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Muguruza gets ready to defend Wimbledon title

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza isn’t lacking confidence as she starts the buildup to defending her Wimbledon title.

“I believe I can win the trophy again,” said the 24-year-old Spaniard, despite playing on grass – a surface she hasn’t always liked.

“The tricky part (of grass) is adapting the body and movement. Other surfaces are more comfortable for the body,” Muguruza said. “You have to run in a certain way. The ball bounces less, the balls are heavier, the court is faster … But I think my movement and physical capacity and strength, all have improved a lot.”

Muguruza faces Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in their opener at the grass-court Nature Valley Classic, which starts Monday in Birmingham, two weeks before Wimbledon.

Muguruza said “hopefully I’ll get as many matches as possible” in Birmingham as preparation for Wimbledon.

“It meant such a lot to win Wimbledon, because I had lost in the final before (in 2015) and I didn’t know if I could do it … it’s special to go back as defending champion. But I am not thinking about it too much, and I am taking it just naturally. Nothing really matters, whatever happens to me.”

Muguruza won the 2016 French Open but lost to Simona Halep in the semifinals earlier this month at Roland Garros. She won the Wimbledon title last year with a 7-5, 6-0 win over Venus Williams.

Muguruza said she will take Wimbledon one match at a time.

“There are seven matches and two weeks,” Muguruza said. “You come and think about your first match, your first training, your first practice. And little by little you move forward”.

But that approach still requires overcoming any inhibitions about grass.

Muguruza said she feels like Rafael Nadal and, further back, Chris Evert, whose tennis upbringing was on very different surfaces from grass but who successfully adapted to win Wimbledon singles titles – Nadal (2) and Evert (3).

“I didn’t like it for sure (when I first came),” Muguruza said. “It’s very different. There are no grass courts in Spain. It took two or three years to be more positive. Now I enjoy it.”

Dimitrov, Edmund win to give Europe 2-0 lead in Laver Cup

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CHICAGO — Britain’s Kyle Edmund regained command in a tiebreaker and beat American Jack Sock on Friday as Team Europe took a 2-0 lead in the Laver Cup.

Edmund’s 6-4, 5-7, 10-6 victory followed Grigor Dimitrov’s 6-1, 6-4 win over Frances Tiafoe of Team World in the opener at the United Center.

Edmund broke Sock’s service to capture the first set 6-4. Sock, who came out to warm up wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey over his shirt, fought back and broke Edmund to go up 6-5 in the second set before serving it out as the crowd came alive.

Edmund then raced to a 7-2 lead in the 10-point tiebreaker that is used in the Laver Cup when the first two sets are split.

Sock was to play doubles later Friday with Kevin Anderson against the Team Europe star pairing of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Dimitrov had 13 winners and two service breaks to win the first set 6-1, finishing it off with one of his five opening-set aces.

Tiafoe was a late replacement for Juan Martin del Potro on Team World. The 20-year-old American played for in the Davis Cup semifinals last weekend in Croatia, losing the deciding match in five sets to Borna Coric.

He played much tougher in the second set Friday against Dimitrov, getting a service break for 4-4 before Dimitrov broke back and served out the victory in a match that featured extended baseline rallies.

Wawrinka, Thiem reach St. Petersburg semifinals

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Top-seeded Dominic Thiem and fit-again Stan Wawrinka won their quarterfinal matches at the St. Petersburg Open on Friday.

Austrian player Thiem came through a tough encounter against Daniil Medvedev of Russia, firing 10 aces on his way to a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (2) victory.

His reward is a semifinal with Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, who won 7-6 (0), 6-3 against Marco Cecchinato.

Experienced Swiss Wawrinka, aiming for his first title since sustaining a severe knee injury last year, next plays Martin Klizan of Slovakia after beating last year’s St. Petersburg champion Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 6-4.