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Rafael Nadal defeats Simone Bolelli in first round of Roland Garros

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PARIS (AP) Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided dropping a set at the French Open for the first time in three years and finished off his rain-interrupted 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9) victory over 129th-ranked Simone Bolelli of Italy.

Beginning his bid for a record-extending 11th championship at Roland Garros, Nadal needed to erase four set points to close things out Tuesday.

Bolelli produced a drop volley winner for a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker, but Nadal discarded that trio of set points with an ace, a backhand volley winner and an inside-out forehand winner. Bolelli then had another set point at 7-6, but put a forehand return in the net.

From there, it took Nadal three match points to finish, reaching the second round when Bolelli missed a forehand.

Nadal grabbed the opening two sets Monday, but trailed 3-0 in the third when play was suspended because of rain.

Nadal hasn’t ceded a set at the French Open since 2015, when he was beaten in the quarterfinals by Novak Djokovic. In 2016, Nadal withdrew with an injured left wrist after a pair of easy victories, then claimed every set he played last year en route to the trophy.

Bencic beats 2-time defending champ Svitolina in Dubai semi

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic stopped Elina Svitolina’s bid for a third consecutive title at the Dubai Championships by beating her 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in the semifinals Friday.

The 45th-ranked Bencic won her third match in a row against a top-10 opponent and will face yet another, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, in Saturday’s final at the hard-court tournament.

Kvitova advanced to her third final of 2019 by edging Hsieh Su-wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The No. 2-seeded Kvitova picked up her tour-high 17th victory of 2019.

Bencic is seeking her third career title, Kvitova her 27th.

Against No. 6 seed Svitolina, Bencic trailed 5-3 in the third set. This was her latest in a string of comebacks. She saved six match points against eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, then erased a set deficit to beat third-seeded Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

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Bencic upsets Halep to reach Dubai semifinals

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic rallied to beat second-ranked Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday to reach the Dubai Championships semifinals.

Bencic, who saved six match points in the previous round against Aryna Sabalenka, failed to capitalize on an early break in the first set but Halep continued to struggle with her serve and was broken seven times in total. Bencic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and then raced out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, having won six games in a row. Halep, who was playing her ninth match in 13 days after reaching the final in Qatar last week, got one break back but Bencic broke again for a 5-2 lead before converting her third match point.

Second-seeded Petra Kvitova had no such problems, winning the last eight games to oust Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-0 to book her spot in the last four. Kvitova, the 2013 Dubai champion, needed just 62 minutes to wrap up the win. She will next face Su-wei Hsieh of Taiwan, who came from 5-1 down in the final set to beat fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. It was the latest upset for Hsieh, who ousted Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Wednesday.

In the final quarterfinal, Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain was playing Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

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