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Stephens recovers to advance to Sydney quarters

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SYDNEY — Defending champion Angelique Kerber moved into the Sydney International quarterfinals after beating Camila Giorgi 7-6 (3), 6-2 on Tuesday.

The second-ranked Kerber was under serious pressure in the first set before holding firm in the tiebreaker, then went down an early break before winning the last six games.

After a first-round bye, the Wimbledon champion is on a 5-0 roll to start the season after winning all of her singles matches at the Hopman Cup last week.

“It’s always tricky to play against her, because she’s hitting the balls really hard, especially in the first set,” Kerber said. “I played Perth last week, but now you have the tournament feeling again.”

Sloane Stephens dropped three service games in the first set and was only two points from defeat in the second before finding a way to hold off Ekaterina Alexandrova 0-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) for her first win of the season.

Alexandrova had a chance to serve for the match at 5-3 in the second set and led 4-2 in the third but fourth-seeded Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, rallied to survive the round.

“I was, like, `It’s not going to get any worse than this … I might as well just play,”‘ Stephens said of her first set.

“I know at some point that I’d be able to win a game, I would hope, so just try and do that.”

Stephens will next play Yulia Putintseva.

Ash Barty ousted 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-3 to advance to a second-round meeting with No. 1-ranked Simona Halep.

On another rain-interrupted day in Sydney, Aliaksandra Sasnovich ousted No. 8-seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 6-4, 2015 Sydney champion Petra Kvitova had a 6-1, 7-5 win over Aryna Sabalenka, Hsieh Su-wei beat Danielle Collins 7-6 (4), 6-3, and Priscilla Hon defeated Tatjana Maria 6-3, 7-6 (4).

No. 7 Kiki Bertens advanced to the quarterfinals when Garbine Muguruza withdrew from the tournament because of illness.

In the men’s draw, eighth-seeded Andreas Seppi advanced 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 over Jeremy Chardy, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat Denis Kudla 7-5, 6-4, and Andrey Rublev ousted No. 6-seeded Lucas Pouille 6-2, 6-3.

Seventh-seeded Marton Fucsovics beat James Duckworth 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and John Millman rallied to hold off Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5.

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.