Madison Keys

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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).

Siegemund outlasts Venus Williams at Volvo Open

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Laura Siegemund of Germany beat Venus Williams 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-5 on Wednesday to win her second three-set match in three days and move on to the third round at the Volvo Car Open.

Down match point in the second set, Williams broke Siegemund as she served for the match and rallied to easily win the ensuing tie-breaker to set up the decisive third set. Williams was poised to complete the comeback, but Siegemund twice pulled back from a break and saved two match points as Williams served for the victory at 5-4, winning the final three games to reach the round of 16.

“I tried to keep up the pressure and tried to dominate the game as well as I could,” Siegemund said. “I think I worked my way well through the match. It was a close match, you know, it can go either way. I just tried to believe in my game, and if I was down, I told myself I was going to get more chances.”

Williams could only ponder what might have been.

“I tried my best to think this could be the best match she’ll ever play in her life, honestly,” Williams said. “I basically won the match but still lost.”

Elsewhere, Russian Daria Kasatkina outlasted Puerto Rican Olympic champion Monica Puig 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-2, and Shelby Rogers upset Madison Keys 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

“I mean, she was all over my serve today,” Keys said. “I felt like that let me down, and I think she served well. And I feel like I just stopped doing what I should have. I feel like I did a pretty good job to get back in the first set, and I feel like I just stopped doing it. Then it kind of all slipped away from me pretty quick.”

Kasatkina, who came close to making the semifinals here last year, hit 19 winners with 18 unforced errors to finally escape after just over 2 hours on court. Puig hit more winners (25) but also had 41 errors, including on match point.

In other matches, Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko defeated Greece’s Maria Sakkari in three sets and Hungarian Fanny Stollar stunned No.4 seed Elena Vesnina, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3). Vesnina, of Russia, twice led a by a break in the opening set but struggled to convert break points. Stollar hit 13 aces to keep in front for most of the match.

Also: Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, defeated Germany’s Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-4; Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, defeated Magda Linette of Poland 6-4, 6-4; Daria Gavrilova of Australia defeated American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-1; Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands defeated Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine 6-2, 7-5; Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia defeated Mona Barthel of Germany, 6-3, 6-2; Japan’s Naomi Osaka defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-4, 6-4; Anastasia Rodionova of Australia defeated Sara Errani of Italy 6-2, 6-2; Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, defeated Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6); Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States 6-3, 6-3.

Top-seeded Kerber toils in win vs. Cibulkova at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — Top-seeded Angelique Kerber struggled to defeat seventh-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-3 on the opening day of the WTA Finals in Singapore on Sunday.

Kerber, who secured the top ranking last month, battled Cibulkova for 2 hours, 17 minutes before the Slovakian finally succumbed.

“It was a really good match from both of us, especially the first set,” Kerber said. “It’s a good start to the tournament like this, where you knew you had to play your best to win.”

Earlier on Sunday, third-seeded Simona Halep won the first match of the round-robin portion of the tournament by taking a 6-2, 6-4 decision over sixth-seeded American Madison Keys.

In Red Group action, Kerber and Halep stand at 1-0, while Keys and Cibulkova are at 0-1.

On Tuesday, Kerber will play Halep, while Cibulkova and Keys, both making their WTA Finals debut, will play each other.

Kerber posted 29 winners and 32 unforced errors to 36 winners and 34 unforced errors for Cibulkova.

Cibulkova dropped serve in the opening game of the match, which initially allowed Kerber to establish a 4-2 lead in the first set.

Kerber didn’t hold on to the advantage, surrendering her own serve on a second double-fault in the eighth game.

That sent the first set to a tiebreaker where the German eventually prevailed.

“At the beginning I was too excited, but after a few games I started to play my game,” Cibulkova said. “It was a really tough one, really close, and in these kind of games it’s about the small details.”

Cibulkova dominated the second set, racing to 4-0 lead.

In the third, Cibulkova was temporarily in charge with a 2-0 lead, but lost five of the next six games to end up on the losing side of the result.

It’s been a stellar season for Kerber, who won her first two Grand Slam titles at the Australian and US Opens, and also brought home the Olympic silver medal from Rio.

Kerber’s never journeyed beyond the round-robin stage of the WTA Finals in three previous appearances in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

In the opening match, Keys played erratic tennis throughout the 69-minute contest, losing serve on four of 10 break points faced.

“I definitely think there were some nerves,” Keys said. “I think one of her strengths is making you feel like you have to go for more and take the risks. I think sometimes she makes me uncomfortable and I back away from playing my game.”

Keys held serve in the opening game of the match, but then saw Halep win the next five games for a 5-1 lead in the first set.

Halep lost an initial 4-2 lead in the second set, but from 4-4 won the final two games.

The Romanian reached the final here in 2014 and now holds a 5-1 head-to-head record against Keys.

“I think I played exactly what I had to play against her,” Halep said. “I was focused. Everything went as I wanted, so I’m happy.”