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Wozniacki’s miserable year continues with another early loss

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LONDON – For Caroline Wozniacki, just winning a Grand Slam match these days would be nice.

The former No. 1-ranked player came into Wimbledon unseeded at a major for the first time in eight years and with a world ranking of No. 45, her lowest since 2008.

Faced with a tough first-round draw, the 25-year-old Dane departed quickly Tuesday after losing to 14th-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-5, 6-4, leaving her without a Grand Slam match win in 2016.

Wozniacki also fell in the first round at the Australian Open and missed the French Open with a right ankle injury. Her overall record this year is 11-11.

“It’s been a tough year in general,” Wozniacki said, taking a philosophical tone. “It’s been some injuries. It’s been some bad draws. It’s been uphill. But you just have to keep fighting, keep going at it, keep working hard, and hope eventually that’s going to turn and you’re going to take the chances you’re going to get.”

“That’s really all you can do right now,” she said.

Wozniacki was ranked No. 1 for 67 weeks in 2010 and 2011 and reached two Grand Slam finals, finishing runner-up at the 2009 and 2014 U.S. Opens. This was her 10th appearance at Wimbledon, where she has reached the fourth round five times but never made it to the quarterfinals.

Coming off the ankle injury, Wozniacki showed progress at the grass-court warmup tournament at Eastbourne, winning back-to-back matches for the first time since February.

” I thought I played some really good tennis in Eastbourne,” she said. “Obviously (I) was hoping I could step up from there and do more damage today. But it wasn’t enough.”

Wozniacki played well against Kuznetsova, also a former No. 1 player. She pushed the Russian but didn’t have enough to overcome her in a match played with the retractable roof closed over Centre Court because of rain.

“She played aggressively and stepped up when she had to,” Wozniacki said. “She did what she had to do today.”

For now, Wozniacki is planning to play hard-court tournaments in Washington and Montreal.

She’s also awaiting a ruling on the appeal on her eligibility for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Wozniacki has been selected as Denmark’s flag-bearer for the games, but has failed to meet the International Tennis Federation’s Fed Cup requirements.

“Obviously I want to play,” she said. “But if they decide that I’m not going to play, then there’s not much I can do about it.”

In addition to the injuries, losses and drop in the rankings, Wozniacki endured a well-publicized breakup in 2014 with golfer Rory McIlroy.

Referring to the last year-and-a-half in general, she said: “I mean, at one point you’re just like, you know what, it has to turn, it has to go the other way eventually. I’m just going to take the punches I’m getting and just try and learn from it and try and move forward.'”

During her injury layoffs, Wozniacki has kept busy with various off-the-court projects.

“If there’s time left over, then I try and just have fun in life,” she said. “We only live once. We don’t get a mulligan.”

One thing Wozniacki won’t do is read about herself.

“I think if I read everything that was written about me the last 15 years, I think by now I probably would have jumped over a cliff,” she said. “I would rather not.”

Djokovic lines up Dimitrov at Queen’s Club

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LONDON — Novak Djokovic’s first appearance at Queen’s Club in eight years was successful when he put away Australian qualifier John Millman 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

Djokovic, entered as a wild card, will play second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.

Also, Milos Raonic, runner-up to Roger Federer last week in Stuttgart, won his opener when Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri retired hurt while trailing 6-1, 3-1.

Djokovic’s comeback from right elbow surgery in January has been gathering pace after reaching the Rome semifinals and French Open quarterfinals. He leads Dimitrov 6-1 in career matchups.

Dimitrov, the 2014 Queen’s champion, struggled past Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3. Dimitrov saved six of eight break points.

Svitolina’s top ambitions survive grass-court struggle

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Elena Svitolina, who came within two wins of becoming world No. 1 in January, maintained her ambitious momentum to reach the top by surviving a tricky start to her Wimbledon build-up on Tuesday.

The second-seeded Svitolina stumbled within sight of a two-set victory, and briefly faltered again in the last set before beating Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Svitolina showed glimpses of the tenacious movement and consistently ferocious drives which have earned her the best win-loss record on the WTA tour since the beginning of last year, but also revealed glimpses of insecurity on the lush, low-bouncing surface.

Despite carving a lead of a set and 3-1, her gradually increasing attempts to win points in the forecourt were of variable quality, while Vekic, a former runner-up here, began to contain and counterattack more effectively.

Svitolina nearly let slip another lead of 3-1, in the last set, needing to save two break points on her next service game – one with a fine serve, and the other with a net attack finished off at the third attempt.

Eventually, the Ukrainian’s determination to adapt tactically to a surface on which she has yet to progress beyond any quarterfinal paid timely dividends, and she accelerated toward the finishing line at a canter.

“I was just trying to play well and to dominate, but she played a couple of great points to break back – which is always nice to have,” said Svitolina, apparently meaning she was pleased to gain extra practice on such a technique-testing surface.

“It was difficult for me because she hit the ball very flat and the first match on grass is always a challenge.”

She next faces Alize Cornet of France, who notably beat Serena Williams at 2014 Wimbledon, and who outlasted former top-10 player Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, by 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.