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Serena’s midriff, naval ring take center stage at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams’ latest on-court fashion statement is an attempt to “push the envelope” with a nod to classic tennis style.

So says Williams, the No. 1-ranked player who is baring her midriff and naval ring at this year’s Australian Open.

Williams designed the bright yellow outfit that features a T-shirt top snugly cropped and a pleated mini-skirt.

“I just wanted to think outside the box,” said Williams, who has never been called a fashion conformist. Some of her eye-catching tennis wear has included a faux leather black catsuit, studded hot pants, a denim mini-skirt with knee-high black socks and a variety of animal prints.

“I’ve been on tour for a long time,” said the 34-year-old Williams, who is appearing in her 62nd Grand Slam. “I just wanted to push the envelope again, just bring pop culture to tennis, kind of make it really fun.”

The six-time Australian Open champion and winner of 21 majors won her first Grand Slam in 1999 at the U.S. Open, just a couple years after her latest opponent was born. Williams wasted no time Friday, beating 18-year-old Daria Kastkina 6-1, 6-1 in 45 minutes, and maybe the outfit helped.

After the match, she was asked if she was chilly.

“It’s definitely not built for warmth, but it’s built for speed,” Williams joked on center court.

When the subject cropped up again in her post-match news conference, she explained the idea was to marry the “youth and fun-ness” of the pop culture world with tradition.

“I wanted a pleated skirt, because a pleated skirt is very classic,” she said.

Aside from that, Williams just loves short shirts.

“I live in a crop top, sleep in crop tops. I’m often never seen without one,” Williams said. “So I thought, you know, it would be really fun to play in one.”

Wang Qiang reaches Bronx Open quarterfinals

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NEW YORK — Top-seeded Wang Qiang advanced to the quarterfinals of the Bronx Open with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Fiona Ferro on Wednesday.

The Chinese player, who will be the No. 18 seed in next week’s U.S. Open, will next face Anna Blinkova, who had to wait out a third-set rain delay before outlasting Mihaela Buzarnescu 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in a match that lasted 2 hours, 6 minutes.

No. 10 seed Karolina Muchova also reached the quarterfinals by beating Kristie Ahn 6-3, 6-1, moving on to play Magda Linette. Linette knocked off ninth-seeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-1, 6-4.

Andy Murray to play in Challenger Tour event in Spain

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MADRID — Andy Murray will play in a second-tier Challenger Tour tournament hosted by Rafael Nadal’s tennis academy.

The tournament says Murray has accepted an invitation to play.

Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion, had hip surgery in January. He returned to the court in June playing doubles – including at Wimbledon – before moving back to singles this month. The former No. 1 lost to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati and to Tennys Sandgren in Winston-Salem, both in the first round.

Murray has not played on the Challenger Tour since 2005. His opener at the tournament in Mallorca, Spain, will be his 35th match in the lower division.

The tournament starts on Aug. 26.