Halep, defending champion Svitolina win at WTA Finals

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SHENZHEN, China — Simona Halep saved a match point before beating Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3 Monday at the WTA Finals.

Halep, a former No. 1 who won the Wimbledon title in July, saved the match point in the 12th game of the second set.

“Today was a challenge because she’s almost 10 years younger than me,” Halep said. “I was really proud of what I did after having a back injury for almost a month.”

After the tiebreaker, both players sought medical treatment. Halep had her foot treated while the 19-year-old Andreescu, the U.S. Open champion, had a lower back problem. Andreescu also called for the trainer in the third set.

“I think she fought really hard,” Andreescu said. “I didn’t take my chances in the second set and after that my back really hurt.

“I’m just really pretty disappointed.”

Earlier, defending champion Elina Svitolina stretched her unbeaten run at the season-ending tournament into a new year, beating Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (12), 6-4 in her opening match.

Svitolina, the only player in this year’s field who has not won a title this season, was unbeaten in the tournament last year.

After exchanging service breaks in the first set, Svitolina converted her seventh set point. Pliskova also had a chance to take the first set, but she failed to take advantage of a set point at 9-8 in the tiebreaker.

“You tell yourself to stay in the moment,” Svitolina said of the lengthy tiebreaker. “You just try to play one rally at a time, to don’t rush. Even when I had the chances to finish the set, because there was few, I thought I could play better.”

After the tiebreaker, Pliskova struggled to stay in the match.

“I think that decided all match,” the Czech player said. “Even though I had some chances in the second set, too, it was a big part of the match, the first set.

“Everything what I just won was because I made a winner or because I was pushing her. Overall I think she didn’t give me many mistakes.”

Svitolina jumped ahead 2-0 in the second set and then broke again for a 4-3 lead.

Pliskova, who had won all three of her previous opening matches at the WTA Finals, leads the tour with four titles this season – winning in Brisbane, Rome, Eastbourne and Zhengzhou. She also leads the tour with most aces served at 481.

Halep and Svitolina are now 1-0 in the Purple Group, while Andreescu and Pliskova are 0-1.

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.