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Venus advances to quarters at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Venus Williams defeated Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 7-6 (8), 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday as the oldest woman in the draw.

The 37-year-old American was coming off a straight-set victory over younger sister Serena a night earlier, ending a three-match skid against her sibling.

“It was a quick turnaround from last night when it feels like, `Hey, this is a final to you’re only in the fourth round,”‘ Williams said on court.

Playing under cloudy skies in 80-degree heat, Williams had her hands full with Sevastova, who used drop shots, top spin, lobs and jerked her 10-years-older opponent side to side.

“It was not an easy match to figure out,” Williams said. “She has everything in her game. I had the crowd behind me and that felt good.”

After early losses in her first two tournaments of the year, Williams hasn’t dropped a set at Indian Wells, where she has yet to reach the final in six previous appearances.

Simona Halep is on track to retain her No. 1 world ranking after defeating Wang Qiang of China 7-5, 6-1 in the fourth round.

Halep improved to 17-1 this year and needs only to reach the final to stay at the top. If not, Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Halep in the Australian Open final, could replace her if the Dane wins the title. Halep and Wozniacki are the only former Indian Wells winners left in the women’s draw.

Next up for Halep is Petra Martic of Croatia, who beat Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-6 (4).

American teenager Amanda Anisimova’s run of success ended in a 6-1, 7-6 (2) loss to No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

Anisimova, a 16-year-old wild card, won her first three WTA Tour matches at Indian Wells, beating Pauline Parmentier, No. 23 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova without dropping a set.

“She’s 16, so she’s not scared,” Pliskova said of Anisimova. “You can see she’s hitting the ball without thinking. But everybody is playing like this when they are 16. I think this will change a little bit in the future, but for sure the game is good and not really any weakness. I think everything is pretty solid.”

Pliskova faces a quarterfinal against Naomi Osaka, who beat Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 5-7, 6-1.

Halep attended 37-year-old Venus Williams’ straight-set victory over 36-year-old sister and new mother Serena on Monday night.

“I love the way that they are motivated and they are still playing at this age, Serena with the kid,” Halep said. “It’s a great thing what they do for sport, and it’s great that tennis has them. I have many things to learn from them. That’s why I’m trying just to go in to watch every time I can.”

On the men’s side, Gael Monfils retired in the second set with a back injury trailing fellow Frenchman Pierre-Hughes Herbert 6-2, 3-1.

Monfils used an eight-minute injury timeout in the second set to get his back worked on before returning to the court and getting broken in fourth game. He then walked to the net and ended the match.

Herbert moved on to a fourth-round matchup with Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, who upset No. 2 seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4.

Cilic won 19 of 23 points on his first serve, but failed to convert four break points against 31st-seeded Kohlschreiber, who snapped a 12-match skid against top-10 opponents.

Herbert remains in contention for the $1 million bonus offered to a player who sweeps the singles and doubles titles.

No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina defeated No. 29 David Ferrer of Spain 6-4, 7-6 (3) for the fifth straight time.

With Cilic, Ferrer, Novak Djokovic, Monfils and John Isner all eliminated from his quarter of the draw, things are looking wide open for del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion. Top-ranked Roger Federer and del Potro are the highest seeds remaining.

“I’m not thinking about that. I just want to keep winning,” del Potro said. “Still far away from the final, but of course, any chance to play with Roger would be great.”

Del Potro’s countryman, Leonardo Mayer, beat Japanese qualifier Taro Daniel 6-4, 6-1. Mayer next plays del Potro.

No. 18 Sam Querrey rallied past Indian qualifier Yuki Bhambri 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-4.

No. 32 Milos Raonic of Canada defeated Joao Sousa of Portugal 7-5, 4-6, 6-2 and will meet Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, who beat lucky loser Dudi Sela of Israel 7-6 (7), 6-4.

 

Nadal beats Zverev for Italian Open title

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ROME — Rafael Nadal came out on top in a matchup of this year’s top two clay-court players, beating defending champion Alexander Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 Sunday to win a record-extending eighth Italian Open title.

Nadal recovered from an early break in the third set after a 50-minute rain delay.

The victory means Nadal will reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Roger Federer on Monday.

Federer is sitting out the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon.

Nadal and Zverev had each won two titles on clay this season entering the final, with Nadal lifting trophies in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and Zverev taking Munich and Madrid.

Nadal improved to 5-0 in his career against Zverev and gained an extra measure of confidence entering the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

Earlier, Elina Svitolina defended the women’s title, facing little resistance from top-ranked Simona Halep in a 6-0, 6-4 win.

Svitolina defends Italian Open title as Halep injured again

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ROME – Elina Svitolina faced little resistance from Simona Halep in a 6-0, 6-4 win Sunday to defend her Italian Open title.

Just like in last year’s final, Halep appeared bothered by an injury.

The top-ranked Romanian called a trainer onto the court for an apparent back problem while trailing 2-3 in the second set then exited the court for treatment under a medical timeout.

“I was a little bit too stiff with my body and I couldn’t stay in the rallies,” Halep said. “The muscles were stiff. I couldn’t run.”

Last year, Halep rolled her ankle in the final and lost a set lead to Svitolina.

This time, Svitolina didn’t face a single break point in a match that lasted just 67 minutes.

“It’s amazing that I could come and defend my title here,” Svitolina said. “It’s really something very, very special for me.”

Halep said her physical problems were the result of a long three-set win over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals a day earlier

“Every time I play against Sharapova the ball is coming very flat and I bend down a lot,” Halep said.

The fourth-ranked Svitolina became the first woman to defend her title at the Foro Italico since Serena Williams accomplished the feat in 2013 and 2014. The Ukrainian picked up a winner’s check of 507,000 euros (nearly $600,000) for her 12th career title.

Svitolina improved to 4-2 in her career against Halep, who had already secured the No. 1 ranking for another week by reaching the semifinals.

“She deserved to win for sure,” Halep said. “She didn’t miss. I missed.”

Later, Rafael Nadal was aiming for a record-extending eighth Rome title against defending champion Alexander Zverev.

This is the last major warmup for the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“In a Grand Slam it’s very tricky,” said Svitolina, who has never made it beyond the quarterfinals at a major. “But I’m definitely going to Roland Garros on a high note.”