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Croatia ease to 2-0 lead over France in Davis Cup final

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LILLE, France — Croatia is on the verge of its second Davis Cup crown after Borna Coric and Marin Cilic dispatched their France rivals in the opening singles of the final on Friday.

Croatia, which won its sole title in 2005, leads 2-0 and just needs one more point to depose the defending champions in northern France this weekend.

The Croatians clearly have the best players, who have not lost away from home since 2015. History also plays in their favor: Since Australia in 1939, no team has recovered from a 2-0 deficit in a final.

A glimmer of hope remains for the hosts, though, with Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The French pair reached the final at the ATP Finals last week and is slightly favored against Mate Pavic and Ivan Dodig in Saturday’s doubles.

After Coric dismantled Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 7-5, 6-4, the seventh-ranked Cilic beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 on the indoor clay court at Pierre Mauroy Stadium.

France hoped the slow surface would be a problem for Cilic and Coric, who had to quickly adapt to clay after playing last week on a hard court at the ATP Finals in London. Cilic played in the elite event, while Coric practiced as a reserve.

But the Croats were unfazed and excelled in front of a hostile crowd.

Tsonga faced an onslaught from Cilic in the opening set and had no answers.

Cilic won his first three service games at love, broke for 4-2 after Tsonga made a couple of backhand errors, and held at love again to seal the opener.

The Frenchman, who was sidelined for seven months until September because of a knee injury, played too short when not hitting too long, and exposed himself to Cilic’s ferocious forehand attacks.

In a tight second set, Cilic coped with the pressure to save two break points in the eighth game, and Tsonga cracked with unforced errors. A backhand wide handed Cilic a 6-5 lead and the former U.S. Open champion wrapped up the set at love on serve.

He broke again for 3-2 in the third set after a Tsonga double fault, and held on.

Earlier, the 12th-ranked Coric was flawless.

Chardy was picked by captain Yannick Noah ahead of 2017 star Lucas Pouille to play in his first Davis Cup final. He was overwhelmed by Coric’s deep groundstrokes in the first set, dropping 14 consecutive points at one point to trail 4-0.

The Frenchman changed his strategy in the second set and tried to force Coric into longer rallies but failed to convert his rare chances. Despite vociferous support from the crowd which often showed no respect for Coric by applauding his first service errors, Chardy missed two break points in the fourth game.

Coric broke for 6-5 after hitting a superb lob that Chardy could not return, followed by a pin-point forehand return that pushed the Frenchman to commit a mistake.

In the last set, Coric earned another break in the third game. After getting his legs massaged by Croatia captain Zeljko Krajan, he briefly left the court after the seventh game for treatment but did not look hampered once he returned.

Croatia is trying to win its second Davis Cup title in its third final, while defending champion France is bidding for an 11th title.

Serena Williams launches pop-up shop during Art Basel Miami

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Strong. Sophisticated. Sexy. Like the tennis champ herself, Serena Williams’ fashion line is all about power moves and she’s hoping it will also inspire woman to find their own voice.

“I want everyone to be able to do that and to step into their power,” she said Wednesday night at the launch of her first pop-up shop.

Williams launched her shop at the luxe Faena hotel during Miami’s Art Basel where guests, including fellow tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, drank cocktails draped with fluffy pink cotton candy and snapped selfies from a life-size swing covered with botanicals.

Everything in the line, from a black sequined top with the word “Unbothered” to a crisp, white button-down that says “Slay” in red letters, is under $200.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion not only designed all the clothing in the shop, but also painted all the art on the walls, saying many of the paintings took a month to complete because of their intricate textures.

“I’ve painted for years, probably like ten years now. It’s my outlet,” she said. “I jokingly said I’m going to be at Art Basel one day.”

It’s been an awe-inspiring year for Williams, who said she was “pinching myself, like what the heck am I doing here,” at the Wimbledon final in July after a difficult pregnancy and childbirth.

She said her recent accomplishments on the court helped her persevere through the challenges of being a first-time mom.

“If I can be in the final less than a year (after giving birth), I’m OK to handle my little baby who’s starting to have tantrums. I’m OK to handle this tantrum baby. I can do it. I can do it,” she joked, speaking of her 15-month old daughter.

Last month, GQ magazine named her its 2018 Woman of the Year, featuring an image of Williams wearing a black bodysuit and Chanel belt. The headline crossed out “Men” and some fans took offense.

But Williams, who has been criticized for being too muscular, too strong and too outspoken throughout her career, said it was “really cool” and just another example of women breaking down barriers.

“This is a strictly men’s thing but they broke and said, `Let’s also put a woman on (the cover) because this is a strong woman. She’s just as strong as our men.”‘

Art Basel Miami Beach, the prestigious extension of the annual contemporary art fair in Basel, Switzerland, has spawned dozens of other art shows around Miami over the years, along with star-studded parties days in advance.

Bono, Leonardo DiCaprio and rapper Cardi B, fresh from a split with rapper Offset, were all spotted making the rounds Wednesday night.

Mauresmo gives up France Davis Cup captaincy to help Pouille

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PARIS — Amelie Mauresmo won’t be captaining France’s Davis Cup team after all because the two-time major winner is going back to coaching to help Lucas Pouille.

The French Tennis Federation announced Thursday it was searching for a new captain, who will also look after the national team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A statement from the federation said Mauresmo gave up the role to focus on her new job with French player Pouille, ranked 32.

The winner of the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2006, who retired from playing in 2009, previously coached Andy Murray.

The former top-ranked Mauresmo was announced in June as the successor to Yannick Noah, who is stepping down after France’s 3-1 loss to Croatia in the final last month, having previously guided the team to three Davis Cup titles.