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Petra Kvitova reaches semifinals at Aegon Classic

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BIRMINGHAM, England  — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, competing in only her second tournament since her playing hand was injured in a knife attack at her home, advanced to the semifinals at the Aegon Classic on Friday.

The left-handed Czech player beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 7-6 (5) on grass at the Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

Kvitova struck the ball solidly on both sides, moved well, and made bold forays to the net. But she double-faulted twice when she was trying to close out the match at 5-3 in the second set. Mladenovic evened the score and led 3-1 in the tiebreaker.

She rescued herself with two pieces of good luck.

First, Mladenovic double-faulted going for 4-1 in the tiebreak, and when she was serving at match point down at 5-6, Kvitova’s widish-looking service return took a net cord, lurched into court, and fell dead.

“I am sorry for what happened at match point, but I am very happy to win,” Kvitova said. “She is very highly ranked (12) and for me it is only the second tournament in my comeback. I was very happy with my performance.”

Kvitova next plays a friend since childhood, compatriot Lucie Safarova. She had her own drama, saving match points for the second time this week. She recovered from 5-3 down in the final set to beat Daria Gavrilova of Australia 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (5).

Safarova saved two match points against third-seededed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, and three against Gavrilova in a contest so full of entertaining rallies that the women received a prolonged standing ovation.

The tournament’s other Grand Slam winner, former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, also reached the semifinals, only her third of the year and the first on grass since she reached the final of Wimbledon nearly two years ago.

It happened abruptly when her opponent CoCo Vandeweghe, the unseeded American who ousted the fourth-seeded Johanna Konta, shook hands just three points into the final set.

Muguruza won 4-6, 6-4, 30-love, though she took pleasure in again having achieved a good rhythm on a surface which is not the most natural for her.

“I came here early and I have put in the hours, and I feel I’m doing something good because I am winning,” she said. “But to be honest I didn’t even realize she was going to retire.”

Vandeweghe injured a foot in her opening match which, she said, contributed to a fall in the second set against Muguruza. She hurt an ankle.

“Any injury so soon before Wimbledon has to be a concern,” she admitted before going to have a scan.

Muguruza next plays Ashleigh Barty, the unseeded Australian who was leading Camila Giorgi 5-2 and progressed when the Italian became the second injury retirement on the day.

Giorgi, who had a thigh strain, fought through three rounds of qualifying, and was trying to struggle through her sixth match of the week.

Nadal gets his revenge over Tsitsipas to reach Rome final

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ROME (AP) After losing in the semifinals of three straight clay-court tournaments, Rafael Nadal looked more like his old, dominant self when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 Saturday to reach the Italian Open final.

It was a measure of revenge for Nadal after losing to Tsitsipas in three sets at this stage in Madrid last week. The victory should also restore Nadal’s confidence as he seeks a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.

“I’m playing better every match, every weekend,” Nadal said.

Aiming for a ninth trophy in Rome, Nadal’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be either Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman, who were playing later.

Nadal is in the middle of his longest title drought to begin a season since he came onto the scene in 2004. His last trophy came in Toronto last August.

The crowd attempted to encourage Tsitsipas with chants of “Tsi-Tsi-Tsi; Pas-Pas-Pas” but the 20-year-old Greek player couldn’t keep up with Nadal on the long rallies – even though he didn’t play a day earlier after Roger Federer withdrew from the quarterfinals.

Conditions were much slower than on the high-altitude court in Madrid, which favored Nadal and made it tougher for Tsitsipas to execute his attacking game.

Midway through the first set, Nadal produced an awesome forehand winner up the line on the run, drawing a loud roar from the packed Campo Centrale crowd.

Nadal broke Tsitsipas’ serve early in both sets.

In the women’s tournament, Johanna Konta rallied past sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in nearly three hours to reach the biggest clay-court final of her career.

Konta’s only previous final on clay came recently in Rabat, Morocco, where she lost the title match to Maria Sakkari.

Konta could get a rematch with Sakkari if the Greek qualifier beats fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the other semifinal.

Midway through the first set, Konta surprised Bertens with a drop shot winner during a baseline rally, causing Bertens to fall on her stomach to the clay as she rapidly changed directions. Then in the next game, Konta ran down a drop shot and produced an angled winner.

Bertens was coming off the Madrid Open title.

“She played really smart with the drop shots,” Bertens said. “I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But it was not there.”

The 42nd-ranked Konta served for the first set at 5-4 but was broken at love. But Bertens double faulted to let Konta serve for the second set and Konta got an early break in the third.

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John Isner out of French Open with injury

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PARIS — John Isner has pulled out of the French Open because of an injured left foot, ending his streak of 24 consecutive appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.

The 34-year-old Isner announced his withdrawal Friday on Twitter.

He is ranked No. 11, the top American man, but has not competed since hurting his foot during the Miami Open final March 31.

Isner was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, his best Grand Slam performance. He hasn’t missed a major since the 2013 Australian Open.

He’s reached the fourth round at Roland Garros three times, including in 2018, and is one of only two men to push 11-time champion Rafael Nadal to a fifth set there.

Isner is best known for winning the longest match in tennis history, 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut in Wimbledon’s first round in 2010. The match lasted more than 11 hours over three days.