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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.

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.