Serena Williams loses in straight sets to Siniakova in Parma

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PARMA, Italy — Serena Williams’ disappointing return to tennis continued when she lost in straight sets to 68th-ranked Katerina Siniakova in the second round of the Emilia-Romagna Open.

Top-seeded Williams, who accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open last week, was beaten 7-6 (4), 6-2.

She had beaten teenage qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the previous round for her first victory since defeating Simona Halep in the Australian Open quarterfinals in February. After some time off, Williams then lost in straight sets in Rome to Nadia Podoroska.

Williams is preparing for the French Open in Paris which starts on May 30.

“I didn’t do a lot of mistakes, and I think she felt it,” Siniakova said. “I think she was trying to go harder and doing a lot of mistakes, which helped me. I’m really happy I could keep my level all match.”

Siniakova saved a set point at 5-4 down in the opening set and that appeared to give the Czech player confidence as after securing the tiebreak she pulled away in the second to win 16 of the last 18 points.

The 39-year-old Williams racked up double faults under pressure and Siniakova sealed the result on her third match point when the American hit a forehand long. Williams had seven double faults for the match.

“It’s amazing, it means a lot to me,” Siniakova said after the sixth Top 10 victory of her career. “I played (an) amazing match. It shows me that I can play like this, I can play well. I just need to try be more focused every time and to stay calm and ready for every point. I will be really happy if I could keep it like this.”

Former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens reached the quarterfinals after rallying to beat fourth-seeded Daria Kasatkina 1-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Third-seeded Coco Gauff eliminated Kaia Kanepi 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) in a first-round match. Second-seeded Petra Martic also got her Parma campaign off to a good start by beating Varvara Gracheva 6-4, 6-2.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.