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Williams, Wozniacki win at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — Venus Williams rallied at the WTA Finals to beat Caroline Garcia of France 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-3 Saturday and become the oldest women’s finalist at the year-end tournament.

In the other semifinal, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark beat Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic 7-6 (9), 6-3 to set up a championship match against the American.

The 37-year-old Williams said “it’s hard to produce your best tennis at the end of the year because you’ve given so much.”

Williams holds a 7-0 winning career record over 27-year-old Wozniacki and has only lost one of 15 sets they’ve played.

Williams, who appeared in the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals this season, won the WTA Finals in 2008, and was also a finalist in 2009. Wozniacki was a year-end finalist in 2010.

Williams started the semifinal flat but kept improving against Garcia.

“One more match and I’m going to be playing against one of the best players in the tournament, another Caroline, and it’s going to be like deja vu,” Williams told the crowd.

“This tournament is one of the best, the top eight players in the world. Nothing is easy and to be standing in the winner’s circle, almost, is so amazing.”

Williams became more aggressive and Garcia, making her WTA Finals debut, started to make too many errors. In the end, Williams saved 12 of 13 break points in the match, and took advantage of four of nine break-point opportunities.

“I think in the second and third (sets) I was able to figure it out a little more,” Williams said.

Garcia called it a “very difficult” match.

“She’s hitting the ball very hard, very aggressive, huge serve, sometimes no rallies,” Garcia said.

Sixth-ranked Wozniacki leads the tour with most match wins on the season at 59-21 so far.

The third-ranked Pliskova’s loss is good news for Simona Halep, who will retain the No. 1 ranking through to next year.

Pliskova, playing in the year-end semifinals for the first time, needed to win the WTA Finals title to return to the No. 1 ranking for a second time this year.

Wozniacki improved her career record over Pliskova to 6-3, and is 3-2 in meetings this year.

Both players had six set points in the first set, but it was Wozniacki who capitalized on the sixth offering when Pliskova netted a backhand.

All six of Wozniacki’s set points were in the tiebreaker where she initially led 6-1. Pliskova held her first three set points on Wozniacki’s serve in the 10th game and three in the tiebreaker.

“All of a sudden it’s 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, and I said this isn’t fun anymore,” Wozniacki said. “I started thinking I should have lost this set already, so actually this is just a bonus. So I had a lot of talks with myself at that point.”

From 3-3 in the second set, Wozniacki won 12 of the last 15 points to take her place in the final.

Also Saturday, Martina Hingis played the final match of her career when she and partner Chan Yung-Jan lost their semifinal 6-4, 7-6 (5) to Timea Babos and Andrea Hlavackova.

Hingis and Chan won nine titles this season, including the U.S. Open trophy.

“I think it’s been an amazing journey and amazing career that I can be proud of,” the 37-year-old Hingis said. “It’s not really goodbye. I hope I’ll still be part of the game.”

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

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

Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire

Thiem reaches third round at Monte Carlo

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MONACO — Dominic Thiem saved a match point and beat Andrey Rublev of Russia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Tuesday.

Rublev was serving for the match at 5-4, 40-30 but hit a forehand narrowly wide. Fifth-seeded Thiem broke him with backhand pass down the line and held for 6-5.

The Austrian was 15-40 up on Rublev’s serve and clinched victory on his first match point, when Rublev double-faulted with a weak serve into the net.

“I was 10 centimeters from being out of the tournament,” a relieved Thiem said. “But I’m happy that I played two hours and 40 (minutes).”

Thiem has reached the French Open semifinals for the past two years. He next meets 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or Borna Coric of Croatia, who play their second-round match on Wednesday.

“I’m looking forward to watching Djokovic and Coric in front of the TV, and then playing the winner on Thursday,” Thiem said.

In the second round later Tuesday, fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria faced Pierre-Hugues Herbert and seventh-seeded Lucas Pouille played Mischa Zverev.

In remaining first-round play, there were wins for Gilles Simon of France, Marco Cecchinato of Italy and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.