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Petra Kvitova reaches semifinals at Aegon Classic

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BIRMINGHAM, England  — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, competing in only her second tournament since her playing hand was injured in a knife attack at her home, advanced to the semifinals at the Aegon Classic on Friday.

The left-handed Czech player beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 7-6 (5) on grass at the Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

Kvitova struck the ball solidly on both sides, moved well, and made bold forays to the net. But she double-faulted twice when she was trying to close out the match at 5-3 in the second set. Mladenovic evened the score and led 3-1 in the tiebreaker.

She rescued herself with two pieces of good luck.

First, Mladenovic double-faulted going for 4-1 in the tiebreak, and when she was serving at match point down at 5-6, Kvitova’s widish-looking service return took a net cord, lurched into court, and fell dead.

“I am sorry for what happened at match point, but I am very happy to win,” Kvitova said. “She is very highly ranked (12) and for me it is only the second tournament in my comeback. I was very happy with my performance.”

Kvitova next plays a friend since childhood, compatriot Lucie Safarova. She had her own drama, saving match points for the second time this week. She recovered from 5-3 down in the final set to beat Daria Gavrilova of Australia 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (5).

Safarova saved two match points against third-seededed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, and three against Gavrilova in a contest so full of entertaining rallies that the women received a prolonged standing ovation.

The tournament’s other Grand Slam winner, former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, also reached the semifinals, only her third of the year and the first on grass since she reached the final of Wimbledon nearly two years ago.

It happened abruptly when her opponent CoCo Vandeweghe, the unseeded American who ousted the fourth-seeded Johanna Konta, shook hands just three points into the final set.

Muguruza won 4-6, 6-4, 30-love, though she took pleasure in again having achieved a good rhythm on a surface which is not the most natural for her.

“I came here early and I have put in the hours, and I feel I’m doing something good because I am winning,” she said. “But to be honest I didn’t even realize she was going to retire.”

Vandeweghe injured a foot in her opening match which, she said, contributed to a fall in the second set against Muguruza. She hurt an ankle.

“Any injury so soon before Wimbledon has to be a concern,” she admitted before going to have a scan.

Muguruza next plays Ashleigh Barty, the unseeded Australian who was leading Camila Giorgi 5-2 and progressed when the Italian became the second injury retirement on the day.

Giorgi, who had a thigh strain, fought through three rounds of qualifying, and was trying to struggle through her sixth match of the week.

Nastase banned from Fed Cup and Davis Cup until 2019

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LONDON — Ilie Nastase has been banned from the Fed Cup and Davis Cup until 2019 because of his foul-mouthed comments and bad behavior as Romania’s captain during a Fed Cup match against Britain.

In addition to the ban, the International Tennis Federation said Friday the 1973 French Open champion will not be able to work in an official capacity for a further two years, until 2021.

The 71-year-old Nastase was also fined $10,000. He has three weeks to appeal the decision.

“Mr. Nastase made a comment about Serena Williams’s unborn child that was highly inappropriate and racially insensitive,” the ITF said.

Nastase also “made advances of a sexual nature towards Anne Keothavong, the captain of the Great Britain team” and “made abusive and threatening comments to the match officials and to members of the Great Britain team.”

Although he will have to sit out ITF events, the ban does not apply to Grand Slam, ATP or WTA tournaments, which are not under the governing body’s jurisdiction.

Nastase was provisionally suspended in April after he speculated about the skin color of the baby that Williams is expecting and for outbursts during a Fed Cup match between Romania and Britain.

He previously acknowledged making mistakes and having shortcomings, but stressed “the cause I fight for is tennis, the sport I really love, which I cannot separate from my life.”

As Fed Cup captain, Nastase hurled abuse at British player Johanna Konta, Keothavong and the umpire. The referee ejected Nastase.

Nastase, a former top-ranked player, was barred from the French Open and was not invited to the Royal Box at Wimbledon, where he was a two-time finalist.

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

World Cup of Tennis put on hold for at least a year

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LONDON–The International Tennis Federation is putting off its proposal for a World Cup of Tennis Finals for another year.

The ITF said last month it wanted to combine next year’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup finals into one event to raise the profile of the two national team competitions. But on Thursday, the governing body said it would not put the motion to a vote at its annual general meeting next month in Vietnam.

Other proposals, such as reducing the men’s matches to best-of-three sets and possibly skipping the final match of the series if it is already decided, will still go before member nations for ratification at the Aug. 4 meeting in Ho Chi Minh City.

“We promised change and are already delivering change with a significant series of reforms,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement. “Taking another year to build consensus around the World Cup of Tennis Finals will allow us to finalize an even stronger recommendation to the AGM.”

Last month, the ITF said it wanted to start staging the World Cup of Tennis in November 2018 in Geneva. The Swiss city was to host the event for three years at its 18,000-seat Palexpo.

The ITF said then that it had made the announcement of the host city well in advance in an effort to follow the successful model used by the Super Bowl and Champions League final.

But that has now been put on hold as the governing body tries to sell its idea to its voting members.

“This decision shows that we do not act unilaterally,” Haggerty said, “and are working with all our stakeholders to find the best solution for tennis.”

Haggerty also announced the creation of a World Cup of Tennis Finals task force. Board members Katrina Adams and Bernard Giudicelli have been appointed as co-chairs.

“The World Cup of Tennis Finals will unlock considerable new revenue for investing back into the sport through the ITF’s member nations,” Haggerty said. “Investment in the development of the next generation remains the priority of the ITF and its national associations.”