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Sloane Stephens wins opener in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio — Defending U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens overcame a thumb injury to cruise into the third round of the Western & Southern Open with a 6-3, 6-2 win over qualifier Tatjana Maria on Wednesday.

A trainer applied a bandage to the third-seeded Stephens’ right thumb between the third and fourth games of the second set of this U.S. Open tuneup. The match was Stephens’ first since losing on Sunday to Simona Halep in the finals at Montreal.

Sloane’s semifinal appearance last season is her best Cincinnati finish in six previous appearances.

With 11th French, Nadal not obsessed with Federer’s 20 Slams

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PARIS (AP) Rafael Nadal’s 11th French Open title raised his Grand Slam trophy count to 17, three away from the men’s record held by Roger Federer.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Nadal is fixated on catching his rival.

“Of course I would love to have 20, like Roger, in the future – or even more,” Nadal said Sunday evening after beating Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in the final at Roland Garros, “but being honest, (it’s) something that is not in my mind.”

He added that it’s not an “obsession.”

“Let me enjoy this title,” Nadal said. “I can’t be always thinking of more. Of course, I have ambition. Of course, I have passion for what I am doing. But I never have been crazy about all this kind of stuff. No, you can’t be frustrated always if somebody has more money than you, if somebody have a bigger house than you, if somebody have more Grand Slams than you. You can’t live with that feeling, no?”

Nadal’s uncle, Toni, who used to also be his coach, attended Sunday’s match and was asked afterward whether Rafael can pull even with Federer.

“I want to think that is possible,” Toni said. “But I know (that) maybe in one month, Federer will win again Wimbledon.”

Federer, of course, sat out the French Open to rest and prepare for the grass-court season. He did the same a year ago, and then went on to claim his record eighth championship at the All England Club, where play begins July 2.

The only man with more titles at a single major is Nadal in Paris. He is now 86-2 at the French Open – and, by the looks of things, as good as ever at the place.

Here are other things we learned at the 2018 French Open:

HALEP CAN WIN THE BIG ONE

After losing her first three Grand Slam finals, Simona Halep added major championship No. 1 to her No. 1 ranking by coming back to defeat Sloane Stephens in three sets. Halep kept insisting she needed to do it, and could do it – and she was correct. “Now she can relax, go out there, let her game go,” said her coach, Darren Cahill.

SERENA STILL SUPERB

At her first major in 16 months, and first as a mother, Serena Williams showed with three victories that she still has the game and the grit to go far and – even at age 36 – could be a threat to add to her 23 major titles. She withdrew from the field before her much-anticipated fourth-rounder against Maria Sharapova, citing a chest muscle injury, so it’s not clear whether Williams will be someone to watch at Wimbledon.

NOT THEIR TIME YET

Runner-up Thiem, a 24-year-old from Austria, might very well be the second-best player on clay in the world, but there’s still a large gap, at least at Roland Garros, where he is 0-3 against Nadal. Thiem and the man he beat in the quarterfinals, 21-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany, are the two most well-rounded rising stars in the game. The question is when each will be ready for the next step.

AMERICAN WOMEN

Before her loss to Halep, Stephens, 25, eliminated Madison Keys, 23, in the first all-American semifinal at the French Open since 2002, when Williams defeated Jennifer Capriati. “All in all,” Stephens said, “I don’t think anyone can complain.” It was also a rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, in which Stephens topped Keys. For all the hand-wringing in years past over what would happen to U.S. women’s tennis after the Williams sisters, they seem to be in pretty good shape. Plus, consider this: Coco Gauff, a 14-year-old from Florida, beat Caty McNally, a 16-year-old from Ohio, in the junior final, the fourth time at the last five Grand Slam tournaments that two Americans played each other for the girls’ title.

DON’T LEAVE!

One important lesson from this French Open: If you fail to make it out of qualifying, do not skip town. Thanks to a new rule that awards some prize money to players making late injury withdrawals, more than a half-dozen men got into the draw as a “lucky loser” to replace those who pulled out. None of the beneficiaries was more celebrated than 190th-ranked Marco Trungelliti. He headed home to Barcelona after being beaten in qualifying, then learned he could sign up for a spot in the field. So he made the 10-hour drive back to Paris with his 88-year-old grandmother, mother and younger brother in a rental car, then went out and won in the first round.

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Stephens, Keys to reprise US Open final in French Open semis

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PARIS (AP) Shortly after easily winning her French Open quarterfinal, Sloane Stephens wanted to track down her good friend Madison Keys, who advanced in straight sets earlier Tuesday.

“I just have to go find her, because I need to tell her some juicy stuff,” Stephens said, declining to reveal the topic. “I just went and searched for her in the training room.”

They’ll see each other again soon. The two young Americans, who are both based in Florida, will face each other in the semifinals at Roland Garros on Thursday, nine months after Stephens beat Keys for the U.S. Open championship. It is the first French Open semifinal between a pair of women from the United States since Serena Williams beat Jennifer Capriati on the way to the 2002 title.

“That means one American will be in the final of a French Open, which is another amazing thing,” Stephens said. “All in all, I don’t think anyone can complain.”

Both were appearing in the quarterfinals on the red clay of Paris for the first time, and both handled the occasion well. First, at Court Suzanne Lenglen, the 13th-seeded Keys remained focused during a 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over 98th-ranked Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, never wavering when she fell behind in the opening set or when her volatile opponent could have become a distraction.

Keys built a whopping 30-12 edge in winners and won 84 percent of her first-serve points.

“Keep on playing like that,” Putintseva said, “she can go all the way here.”

Later, at Court Philippe Chatrier, Stephens was hardly troubled while beating No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 6-1 in a mere 70 minutes.

“She was better than me today,” Kasatkina said. “She was moving unbelievable.”

The quarterfinals on the other side of the draw are Wednesday, involving four women who have spent time at No. 1: Simona Halep, who currently leads the WTA rankings, against No. 12 seed Angelique Kerber, and No. 3 Garbine Muguruza against No. 28 Maria Sharapova.

Halep is a three-time Grand Slam runner-up, including in Paris in 2014 and last year; Kerber is a two-time major champ elsewhere; Muguruza won the French Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2017; and Sharapova owns five Grand Slam titles, including at Roland Garros in 2012 and 2014.

Quite a quartet.

Stephens, 23, and Keys, 25, will quickly approach that sort of status if they maintain the form they’ve shown lately.

Their matchup provides a contrast in styles: Keys is a big hitter whose serves and forehands are the keys to her success; Stephens covers every inch of the court as well as anyone.

Stephens has won both head-to-head encounters, including the Grand Slam final debut for each at New York in September.

“Honestly,” Keys said, “the (U.S.) Open feels like it was 12 years ago, at this point. I obviously rely on what I learned there and how to manage my emotions and manage the moment.”

Now one will get to play in her second major title match.

Until the moment they step into the main stadium at Roland Garros for Thursday’s semifinal, both promised, there will be no awkwardness between them.

“Everything will be normal,” Stephens said. “And then when we get on the court, it’s time to compete. It’s `go time.’ Until then, we’re the same girls, as always.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis