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Serena Williams talks fashion, not fouls at Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS — Serena Williams talked about her fashion business and her family, but not tennis fouls during a Friday appearance before a business trade group in Las Vegas.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion wasn’t asked about gender equality in sports or an argument she had last weekend with the chair umpire at her U.S. Open finals match in New York during about 25 minutes onstage with Sarah Robb O’Hagan, chief executive of Flywheel Sports, at the National Retail Federation trade show.

Williams, who took no questions from the audience, said previously she felt she had been treated more harshly than a male player would have been for smashing her racket and arguing with match official Carlos Ramos during her straight-set finals loss to Naomi Osaka of Japan on Sept. 8 in New York.

Williams received three code violations and was penalized a point and one game. She was later fined $17,000.

The incident drew a volley of commentary in recent days.

Tennis icon Billie Jean King said she believes tennis applies a double standard to women compared with men, and a similar outburst by a male player would have drawn no repercussions.

A cartoon caricature of Williams appeared in an Australian newspaper drew comparisons to U.S. racial stereotypes of the past.

In Croatia, U.S. Davis Cup team captain Jim Courier said he thought the gender issue had been polarized and, in some ways, politicized.

“It’s been quite the week,” O’Hagan said before steering the conversation away from controversy.

“It isn’t the first time you have had to deal with unfair judgment against you, and yet you have this amazing ability to come back with such courage and grace,” she said.

She drew applause praising Williams for calming a riled-up audience that booed the U.S. Open outcome to refocus the moment on Osaka’s victory.

“I feel it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in,” Williams said, “especially if it can affect the future and affect a lot of people in the future. That’s what it’s all about.”

Williams also was asked about what O’Hagan termed “epic comebacks” during her 20-year tennis career, including having a baby a little more than a year ago.

The tennis star, who has her own fashion line, advised business owners to “really figure out, `What can I do to revamp and bring it back to the top?”‘

“Really, it’s just about having a great team … and rolling up your sleeves and hard work,” Williams said. “I work really, really hard at my game. And then I work super hard at my fashion business. And I’m working incredibly hard at being a mom.”

Bencic beats 2-time defending champ Svitolina in Dubai semi

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic stopped Elina Svitolina’s bid for a third consecutive title at the Dubai Championships by beating her 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in the semifinals Friday.

The 45th-ranked Bencic won her third match in a row against a top-10 opponent and will face yet another, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, in Saturday’s final at the hard-court tournament.

Kvitova advanced to her third final of 2019 by edging Hsieh Su-wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The No. 2-seeded Kvitova picked up her tour-high 17th victory of 2019.

Bencic is seeking her third career title, Kvitova her 27th.

Against No. 6 seed Svitolina, Bencic trailed 5-3 in the third set. This was her latest in a string of comebacks. She saved six match points against eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, then erased a set deficit to beat third-seeded Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

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Bencic upsets Halep to reach Dubai semifinals

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic rallied to beat second-ranked Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday to reach the Dubai Championships semifinals.

Bencic, who saved six match points in the previous round against Aryna Sabalenka, failed to capitalize on an early break in the first set but Halep continued to struggle with her serve and was broken seven times in total. Bencic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and then raced out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, having won six games in a row. Halep, who was playing her ninth match in 13 days after reaching the final in Qatar last week, got one break back but Bencic broke again for a 5-2 lead before converting her third match point.

Second-seeded Petra Kvitova had no such problems, winning the last eight games to oust Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-0 to book her spot in the last four. Kvitova, the 2013 Dubai champion, needed just 62 minutes to wrap up the win. She will next face Su-wei Hsieh of Taiwan, who came from 5-1 down in the final set to beat fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. It was the latest upset for Hsieh, who ousted Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Wednesday.

In the final quarterfinal, Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain was playing Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports