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Federer returns to clay court with win in Madrid

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MADRID — Roger Federer looked as comfortable as ever on his return to clay.

Showing no signs of rust after skipping clay-court tournaments the last two seasons, Federer cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 win over Richard Gasquet at the Madrid Open on Tuesday.

The fourth-seeded Federer needed less than an hour to win his first match on clay since 2016 and reach the third round in the Spanish capital.

“It feels good to be back on the clay,” Federer said. “I enjoyed it. Some of these rallies, where you get pushed to the side, you slide. You can play in a different manner than you do on the hard courts or the grass.”

The 37-year-old Federer skipped the clay season the last two years to make sure he was fit for the rest of the year. The 20-time Grand Slam champion is preparing to make his first French Open appearance since 2015. He has won two hard-court titles this season, in Dubai and Miami. He is a three-time winner in Madrid, with his last title in 2012.

The fourth-seeded Swiss converted his three break points and didn’t concede any to the 39th-ranked Gasquet at the “Magic Box” center court.

Gasquet was playing in his first tournament after enduring a going injury early in the year.

“I think Richard was also maybe a little bit hurt from his match yesterday, so it was nice seeing him back after so many months being away from the tour with injury,” Federer said. “I think for both of us it was a special match being back here in Madrid.”

Earlier, top-ranked Novak Djokovic started with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Taylor Fritz. He broke the American’s serve once in the first set and twice in the second, conceding only one break opportunity. The top-seeded Serb had seven aces and lost only two service points in the second set.

“I don’t think he was playing at his best today,” Djokovic said. “But I think it was a solid opening match for me in the tournament.”

Djokovic is seeking his second title of the year, and third overall in Madrid. He began the year by winning the Australian Open.

David Ferrer extended his career with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Roberto Bautista Agut, setting up a second-round meeting with defending champion Alexander Zverev. The 37-year-old Ferrer is retiring after the tournament.

“I want to be with my family and try to enjoy as much as possible the time that I have to play in this center court,” the Spaniard said. “And tomorrow I have another opportunity and I’ll go out there to try to enjoy every single feeling that I might experience out there.”

Stan Wawrinka ended a three-match losing streak in Madrid by defeating Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-2, 6-3.

“I felt good. It was a great match, a first great match,” Wawrinka said. “I have been playing good on the practice court, feeling really good, so it was important to start well today and I’m happy with the first match.”

Brazil Open champion Guido Pella upset 12th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 6-2, 1-6, 6-3, while Fabio Fognini beat Kyle Edmund 6-4, 6-3.

On the women’s side, top-ranked Naomi Osaka defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-0 in the second round.

“I feel like in the first set, I got a bit lucky there,” Osaka said. “In the third set, I just, like, went zombie mode and then just thought of everything that I had to do to win and not necessarily the outcome.”

Third-seeded Simona Halep defeated Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-1, while Caroline Garcia got past Sorana Cirstea 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Fourth-seeded Angelique Kerber withdrew ahead of her second-round match against Petra Martic because of a right ankle injury.

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.

More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Pliskova wins Italian Open for biggest clay title of career

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ROME (AP) – Karolina Pliskova captured the biggest clay-court title of her career by beating Johanna Konta 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the Italian Open final.

Adding to a very consistent year from the 2016 U.S. Open runner-up, the victory will move Pliskova up to No. 2 in the rankings and makes her one of the contenders for the French Open, which starts next weekend.

“I just hope to take the tennis I was playing here to Paris,” Pliskova said. “For sure there’s going to be a chance for me if I play this way.”

Pliskova also reached the Australian Open semifinals and the Miami Open final after opening this season with a title in Brisbane, Australia. But she lost in the second round of her previous two tournaments on clay in Stuttgart, Germany, and Madrid.

“Nobody really gave me chance for this tournament – even me,” Pliskova said. “Before the tournament, I was not super confident, not thinking about the final at all. I was just happy with every match which I played. So it’s little bit like a miracle for me.”

The unseeded Konta appeared nervous at the start, double faulting then landing a backhand into the net to hand Pliskova a break in her opening service game.

In the second set, Pliskova used a swinging forehand volley putaway to break for a 4-3 lead and never looked back.

“It’s always tough playing Karolina,” Konta said. “There’s rarely really a rhythm to the match. She plays with big shots, quite flat, and big serves. It can feel sometimes you’re fighting an uphill battle. That was the case today.”

After converting her third championship point, Pliskova went over and slapped hands with Conchita Martinez, the four-time Rome champion who she recently named her head coach. Pliskova then asked Martinez and the rest of her team to come down onto the court for her victory celebration.

“She loved clay so she knows exactly what I should do,” Pliskova said of Martinez. “There were small differences: movement, maybe to put more topspin on the balls, use drop shots – which I never use, but I start little bit, and to mix also the serves. … I know she loved this tournament. I think she prayed so I could win today.”