Serena beats wind, Giorgi in Auckland first round

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Serena Williams kept her cool to win at the ASB Classic in her first singles match of 2020.

Williams defeated Camila Giorgi 6-3, 6-2 in her opening singles match, prevailing despite a gusting wind.

When Williams last played the tournament in 2017 she was blown off the court by a boisterous summer wind and unseeded compatriot Madison Brengle in the second round. She left calling Auckland the worst place she had ever played and vowing never to return. Williams attributes part of her outburst to troubles early in her pregnancy.

“Looking back it’s just so surreal and crazy so now that I’m here I just have all these funny memories of me being miserable in the first trimester of pregnancy,” Williams said.

Williams teamed for the first time with Caroline Wozniacki on Monday night to win her first round doubles.

The singles win was not easy. Giorgi, a lucky loser ranked 99, put up a strong fight in both sets and Williams once again found difficulty with a swirling breeze.

She took 39 minutes to win the first set with a single service break in the eighth game but was able to bring her power to bear more often in the second set.

“I’ve always had tough matches against Giorgi so I knew it was going to be really tough,” she said. “But I think the doubles really helped.’

She said the doubles allowed her to adjust to the conditions.

“It’s really good to know I still have some power left in my arm and in my legs.”

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.