Stephens, Keys to reprise US Open final in French Open semis

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PARIS (AP) Shortly after easily winning her French Open quarterfinal, Sloane Stephens wanted to track down her good friend Madison Keys, who advanced in straight sets earlier Tuesday.

“I just have to go find her, because I need to tell her some juicy stuff,” Stephens said, declining to reveal the topic. “I just went and searched for her in the training room.”

They’ll see each other again soon. The two young Americans, who are both based in Florida, will face each other in the semifinals at Roland Garros on Thursday, nine months after Stephens beat Keys for the U.S. Open championship. It is the first French Open semifinal between a pair of women from the United States since Serena Williams beat Jennifer Capriati on the way to the 2002 title.

“That means one American will be in the final of a French Open, which is another amazing thing,” Stephens said. “All in all, I don’t think anyone can complain.”

Both were appearing in the quarterfinals on the red clay of Paris for the first time, and both handled the occasion well. First, at Court Suzanne Lenglen, the 13th-seeded Keys remained focused during a 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over 98th-ranked Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, never wavering when she fell behind in the opening set or when her volatile opponent could have become a distraction.

Keys built a whopping 30-12 edge in winners and won 84 percent of her first-serve points.

“Keep on playing like that,” Putintseva said, “she can go all the way here.”

Later, at Court Philippe Chatrier, Stephens was hardly troubled while beating No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in a mere 70 minutes.

“She was better than me today,” Kasatkina said. “She was moving unbelievable.”

The quarterfinals on the other side of the draw are Wednesday, involving four women who have spent time at No. 1: Simona Halep, who currently leads the WTA rankings, against No. 12 seed Angelique Kerber, and No. 3 Garbine Muguruza against No. 28 Maria Sharapova.

Halep is a three-time Grand Slam runner-up, including in Paris in 2014 and last year; Kerber is a two-time major champ elsewhere; Muguruza won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017; and Sharapova owns five Grand Slam titles, including at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.

Quite a quartet.

Stephens, 23, and Keys, 25, will quickly approach that sort of status if they maintain the form they’ve shown lately.

Their matchup provides a contrast in styles: Keys is a big hitter whose serves and forehands are the keys to her success; Stephens covers every inch of the court as well as anyone.

Stephens has won both head-to-head encounters, including the Grand Slam final debut for each at New York in September.

“Honestly,” Keys said, “the (U.S.) Open feels like it was 12 years ago, at this point. I obviously rely on what I learned there and how to manage my emotions and manage the moment.”

Now one will get to play in her second major title match.

Until the moment they step into the main stadium at Roland Garros for Thursday’s semifinal, both promised, there will be no awkwardness between them.

“Everything will be normal,” Stephens said. “And then when we get on the court, it’s time to compete. It’s `go time.’ Until then, we’re the same girls, as always.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.