U.S. Davis Cup players try to stay out of Serena controversy

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ZADAR, Croatia – Serena Williams isn’t getting much support from the men on the United States’ Davis Cup team over her insinuation that sexism played a role in the code violations she received during the U.S. Open final.

Then again, Steve Johnson, Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison are trying their best to stay out of the debate since Carlos Ramos, the chair umpire who penalized Williams, is also handling their best-of-five semifinal series against Croatia this weekend.

U.S. captain Jim Courier tells The Associated Press “it’s been polarized and in some ways politicized. But we have no doubt that Carlos was just enforcing the rules as he sees them.”

USTA president and CEO Katrina Adams was overheard apologizing to Ramos on the sidelines of Thursday’s draw ceremony.

Williams was given three code violations by Ramos in the straight-set loss to Naomi Osaka on Saturday, and Williams and critics inside and outside of tennis argued that she wasn’t treated the same as some male players.

Johnson says “I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, but he enforced rules that have been enforced on me over the years.”

U.S. Open Day 4 live coverage

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5:30 p.m.

Venus Williams breezed through her second-round match at the U.S. Open.

The seven-time major champ had spent 2 hours, 42 minutes on court in a tense three-set victory over 93rd-ranked Kateryna Kozlova on Tuesday. But against German veteran Julia Goerges on Thursday, Williams won 6-2, 6-3 in 78 minutes.

She had just 17 unforced errors – in complete contrast to the whopping 63 in her first-round win.

The oldest player in the draw at age 36, the sixth-seeded Williams is coming off a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon, her deepest run at a major since 2010.

4:50 p.m.

Play has resumed on the outer courts at the U.S. Open after a rain delay of more than 2+ hours.

Sixth-seeded Kei Nishikori and No. 8 Dominic Thiem were among the players who had their matches halted Thursday. Nishikori split the first two sets against qualifier Karen Khachanov.

With the new roof closed over Arthur Ashe Stadium, No. 2 Andy Murray was able to play his match with no delays.

Eleven doubles matches were canceled Thursday because of the rain.

3:40 p.m.

Wimbledon champ Andy Murray advanced to the third round at the U.S. Open with another straight-set victory.

The second-seeded Murray beat Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 on Thursday under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium with play suspended on the outer courts. The heavy rain outside made quite a clatter on the new roof, and Murray said in his on-court interview that it was tough at first because it was hard to hear the ball.

Murray jumped to a quick 5-2 lead in the first set, then it took about 23 minutes to get through the last two games as Granollers saved six set points and got back on serve. But Murray earned another break to finally clinch the set after 67 minutes, then cruised through the final two in 75 minutes combined.

2:15 p.m.

Play has been suspended on the outer courts at the U.S. Open because of rain.

Matches started an hour late Thursday after morning showers. Players were on court for just over two hours before the skies opened up again.

The new roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium remained closed the whole time with matches taking place as scheduled.

1 p.m.

Fifth-seeded Simona Halep beat 2015 French Open runner-up Lucie Safarova in straight sets to move on to the third round of the U.S. Open.

Halep won 6-3, 6-4 under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday. On a rainy morning, the new roof was closed at the start of a match for the first time after it made its debut in the middle of Rafael Nadal’s win Wednesday night.

Halep said in her on-court interview that she liked the calm conditions of playing indoors but she was “a little bit cold.” She added later that it was nice to not need to wait out a rain delay.

12:35 p.m.

Play has started on the outer courts at the U.S. Open after a delay of just over an hour.

Rain pushed back the start of every match Thursday other than the one at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which now has a roof.

The $150 million retractable roof made its competition debut Wednesday night during Rafael Nadal’s win over Andreas Seppi, then was closed for the beginning of Thursday’s day session to allow fifth-seeded Simona Halep’s match against Lucie Safarova to start on time.

12:30 p.m.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced a multi-year partnership with Adidas on Thursday to make the German sportswear giant the official sponsor of USTA player development.

Financial terms were not disclosed for the deal, which gives Adidas a presence throughout the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla. – the headquarters of the organization’s player development efforts – and branding of the USTA’s top-flight junior tournament series and league tennis.

USTA Player Development general manager Martin Blackman says the partnership also makes Adidas the official outfitter of player development coaches “to reflect the look and professionalism that exemplifies Team USA.”

Adidas is the sponsor of such stars as Ana Ivanovic and Angelique Kerber. The company’s U.S. senior director of tennis David Malinkowski noted that the partnership could also help forge relationships with up-and-coming American tennis stars.

11 a.m.

Venus and Serena Williams are set to play back-to-back, second-round matches Thursday in Arthur Ashe Stadium, which may need its new retractable roof for much of the day because light rain is falling and more is expected.

No. 6-seeded Venus Williams will take on Julia Goerges of Germany in the afternoon, followed by No. 1 Serena Williams against Vania King in an all-American matchup to start the night session.

Another key match comes in the nightcap on Ashe, when 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro takes on 19th-seeded American Steve Johnson. Del Potro, whose ranking dropped to No. 142 because of wrist injuries over the past 2 ½ years, has returned to Grand Slam play this year and made a strong run to the silver medal at the Olympics.

The Wimbledon champ and Olympic gold medalist, No. 2-seeded Andy Murray, is also in action on Ashe, facing Marcel Granollers. They’ve played seven previous times, with Murray winning six.

Italy’s Flavia Pennetta wins US Open, 1st Grand Slam title — then says she’s retiring

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NEW YORK — Talk about going out on top: Flavia Pennetta won the U.S. Open for her first Grand Slam title at age 33, and then announced during the trophy ceremony she has decided to retire.

Pennetta did not have to beat Serena Williams in the final. Instead, Pennetta needed to get past the woman who ended Williams’ Grand Slam bid, Roberta Vinci. And Pennetta was able to do just that, pulling away in a matchup of Italians who were opponents and doubles partners as kids.

In one of the unlikeliest major finals in women’s tennis history, the 26th-seeded Pennetta beat Vinci 7-6 (4), 6-2 at Flushing Meadows on Saturday – a month after deciding she was ready to hang up her racket, a decision she kept private.

“This is how I say goodbye to tennis,” Pennetta said as her fiance, tennis player Fabio Fognini, captured the scene with his phone’s camera. “I couldn’t think to finish in a better way.”

That announcement served as a perfectly out-of-nowhere conclusion to a surprise-filled tournament, the biggest shock being Vinci’s win against Williams in the semifinals Friday. That stopped Williams’ 33-match winning streak in majors and her attempt to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single season.

Pennetta is the oldest woman in the Open era, which began in 1968, to become a Grand Slam champion for the first time. Vinci, who is 32, would have earned that distinction had she been able to follow her stunning upset of Williams in Friday’s semifinals with another victory.

This was the first major final for either participant, and the first time since WTA computer rankings were instituted in 1975 that both U.S. Open women’s finalists were ranked outside the top 20 (Vinci is 43rd).

They grew up 40 miles (65 kilometers) apart in coastal towns in Puglia, a region on the heel of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula, and have been facing each other on court for two decades – with the stakes much lower, of course. They shared some laughter and tears in the locker room together Friday while watching a video of a TV interview they did back in 1999, when they won a junior doubles title at the French Open as teenagers.

And when Saturday’s match ended, after Pennetta flung her racket overhead, she went up to the net to find Vinci, not for a handshake but for a lengthy hug. Vinci patted her pal on the back repeatedly, while Pennetta cried. Then they sat on adjacent sideline chairs and chatted, just a couple of foes and friends, sharing a special moment.

Vinci pantomimed throwing a punch as a joke, and Pennetta wrapped an arm around her. Vinci charmed the crowd later, first saying she wanted the champion’s trophy, not the one for the runner-up, and then pretending to steal Pennetta’s $3.3 million check.

“We know each other since forever,” Pennetta said. “We spend so much time together, we could write a book about our lives.”