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Pliskova reaches WTA Finals semifinals with win over Kvitova

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SINGAPORE — Karolina Pliskova won the first set to eliminate Petra Kvitova, and then won the second set to advance to the semifinals at the WTA Finals.

Pliskova, who advanced from her group for the second straight year, beat Kvitova 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday to improve her record to 2-1 at the season-ending tournament.

It was Pliskova’s first victory over Kvitova in their fourth meeting.

“I knew I lost my other matches to her. I knew this time I had a chance because I was playing pretty well in my other two matches here,” Pliskova said on court after the match. “Everything is working well for me this week so I’m just happy.”

In the other group match, Elina Svitolina stayed unbeaten and advanced to the semifinals by beating defending champion Caroline Wozniacki 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

Kvitova jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Pliskova then won six of the next seven games. Kvitova finished the group with three straight losses.

“I still had a lot of positive thoughts in the match to fight and turn it around, even (if it) didn’t happen,” Kvitova said. “I still need to be fine because I still have the Fed Cup final (against the United States) coming up.”

Kvitova, who is from the Czech Republic, rarely loses to players from her country. Since the 2012 Madrid tournament, the two-time Wimbledon champion has won 27 of 29 matches against Czech opponents.

Her only other loss to a Czech player in that time period was to Pliskova’s twin sister, Kristyna, at this year’s tournament in Charleston, South Carolina.

Svitolina only needed to win one set in the late match to advance, but she had to wait for it.

Wozniacki nearly pulled off the straight-set victory, which would have given her a place in the semifinals instead. But she squandered two game points in the final game of the second set and then sent a backhand long on a fifth-set point for Svitolina.

“It was an amazing match and a tough fight because Caroline always brings the best out of you,” Svitolina said on court. “You have to push your limits against her.”

Nadal gets his revenge over Tsitsipas to reach Rome final

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ROME (AP) After losing in the semifinals of three straight clay-court tournaments, Rafael Nadal looked more like his old, dominant self when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 Saturday to reach the Italian Open final.

It was a measure of revenge for Nadal after losing to Tsitsipas in three sets at this stage in Madrid last week. The victory should also restore Nadal’s confidence as he seeks a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.

“I’m playing better every match, every weekend,” Nadal said.

Aiming for a ninth trophy in Rome, Nadal’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be either Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman, who were playing later.

Nadal is in the middle of his longest title drought to begin a season since he came onto the scene in 2004. His last trophy came in Toronto last August.

The crowd attempted to encourage Tsitsipas with chants of “Tsi-Tsi-Tsi; Pas-Pas-Pas” but the 20-year-old Greek player couldn’t keep up with Nadal on the long rallies – even though he didn’t play a day earlier after Roger Federer withdrew from the quarterfinals.

Conditions were much slower than on the high-altitude court in Madrid, which favored Nadal and made it tougher for Tsitsipas to execute his attacking game.

Midway through the first set, Nadal produced an awesome forehand winner up the line on the run, drawing a loud roar from the packed Campo Centrale crowd.

Nadal broke Tsitsipas’ serve early in both sets.

In the women’s tournament, Johanna Konta rallied past sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in nearly three hours to reach the biggest clay-court final of her career.

Konta’s only previous final on clay came recently in Rabat, Morocco, where she lost the title match to Maria Sakkari.

Konta could get a rematch with Sakkari if the Greek qualifier beats fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the other semifinal.

Midway through the first set, Konta surprised Bertens with a drop shot winner during a baseline rally, causing Bertens to fall on her stomach to the clay as she rapidly changed directions. Then in the next game, Konta ran down a drop shot and produced an angled winner.

Bertens was coming off the Madrid Open title.

“She played really smart with the drop shots,” Bertens said. “I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But it was not there.”

The 42nd-ranked Konta served for the first set at 5-4 but was broken at love. But Bertens double faulted to let Konta serve for the second set and Konta got an early break in the third.

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John Isner out of French Open with injury

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PARIS — John Isner has pulled out of the French Open because of an injured left foot, ending his streak of 24 consecutive appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.

The 34-year-old Isner announced his withdrawal Friday on Twitter.

He is ranked No. 11, the top American man, but has not competed since hurting his foot during the Miami Open final March 31.

Isner was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, his best Grand Slam performance. He hasn’t missed a major since the 2013 Australian Open.

He’s reached the fourth round at Roland Garros three times, including in 2018, and is one of only two men to push 11-time champion Rafael Nadal to a fifth set there.

Isner is best known for winning the longest match in tennis history, 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut in Wimbledon’s first round in 2010. The match lasted more than 11 hours over three days.