Jelena Ostapenko

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Venus Williams reaches semifinals at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — Venus Williams reached the semifinals at the WTA Finals by beating Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday.

The 37-year-old Williams advanced from the White Group along with Karolina Pliskova, who lost to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-1. Both Williams and Pliskova finished with 2-1 records.

Williams, who first reached the No. 1 ranking in February 2002, was asked how she has managed to have such a long career.

“I use a lot of sun protection, sunscreen. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables,” Williams said. “That’s been the key to my success.”

Williams won the WTA Finals in 2008 and reached the final in 2009, which was the last time she appeared in the year-end tournament.

On Thursday, Muguruza made 32 unforced errors to 26 for Williams.

“I’m very proud of this year.” said Muguruza, who reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time this season. “I knew here that it’s going to be tough, the best eight players are playing.”

Pliskova led 3-2 in the first set of the early match, but the already-eliminated Ostapenko won the next seven games for a 6-3, 3-0 lead.

“Really tough to push myself into it and to play the best tennis if you know you’re qualified,” Pliskova said. “Wasn’t being ever in this situation, so I felt weird today.”

Pliskova, who earned the No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career after Wimbledon, remains in contention to finish the season at the top. Muguruza, Simona Halep, Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki also have a chance to become the year-end No. 1.

Ostapenko downs Muguruza to reach Wuhan semis

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WUHAN, China — French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko beat Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the Wuhan Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

Ostapenko came from a break down in the deciding set, winning the last five games to beat Muguruza for the first time and a world No. 1 for the first time.

“I just beat No. 1 and it’s amazing,” Ostapenko said.

No. 4-ranked Karolina Pliskova also lost from a set up, falling to Ashleigh Barty of Australia who beat a top-five player for the first time 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2).

Barty will meet Ostapenko, the only seed to reach the semifinals. The other semi features Caroline Garcia of France and qualifier Maria Sakkari of Greece.

Kasatkina upsets Halep at Wuhan Open

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WUHAN, China — No. 2-ranked Simona Halep lost her opening match at the Wuhan Open, dismantled by Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

Halep received a bye into the second round. She broke Kasatkina early but the Russian dominated thereafter.

It was Kasatkina’s third win over a top-five player, after two wins over then-No. 1 Angelique Kerber this year.

“The game was much more difficult than the score is,” Kasatkina said.

Halep had a chance this week to supplant Garbine Muguruza as No. 1 by reaching the final with other results going her way.

No. 4 Karolina Pliskova kept alive her shot at No. 1 by beating local Shuai Zhang 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. To regain the No. 1 ranking, Pliskova must win the Wuhan title and hope Muguruza loses before the semifinals. Muguruza was in action late.

“I always want to play better than I did last year; I already won one round so hopefully I can win one more,” Pliskova said.

Another Russian, two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, lost to Alize Cornet of France 6-3, 6-3.

Three other seeds advanced: No. 7 and 2016 finalist Dominika Cibulkova, No. 8 Jelena Ostapenko, and No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska.

Ostapenko came back to beat Barbora Strycova 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, and Radwanska saw off Julia Goerges of Germany 7-5, 7-5.

Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, Caroline Garcia of France, Wang Qiang of China, and Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. were also winners on Tuesday.