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Maria Sharapova retires from match after French Open rejection

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ROME — Maria Sharapova retired from her Italian Open match citing an apparent left thigh injury hours after learning she would not be granted a wild card into the French Open.

Sharapova was leading against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 4-6, 6-3, 2-1 when she called it quits on Tuesday in the second round.

Sharapova had left the court for an injury timeout during the second game of the third set. She came back with her left thigh taped and managed to win a game despite serving softly then walked to the net after Lucic-Baroni held serve.

The retirement came 2 1/2 hours after French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli announced he would not invite Sharapova to Roland Garros because of her past doping ban.

“Must be tough for her, but it’s the way it is,” Novak Djokovic said after he overcame a challenging first set to beat British qualifier Aljaz Bedene 7-6 (2), 6-2 in his opening match at the Foro Italico. “In some tournaments she’s going to get that help in wild card and invitation; some not. Unfortunately, it’s Grand Slam, which is for sure for her a big one.”

The French Open starts in less than two weeks.

“She has to go through a tougher way back,” Djokovic added. “After being absent from the tour for a long time, she’s going to be patient, at least as much as she can, to slowly build her rankings and get back to where she has the quality to (enter tournaments directly).”

Sharapova returned last month following a 15-month ban for testing positive for the banned heart drug meldonium at last year’s Australian Open.

The Russian has accepted wild cards to enter all three of her tournaments since her return, attracting criticism from many players.

Sharapova reached the semifinals in Stuttgart, Germany, then was eliminated in the second round in Madrid last week.

By winning her opening match in Rome on Monday, Sharapova earned enough points to enter the top 200 next week and gain direct entry to the qualifying tournament for Wimbledon.

She won both of her previous matches against Lucic-Baroni, a semifinalist at this year’s Australian Open.

Earlier, Bedene frustrated Djokovic for long stretches with his foot speed, keeping the ball in play and whipping surprising winners.

At the conclusion of a tight first set, Djokovic served three aces in the tiebreaker then laughed to himself in apparent astonishment.

Also, David Goffin rallied past Fernando Verdasco 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Tomas Berdych notched his 600th career win by beating qualifier Carlos Berlocq 6-3, 6-4; Jack Sock defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 1-6, 7-5; and Alexander Zverev outlasted Kevin Anderson 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the tournament with a hip injury.

In other women’s action, last year’s finalist, Madison Keys, was beaten by Australian qualifier Daria Gavrilova 2-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Keys is still struggling to regain her form after left wrist surgery in the offseason. She also had opening-round losses in her previous two tournaments in Charleston and Madrid.

The 33rd-ranked Gavrilova had to come through qualifying because she forgot to enter the main draw.

Also, fifth-seeded Johanna Konta defeated Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-0; Ekaterina Makarova eliminated Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-1; and qualifier Catherine Bellis beat Misako Doi 6-4, 7-6 (6).

Roger Federer will skip 2017 French Open

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Roger Federer says he won’t play in the French Open and instead will prepare to play on grass and hard courts later this season “in the best interest of [his] tennis and physical preparation for the remainder of the season.”

Federer posted a message entitled ‘Roger to skip Roland Garros’ on his website on Monday:

“Regrettably, I’ve decided not to participate in the French Open. I’ve been working really hard, both on and off the court, during the last month but in order to try and play on the ATP World Tour for many years to come, I feel it’s best to skip the clay court season this year and prepare for the grass and hard court seasons. The start to the year has been magical for me but I need to recognize that scheduling will be the key to my longevity moving forward. Thus, my team and I concluded today that playing just one event on clay was not in the best interest of my tennis and physical preparation for the remainder of the season. I will miss the French fans, who have always been so supportive and I look forward to seeing them at Roland Garros next year.”

Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, confirmed that the 18-time Grand Slam champion will not compete at the year’s second major tournament, which starts in Paris on May 28.

Frenchman Gasquet faces Murray in French Open quarters

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PARIS — The wait had better be worth it for tennis fans when Richard Gasquet finally takes on Andy Murray in the French Open quarterfinals – weather allowing on Wednesday.

Since they won their third-round matches on Sunday, it has rained almost non-stop at Roland Garros, washing out Monday and most of Tuesday.

The second-seeded Murray munched on an energy bar as he watched No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s rain-interupted fourth-round match against No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Tuesday. The Murray vs. Gasquet match was supposed to follow the conclusion of Djokovic’s match and then No. 1 Serena Williams vs. No. 18 Elina Svitolina.

Gasquet should be patient by now, having never previously reached the last eight at the French Open since first playing here in 2002 – just short of his 16th birthday.

Murray and Gasquet are both 29, and Gasquet was the more talented early on, winning their first two meetings in 2006 and 2007 – the year Gasquet reach the Wimbledon semifinals as a 21-year-old. He should really have won their next encounter, too, wasting a two-set lead in the fourth round at Wimbledon the following year.

After that, Murray’s trajectory went up – two Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and seven other Grand Slam finals – while Gasquet’s form mostly stagnated, with rare highs being semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2013 and two years later at Wimbledon.

Murray has won their last five meetings – including in the fourth round of the French Open in 2012 – but Gasquet has taken confidence from an impressive win against No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Djokovic is looking to reach his 10th French Open quarterfinal. He’s never lost to Bautista Agut.

Neither has Williams against Svitolina, leading her 3-0.

Nor has No. 3 Stan Wawrinka against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and the defending champion leads the Spaniard 6-0 heading into their quarterfinal. Three of those wins are on clay, the most recent in the second round on his way to his victory at the Geneva Open.

That should give beleagured French Open organizers some hope those matches could be completed quickly as they face a serious backlog.

One of these is a potential fourth-round clash between No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 11 David Ferrer.

Ferrer, who leads 8-6 in their head-to-heads, will be 2-1 up when they resume in the first set; while Ernests Gulbis – a semifinalist here two years ago – is 3-0 up in the first set against No. 12 David Goffin of Belgium; and it’s one set each between No. 13 Dominic Thiem and Marcel Granollers.

WOMEN’S QUARTERFINALS: American Shelby Rogers could reach the semifinals before Serena and her older sister Venus Williams – who is also playing in the fourth round.

But Rogers, unseeded, must first get the better of No. 4 Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who is determined to reach the last four after losing in the quarterfinals for the past two years.

Meanwhile, Samantha Stosur will be looking to reach the semis for the fourth time and the bad news for her opponent – Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria – is that Stosur has won all her three quarterfinals here. The 32-year-old Australian reached the final in 2010, losing to Francesca Schiavone.

WOMEN’S 4th-ROUND MATCHES: Three other women’s fourth-round matches are scheduled for Wednesday, with No. 9 Venus Williams taking on No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky. The seven-time Grand Slam champion leads Bacsinszky 2-0 – beating her two years ago at the U.S. Open and six years earlier at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Bacsinszky lost to Serena Williams in a tense semifinal here last year.

Also, Kiki Bertens faces No. 15 Madison Keys in their first meeting and No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro plays Yulia Putintseva.