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Fognini fires up crowd with win over Thiem

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ROME — Fabio Fognini got the Foro Italico crowd fired up Wednesday with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win over sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem in the second round of the Italian Open.

The top Italian player came out wearing a black shirt with a red lightning bolt design down his chest and he was energized from the start, grazing the flower beds lining the court to return Thiem’s heavily angled shots and frustrating the Austrian with well-placed lobs and touch volleys.

“I played very well today,” said Thiem, who beat Rafael Nadal in the Madrid Open semifinals last week. “It was just him, he was very pumped playing at home.”

While Fognini drop-kicked his racket onto the court after a miss early in the third set, it was Thiem who ultimately lost his cool. In the final game, Thiem smashed his racket into a mangled wreck and handed it to a befuddled fan in the front row.

When Thiem netted a service return two points later to end it, the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army was blasted over the stadium sound system and the crowd began singing along in an atmosphere that more closely resembled a soccer game than a tennis match.

“The Italian crowd is great,” Thiem said. “I was expecting it that way so it was completely fine. It was fun to play with that atmosphere. … It’s a loss which is not too painful, which is just motivating me for the next weeks.”

Also on the red clay of the Foro Italico, Albert Ramos-Vinolas rallied to beat eighth-seeded John Isner 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5).

In women’s action, Simona Halep routed Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-0 for the first of two wins she needs this week to hold on to the No. 1 ranking.

Halep needs to reach at least the quarterfinals or risk losing the top spot to Caroline Wozniacki.

It was a sharp turnaround for Halep from when Osaka lost only three games against her in the Indian Wells semifinals in March – when Osaka went on to win her first career title.

Osaka wasted four break points and a chance to take a 2-0 lead in the first set, then lost 11 straight games.

“For some reason, I couldn’t get a ball in the court after that, on my backhand side,” Osaka said. “And she was playing very solid. And I knew she knew I couldn’t hit a backhand, so we were just having backhand rallies.

On Halep’s first match point, the 21st-ranked Osaka didn’t even make a move for Halep’s return of her second serve.

“I’m not that disappointed with this match, despite the score,” Osaka said. “I feel like she’s the No. 1 player in the world and she’s great on clay. And I think it was harder than what the score showed.”

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

Also, U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens held off a comeback from Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi in a 6-0, 5-7, 6-4 victory; seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia defeated Timea Babos 6-3, 6-4; and 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina eliminated American qualifier Danielle Collins 6-2, 6-3.

Defending champs Osaka, Djokovic are No. 1 seeds for US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Defending champions Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic are the No. 1 seeds for singles play in the U.S. Open.

Osaka, who beat Serena Williams in last year’s final for her first Grand Slam title, recently regained the top spot in the WTA rankings from Ash Barty. Barty is the No. 2 seed, followed by Karolina Pliskova, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and Elina Svitolina.

Williams was given the No. 8 seed Wednesday by the U.S. Tennis Association. Madison Keys, the 2017 runner-up who just won the Western & Southern Open, rounds out the top 10 seeds.

Djokovic, bidding for his second straight major title, is followed by fellow past U.S. Open champions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Dominic Thiem is No. 4 and surging Daniil Medvedev, who won the title outside Cincinnati last week in what was his third straight tournament reaching the final, is fifth.

The draw will be held Thursday and main-draw play begins Monday.

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Strycova upset in first match at WTA’s Bronx Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Wimbledon semifinalist Barbora Strycova was knocked out of the Bronx Open on Tuesday with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 loss to Bernarda Pera.

Strycova was the No. 3 seed and was playing her opening match in the new WTA tournament after receiving a first-round bye. But the 33-year-old Czech, the oldest player in the field, was handled easily by the American wild-card entrant over the final two sets on a hot afternoon after winning the first set.

Pera will play No. 5 Katerina Siniakova, who had rolled to a 6-0, 3-0 lead over Anastasia Potapova before the Russian qualifier retired.

The other quarterfinal matchup set up Tuesday will feature Camila Giorgi, who outlasted Andrea Petkovic 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), against Alize Cornet, who was leading 7-6 (5), 4-0 when Zhu Lin had to retire with an injury.