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Svitolina, Pliskova win opening matches at WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE — Karolina Pliskova and Elina Svitolina secured opening round-robin match wins at the WTA Finals on Sunday.

Pliskova, who now leads the tour with 48 wins this season, defeated defending champion Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-2, 6-4 in the second match.

Pliskova saved all 10 break points she faced in the match, including two when serving for the match in the final game. The Czech closed out the match on a third match point with an ace.

Earlier, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine ended a seven-match losing streak against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic for a 6-3, 6-3 win.

The seventh-ranked Svitolina, making her second consecutive appearance in Singapore, only earned qualification to this year’s tournament last week when Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens failed to reach the Moscow semifinals. Later, Bertens made the final eight when No. 1-ranked Simona Halep withdrew with a herniated disk in her back.

“It’s very nice to be back in Singapore and I’m very, very happy with the match tonight,” Svitolina told the crowd. “I had to stay focused and be strong mentally. I had to play quickly and keep moving my feet so I need a massage now.

“You have to play your best level because everybody is very strong playing here.”

Svitolina, who now holds a 1-0 record in the White Group, had only beaten Kvitova once before in their first match at the 2014 Cincinnati tournament. Sunday’s victory was Svitolina’s first win against a top-10 opponent since May.

The Ukrainian player briefly left the post-match news conference but later returned.

“I’m just not feeling good,” said Svitolina after returning. A WTA spokesperson said Svitolina indicated she was feeling light-headed with slight nausea.

The fifth-ranked Kvitova, who won the year-end title in 2011, never looked settled and struggled with her serve throughout the 1 hour, 29 minutes match. Her first serve percentage was only 55, which made the task of beating Svitolina near impossible.

She double-faulted seven times in the match, including on set point in the first for Svitolina. Six of Kvitova’s seven double faults came in the first set.

“I think she really played very consistent,” Kvitova said. “Overall, yeah, it wasn’t the best start, but the good thing is that there is still a chance to play better and to improve, and maybe go somewhere forward.”

The Czech surrendered her serve in the opening game of the match but managed to recoup the break in the next game. But she was broken twice more in the first set to fall behind.

Svitolina set up the second set win by breaking Kvitova’s serve to go ahead 4-2.

Svitolina said her win was an answer to any suggestions she didn’t deserve to play here, having qualified so late for the draw.

“Winning this match definitely gives me lots of confidence,” Svitolina said. “This win … I want to take as one to go forward, and for all those people and haters that were saying that I don’t deserve to be here and I’m not good.”

Kvitova, who came into Singapore with a tour-leading five titles this season, and Wozniacki now stand at 0-1 in the White Group standings.

Wozniacki came into the late match with a 6-3 career record over Pliskova, including their last meeting in the round-robin portion of last year’s WTA Finals.

Wozniacki’s best effort in the match was saving two match points on her serve in the ninth game of the second set.

Murray completes fairytale return, Lopez claims 2 titles

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LONDON (AP) Andy Murray completed a fairytale return from hip surgery by winning the Queen’s Club doubles title with Feliciano Lopez, who ended Sunday with two titles after earlier winning the singles title as well.

The Spaniard is the first man to win both titles at the grass-court tournament in London since Mark Philippoussis in 1997.

Murray spent five months away from the sport until this week. He and Lopez defeated Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 7-6 (6), 5-7, 10-5 in the doubles final – not long after Lopez outlasted Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (2) in the singles.

Murray capped a remarkable week 146 days after undergoing what he hopes was career-saving hip surgery. In January he had said he was planning to retire after Wimbledon because of the severe pain he felt on a daily basis.

The three-time Grand Slam champion is approaching Wimbledon, which starts July 1, full of confidence after playing freely and without pain as he secured his first doubles title since winning with his brother Jamie Murray in Tokyo in 2011. Murray won’t play singles at Wimbledon but has already confirmed that Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert will partner him in the men’s doubles.

Murray and Lopez hadn’t played together in a tournament before beating top-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah on Thursday. They completed their darkness-delayed quarterfinal win over British duo Daniel Evans and Ken Skupski on Saturday, right before their semifinal win over Henri Kontinen and John Peers.

Lopez, who had been forced to play in three matches on Saturday including his singles semifinal, played almost 5 hours of tennis altogether on Sunday. He reaffirmed his status as the tournament’s oldest winner at age 37 with the singles title.

The veteran Spaniard was already its oldest winner when he took the title in 2017.

Lopez was playing his first final since defeating Marin Cilic in the decider two years ago and was made to work hard by the 34-year-old Simon.

Lopez saved all but one of the break points he faced and converted three of his 13 opportunities to prevail in 2 hours, 49 minutes. Lopez had won five of their previous seven meetings and all four on grass.

Lopez is the first wild card to claim the title since Pete Sampras defeated Tim Henman to win in 1999. He would have been the oldest player to win a tour-level title since the 43-year-old Ken Rosewall won the Hong Kong Grand Prix final in 1977, but Roger Federer beat him to that accolade after winning his 10th Halle Open title earlier Sunday. Federer is a month older than Lopez.

Barty beats Goerges in Birmingham final to take No. 1 spot

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BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) Ashleigh Barty defeated Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5 to win the Birmingham Classic title on Sunday, a victory that ensures the Australian will be No. 1 in the rankings on Monday.

The 23-year-old Barty, who lost the final to Petra Kvitova in 2017, did not drop a set all week at the grass-court tournament, and she fought back from being 4-5 down in the second set to beat the German in 1 hour, 28 minutes.

Goerges fought back tears as she congratulated her friend on taking top spot in the rankings ahead of Wimbledon, which starts July 1.

French Open champion Barty, currently ranked No. 2, will take over from Naomi Osaka, who lost 6-2, 6-3 loss to Yulia Putintseva in the second round on Thursday.

Barty is only the second Australian woman to hold the top spot after Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.

Barty, who extended her winning streak to 11 matches, and Goerges reached the semifinals in doubles together before Barty withdrew from their semifinal with a right arm injury.