Associated Press

Stephens provides boost for US in Fed Cup final at Belarus

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MINSK, Belarus — Sloane Stephens is back on the United States team for the Fed Cup final, and Victoria Azarenka is missing for Belarus.

That alone gives the early advantage to the Americans.

Stephens, who won the U.S. Open this year for her first major title, missed the opening two rounds of the international team competition because of a foot injury. But she is back and will be playing alongside CoCo Vandeweghe, Shelby Rogers and Alison Riske in the best-of-five series this weekend in Minsk.

“I’m happy to be back playing and happy the team made the finals,” the 13th-ranked Stephens said Wednesday. “It’s awesome I can be on this team.”

The United States is looking to win the Fed Cup for the first time in 17 years, while Belarus is playing in the final for the first time.

Stephens hasn’t played in the Fed Cup since the 2016 quarterfinals, but she said it’s been “no problem at all” slipping back onto the squad.

“Obviously, I’ve known these girls since I was 12-13 years old, so we’re all really good friends,” Stephens said. “It’s easy to be with girls you like, girls you have fun with and girls you’ve been around for a really long time.”

Stephens didn’t play from the 2016 Olympics through Wimbledon in 2017 and underwent foot surgery during that period. She arrived in Minsk after not winning any of the four matches she’s played since her surprise U.S. Open victory. She retired with a knee injury from her last match against Barbora Strycova in China last week.

Vandeweghe, in her first week at a career-high No. 10 ranking, won two Fed Cup singles points against Germany in the quarterfinals, and two singles and the doubles points against the Czech Republic in the semifinals.

But the U.S. Open semifinalist said she knows very little about this weekend’s competition, having never played Aryna Sabalenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Vera Lapko or Lidziya Marozava.

“I feel like I’m coming in with wool over my eyes a little bit,” Vandeweghe said.

Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, is not playing in the final because of an ongoing custody dispute with the father of her infant son.

If U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi wins the title, she would be the first female to do so since Billie Jean King led the Americans to the last of their record 17 titles in 2000.

“It would be a great honor to be named as another female (champion) captain alongside Billie Jean,” said Rinaldi, who is in her first year as captain. “I spoke to Billie Jean before I came over. She had some very inspiring words for me.”

Murray loses doubles match at Eastbourne

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EASTBOURNE, England (AP) Andy Murray has lost in men’s doubles for the first time since returning from hip surgery in January.

Murray and his Brazilian partner Marcelo Melo were defeated 6-2, 6-4 in the first round at Eastbourne by top-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah on Tuesday.

Murray, who struggled on serve, won the doubles title with Feliciano Lopez at the Queen’s Club on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Murray will partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert in men’s doubles at Wimbledon.

More AP Tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Kvitova to decide this week whether to play at Wimbledon

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PRAGUE — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova says she will decide later this week if she’s ready to play at the All England Club.

The 29-year-old Czech player injured her left forearm during training in Paris ahead of the French Open and has not played since. The injury prevented her from defending her title at the Birmingham Classic this week.

Kvitova wrote on Twitter that she was “Happy to tell you that my arm is improving and I just hit some balls on the beautiful grass for the first time.

The sixth-ranked Kvitova, who won the Wimbledon title in 2011 and 2014, reached the Australian Open final and won tournaments in Sydney and Stuttgart this year.