Belinda Bencic

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Errani edges Bencic at Miami Open in former top-10 matchup

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Former French Open runner-up Sara Errani edged Belinda Bencic 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the Miami Open’s first round Tuesday to win a match between former top-10 players.

Errani was once as high as No. 5 and a finalist at Roland Garros in 2012, but she has won only two Grand Slam matches since the start of 2016 and is now ranked 102nd. Bencic has been ranked No. 7 and is now 135th.

They combined for 14 service breaks in 28 games Tuesday.

Among other matches, Naomi Osaka beat Kristina Kucova 6-2, 6-3; Kirsten Flipkens edged Jennifer Brady 3-6, 6-3, 7-5; Carina Witthoeft eliminated Nicole Gibbs 6-3, 6-3; and Mandy Minella got past Kristyna Pliskova 7-6 (4), 5-7, 7-5.

Women’s play began at the hard-court tournament Tuesday; the men start Wednesday.

Serena Williams, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic all pulled out of the event with injuries.

Pursuing a record 23rd major title, Serena Williams opens with win

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) For five games in the second set, Serena Williams played almost flawless tennis in her first-round match at the Australian Open.

Then came the rustiness that tends to follow a lengthy layoff, giving Belinda Bencic a glimmer of hope, before Williams regained her composure to win 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday. The six-time Australian Open champion improved her impressive record in the first round of Grand Slam tournaments to 65-1.

The No. 2-ranked Williams’ priority here is an Open era record 23rd major title. She’s has taken the first step, beating a player who was seeded 12th here last year and reached a career-high No. 7 ranking.

“She was just recently in the top 10. I knew it would be one of the toughest first-round matches I’ve ever played,” the newly engaged Williams said.

In round two she’ll meet Lucie Safarova, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1.

Bencic got one service break in the first set, but only took two points in the first three games on Williams’ serve in the second.

Serving for the match at 6-4, 5-1, things changed for Williams. She finished her 2016 after the U.S. Open, resting injuries, and started 2017 with an error-prone loss in New Zealand.

Williams served only her second double-fault of the match to give Bencic a break-point chance, and the Swiss teenager converted it with a crosscourt winning forehand.

Bencic held at love to close the gap, but then faced a match point.

Williams double-faulted again on her first match point, but made no mistake on her second. She finished with 30 winners and 30 unforced errors, eight errors and four double-faults.

Karolina Pliskova and Johanna Konta both made their Grand Slam breakthroughs last year, both prepared for the season’s first major with title runs in Australia and both advanced with straight sets wins.

U.S. Open finalist Pliskova following her title win at the Brisbane International with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Sara Sorribes Tormo.

“I feel good on the court, especially when I win my first title in the first week of the year,” said Pliskova, who beat Serena Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals before losing to Angelique Kerber. “So I’m ready for the tournament.”

Konta, who won the Sydney International title last week, had a 7-5, 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens.

“I definitely love playing here. It’s a dream,” Konta said. “A lot has happened in the last year, but I’m just enjoying playing and getting better each day.”

Ninth-seeded Konta was a surprise semifinalist in her debut at the Australian Open last year, starting with a first-round win over Venus Williams and sparking a strong 2016 season which ended with her in the top 10.

Also advancing were No. 21 Caroline Garcia, No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova and Naomi Osaka of Japan beat Thai wild-card entry Luksika Kumkhum 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-5.

Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic got his campaign started with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Dustin Brown. The No. 3-seeded Raonic reached the semifinals here last year in his best run so far at Melbourne Park.

No. 24 Alexander Zverev held off Robin Haase 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, No. 25 Gilles Simon beat U.S. wild-card entry Michael Mmoh 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 and No. 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber advanced.

Wozniacki advances to second round at Pan Pacific Open

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TOKYO — A resurgent Caroline Wozniacki advanced to the second round of the Pan Pacific Open on Tuesday while gaining revenge over Belinda Bencic for last year’s semifinal defeat.

Continuing the form that took her to the U.S. Open semifinals, Wozniacki hit 10 aces in the 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 win over Bencic to set up a second-round meeting with fourth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro.

The result ended a run of four straight defeats for Wozniacki against the Swiss player.

Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan upset fifth-seeded Madison Keys of the United States 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) while facing down 15 aces, and sixth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia ousted Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 on a drop shot after 2 1/2 hours.

The 2013 champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic beat Madison Brengle of the United States 6-3, 6-3 to set up a meeting in the second round with Rio de Janeiro Olympic champion Monica Puig of Puerto Rico.