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As Serena Williams returns, Venus says her game hasn’t left

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NEW YORK (AP) Venus Williams gave a scouting report on her warmup partner that sounded the same as always.

Serena Williams is back, and her game hasn’t left.

“She’s got power, depth. She knows how to play,” Venus said. “Yeah, awesome game.”

The Williams sisters were the headliners Monday night in the Tie Break Tens tournament in Madison Square Garden, an eight-woman event in which all matches were 10-point tiebreakers, instead of the usual games and sets.

Serena was playing her first singles match of the year as she prepares to return to the WTA Tour for the first time since giving birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., on Sept. 1. The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion would later tell Vogue Magazine in an interview that she developed several small blood clots in her lungs after giving birth.

She had played just once this year, losing a Fed Cup doubles match with Venus last month, and hasn’t played a singles match on tour since winning the 2017 Australian Open, where she beat Venus in the final.

Serena returns this week in Indian Wells, California, and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, told he had high expectations for the three remaining Grand Slam tournaments this season. He said he sees the same determination in practice, but wouldn’t know if being a mother had changed her until he saw her competing.

Venus already knows what to expect.

“I mean, the matches are definitely a good way to know where you are, but obviously she knows how to play,” the 37-year-old Venus said. “She’s going to bring that instinct on the court with her, so I don’t think she’s too worried about that.”

Tie Break Tens held its first tournament in the U.S. after five events in Europe and Australia. The remainder of the field included Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine, the highest-ranked player at No. 4; American CoCo Vandeweghe; China’s Zhang Shuai; Sorana Cirstea of Romania; Marion Bartoli of France, the 2013 Wimbledon champion who is ending a 4 +-year retirement; and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, who retired last year.

Vandeweghe, a New York native, jumped at the chance to play at MSG. Her grandfather, Ernie, and uncle Kiki, now an NBA executive, both played for the New York Knicks.

“I didn’t have to think too long,” he said. “Once I was asked by my coach, Pat (Cash), if I was going to be available around that time, I said, `Yeah, I’ll make myself available.’ So it didn’t take much thinking.”

She was on the U.S. team in last month’s victory over the Netherlands in North Carolina and enjoys seeing both Williams sisters still playing well. Venus reached two Grand Slam finals in 2017 and returned to the top five of the rankings.

She competed Monday night just a few days after the 20th anniversary of her first WTA Tour title in Oklahoma City as a 17-year-old. Many players have taken up the sport in years since because of the Williams sisters, and Venus hoped more might be interested in this format since they were.

“If that’s the result, yeah, that would be great,” she said. “I hope that is the result, that this is a lot of excitement and more people start playing. It’s a great sport. The sport is great for everyone of all ages.”

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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.

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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.