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Bencic follows Hopman Cup win with tough first round in Hobart

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HOBART, Australia — Belinda Bencic has followed up her title at the Hopman Cup with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over second-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu in the first round of the Hobart International.

Bencic, who combined with Roger Federer to win the international mixed teams event in Perth, Western Australia, on the weekend, kept up her successful start to the season in Australia’s southern island state.

The third set contained nine service breaks, including seven straight, as blustery conditions made it difficult for both players. Bencic had two match points in the 10th game of the third set but dropped serve before winning the last two games to seal her spot in the second round.

“It was an incredibly up-and-down match – very hard work,” said Bencic, who dropped her racket in relief and exhaustion after clinching it on her fifth match point. “I’m a really emotional player and then the wind comes and I’m even more emotional. I feel like `Ah, this wind is against me,’ but I have to remember it is for both players.”

Buzarnescu, a finalist last year at Hobart, was one of the four highest-seeded players to lose on Tuesday.

Sofia Kenin beat top-seeded Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2, third-seeded Zhang Shuai lost to Russian qualifier Anna Blinkova 6-2, 0-6, 6-2 and No. 4 Maria Sakkari was beaten 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 by Magda Linette.

“She was a top 5 player, so I knew I had to play my best to win. I tried to not act like I was nervous, even though I was,” Kenin said. “I was controlling the points, I was dictating so that was a big part and I was holding serve every time, so that helps.”

Seventh-seeded Kirsten Flipkens beat Dalila Jakupovic 6-4, 7-5, 2016 Hobart champion Alize Cornet opened with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Alison Bai, eighth-seeded Alison Van Uytvanck had a 7-6 (5), 7-5 win over Madison Brengle and Viktoria Kuzmova beat Timea Babos 6-3, 6-3.

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.