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Venus Williams reaches semifinals at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — Venus Williams reached the semifinals at the WTA Finals by beating Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday.

The 37-year-old Williams advanced from the White Group along with Karolina Pliskova, who lost to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-1. Both Williams and Pliskova finished with 2-1 records.

Williams, who first reached the No. 1 ranking in February 2002, was asked how she has managed to have such a long career.

“I use a lot of sun protection, sunscreen. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables,” Williams said. “That’s been the key to my success.”

Williams won the WTA Finals in 2008 and reached the final in 2009, which was the last time she appeared in the year-end tournament.

On Thursday, Muguruza made 32 unforced errors to 26 for Williams.

“I’m very proud of this year.” said Muguruza, who reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time this season. “I knew here that it’s going to be tough, the best eight players are playing.”

Pliskova led 3-2 in the first set of the early match, but the already-eliminated Ostapenko won the next seven games for a 6-3, 3-0 lead.

“Really tough to push myself into it and to play the best tennis if you know you’re qualified,” Pliskova said. “Wasn’t being ever in this situation, so I felt weird today.”

Pliskova, who earned the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career after Wimbledon, remains in contention to finish the season at the top. Muguruza, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki also have a chance to become the year-end No. 1.

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.”