Top-ranked Kerber falls to Kvitova at Wuhan Open

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WUHAN, China (AP) Angelique Kerber lost her first match as the No. 1-ranked player, losing to Petra Kvitova in the third round of the Wuhan Open on Wednesday.

Kvitova saved 17 of 22 break points on her way to the 6-7 (10), 7-5, 6-4 win over Kerber, who committed eight double faults.

Kerber replaced Serena Williams atop the rankings with her run to the U.S. Open title, and took time off before coming to China to start her Asian swing in Wuhan, where she had a bye in the first round.

Kvitova last beat Kerber in the 2014 Fed Cup final, and had since lost to the German three times, including in the U.S. Open fourth round.

In the quarterfinals, Kvitova will face Johanna Konta of Britain, who beat seventh-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 7-5, 7-6 (6). Konta saved three set points in a marathon ninth game, and recovered from 6-3 down in the tiebreak.

Svetlana Kuznetsova ousted defending champion Venus Williams 6-2, 6-2.

Kuznetsova dominated Williams from the outset, breaking the American five times. She improved to 5-4 against Williams.

Williams struggled with her serve in the gusty conditions and had seven double faults.

Simona Halep of Romania also advanced past Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-3.

Halep, showing no sign of the hamstring injury that ruled her out of Tokyo last week, will face Madison Keys of the United States in the quarters. Keys beat Russian qualifier Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.