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Sloane Stephens loses to Andrea Petkovic at Citi Open

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens continued her tendency for all-or-nothing showings at tournaments, losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the second round of the Citi Open to 91st-ranked Andrea Petkovic on Wednesday.

Stephens was seeded No. 2 at the hard-court event, which she won in 2015 for her first WTA title. It’s a tuneup for the year’s last major, the U.S. Open, where she will begin the defense of her first Grand Slam title later this month.

“Hopefully,” Stephens said, “some things connect in the next couple of weeks.”

Her best results this season were a runner-up finish at the French Open and a title at the Miami Open. But take away those tournaments, and the American is 10-11 in 2018, including first-round exits at Wimbledon last month and the Australian Open in January.

Against Petkovic, Stephens put only 59 percent of her first serves in play and was broken four times.

“I didn’t serve great, but that’s not what lost me the match,” Stephens said. “She just played better than me.”

Stephens’ loss leaves the Citi Open women’s draw without either of its top two seeds; No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki withdrew Tuesday because of a leg injury.

In men’s action, 13th-seeded Frances Tiafoe picked up his first victory at his hometown ATP tournament, beating 120th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-2, 6-4 with the help of 10 aces.

Tiafoe, a 20-year-old who grew up in nearby Hyatsville, Maryland, called his performance “nice, quick, efficient.”

He showed up to his postmatch news conference wearing a red T-shirt with the words, “Rep your city,” after needing just 75 minutes to win in front of a crowd that included his parents, brother and “couple aunts, couple uncles.”

Tiafoe entered the day 0-2 at the Citi Open.

He was scheduled to play doubles later Wednesday alongside another local player, Denis Kudla of Arlington, Virginia, who also won in singles, eliminating No. 12 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-2, 6-3.

Another seeded player lost when No. 14 Jeremy Chardy of France was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Marius Copil of Romania.

No. 15 Mischa Zverev of Germany moved into the third round by defeating Tim Smyczek of the U.S. 6-2, 7-6 (7). Zverev’s next match could be against his younger brother, No. 1 seed and defending champion Alexander. It would be their first main-draw meeting on the ATP tour. Alexander Zverev was scheduled to resume his match against Malek Jaziri later Wednesday; it was suspended because of rain Tuesday night after Zverev took the first set 6-2.

No. 5 seed Nick Kyrgios withdrew because of an injured left hip that he said he hurt “after a sudden movement” during last week’s tournament in Atlanta. Kyrgios said he didn’t want to risk aggravating the injury ahead of bigger tournaments than the Citi Open, such as next week’s Toronto Masters and the U.S. Open.

John Isner advances to final on Newport’s hot grass courts

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NEWPORT, R.I. — Top-seeded John Isner overcame extremely hot conditions and a first-set tiebreaker loss to beat fourth-seeded Ugo Humbert of France 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Saturday and advance to the Hall of Fame Open final.

The 34-year-old American will face Alexander Bublik, a 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4 winner over Marcel Granollers of Spain. The 22-year-old Bublik, from Kazakhstan, reached his first career ATP final.

The matches were played before induction ceremonies for the 2019 class of Li Na from China, Mary Pierce of France, and Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Playing in a feel-like temperature in the 90s, Isner, ranked 15th in the world coming into the week, broke in the second game of the final set – the first break of the match – en route to his fourth final on Newport’s grass courts. He won in 2011, `12 and ’17.

“The length of the match is fine. That’s what happens, especially with matches like mine,” the big-serving Isner said. “It’s really hot and humid and takes a lot (out) of you. To be honest, I don’t feel really great right now.”

Isner is into his 28th ATP final.

In a match that lasted 2 hours, 44 minutes, started in sunshine and ended with shadows creeping nearly halfway across the court, Isner had two aces in the final game to go up 40-0.

He hit a forehand winner at the net and pumped his fist when it ended.

Isner hit a forehand winner down the line to win the second-set tiebreaker and force the deciding set.

“That was a big shot,” he said. “I always say when I win the second set, I’m going to win the match.”

Bublik broke in the fifth game of the final set to take control of his match.

Just before he closed it out, an elderly female fan, seated courtside in the sun, was carried out on a chair by two men with ushers helping. The feel-like temperature at the time was in the upper 90s with the sun beating down on the court and some spectators.

“It’s hot,” said Bublik when asked about the conditions during a post-match interview on the court. “I’m just glad I won a match.”

The stadium seating and courtside seats – both located in the sun and usually at least about three-quarters full on induction day – had less than a hundred people seated for both semifinals.

Li Na’s journey to stretch from China to Hall of Fame

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NEW YORK — Li Na remembers first watching a tennis match on TV, drawn to the unforgettable style of one of the players.

Andre Agassi had long hair, an earring and wore denim shorts, and made an instant fan in China.

“Andre Agassi is my role model,” Li said.

Li went on to become one herself.

The first player from Asia to win a Grand Slam singles title, she will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend, celebrated not only for her skills on the court but for her contribution to the growth of the sport in her country.

“She’s like an icon in China. She’s a huge superstar,” said Mike Silverman, the director of sport for New York’s City Parks Foundation.

Li conducted a clinic with children from the organization on Thursday and her influence was obvious. Many of the young players were Asian, including one teenage boy Silverman thinks is good enough to get a college scholarship. They were probably too young to remember much of her career – she retired in 2014 because of knee problems – but her impact didn’t end when her playing days did.

“There’s no question that Li Na, when she was playing and even now, tennis in China has never been the same since she won the French Open,” Silverman said. “It changed everything.”

That was in 2011, when more than 116 million people in China watched the final. Li added a second major title in 2014 at the Australian Open after twice losing in its final, rose to No. 2 in the WTA rankings and earned more than 500 singles wins.

“At least I always try my best in tennis on the court,” Li said. “If you try everything I think one day for sure there will be payback.”

The mother of two children is a little nervous about the induction ceremony in Newport, Rhode Island, as she tries to put together her thoughts in English. But perhaps she can take a lesson from something else she admired about Agassi.

“He never cared about what other people say, he just did his own,” said Li, who is joined in this year’s class by fellow two-time Grand Slam singles champions Mary Pierce of France and Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia.

Li said she can see the growth of tennis in China, where the WTA Finals will be played in Shenzhen and which got another event on the tour’s calendar this year when the former Connecticut Open was moved to Zhengzhou.

“It’s not only good for the athletes, it’s also good for the fans to have less traveling,” Li said. “They can see a high-level tournament in China.”

Fans can see plenty of them, as there are nine women’s tournaments in China after the U.S. Open. The country may not have a long tennis history, but Li thinks it will continue to get bigger.

“For me, I think China tennis is still young,” she said. “They can have a lot of time to grow up.”