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Svitolina beats Stephens to win season-ending WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE (AP) Elina Svitolina secured the biggest title of her career on Sunday, becoming the first Ukrainian player to win the season-ending WTA Finals trophy.

The No. 6-seeded Svitolina rebounded from a one-set deficit for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over fifth-seeded Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion.

Svitolina fell onto her back on the court in celebration, and then shared a hug with Stephens.

“I think I have nothing to prove anymore to anyone and it’s definitely a good statement for myself,” Svitolina said. “I think mental toughness is what I really had to show.

“I played great tennis and I worked my way into the tournament. It’s going to bring me lots of confidence.”

The Ukrainian raced to a 3-0 lead in the third set, but Stephens managed to secure a break in the fifth game. Svitolina broke back immediately to take a 4-2 lead.

Stephens, making her debut at the WTA Finals, surrendered her serve again on a first match point for Svitolina in the eighth game by sending a backhand crosscourt wide.

“I thought she played well and it was obviously a tough match from the beginning,” Stephens said. “I was really excited to be here and compete with everybody.”

The victory means Svitolina became the eighth player to go undefeated in winning the season-ending title, which features a three-match round-robin format at the outset, and first since Serena Williams in 2013.

She has now won 13 of 15 finals she’s played in her career, including the last nine with her last final loss coming in 2016 to Petra Kvitova at the Zhuhai tournament.

“Of course I know that I’ve won lots of finals,” Svitolina said. “For me, every final is a big challenge. I always try to be there for that challenge.”

The WTA Finals ends its five-year run in Singapore this season and moves to Shenzen, China for a 10-year run starting in 2019.

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Benedetti wins 12th stage; Polanc takes Giro lead

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PINEROLO, Italy (AP) Cesare Benedetti won the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday for his first victory as a professional while Jan Polanc took the overall leader’s pink jersey from UAE Emirates teammate Valerio Conti.

Benedetti, an Italian with the Bora team who has been a support rider for his entire career, was part of an early breakaway then accelerated from a select group of riders in a sprint finish.

“I’ve worked a lot for the others in the past but today I got my opportunity,” Benedetti said. “I’m not (usually) a winner.”

Benedetti required 3 hours, 41 minutes to complete the 158-kilometer (98-mile) leg from Cuneo to Pinerolo, which featured one major climb and another shorter but steeper ascent just before the finish.

Damiano Caruso crossed second and Eddie Dunbar came third, each with the same time as Benedetti. Polanc, a Slovenian who was also in the breakaway, finished 25 seconds behind.

In the overall standings, Polanc leads Primoz Roglic by 4 minutes, 7 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali, one of the pre-race favorites, is fifth overall, 5:51 behind.

“It was a team tactic that I would go in the breakaway so we could have a better control over the race,” Polanc said. “It was also a way to keep the pink jersey in the team.”

Mikel Landa and Miguel Angel Lopez attacked on the first-category climb to Montoso and gained about 30 seconds on the other overall favorites.

Before the stage began, sprinters Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani withdrew from the race. Ewan won two stages, including the 11th leg a day earlier, while Viviani posted three second-place finishes.

Stage 13 on Friday is one of the race’s toughest, with two category one climbs and one category ascent, along with an uphill finish at the end of the 196-kilometer leg from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale.

The Giro ends June 2 in Verona.

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Tsonga rallies past qualifier to reach quarterfinals in Lyon

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LYON, France (AP) Former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rallied past Canadian qualifier Steven Diez on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals and extend his perfect record at the Lyon Open.

Tsonga, the 2017 champion, came within two points of losing but finally prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on his sixth match point after 2 hours, 42 minutes.

The clay-court event serves as a warmup for the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“It was good for me to play a long match like this,” Tsonga said. “I haven’t played a match this long for a while. I am not playing my best level, but I am giving everything mentally and that gives me confidence.”

Tsonga will next take on top-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat lucky loser Tristan Lamasine 7-5, 7-5.

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