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Nastase tennis bans reduced 8 months on appeal, fine doubled

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LONDON (AP) Ilie Nastase had two tennis bans reduced by eight months and his fine doubled to $20,000 on Wednesday following his appeal of International Tennis Federation sanctions for foul-mouthed comments and misconduct as the Romanian Fed Cup captain.

The ITF suspended the 71-year-old Nastase from Fed Cup and Davis Cup events and from working in an official capacity in the sport after his outbursts in April. On Wednesday, the independent tribunal found Nastase in breach of four articles of the ITF’s welfare policy.

The tribunal agreed that Nastase, the 1973 French Open champion, hurled abuse at British player Johanna Konta and the umpire during a Fed Cup match and made “unwelcome advances of a sexual nature” toward Britain’s captain Anne Keothavong.

The tribunal ruled Nastase can attend ITF competitions, such as Fed Cup and Davis Cup, starting on April 24. The ban doesn’t apply to Grand Slam, ATP or WTA tournaments, which are not under the ITF’s jurisdiction.

He can return in an official capacity to ITF events on April 24, 2020.

The tribunal also backed the ITF’s judgment that Nastase made “abusive and threatening comments to a member of the accredited media” and “racially insensitive” remarks about the possible skin color of the then-unborn baby of Serena Williams.

However, Nastase issued his own interpretation Wednesday in a statement released in Bucharest.

Nastase said he welcomed the “conclusion that I am not a racist, nor that I had any racist intentions when I made the remark in relation to Ms Serena Williams’ child.”

Williams had called Nastase’s comments toward her racist and his verbal abuse of players as sexist. Nastase apologized last April in a statement on Facebook.

“While I have learned my lesson from this experience, I also hope that now (the ITF) will realize that their treatment toward me was exaggerated,” he said in the statement Wednesday.

Nastase, a former top-ranked player, was barred last year from the French Open and was not invited to the Royal Box at Wimbledon, where he was a two-time finalist.

Nastase earned the nickname “Nasty” for his on-court outbursts and gamesmanship in his playing heyday in the 1970s.

Stephens beats Osaka in three sets at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — In a match between the last two U.S. Open champions, Sloane Stephens came out on top.

The 2017 champion beat Naomi Osaka 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 Monday at the WTA Finals, the season-ending tournament for the top eight players in the world.

Both players are making their debut appearances at the tournament, but Stephens appeared to be more composed while Osaka, who became the first Japanese citizen to win a Grand Slam title last month in New York, never seemed comfortable.

“I’m just really happy to get through and play a good competitive match,” Stephens said on court after the match. “I never gave up. I knew she’s been playing well and I’d have to play really good tennis to beat her.”

Both players struggled to hold serve. Osaka was broken on seven of 19 break-point opportunities, while Stephens was broken on four of 12.

Stephens entered the tournament with 33 wins this season, the least of any of the eight qualifiers. She reached her second career Grand Slam final at this year’s French Open, and won the Miami title.

Osaka continually showed her frustration during the match. When she failed to capitalize on four break points in the fourth game of the second set, she made a visible shrugging gesture with both hands.

Stephens gifted the second set to Osaka when she double-faulted on a second set point in the 10th game. But Osaka appeared to be mentally fatigued and only managed to hold serve in the third game of the final set.

Stephens is now 1-0 in the Red Group, while Osaka is 0-1. Angelique Kerber and Kiki Bertens are also in the group.

Tsitsipas wins Stockholm Open; becomes first Greek to claim ATP title

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STOCKHOLM — Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first Greek tennis player to win an ATP World Tour title when he beat Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Stockholm Open on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Tsitsipas tossed his racket in the air and put both hands to his head when Gulbis put a forehand into the net after 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Tsitsipas had lost his previous two finals, both times to Rafael Nadal. The No. 145-ranked Gulbis was an easier proposition, though, and Tsitsipas won 80 percent of his service points and didn’t have his serve broken.

“Of course I feel happy because I’m the first Greek (to win an ATP title),” said 16th-ranked Tsitsipas, who became the 12th first-time title-winner on the ATP Tour this year. “Hopefully many Greek players can achieve something like this. I would be super-happy to see them achieve something like this in the future.”

Gulbis had won all six of his finals at ATP tournaments. This was his first since 2014, having beaten top-seeded John Isner in the semifinals.

It was still a great week for Gulbis, who only had four tour-level wins this season before coming to the Swedish capital.

“He played a really good match. He had a great week,” Gulbis said. “I know it’s a big deal to win your first ATP title, so enjoy it. I wish that it’s not the last one.”