Angelique Kerber

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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.

Angelique Kerber wins 8th match in a row, into Sydney final

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SYDNEY (AP) Angelique Kerber won her eighth consecutive match of the new season, coming from 3-1 down in the final set to beat qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 to reach the Sydney International final on Friday.

Kerber, a former No. 1 and the 2016 Australian Open champion, won all four singles at the Hopman Cup and now all four in Sydney en route to the final.

She will face Ashleigh Barty, who beat Australian compatriot Daria Gavrilova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the other semifinal.

In a match that included 11 breaks of serve, Barty needed just one in the third set.

“It’s nice getting a bit of confidence going into our biggest tournament for us,” Barty said of next week’s Australian Open.

Gavrilova’s frustration with her serving were evident in the ninth game of the set when, soon after leveling at 4-4, she double-faulted twice and received a code violation for smashing her racket.

In men’s semifinals, Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev booked a spot in the final by upsetting fourth-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Medvedev will next play Australian 18-year-old Alex de Minaur, who defeated Benoit Paire of France 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

The 167th-ranked de Minaur, who will play his first ATP Tour final on Saturday, advanced to the Brisbane International semifinals last week.

Stephens, Kerber headline WTA Elite Trophy field

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ZHUHAI, China — A year after finishing the season as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, Angelique Kerber will be playing at the WTA Elite Trophy with an eye on 2018.

Kerber won the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year, but has struggled in 2017 and has dropped to No. 19.

“I’m not trying to look back at the year. I’m trying to look ahead and trying to end the year as well as I can by putting everything on the court, winning as many as matches as I can and going to my holidays with a good feeling,” Kerber said. “It’s a tough tournament but it’s an opportunity to get better, have good competition and maybe also going with a good feeling to next season.”

The WTA Elite Trophy is a round-robin tournament for the top players who failed to qualify for the WTA Finals. The tournament splits 12 players in four groups of three, with the group winners reaching the semifinals.

Kerber is in a group with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ashleigh Barty.

Other players at the tournament include U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, who is in a group with Anastasija Sevastova and Barbora Strycova.

“I just want to compete well because obviously every match is really important,” Stephens said. “I just hope to play well and get in a few matches out there.”

In the other groups, it’s: CoCo Vandeweghe, Peng Shuai and Elena Vesnina; and Julia Goerges, Kristina Mladenovic and Magdalena Rybarikova.

The 12 players at the tournament won a combined 11 WTA singles titles in 2017.