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Serena Williams wins third straight in singles at Hopman Cup

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PERTH, Australia — Serena Williams stepped up her Australian Open preparations with a straight-sets victory over Britain’s Katie Boulter on Thursday to complete an unbeaten Hopman Cup campaign.

Williams cooled off after a strong start but prevailed with a 6-1, 7-6 (2) victory in 78 minutes to level the tie between the United States and Britain in Group B.

The 37-year-old’s hopes for a record third Hopman Cup title ended when the United States were eliminated after losses to Greece and Roger Federer-led Switzerland.

Williams slowly built momentum in her first tournament back since melting down at the U.S. Open Final in September as she eyes a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne.

“It was definitely good to play three singles matches here, and the mixed (doubles),” Williams said.

A sluggish Williams started slowly in victories over Maria Sakkari and Belinda Bencic, but breezed through the first set against a beleaguered Boulter in just 24 minutes.

Watched on by her daughter Alexis Olympia, the sweet-hitting Williams found her groove through an array of powerful forehand winners to overwhelm the 97th-ranked British player.

The one-sided contest took a surprising turn when Boulter broke Williams early in the second set but she was unable to consolidate on serve. Williams was made to work before putting the foot down in the tiebreak.

Earlier, Cameron Norrie upset Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (4), 6-0. It ended a miserable tournament for the 20-year-old Tiafoe, who won just one set in his three matches.

The No. 91-ranked Norrie was impressive in Perth, highlighted by defeating Greece’s No. 15-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening match.

Fognini stuns Nadal 6-4, 6-2 to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s long winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since 2015.

The 13th-seeded Italian had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the U.S. Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.

Not since the 2005 final, a five-setter which Nadal won in four sets, had the 11-time champion Nadal been beaten 6-0 in a set here. And Fognini came so close to doing just that.

He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points – and some pride – by breaking back and then holding.

Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line to clinch victory on his fourth match point.

Nadal’s last defeat here was also in the semifinals, against Novak Djokovic in 2015. He had not lost a set at the clay-court tournament since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.

Fognini next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted happening here.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic earlier staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean.

Serving for the first set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

Lajovic clinched the first set on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.

The 28-year-old Lajovic was ill before the tournament and said he needed antibiotics to recover.

He struggled to describe his surprise run.

“Incredible … Unreal,” he said, before settling on “It’s been a great week.”

Lajovic stages comeback to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic now plays in his first career final against 11-time champion Rafael Nadal or 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

It could have been an all-Serb semi but Medvedev knocked out top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean blowing clay around the court.

Serving for the set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

He had good cause.

The first-set turnaround was complete when Lajovic clinched it on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.