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Stosur loses in first round at Brisbane; Murray nears return

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BRISBANE, Australia (AP) Australian Samantha Stosur’s year ended on a sour note after she was bundled out of her home state tournament by Brisbane International seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova on Sunday.

The former US Open champion and French open finalist had opportunities against her 27-year-old Latvian opponent in the first set, but was completely outplayed by Sevastova in the second set to be eliminated 6-1 6-3 in the first round.

It wasn’t a good day for French world No.8 Caroline Garcia either, after she retired in her first round match against compatriot Alize Cornet.

The fourth seed started brightly to take the first set 6-3, but Cornet rallied to claim the second and force a deciding set.

Garcia then took an injury time-out for treatment on her lower back and played just one point in the final set before retiring.

Cornet will next play Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the second round after the Croatian beat Germany’s Tatjana Maria 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.

Serbian Aleksandra Krunic beat Carinna Witthhoeft of Germany 7-5, 7-6 (2) to set up a second round clash with Spanish top seed Garbine Murguruza.

In the men’s draw Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine beat sixth seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-4, 7-6 (3).

Meanwhile, former world No.1 Andy Murray continued his return from a hip injury with a practice session in Brisbane on Sunday as he prepares for his first competitive match since July. That comeback match will be against either American Ryan Harrison or Leonardo Mayer of Argentina in the second round on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

“I just want to enjoy playing again, I really missed it,” Murray said on Sunday. “I want to play tennis… I don’t mind if it’s 30 in the world level – I’d love it to be number one in the world level – I just want to play.”

“When that’s taken away from you, you realize how important it is.”

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.

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.

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