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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.

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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