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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.”

Matteo Berrettini breaks through on grass to win Stuttgart Open

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STUTTGART, Germany — Matteo Berrettini beat Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 7-6 (11) to win the Stuttgart Open and his third tour-level title on Sunday.

The Italian saved five set points in a second-set tiebreaker and clinched his first title on grass. His other titles came at Budapest in April, and Gstaad, Switzerland, last year.

The 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime previously reached championship matches in Rio de Janeiro in February and the Lyon Open in May – both on clay.

Berrettini won all 50 of his service games during the week in Stuttgart. He did not face a break point against Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime progressed to the final in his first professional grass tournament without playing Saturday as compatriot Milos Raonic withdrew ahead of their semifinal due to back problems.

Playing on two surfaces, Vekic reaches Nottingham semis

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NOTTINGHAM, England — Former champion Donna Vekic finally got to play on grass at the Nottingham Open on Friday but had to overcome multiple rain delays and another switch indoors before reaching the semifinals.

The second-seeded Vekic defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-4 in a match played on two surfaces as rain again played havoc with the schedule.

The opening two days were completely washed out before organizers decided to switch the first and second rounds indoors as rain fell for four consecutive days.

Vekic, who won the tournament in 2017, will play Germany’s Tatjana Maria in her third straight semifinal in Nottingham. Maria earlier defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 7-6 (7) in the only match completed on grass so far at the tournament.

Also Friday, American Jennifer Brady defeated fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 7-5, 6-3 to set up a semifinal against top-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Garcia rallied to beat Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 4-6, 7-6, 6-1 in the last quarterfinal.