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Stan Wawrinka regains form to stun Grigor Dimitrov

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LONDON — Out of form and a set down to Grigor Dimitrov after just 23 minutes, Stan Wawrinka was just about the only person on Centre Court who believed he could win.

The three-time Grand Slam champion – whose ranking has fallen to 224 following knee surgery – proved himself right, rallying to defeat the sixth-seeded Dimitrov 1-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-4 at Wimbledon on Monday to claim just his second Grand Slam victory since last year’s Wimbledon.

Wawrinka received a fillip earlier when his girlfriend Donna Vekic pulled off a top-10 triumph of her own, defeating fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-3.

“It was a good day for us at the office,” Wawrinka said. “That’s for sure.”

After missing the second half of 2017 following surgery on his left knee, Wawrinka has struggled to regain his form since returning at the Australian Open in January.

The 33-year-old Swiss won just three matches across four tournaments at the start of the year, prompting him to take another three-month break.

The second edition of the comeback had been even more concerning, with just two wins in five tournaments climaxing with a thrashing from fellow long-term injury victim Andy Murray who, despite that victory, deemed himself unfit to compete at Wimbledon.

Wawrinka’s prospects at the All England Club were bleak, and appeared bleaker when he was drawn against 2014 semifinalist Dimitrov in the opening round. Wawrinka had never beaten a top-10 player on grass.

“I had to put myself together again, to try to fight, try to find (a) solution,” said Wawrinka of his thought process after dropping the first set.

He found it. The Swiss doubled his winner count and lifted his first-serve percentage to level the set score through a tiebreaker, and toughed out a high-quality third set via the same method.

Wawrinka’s serve carried him to a 5-4 lead in the fourth, before he pounced on his first opening of the set to seal victory.

Vekic said after her win over the U.S. Open champion: “I’m really happy that I was the first one today so now I can watch him a little bit. It’s not easy when there’s two matches in one day, we’re both kind of a little bit stressed but it’s good if we both win.”

Stress levels in the Wawrinka-Vekic household will be a lot lower on Tuesday.

Federer off to winning start in bid for 10th Halle title

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HALLE, Germany (AP) Roger Federer began his bid for a record-extending 10th Halle Open title with a 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Australia’s John Millman on Tuesday, with defending champion Borna Coric also advancing.

Federer, who lost to Coric in last year’s final, hit nine aces and saved the only break point he faced to beat Millman in 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Federer next faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated French compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5 at the grass-court tournament.

Federer already has the best grass-court record in the Open era with 18 titles, and the 37-year-old can set a personal record with his 10th at a single event in Halle.

Federer and Tsonga played only once before on grass, with the French player coming from two sets down to win at Wimbledon in 2011.

The fourth-seeded Coric defeated Spain’s Jaume Munar 7-6 (2), 6-3 and will next face Portuguese qualifier Joao Sousa in the second round.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who won the Stuttgart Open on Sunday, defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-4 for a second-round meeting with compatriot Andreas Seppi.

Seppi beat Mats Moraing 6-4 (7), 6-4.

Other winners Tuesday included Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, Richard Gasquet, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Jan-Lennard Struff.

Top-ranked Osaka gets 1st-round win in Birmingham on grass

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BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) A day after saying she was “not really that comfortable” playing on grass, top-ranked Naomi Osaka needed three sets to get past her first-round opponent at the Birmingham Classic on Tuesday.

Osaka lost the second set to Maria Sakkari of Greece before recovering to win 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, for only her 11th tour-level victory on grass.

“I was kind of screaming on the inside during that entire match,” Osaka said in her on-court interview. “I got lucky a little bit, I guess.”

Osaka has yet to make it past the third round at Wimbledon, which starts on July 1.

“I felt better than the two practice days,” Osaka said. “And I feel every day that I play on grass of course I’m going to learn how to play better, but for now I’m just really happy I was able to win that match.”

Osaka needs to reach the final in Birmingham to guarantee holding on to top spot in the rankings heading into Wimbledon.

“During my entire clay season, it kind of mattered and I think it showed because I was kind of stressed out the entire time,” she said. “So, now, I’m just having fun. I’m enjoying it. And I know that if I play well, then I’ll be No. 1.”

Osaka will next face Yulia Putintseva, who defeated Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-1, 6-4.

Rain washed out much of the schedule Tuesday, with second-seeded Ashleigh Barty – the newly crowned French Open champion – among those who will have to try again on Wednesday.

Julia Goerges recovered to defeat Dayana Yastremska 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 while former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko eased past Wimbledon junior champion Iga Swiatek 6-0, 6-2 and will now face Johanna Konta.

Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic set up a first tour-level meeting with her twin sister, Karolina, by defeating Viktoriya Tomova 6-3, 6-4.