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Top-ranked Halep beats Mertens at Madrid Open

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MADRID (AP) Top-ranked Simona Halep reached the third round of the Madrid Open by beating Elise Mertens 6-0, 6-3 on Tuesday.

Halep converted her fifth match point to win her 14th straight match in Madrid and stay on track for a third consecutive title in the Spanish capital.

“I knew she was coming with a lot of confidence,” Halep said. “I had to start very strong and aggressive, which I did. After I played a few games I felt really good.”

The 16th-ranked Mertens has played well this year but struggled from the start at the Magic Box and ended up with 31 unforced errors and five double faults.

She was coming off an impressive 13-match winning streak, with titles in Morocco, Switzerland and Tasmania. She also reached the Australian Open semifinals, losing to eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep next faces Kristyna Pliskova, who defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-5, 6-2.

“She’s serving pretty strong,” said Halep, who beat Pliskova in Madrid in 2017. “I have to just watch a little bit how I played last year and to do it again. I believe I can win the match but I always expect a tough one.”

Petra Kvitova defeated Monica Puig 6-3, 7-6 (8) to record her seventh straight win.

In the first round of the men’s event, Robin Haase ended a four-match losing streak by beating Hyeon Chung 6-2, 6-0.

Denis Shapovalov hit 38 winners to defeat Benoit Paire 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4 in the second round while 11th seed Roberto Bautista Agut beat Jared Donaldson 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4 in the first round.

Borna Coric upset ninth seed Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-2 in another first-round match.

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Larsson beats Riske to win Nuremberg Cup

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NUREMBERG, Germany — Swedish player Johanna Larsson won her first WTA singles title in three years by beating Alison Riske of the United States 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the final of the Nuremberg Cup on Saturday.

Her only other career singles victory was on home soil at Bastad in 2015.

Having come from a set down to win matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Larsson rallied from a break down in the first set and won the last four points of the tiebreaker. Larsson then won the final five games to take the match and deny Riske a second career singles title.

“When I held for 4-2, I could see some signs that she was a little bit tired,” Larsson said, “and that gave me a lot of energy to fight back.”

Pavlyuchenkova labors past Cibulkova to win at Strasbourg

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STRASBOURG, France — Third-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia won the Strasbourg International after laboring to a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6) win against Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia on Saturday.

They spent 3 hours, 35 minutes on court in a grueling contest, which ended when Pavlyuchenkova sealed victory on her second serve.

Pavlyuchenkova won her first title of the year and 12th overall, beating Cibulkova for the fourth time in their 11 career meetings.

Fifth-seeded Cibulkova was bidding for her ninth career title.

Both players head to the French Open in Paris, where first-round play starts Sunday.

Cibulkova reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2009, while Pavlyuchenkova reached her only quarterfinal there in 2013.