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Venus advances in straight sets at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Venus Williams is turning back her own clock at the BNP Paribas Open, moving into the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over qualifier Christina McHale.

Williams is seeking her 50th career WTA Tour title in the desert, where she has never won the event. And at 38, she’s showing vintage form.

“I don’t really play that often, so when I do, I need to play well,” she said. “It’s extra motivation for me to play just a little bit better out there.”

Younger sister Serena, a two-time champion at Indian Wells, retired from her match on Sunday because of a viral illness.

Ranked 36th in the world, Williams endured three sets in her first two matches. She rallied past Andrea Petkovic in the opening round and followed up by outlasting No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova in a third-set tiebreaker.

Kvitova had made the finals in two of her first three tournaments this year.

Williams, who made the semifinals in the desert last year, was playing McHale for the first time. Williams rallied from early breaks down in both sets to win.

“I never played her, so it’s also you’re out there learning,” Williams said.

Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked players, had night matches Monday with rain in the forecast.

Karolina Pliskova eased past qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 6-3, 6-2. No. 8 Angelique Kerber outlasted qualifier Natalia Vikhlyantseva 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 and No. 9 Aryna Sabalenka defeated 24th-seeded Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 7-5.

Two seeded women lost: No. 11 Anastasija Sevastova, who retired trailing 5-0 in the first set against No. 21 Anett Kontaveit, and No. 15 Julia Goerges, who lost to Mona Barthel 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.

On the men’s side, No. 3 Alexander Zverev lost to German countryman Jan-Lennard Struff 6-3, 6-1.

Playing just his third tournament of the year, Zverev said he’s been sick for a week.

“That hasn’t changed, unfortunately,” he said.

Dominic Thiem, seeded seventh, defeated No. 27 Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-1. No. 13 Milos Raonic got a challenge from American qualifier Marcos Giron before winning 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Miomir Kecmanovic, a lucky loser from Serbia, got past No. 30 Laslo Djere 6-2, 7-6 (3).

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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