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Victoria Azarenka reaches fourth round at Wimbledon

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LONDON– Victoria Azarenka’s Grand Slam comeback has extended into the second week at Wimbledon.

The former No. 1 from Belarus, who gave birth to her first child in December, advanced to the fourth round on Friday by beating Heather Watson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court.

Azarenka also lost the first set in her opening match, but that was only her third match since her return. Friday’s match was her fifth.

“This is the matches that you’re looking for,” Azarenka said, “try to find a way when not everything goes great.”

The two-time Grand Slam champion will next face Simona Halep on Monday in the fourth round. The second-seeded Romanian beat Peng Shuai 6-4, 7-6 (7).

Two-time champion Rafael Nadal was next on Centre Court against Karen Khachanov, and defending champion Andy Murray was to follow against Fabio Fognini.

On No. 1 Court, five-time champion Venus Williams was to play Naomi Osaka.

Also, ninth-seeded Kei Nishikori was eliminated. The 2014 U.S. Open finalist lost to Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3.

“I couldn’t maintain my level high enough,” Nishikori said. “He served well every set. Was really tough time (on) my return game.”

Marin Cilic, the man who beat Nishikori in that U.S. Open final, advanced to the third round by beating Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4. The seventh-seeded Croat will next face Bautista Agut on Monday.

Sixteenth-seeded Gilles Muller also advanced in the men’s draw, while fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, sixth-seeded Johanna Konta, 21st-seeded Caroline Garcia and 27th-seeded Ana Konjuh reached the fourth round among the women.

Two-time champ Azarenka gets Australian Open wild card

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time former champion Victoria Azarenka has been awarded a wild card for the Australian Open.

Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, has been involved in a custody dispute involving her son Leo, who was born last Dec. 19.

She hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon, where she lost to Simona Halep in the fourth round on July 10. The dispute with her former partner started shortly after Wimbledon ended.

Azarenka has played only six matches this year and is ranked 208th.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said on Wednesday that every assistance would be provided to the former No. 1, adding “Vika’s current situation is obviously very difficult for her and we have reached out to offer any support we can.”

The Australian Open starts on Jan. 15.

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.”