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Osaka retires with injury; Bertens reaches WTA semifinals

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SINGAPORE — U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka finished her debut appearance at the WTA Finals on Friday with an injury and an 0-3 record.

Osaka was trailing Kiki Bertens 6-3 when she retired from the match with an upper left leg injury.

Bertens was awarded a straight-set victory and has advanced to the semifinals.

“I hurt my left hamstring in the first match,” Osaka said. “It was just getting worse and worse every time I played.

“I just really wanted to try because this is the last tournament, and I felt it was really unfair to everyone that came to watch.”

Sloane Stephens also advanced to the semifinals, improving to 3-0 by beating Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3.

Osaka, the only woman from Japan to win a Grand Slam title, went off court to receive treatment on the injury after the eighth game while trailing 5-3. She lost her serve at love in the ninth game and then decided to stop.

The 21-year-old Osaka, who started the year ranked No. 68 and is now at a career-high No. 4, beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final and watched as the 23-time Grand Slam champion argued with the chair umpire and was penalized for it.

“It’s been a crazy year,” Osaka said. “For me, it’s just been a lot of new experiences. I’m very grateful that I was able to have the opportunities that I had.”

Bertens qualified for the season-ending WTA Finals when No. 1 Simona Halep withdrew from the tournament with a lower back injury.

“That’s how life can go sometimes,” said Bertens, who has beaten 12 top-10 players this season. “I think I was a little lucky, maybe.”

In the semifinals, Bertens will face Elina Svitolina while Stephens will take on Karolina Pliskova.

This year is the first time since the round-robin format was reintroduced in 2003 that none of the top four seeded players – No. 1 Kerber, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 3 Osaka and No. 4 Petra Kvitova – reached the semifinals.

“I think the four of us, in our groups, we all played really well,” Stephens said of the semifinalists. “I think it’s great for us, and for the younger girls, to kind of prove ourselves.”

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.