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Nadal credits passion and overcoming injuries for success

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BEIJING (AP) Passion, and overcoming injuries, are the key to Rafael Nadal’s recent success.

The top-ranked Spaniard won the French Open and the U.S. Open this year, and reclaimed the No. 1 spot from Andy Murray. His next event is the China Open.

“I had some injuries, but good thing is I keep having the passion for the game and the love for what I am doing and the spirit of overcome tough situations in terms of physical issues,” the Spaniard said. “Of course, the spirit of improvement: every day when I wake up, going on court with the goal of doing something better than what I was doing.”

Nadal will open against Lucas Pouille on Tuesday at the China Open. The Frenchman beat Nadal in their previous meeting last year.

Nadal is 56-9 this season. He leads the tour with five ATP singles titles and will be trying to add this year’s China Open title to the one he took home as a teenager in 2005.

Nadal has made the tournament’s final in three of his six earlier appearances and has a 20-5 record in Beijing.

In the first round on Monday, top-ranked Garbine Muguruza retired from her opening match with a cold. Muguruza dropped the first set 6-2 and was trailing 2-0 against Barbora Strycova when she decided to stop.

“I couldn’t perform today,” said the Spaniard, who said she picked up a virus at the Wuhan Open last week but wanted to try to play despite her illness. “I don’t want to retire before the tournament starts for me.”

Also, U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens was beaten by Christina McHale 6-3, 6-0.

“It was a tough day,” Stephens said. “There’s not really much to say about. Obviously not a great match, so just forget about it and try to move on.”

In other women’s matches, former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-2, while Peng Shuai, Elena Vesnina, Elise Mertens, Coco Vandeweghe and Alize Cornet also won.

Men’s winners included fifth-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, Mischa Zverev, Steve Darcis, Fabio Fognini and Aljaz Bedene.

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.