Victoria Azarenka

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Venus Williams advances to fourth round at Wimbledon

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LONDON — Venus Williams beat one 19-year-old opponent at Wimbledon on Friday. She’ll face another on Monday.

Both of those players were born months after Williams made her debut at the All England Club.

Think about that for a minute.

Williams’ 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory over Naomi Osaka of Japan made the 37-year-old American the oldest woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since Martina Navratilova was that age when she was the tournament’s runner-up in 1994.

“I’ve had to step it up. I imagine that’s going to continue,” Williams said. “All I can do is try to be my best.”

This is the 20th appearance at the grass-court major for Williams, who has won the championship five times since her first match at the All England Club in 1997. Next up for Williams on Monday, with a quarterfinal berth at stake, is another foe not yet 20: Ana Konjuh of Croatia.

Osaka spoke about growing up admiring Williams and her younger sister, Serena.

She also acknowledged that these sorts of important rounds at important tournaments are much newer to her. That sort of thing can make a difference at crucial moments, such as the opening tiebreaker Friday. Osaka led it 3-0, before Williams claimed the next seven points.

“I actually feel like it’s better that she beat me, because I can learn more from her, and there’s something more I can look forward to,” the 59th-ranked Osaka said. “There’s more of a goal for me to practice every day and stuff.”

As for all of the chatter about gaps in, um, experience?

Williams said she didn’t focus on that at all when it came to Friday’s match.

“It’s interesting, for sure. But I guess when you walk on the court, I don’t think either of us is thinking about the age,” she said. “You’re thinking about: How do I win?”

The 10th-seeded Williams is playing in her first tournament since a two-car crash in Florida on June 9. A 78-year-old man in the other vehicle died about two weeks later and his estate has sued filed a lawsuit against Williams. On Friday, police said video shows that Williams legally entered an intersection seconds before she drove into the path of the other car.

When asked about the accident after her first-round match this week, Williams teared up during her news conference and was given time by the moderator to leave the room and compose herself. The topic was not raised Friday after the victory over Osaka.

With Serena off the tour because she is pregnant, and Maria Sharapova recovering from a leg injury, Williams was one of only two past Wimbledon winners in the women’s field when the tournament began. After a second-round loss by Petra Kvitova, Williams is the lone champ standing.

The 27th-seeded Konjuh had never been past the third round until upsetting 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4 on Friday.

Also advancing were French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, No. 2-seeded Simona Halep, No. 4 Elina Svitolina, No. 6 Johanna Konta, No. 21 Caroline Garcia and two-time Australian Open champion and former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.

The matchups Monday: Halep vs. Azarenka, Ostapenko vs. Svitolina, Konta vs. Garcia.

Azarenka has played only five matches since returning to the tour after a hiatus to have her first baby. But don’t think she’s just happy to have made it to the fourth round.

“I’m still very ambitious and focused. I’m not on cloud nine for making it to the second week, but I do appreciate everything that I have been able to achieve right now, and I don’t take anything for granted,” said Azarenka, who beat Heather Watson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court. “I can’t be too happy. I’m never really satisfied until it’s done.”

Victoria Azarenka reaches fourth round at Wimbledon

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LONDON– Victoria Azarenka’s Grand Slam comeback has extended into the second week at Wimbledon.

The former No. 1 from Belarus, who gave birth to her first child in December, advanced to the fourth round on Friday by beating Heather Watson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court.

Azarenka also lost the first set in her opening match, but that was only her third match since her return. Friday’s match was her fifth.

“This is the matches that you’re looking for,” Azarenka said, “try to find a way when not everything goes great.”

The two-time Grand Slam champion will next face Simona Halep on Monday in the fourth round. The second-seeded Romanian beat Peng Shuai 6-4, 7-6 (7).

Two-time champion Rafael Nadal was next on Centre Court against Karen Khachanov, and defending champion Andy Murray was to follow against Fabio Fognini.

On No. 1 Court, five-time champion Venus Williams was to play Naomi Osaka.

Also, ninth-seeded Kei Nishikori was eliminated. The 2014 U.S. Open finalist lost to Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3.

“I couldn’t maintain my level high enough,” Nishikori said. “He served well every set. Was really tough time (on) my return game.”

Marin Cilic, the man who beat Nishikori in that U.S. Open final, advanced to the third round by beating Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-4. The seventh-seeded Croat will next face Bautista Agut on Monday.

Sixteenth-seeded Gilles Muller also advanced in the men’s draw, while fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, sixth-seeded Johanna Konta, 21st-seeded Caroline Garcia and 27th-seeded Ana Konjuh reached the fourth round among the women.

Wawrinka trails on odds to repeat as French Open champion

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After failing to get past the quarterfinals in each of his last five tournament appearances, Stan Wawrinka defends his French Open crown this week sporting +1600 odds to win the tournament at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Wawrinka opens this year’s French Open at Stade Roland Garros in Paris looking to rebound from a disappointing early exit at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome a week ago, falling to Juan Monaco in three sets in the Round of 16 after getting swept in straight sets by Aussie Nick Kyrgios in the Round of 32 at the Madrid Open earlier this month.

Those losses have done nothing for the 31-year-old Swiss native’s French Open odds, which had climbed as high as +650 despite getting knocked out of this year’s Australian Open in the fourth round by Canadian Milos Raonic.

Meanwhile, the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic, sits atop the French Open odds at the sportsbooks as a heavy -125 betting favorite.

Djokovic has been a dominating force at Grand Slam tournaments, winning five of the past seven, but victory has eluded him on the clay at Roland Garros where he has reached the final in three of the past four years but never emerged as champion.

Arriving in Paris on the heels of a loss to Andy Murray in the finals in Rome, Djokovic is enjoying another strong season with five tournament wins, including a record sixth Australian Open victory, topping Murray in the final in straight sets.

Murray, who owns a pair of Grand Slam titles, is a +400 bet to win his first French Open championship, closely trailing nine-time champion Rafael Nadal at +350.

With Roger Federer pulling out of the tournament late last week Kei Nishikori sits next at +2200, while Raonic and Kyrgios, who heads into the event in top form, sit well back of the favorites at +6600 odds.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams will be looking to bounce back from a surprising loss to Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open and claim her third French Open title in four years when she takes the court at Roland Garros as a strong +225 betting favorite.

The three-time French Open champ has now come up empty in her past two Grand Slam tournaments after winning four straight, but claimed victory last week in Rome in just her fourth event of the season.

Victoria Azarenka has reached the semifinals just once in nine French Open appearances but sports solid +500 odds to win the French Open, followed by Simona Halep at +600, Garbine Muguruza at +1000, and Kerber at +1600.