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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.”

Djokovic wins World Sportsman of the Year at Laureus World Sports Awards

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MONACO  — Novak Djokovic, Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn and the France national soccer team were among the winners at the Laureus World Sports Awards, with Woods claiming the Comeback Award 19 years after he was first recognized.

Djokovic matched Usain Bolt’s record by being named World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He also earned the honor in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Woods, who won the inaugural World Sportsman of the Year award in 2000, won the Tour Championship in September for his 80th PGA Tour title and his first since August 2013.

Vonn, who retired during the recent Alpine skiing world championships , took home the Spirit of Sport Award, which is given to an athlete for relentless dedication to his or her career, and France was honored for winning the World Cup in July.

Simone Biles was named World Sportswoman of the Year for winning four gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the gymnastics world championships. Naomi Osaka won the Breakthrough Award for winning the U.S. Open and Chloe Kim was named the World Action Sportsperson of the Year.

The awards were given in recognition of outstanding sports performance in 2018.

Wawrinka loses to Monfils in first final since knee surgeries

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka’s rebuilt knee couldn’t quite carry him to the title in Rotterdam on Sunday.

Wawrinka lost his first final since his comeback a year ago from left knee surgeries, succumbing 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to Gael Monfils of France at the ABN AMRO World Tournament.

It was the Frenchman’s eighth career title.

“I tried a couple of times here. I lost the final in 2016,” Monfils told Dutch national broadcaster NOS courtside. He said it was special to win a tournament that his idol, Arthur Ashe, also won. Ashe won back-to-back titles in Rotterdam in 1975 and ’76.

Unseeded Wawrinka reached the final by beating top-seeded Kei Nishikori in three sets on Saturday.

But the Swiss finally ran out of steam in the final set as Monfils stepped up his game.

“In the third set I was a little bit more aggressive and I go a bit more for my shots, I served bigger and that helped me a lot,” Monfils said.

Wawrinka was going for his 17th career title and second in Rotterdam, after winning in 2015.

It was his first final since the 2017 French Open, where he previously met Monfils in the fourth round.

Monfils also needed three sets to overcome fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals, but outlasted Wawrinka in a match that took 1 hour, 44 minutes.

After they shared the first two sets, Monfils was more consistent than Wawrinka in the decisive third.

Already trailing 4-2, Wawrinka hit three unforced errors to lose the seventh game and allow Monfils to serve out the match.