postponements on Thursday, had 28 unforced errors to Muguruza’s 13.

Muguruza was coming off playing the tournament’s longest match, a 2-hour, 45-minute three-set win over Svetlana Kuznetsova on Friday. That followed a 2-hour, 18-minute win over Madison Keys on Thursday, when she fought off three match points.

Muguruza took charge early on Saturday, breaking Pliskova in the first and last games of the first set.

She gained a second-set edge with a backhand winner on break point for a 4-2 lead before closing it out in 1 hour, 19 minutes.

Surprise 2009 US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin retires

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Melanie Oudin is retiring from professional tennis, eight years after her captivating run to the U.S. Open quarterfinals as a teenager.

The 25-year-old American announced her decision in a series of posts on Twitter on Friday.

“Tennis has given me so much and I will always be grateful,” Oudin wrote. “It wasn’t exactly the entire career I had dreamed of, but in life things don’t always go as planned.”

Oudin has dealt with a series of health problems in recent years. Those included a diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis (rab-doe-my-OL-uh-sis), a muscle-damaging condition which may be caused by intense exertion, in 2013, and a procedure to address occasional episodes of an accelerated heartbeat the following year.

She has not played a professional match since entering lower-level ITF tournaments last season.

“Unfortunately, since the end of 2012, I have been struck with numerous health issues and injuries. I would work so hard to come back after being out, and then something else would happen,” Oudin wrote. “It has definitely taken a toll on me mentally and physically over the last five years or so.”

Oudin has been ranked as high as 31st but is now outside the top 400.

She won one WTA singles title, on grass at Birmingham, England, in 2012, and teamed with Jack Sock to win the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship in 2011. Oudin also was a member of the U.S. Fed Cup team.

At the 2009 U.S. Open, as an unseeded and unknown 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, the 70th-ranked Oudin pulled off a series of stunning results, upsetting four higher-ranked women – including Maria Sharapova and Beijing Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva – to become the youngest quarterfinalist at Flushing Meadows since Serena Williams in 1999.

The vivacious teen whose shoes were stamped with “BELIEVE” during those magical, memorable two weeks in New York closed her three-tweet message to fans and others Friday with that very same word, in all capital letters for emphasis.

“I will definitely miss competing. … I am very proud of how I always competed with lots of heart throughout my whole career,” she wrote.

“I am sad to leave the sport I know and love,” Oudin said, “but I am very optimistic about what the future holds for me.”

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

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