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Sloane Stephens’ strategy on wasted match points: Forget ’em

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PARIS (AP) Mulling over what might have been is never a great tactic in tennis.

Just ask Sloane Stephens, who managed to regroup from four wasted match points in the second set of a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over 71st-ranked Polona Hercog on Friday to reach the fourth round of the French Open.

“Honestly, I don’t even remember what happened. It seems like so long ago. But I know that I didn’t win them. That was the main point of that,” Stephens said after the draining victory on the hottest day of the tournament so far – with temperatures soaring to nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius) after the much cooler and rainy opening days.

With second-seeded Karolina Pliskova losing to Petra Martic, No. 7 Stephens is the highest-ranked player remaining in the bottom half of the draw. But her next opponent, 2016 Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza, is looking more and more dangerous every match.

Stephens, last year’s runner-up in Paris and the 2017 U.S. Open champion, quickly stormed to a 4-0 lead in the third against Hercog then held herself together when it got close at the end

“After the second set I just tried to regroup. I got off to a good start and just tried to hang with it,” the American said. “When you have match points like that, you have to put it out of your mind, otherwise it just stays with you, lingers, brings you down. It’s no fun.”

With both players hitting the ball tentatively in the final games, Stephens finally whipped an inside-out forehand winner on her sixth match point, then celebrated with a scream and fist pumps.

Earlier this week, Stephens credited her engagement last month to U.S. national soccer player Jozy Altidore with helping her tennis.

“When your home life is good and your family is good and you’re happy, I think that definitely does affect how you play on court,” she said.

The other fourth-round matchups set Friday: No. 23 Donna Vekic vs. No. 26 Johanna Konta; Marketa Vondrousova vs. No. 12 Anastasija Sevastova; and Kaia Kanepi vs. Martic.

Muguruza dispatched ninth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-3.

“She’s playing well; I’m playing well. I think it’s a good matchup,” Stephens said. “You’re playing for a spot in the quarters of a Slam. Just got to leave everything out there and see what happens.”

And if match points – or any important point for that matter – go wasted, quickly move on.

Kvitova to decide this week whether to play at Wimbledon

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PRAGUE — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova says she will decide later this week if she’s ready to play at the All England Club.

The 29-year-old Czech player injured her left forearm during training in Paris ahead of the French Open and has not played since. The injury prevented her from defending her title at the Birmingham Classic this week.

Kvitova wrote on Twitter that she was “Happy to tell you that my arm is improving and I just hit some balls on the beautiful grass for the first time.

The sixth-ranked Kvitova, who won the Wimbledon title in 2011 and 2014, reached the Australian Open final and won tournaments in Sydney and Stuttgart this year.

Anna Tatishvili appeals $50,000 French Open fine

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LONDON — American tennis player Anna Tatishvili has appealed her fine of about $50,000 for what the Grand Slam Board ruled was a violation of its first-round performance rule at the French Open last month.

Tatishvili was docked a first-round loser’s full prize money after losing to 29th-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-0, 6-1 in Paris.

It was Tatishvili’s first competition since October 2017 because of an ankle injury. She has been ranked as high as 50th and is currently outside the top 700 because of her long absence from the tour, but used a special ranking to make the field at Roland Garros.

The Grand Slam Board introduced the performance rule before the 2018 season. The aim is to deter players who enter tournaments while injured from retiring during first-round matches to collect prize money. Players can be fined their first-round check if they do not “perform to a professional standard.”

Injured players who withdraw before the tournament – allowing someone who lost in qualifying to get into the draw – receive half the first-round prize money.