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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.

Top-seeded Barty withdraws from French Open warm-up event

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STRASBOURG, France (AP) Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty withdrew from the Internationaux de Strasbourg clay-court tournament on Tuesday because of a right arm injury.

Barty was replaced in the main draw by lucky loser Diana Marcinkevica.

The eighth-ranked Australian said she would not take any risk ahead of the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“I gave it my best chance, but unfortunately I wouldn’t be playing my best tennis,” Barty said. “I’m busy the next two months and I need to look after my body now.”

Wild-card entry Tipsarevic advances at Geneva Open

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GENEVA (AP) Former top-10 player Janko Tipsarevic used his wild-card entry to beat Peter Gojowczyk of Germany 7-5, 7-5 in the Geneva Open first round on Monday.

Now ranked No. 317, the 34-year-old Tipsarevic is back in ATP Tour main draws after missing the 2018 season for hamstring injuries to heal.

Fifth-seeded Radu Albot advanced to the second round on a day when two seeded players lost in the final week of clay-court warmups for the French Open.

Albot beat qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), after 92nd-ranked Hugo Dellien beat eighth-seeded Andreas Seppi 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, and seventh-seeded Matthew Ebden lost to Nicolas Jarry of Chile 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Rain cut short play and gave former No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov a day off after playing through two qualifying rounds.

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