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Kerber easily advances to 2nd round in Dubai; Bellis wins

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Sixth-seeded Angelique Kerber needed less than an hour to beat Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1 Tuesday in the first round of the Dubai Championships.

Fifth-seeded Caroline Garcia of France also advanced, beating Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5.

Kerber was broken in the opening game but had no trouble the rest of the way against the 2016 runner-up. She broke back immediately and earned another break in the fourth game to take control of the match. She will next face Italy’s Sara Errani.

“I played a solid match,” Kerber said. “It’s always tough to play against her. You never know what’s going to happen. She’s always a fighter.”

American 18-year-old Catherine Bellis followed up her quarterfinal appearance in Doha by beating Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 6-3. Bellis, who lost to Simona Halep in Doha, will face Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza next.

“I’ve never played her before. It’s definitely going to be a new experience for me,” Bellis said. “She’s an unbelievable player and has been at the top of the game for a while now. It will be great for me just to see where my game lines up against another one of the top players.”

Samantha Stosur, one of the four Grand Slam champions in the field, lost 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 to the hard-hitting Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

Qiang Wang of China was the quickest winner of the day, beating Belgium’s Kiki Bertens 6-3, 6-0 in just 55 minutes.

Kasatkina upsets Venus Williams to reach Indian Wells final

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Daria Kasatkina upset Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a nearly three-hour baseline struggle to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night.

Kasatkina was two points from defeat, trailing 4-5 and 0-30 in the third set when Williams committed four straight errors as the 20-year-old Russian tied it 5-all.

Williams won just two more points as Kasatkina took the last two games to close out the match in 2 hours, 48 minutes. Kasatkina dropped her racket near the baseline and covered her face with her hands as she walked to the net.

After shaking hands, Kasatkina pumped her fists and shook her head slightly as if in disbelief at beating the 37-year-old American and advancing to the biggest final of her young career.

Top-ranked Simona Halep took on Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old from Japan, in the other semifinal.

After losing the first set, Kasatkina was visited by her coach on court. Philippe Dehaes told her, “She’s 37, you’re 20. Make her work a lot.”

When she wasn’t trading shots from the baseline, a nervy Kasatkina fooled Williams with drop shots, including two that landed just over the net near the sideline. The Russian tossed up lobs over the 6-foot-1 American – some worked, some didn’t, but she was undeterred.

There were 14 service breaks in the match.

Williams rallied from 3-1 down to win the first set. She trailed 3-1 again in the second and tied it 3-all when Kasatkina was broken on a double fault.

Kasatkina won the last four games in a row to take the second set. The players dueled through eight deuces in an epic eighth game, with the Russian turning back six break points against her. Williams pulled a forehand wide to lose the game.

Kasatkina’s coach visited her again before the third set.

“You go for it?” he asked her.

“Sure,” she replied, and they slapped hands.

Williams served a love game to go up 5-4. She led love-30 on Kasatkina’s serve in the next game before her forehand deserted her.

Williams double-faulted twice in a row to drop serve and trail 6-5. Kasatkina won on her second match point when Williams netted a backhand.

Kasatkina now owns a 2-1 record against Williams, who won 10-8 in the third round at Wimbledon in 2016.

Juan Martin del Potro defeated No. 31 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and Milos Raonic beat 18th-seeded American Sam Querrey 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the men’s semifinals.

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

Maria Sharapova withdraws from Miami with forearm injury

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the Miami Open that begins next week because of a left forearm injury.

Sharapova announced the decision on Friday. She’ll be replaced in the main draw by American Jennifer Brady.

Sharapova lost in the first round at Indian Wells last week and in the third round of the Australian Open in January. She returned to the tour last year after a 15-month doping ban.

The women’s field includes eight-time Key Biscayne champion Serena Williams and No. 1-ranked Simona Halep. The men’s field includes defending champion Roger Federer and six-time Key Biscayne champ Novak Djokovic.