Defending champ Kerber wins in Charleston

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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber opened defense of her Volvo Car Open title with a three-set victory over Lara Arruabarrena on Tuesday night.

Kerber, the top seed and ranked No. 2 in the world, moved on and won her sixth straight match here with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (3) win. It was also the second straight year Kerber upended Arruabarrena in Charleston, although the Spaniard put up more of a fight than in the 6-3, 6-0 defeat in 2015.

Other seeded winners at the clay-court even included No. 10 seed Sam Stosur and 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni topped 11th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (13).

Most of the top seeds, including the highest-rated American in the field in No. 3 seeded Venus Williams, begins play Wednesday.

Kerber gave the crowd on hands on a chilly night at center court a few frightful moments as Arruabarrena rallied to force a third set.

The German led 5-3 and 6-5 in the final set, yet could not close out the match. Arruabarrena was up 1-0 in the tiebreak before Kerber won the next four points to take control and finish things off in a match that lasted nearly 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Kerber said Arraubarrena raised the level of her game the last two sets.

“It’s always freaky to play the first matches on clay, and I was trying to stay in the match, trying to play point by point in the tiebreak,” Kerber said. “Because I knew very well, and I was feeling that” Aurrabarrena had increased her intensity.

It was almost the second time in three seasons the Charleston tournament lost its feature attraction early in the week. In 2014, defending champion Serena Williams dropped her opening match to Jana Cepelova and spent the rest of the tournament watching big sister Venus advance to the round of 16.

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).

Sakkari through to Parma Open quarterfinals; Stephens loses

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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past Arantxa Rus 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals of the Parma Ladies Open.

Sakkari, who accepted a late wild card to the red clay court tournament, was playing her first event since losing to Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open.

The Greek player will next face Maryna Zanevska of Belgium after she eased past Dalma Galfi 6-1, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens of the United States, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, lost to Danka Kovinic 7-5, 2-6, 7-5.

Kovinic will face Jasmine Paolini in the quarterfinals after the Italian defeated compatriot Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

There will be an American in the final eight, however, as Lauren Davis rallied to beat Sara Sorribes Tormo 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Sorribes Tormo had eliminated second-seeded Martina Trevisan in straight sets in the opening round.

Davis will play Mayar Sherif after the Egyptian player defeated Simona Waltert 6-3, 7-6 (1).

Also, third-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania eased past Italian wild card Matilde Paoletti 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan, who beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.