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Maria Sharapova advances at Rogers Cup

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MONTREAL — Maria Sharapova advanced to the second round of the Rogers Cup with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria on Tuesday.

Play resumed under the afternoon sun with Sharapova leading 4-1 in the first set after heavy rain and lightning forced organizers to suspend the match late Monday following a three-hour rain delay.

Sharapova, making her first Rogers Cup appearance since 2014, picked up where she left off Monday. She won six straight games after the restart and needed only 36 minutes to win the second set.

The 31-year-old had three aces and only committed two double faults to her opponent’s 11.

“Would have loved to finish last night to get a break today, but that’s not how things work,” Sharapova said. “You have to adjust. I think I did a good job of finishing the job today.”

The Russian is 5-0 all time against the 229th-ranked Karatantcheva, who was playing in her first WTA main draw in more than a year.

Sharapova, ranked 22nd in the world, will face Daria Kasatkina of Russia (No. 12) or Maria Sakkari of Greece (No. 31) in the second round.

Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard is out after a 6-2, 6-4 first-round loss to Elise Mertens of Belgium.

The 129th-ranked Bouchard lost the match in 1 hour, 34 minutes in front of her hometown fans as she dropped to 4-11 all time at the Rogers Cup.

The Westmount, Quebec, native started the match poorly. She was broken three times and dropped the first five games of the first set.

The 24-year-old showed signs of life though, winning back-to-back games in the first set before losing 6-2. She started the second set by winning her first three games.

But Bouchard’s service game let her down the entire match, and it allowed Mertens to claw her way back into the second set.

Bouchard was broken twice in the second, for a total of five times in the match, as Mertens won the next five games en route to the victory.

Bouchard connected on just 54 percent of her first serves and won 56 percent of her first service points.

The 15th-ranked Mertens, who is making her Rogers Cup debut, will now face either Shuai Zhang of China (No. 32) or qualifier Barbora Krejcikova (No. 232) of the Czech Republic in the second round.

Bouchard has not beaten a top-20 player since defeating Angelique Kerber at the Madrid Open in May 2017.

Earlier Tuesday, Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko was eliminated after a 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-2 loss to Britain’s Johanna Konta.

Ostapenko, the 11th seed in Montreal, committed 10 double faults while struggling with her serve as she was eliminated in the first round at the Rogers Cup for the third straight year.

Konta had eight aces while committing just three double faults.

“Because of the back and forth in that first set, after that what I did well was I settled down,” said Konta, the former world No. 4. “I played myself into the match and tried to be as tough as possible.

“She has such a big game, so many big shots, sometimes you are spectator out there. When I had the opportunity to do the most I could, stay strong, I think I built up enough momentum. That’s why I was able to keep pushing through in the second and third.”

In other early matches, Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands made quick work of Carol Zhao of Canada, winning 6-1, 6-2 while world No. 8 Petra Kvitova outlasted Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 6-4.

Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck cruised past Russian qualifier Sofya Zhuk 6-1, 6-2 and Sorana Cirstea beat Monica Niculescu 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in an all-Romanian matchup.

The 10th seed Julia Goerges of Germany came from a set down to beat qualifier Lucie Safarova 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Garbine Muguruza, the tournament’s eighth seed, withdrew with an arm injury. Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig took her spot in the main draw.

Rafael Nadal will play in new Davis Cup format

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MADRID — Gerard Pique is not worried about the possible absence of some top players in the revamped Davis Cup, especially since Rafael Nadal has said he will play in the new-look competition when it debuts next year.

The Barcelona defender, who spearheads the company behind the new format of the Davis Cup, said Wednesday that Nadal has told him he will play as long as he is not injured.

“If the No. 1 in the world is playing, that’s more than enough,” Pique said in the official presentation of Madrid as host of the Davis Cup finals for the next two years. “Rafa is very positive about this event, especially because it is taking place in Madrid.”

The new event was developed in a partnership between the International Tennis Federation and the investment group Kosmos, which was founded by the Barcelona and Spain player.

Pique said he knows it will not be easy to have all top-ranked players participating.

“This is a team event, so it’s impossible to have all the top players involved. Some teams won’t qualify, not everybody will be able to play anyway,” Pique said. “Of course we would like to have the top players, but we want to focus on the teams.”

Stars such as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have already hinted they don’t intend to play. Djokovic said the tournament could be competing with the ATP’s World Team Cup, while Federer said the revamped Davis Cup didn’t seem to be designed for him.

Pique said he already didn’t expect Federer to be playing, noting the Swiss veteran has limited his tournament schedule in recent years and might not “have the legs” to play in the Davis Cup again. He said he still hoped to convince Djokovic, though.

“I have a lot of confidence that we can negotiate and the top players will play,” Pique said.

The new format of tennis’ top team event will be a season-ending, 18-team tournament, but teams will still play matches in February to advance to the championship in November. The Davis Cup has previously been played over four weekends throughout the year.

The first championship will be held next year from Nov. 18-24 on an indoor hardcourt at the Magic Box arena, which already hosts the Madrid Masters. The ITF said players will compete for prize money that will rival what is offered in Grand Slams.

Pique said there is no “perfect date” for the tournament as the tennis calendar is very tight, but he was happy with the week they picked.

“We’ve spoken with everybody,” he said. “We think this is a week that won’t affect any of the other tournaments. We want to be well seen in the tennis world. We are here to help. We think this will be a magical week for the world of tennis.”

The 2018 Davis Cup semifinalists – Croatia, France, Spain and the United States – have already secured their spot in next year’s tournament, along with Argentina and Britain.

Defending champion France will host Croatia in the last Davis Cup final in the current format from Nov. 23-25 in Lille.

Stephens, Pliskova both lose at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW — Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova were both eliminated from the Kremlin Cup on Wednesday, with the latter result ensuring that Elina Svitolina has qualified for the WTA Finals.

The fifth-ranked Pliskova lost to Russian veteran Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-2, holding serve only once in the match.

Because of the loss, Svitolina will play in the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore. Pliskova can still qualify, but she could also be overtaken by Kiki Bertens.

The 34-year-old Zvonareva, a former Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist, will next face Anastasija Sevastova in the quarterfinals. The Latvian beat Yulia Putintseva 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Stephens lost to Tunisian qualifier Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-2. The third-seeded American, who had a first-round bye, lost her opening service games in each set.

Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, secured qualification for the WTA Finals last week after a strong season which included reaching the French Open final.

Jabeur will next face Anett Kontaveit in the quarterfinals. The eighth-seeded Estonian beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 7-6 (3).

In the men’s draw, Ricardas Berankis beat Aljaz Bedene 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) to reach the quarterfinals.