Bublik cuts short Wawrinka’s return to tour after injury

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MONACO — Alexander Bublik cut short Stan Wawrinka’s return to the tour, defeating the Swiss 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters in his first singles in 13 months.

Wawrinka started off confidently against the Kazakh, winning the first set with ease. He staved off three set points in the second to hold for 5-5 but appeared tired. In the decisive third, Bublik pulled ahead early and wrapped up the match in just over two hours.

Wawrnika, 37, last competed on tour in March 2021 when he lost his opening match at the Qatar Open. He’s had two surgeries on his left foot since then and months of difficult recovery.

“I’m still far away from where I want to be, but I think I’m in the right direction,” Wawrinka said. Despite “a tough loss” to No. 35-ranked Bublik, the Swiss said it felt good to be on the court, packed with spectators, and playing for real points.

“It was much better than what I was expecting,” Wawrinka said.

Still, the physical and mental fatigue made him consider he might have returned to the tour too soon. He has not lined up other tournaments but intends to spend more time on practice.

“I need a lot more … and I need to work hard on my tennis and my physical condition,” Wawrinka said.

Marin Cilic of Croatia overwhelmed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-2, turning the Frenchman’s opening match in Monaco into his final clay-court appearance in a Masters event.

Tsonga, 36, announced last week he will retire after the French Open, hoping to put the final touches on an injury-plagued career in front of his home crowd.

A crowd of Tsonga’s loyal fans cheered him on in the principality but he was no match for the No. 22-ranked Cilic, who breezed to victory.

Tsonga was disappointed he wasn’t more competitive.

“I’m sad because it was my last Monte-Carlo. It’s not always easy, but that’s it,” he said. “Maybe I have been on the tour for too long, but I do have some experience.”

The French Open starts on May 22 in Paris.

Tsonga reached a career-high ranking of No. 5 in 2012, but has dropped to No. 220 following his latest lengthy injury layoff. That means he can’t enter the main draw at Roland Garros automatically through his ranking, and will have to rely on being granted a wild card by organizers.

Other winners included Sebastian Korda of the United States, Fabio Fognini and Jannik Sinner of Italy, Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain and Hubert Kurkacz of Poland.

Parma Ladies Open semifinals postponed to same day as final

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PARMA, Italy — The semifinals of the Parma Ladies Open have been postponed by a day and will be played shortly before Saturday’s final.

The decision was made because of persistent rain at the clay-court tournament on Friday.

Top-seeded Maria Sakkari will start on center court against Danka Kovinic at 10:30 a.m. local time (0830 GMT) on Saturday before sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan’s match against Mayar Sherif.

The final will be after 6 p.m. local time, shortly after the doubles final – with the doubles semifinals also being played earlier in the day on a different court.

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).