Simona Halep beat Lesia Tsurenko for the second time in the space of a week to reach the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Halep grasped the opportunity to make up points on world number one Naomi Osaka - beaten by Kristina Mladenovic in her first match of the tournament - with a 6-3 7-5 victory on Wednesday.

Third seed Halep knocked Tsurenko out of the Qatar Open en route to the final, which she lost against Elise Mertens, and got the better of the Ukrainian again seven days later in testing conditions due to the wind.

The French Open champion will face Belinda Bencic or Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight after breaking seven times and making 17 unforced errors to 28 from Tsurenko.

Halep's positive approach paid off in a first set that included six breaks, Tsurenko losing four service games in a row as the world number two applied the pressure.

The 23-ranked Tsurenko sprayed a forehand long to conclude the opening set, but won the first two games of the second to offer hope she could at least go the distance.

Halep broke back to level at 2-2 and again when Tsurenko had the opportunity to serve out the set, the Romanian mixing up a perfectly executed dropshot with measured groundstrokes.

The 2015 champion then broke to love to seal a straight-sets victory as she eyes a first title of the season.

Roger Federer will play in the Madrid Open in May as part of his clay-court comeback.

Federer has not played in the clay-court season since 2016, but the 20-time grand slam champion revealed after his Australian Open exit that he plans to grace the red surface this year.

The former world number one has confirmed he will return to the Caja Magica as he steps up his preparation for what is set to be his first French Open appearance since 2015.

"Federer is one of the best players of all time, it's no secret," said Madrid Open director Feliciano Lopez, who is relishing a stellar line-up featuring Federer's great rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

"We are happy because his return to Madrid is a gift to the tournament, but above all the fans will be able to see a unique player in the Caja Magica. Having the Swiss player back on clay with Djokovic and Nadal is going to be unmissable."

Honorary Madrid Open president Manolo Santana, said: "Roger's presence in the Caja Magica will make this year's Madrid Open special.

"It doesn't matter that he's 37 because he still has that unmistakable class; the innate talent that has made him one of the best of all time. Being able to enjoy his tennis is something that no fan of the sport should miss."

Federer has won the Madrid Open three times, his most recent success in the Spanish capital coming in 2012.

Dominic Thiem suffered a shock loss in the Rio Open first round, while Juan Martin del Potro marked his return with a win on Tuesday.

Thiem, the top seed and 2017 champion in Rio de Janeiro, was stunned 6-3 6-3 by Serbian Laslo Djere at the ATP 500 event.

Djere, the 23-year-old world number 90, broke serve five times in an impressive performance.

Thiem was one of six seeds to fall at the rain-hit tournament.

Fabio Fognini, the Italian second seed, was comfortably beaten by Canadian wildcard Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-2 6-3.

Marco Cecchinato was edged by Aljaz Bedene 7-5 7-6 (7-1) and Dusan Lajovic was thrashed by Cameron Norrie 6-2 6-1.

The seventh-seeded Malek Jaziri went down to Federico Delbonis 6-3 7-5, while Nicolas Jarry lost to Roberto Carballes Baena 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (8-6) in a three-hour marathon at the clay-court event.

Joao Sousa was the only seed to progress, while there were also wins for the likes of Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Christian Garin.

At the Delray Beach Open, Del Potro made his return from a knee injury with a 6-3 7-5 win over Yoshihito Nishioka.

Playing for the first time since October, the 2011 champion sent down 12 aces to win in one hour, 51 minutes.

Unlike in Rio, it was a decent day for the seeds on the hard-courts in Florida.

John Isner got past Peter Polansky 6-3 7-6 (7-4), Steve Johnson overcame Jason Jung 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 and Andreas Seppi beat Bernard Tomic 6-4 7-5.

Adrian Mannarino was a comfortable 6-2 6-2 winner over Brayden Schnur, who was coming off a run to the New York Open final.

Reilly Opelka, who won his maiden ATP Tour title in New York, advanced with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Tennys Sandgren.

However, defending champion Frances Tiafoe went down to qualifier Dan Evans 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 7-5 and Taylor Fritz was beaten by Mackenzie McDonald 3-6 6-4 6-3.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's improved start to 2019 hit a stumbling block on Tuesday as the three-time champion bowed out of the Open 13 Marseille.

No player has won the ATP Tour event more times than Tsonga, who was triumphant in 2009, 2013 and 2017, matching the tallies of Marc Rosset and Thomas Enqvist.

But despite having ended a long wait for a triumph on the Tour at the Open Sud de France earlier this month, Tsonga could not extend a bid for a fourth Marseille victory beyond his opening match.

The Frenchman won the opening set against Andrey Rublev but then went down 2-6 6-4 6-2.

Tsonga was not the only home hopeful to see his challenge cut short, with Jeremy Chardy losing a pair of tie-breaks in vastly contrasting fashion as Matteo Berrettini emerged a 7-6 (14-12) 7-6 (7-0) winner.

Meanwhile, a bizarre development saw Constant Lestienne beaten by a man he had eliminated in qualifying.

Lestienne defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky on Monday, but the Ukrainian returned to the competition as a lucky loser and knocked the Frenchman out in three sets 24 hours later.

Benoit Paire came through in straight sets against Simone Bolelli, though, while fifth seed Fernando Verdasco and Peter Gojowczyk also won.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina was among those to progress at the Dubai Tennis Championships as Naomi Osaka was the only truly high-profile name to crash out on Tuesday.

Osaka, who announced last week she had split from coach Sascha Bajin, was stunned by Kristina Mladenovic in her first match as world number one, losing in straight sets in just over an hour after a shoddy display.

But the majority of the other seeds in the draw progressed, including Svitolina and Simona Halep, who breezed past Eugenie Bouchard.

Petra Kvitova and Angelique Kerber both battled back from early deficits, while Karolina Pliskova beat Dominika Cibulkova, with Garbine Muguruza easing to victory over Zheng Saisai. Aryna Sabalenka thrashed Ivana Jorovic.

Some seeds did join Osaka in exiting, though, with Kiki Bertens departing after defeat in a third-set tie-break to Viktoria Kuzmova, while Caroline Garcia went down to Jennifer Brady in straight sets.

MOTIVATED BY HISTORY

Svitolina has triumphed in Dubai in the last two years, matching the back-to-back achievements of Justine Henin (twice) and Venus Williams, and could become the first woman to win three in a row.

But the Ukrainian did not have it all her own way for a time on Tuesday, trailing to an early Ons Jabeur break before rallying and seeing her opponent bow out with injury.

And Svitolina is very aware of the potential of a groundbreaking achievement, later revealing that she was motivated to recover due to that very opportunity.

"It's definitely a big motivation for me," she said. "When I was 0-2 down, I told myself, 'Come on, you are here to make history in this tournament'."

 

OSAKA NOT WORRIED

Osaka looked a shadow of her usual self as she was beaten in her first match since the Australian Open.

The top seed never got going and, despite breaking several times in the second set, found herself unable to hold serve as Mladenovic claimed a famous victory.

Rising star Osaka does not believe the defeat provides cause for concern, though, explaining: "The Australian Open was not even a month ago. This was just one match.

"I feel like, even if I don't win any matches for the rest of the year, I wouldn't say I'm concerned. I think I'm pretty young. I still feel like I have a lot to learn."

STARS WORKED HARD

Kvitova and Kerber might have avoided the embarrassment of Osaka's defeat, but they were far from comfortable in their own victories.

Second seed Kvitova lost the opening set to Katerina Siniakova before staging a recovery to win 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 6-4.

Meanwhile, Kerber was two breaks down to Dalila Jakupovic in the first set, trailing 5-1 and saving two set points. A stunning response set up a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 success.

Second seed Kirsten Flipkens was forced to withdraw from the Hungarian Ladies Open ahead of her opening match in Budapest on Tuesday.

The 2018 doubles finalist had been set to begin her campaign against Evgeniya Rodina but, having suffered with illness last week, she pulled out earlier in the day.

Rodina instead faced lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova and came through a topsy-turvy contest 6-0 4-6 6-2.

Johanna Larsson - Flipkens' doubles partner at this tournament - was the only other seed on the slate for Tuesday, but she was upset in a 6-1 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Kateryna Kozlova.

Elsewhere, home hopeful Anna Bondar let a one-set lead slip to lose in three to Sorana Cirstea in the day's late match.

There were also wins for Anna Blinkova, against Natalia Vikhlyantseva in three sets, and Iga Swiatek, who saw off Olga Danilovic 6-3 6-0. Elsewhere, Tereza Smitkova defeated Ysaline Bonaventure.

Naomi Osaka endured a tough start to life as world number one as she was dumped out of the Dubai Tennis Championships by Kristina Mladenovic.

The 21-year-old climbed to the top of the rankings for the first time after winning a second consecutive grand slam title at the Australian Open at the start of the year, yet her form deserted her as she returned to action on Tuesday.

Playing without a full-time coach following Sascha Bajin's departure - instead aided by Japan Tennis Association trainer Masashi Yoshikawa - Osaka floundered early on and could not recover.

Mladenovic ran out a 6-3 6-3 winner and upset the assembled Japanese fans who witnessed a surprisingly flat performance from the evening's star attraction.

Osaka was slow to get going in front of an expectant crowd and was quickly broken twice, first finding the net after a series of sloppy serves and then bowing again under pressure from Mladenovic.

The Japanese responded to the second setback in style, breaking back after a pair of stunning returns brought her fans to their feet, yet a double fault at the end of another disappointing service game handed Mladenovic the opening set.

Osaka had her head in her hands as she dropped three consecutive points and received a time violation at the start of the second, swiftly suffering another break at the hands of a now rampant opponent.

That was the first of seven breaks in succession, with Osaka returning well but repeatedly giving up her foothold in the match, shrugging bemusedly as she failed to hold serve for the seventh time in the set.

Mladenovic then had the opportunity to serve out the match and she assuredly delivered to clinch victory inside 65 minutes.

Simona Halep held off the challenge of Eugenie Bouchard on Tuesday to advance to the third round of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The Romanian, champion at this event three years ago, prevailed 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to move into the round of 16, where Lesia Tsurenko or Zhu Lin await.

Bouchard has failed to rescale the heights of 2014, which produced a Wimbledon final appearance as well as runs to the last four of both the Australian and French Opens, but the Canadian showed signs of promise against the world number two.

After a closely contested and high-quality opening set went to a tie-break, the third seed found another gear in the second and closed out the victory, improving her head-to-head record against the world number 79 to 4-1.

Bouchard had been soundly beaten 6-2 6-2 in the pair's previous meeting at the 2018 Australian Open but she made an encouraging start here only to net a backhand volley with the court wide open at 2-2 30-30 on her opponent's serve.

Halep made the most of that escape to hold and then break as Bouchard erred on the backhand side, but the match was immediately back on serve as Halep netted a forehand in the next game.

A forehand winner gave a Halep a 4-2 lead at the changeover in the tie-break and the first set was hers as Bouchard sent a volley long with the court open once more.

Halep maintained her momentum with a break to start the second - one which was consolidated by a remarkable forehand pass by way of response to Bouchard's attempted smash.

Halep, beaten by Elise Mertens in Saturday's Qatar Open final having been a set up, showed no signs of a similar lapse here, dropping just three points in her final four service games before Bouchard's long forehand wrapped up a consummate victory.

Nick Kyrgios held on to beat fellow Australian John Millman in three sets at the Delray Beach Open, while the Rio Open was halted by rain.

Kyrgios outlasted fifth seed Millman 6-4 6-7 (1-7) 7-6 (7-3) in the opening round of the ATP 250 tournament on Monday.

Former world number 13 Kyrgios hit 19 aces and won 85 per cent of his first serves against last year's US Open quarter-finalist, while he converted the only break point he earned.

"My serve keeps bailing me out of these types of matches, which is pretty fortunate for me," said Kyrgios. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy. John is one of the toughest competitors on tour and he's a good mate of mine, so I'm just happy to get through with the win."

Next up for Kyrgios is either 2015 champion Ivo Karlovic or Radu Albot.

Lukas Lacko defeated qualifier Yosuke Watanuki 6-4 6-4, wildcard Lloyd Harris saw off Darian King 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 and Denis Istomin beat Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

Meanwhile, Monday's matches were washed out at the ATP 500 Rio Open in Brazil, where all seven scheduled singles fixtures were cancelled due to rain.

Only two matches made it on court – Federico Delbonis was leading seventh seed Malek Jaziri 5-3 and eighth seed Nicolas Jarry was trailing Roberto Carballes Baena 4-3.

Gilles Simon had to come from a set down to avoid seeing his bid for a third Open 13 title come unstuck in the first around against fellow Frenchman Antoine Hoang.

Sixth seed Simon lost five games in a row to surrender the opening set, but he broke at the right time in the second and third to seal a 5-7 6-3 6-3 victory over the wildcard on Monday.

"I expected a tough match and I'm very happy that I won. I've won a couple of matches after being a set and a break down, so I didn't feel like I was close to losing," said Simon, winner of the tournament in 2007 and 2015.

Australian Open semi-finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas is seeded first and will begin his tilt in Marseille against Hubert Hurkacz. The Pole sent down 13 aces as he defeated Filip Krajinovic 6-3 6-2.

Mikhail Kukushkin overcame Denis Kudla 6-3 6-3, meaning he will face fourth seed Denis Shapovalov in round two.

Serena Williams is aiming to put the disappointment of two major final losses in 2018 behind her and surpass Margaret Court's record grand slam haul this year, according to her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Former world number one Williams returned to the WTA Tour last March, just six months after giving birth to her daughter and suffering complications in the aftermath, and managed to reach the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open.

The American, who was forced to pull out of the French Open due to a shoulder issue, lost to Angelique Kerber at the All England Club and went down to Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows, a match that was overshadowed by her dispute with umpire Carlos Ramos.

Williams' hopes of drawing level with Margaret Court on 24 grand slam wins at this year's Australian Open were extinguished by Karolina Pliskova at the quarter-final stage, but Mouratoglou assured her ambitions remain high for the rest of 2019.

"Her target has always been to win grand slams and that's why she came back, because she believes – and of course I believe too – that she is able," Mouratoglou said at the Laureus World Sports Awards 2019.

"She has the level to win grand slams. She was close two times last year, played to grand slam finals, so this year the goal is to do better than last year and win the last two that are missing, and then we see.

"What Serena has achieved over the last 20 years is unique in the history of the sport, but she's a unique person, she's a unique player and we will do everything to beat that record, so she stays in all the [history] books forever."

Mouratoglou was impressed that Osaka managed to follow up her maiden major triumph at the US Open by winning the Australian Open, though the world number one's decision to split with coach Sascha Bajin surprised him.

"Naomi achieved something incredible. She won her first grand slam and right after she won another, which is something so rare in our sport, whether for men or women," he said.

"Usually you need a lot of time to recover and you experience a new pressure as a grand slam winner and it takes time and she's been able to bounce back and this shows incredible mental strength.

"It's clearly strange [the split with Bajin], it's not something you're used to seeing. It's her choice and we have to respect it and she probably had her reasons and they didn't want to talk about it, so we have to respect it."

Caroline Wozniacki revealed she has struggled with a viral illness for almost two months after withdrawing from the Dubai Tennis Championships.

The former world number one, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis before last year's US Open, pulled out of a second tournament in succession and had her place taken in the main draw by Polona Hercog, who was defeated by fellow lucky loser Stefanie Voegele 6-3 6-2.

Elise Mertens, seeded 16th, claimed the biggest title of her career at the Qatar Open at the weekend but she fell to a 5-7 6-4 7-5 loss against Zhu Lin on Monday.

Seeds Anett Kontaveit (15) and Julia Goerges (13) also suffered early exits.


WOZNIACKI'S WOES

After announcing her withdrawal, Wozniacki explained she has been feeling unwell since Christmas, despite her condition improving after the Australian Open.

"It hasn't been the greatest start, the start that I'd hope for," said Wozniacki. "I picked something up at Christmas at home and it was lingering a bit all the way through Australia and after that I felt good for a couple of weeks. Then I came to Doha and then the day of my match I woke up and I felt terrible.

"It's just one of those things, you can't do anything about it. I just have to stay positive and try to do everything in my power to get better. Indian Wells and Miami is right around the corner, but thankfully not right around the corner. Hoping to be 100 per cent for both of those.

"When you have RA [rheumatoid arthritis], my immune system is not working on as high of a level as normal so it's taking me longer to get over stuff like this."

 

SEEDS LEARN OPPONENTS

Kristina Mladenovic defeated Fatma Al Nabhani 6-1 6-1 to set up a meeting with world number one Naomi Osaka, while Ons Jabeur will take on reigning champion Elina Svitolina after overcoming Donna Vekic 6-4 7-6 (11-9).

Dalila Jakupovic came from a set down to advance past Zarina Diyas 1-6 6-1 6-2 to book a date with Angelique Kerber, while Karolina Pliskova lies in wait for Dominika Cibulkova after the Slovakian triumphed 5-7 6-1 6-2 against Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena, who appeared to be struggling with injury.


OSTAPENKO IN TURMOIL

It was an emotional match for Jelena Ostapenko as she struggled with her serve, holding just once and committing 11 double faults in a 6-4 6-0 defeat to Jennifer Brady. 

The 2017 French Open champion received treatment on her back and appeared tearful both during the changeovers and prior to serving in the second set. 

Ostapenko finally held serve from 15-40 in game eight of the first set, but Brady - who will next meet Caroline Garcia, a comfortable 6-2 6-0 winner against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - reeled off the next eight games in succession to seal the victory. 


HONEST ANETT

Needing to hold to clinch victory in the match, Zhang Shuai started the ninth game of the second set by drilling a serve beyond Kontaveit, only for it to be called out.

However, Kontaveit said it touched the line and gave the point to her opponent. Zhang went on to seal a 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 victory and posted a tweet calling her opponent a "nice and honest girl" for her action.

Andrea Petkovic dropped just one game against Ana Bogdan to cruise into the second round of the Hungarian Ladies Open.

Sixth seed Petkovic took just 57 minutes to see off Bogdan in Budapest, winning 73 per cent of points on her first serve to advance in comfortable fashion.

The German will take on 17-year-old Anastasia Potapova, a 6-4 2-6 7-6 (7-4) victor against Heather Watson, in round two.

Tamara Korpatsch put up more of a fight in the second set but was unable to avoid a 6-0 7-5 loss to fourth seed Aleksandra Krunic.

Pauline Parmentier overcame Ana Konjuh 7-5 6-3, while Arantxa Rus downed Fiona Ferro 7-5 6-3.

Novak Djokovic and Simone Biles have been named Laureus World Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year respectively.

ATP world number one Djokovic beat fellow nominees Lewis Hamilton, LeBron James, Kylian Mbappe, Luka Modric and Eliud Kipchoge to claim the award for the fourth time – only Roger Federer has won it more.

The rejuvenated Serbian recovered from a loss of form and persistent elbow injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018, earning a return to the top of the rankings.

Djokovic said: "A Laureus Award is what every athlete wants to win, and this one is a huge honour for me. Being among so many sporting greats here tonight, and hearing about the inspirational work Laureus is doing around the world, gives this Award a special meaning for me.

"Last year was an incredible season for me, returning from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open is something I'll remember forever. I am delighted and I would like to thank the Laureus Academy for their support."

Biles became the first woman to win a fourth all-around title at the 2018 World Artistic Gymnastic Championships.

The American claimed a record-breaking four golds – she has now amassed an unprecedented 14 at the worlds – in Doha and added one silver and a bronze.

Naomi Osaka received the World Breakthrough of the Year award after claiming her first grand slam title at the US Open, while Didier Deschamps accepted the prize for World Team of the Year on behalf of FIFA World Cup winners France.

Former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was given the Lifetime Achievement award and Cesc Fabregas, Alessandro Del Piero, Luis Figo and Fabio Capello were among those to give him a guard of honour at the ceremony in Monaco.

Skiing great Lindsey Vonn received recognition for her illustrious career in the shape of the Spirit of Sport Award.

Novak Djokovic can win as many grand slams as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, according to his former coach Boris Becker.

After over two years without a major victory amid a slump in form and persistent elbow injury, a rejuvenated Djokovic returned to the peak of his powers to win Wimbledon in 2018.

The Serbian has since triumphed at the US Open and Australian Open to take his grand slam haul to 15, two shy of Nadal and five behind Federer.

Djokovic will hold all four majors simultaneously for the second time in his career if he wins the French Open in June, though Becker considers Nadal favourite to triumph at Roland Garros for the 12th time in his career.

However, the German believes his former pupil can still amass a record-breaking number of grand slam titles.

"A lot can happen in a year either way. I mean, you've seen it. Yes, on paper, he's 31, he's won 15 majors, yes, there's a possibility he can reach 20," Becker told Omnisport at the Laureus World Sports Awards 2019.

"But who says that Roger isn't going to win another one. I always liked his chances at Wimbledon on the grass. Who says that Nadal isn't competing for it? He was in the final in Melbourne. He's certainly the favourite in my book for the French Open, and then he has 18, there's only two more for the French.

"So, it's a good problem to have because ultimately, you want to be the most successful of all time and what a challenge. What a moment in all three players' lives."

Expanding on whether Djokovic can depose Nadal at the French Open, Becker said: "First of all, it's amazing that he's in a position to do so. Very few players in the history of tennis can say that.

"Now, playing Nadal at the French is the most difficult tennis match you're ever going to face. Novak has done it a few times, he's beaten him one time on the year when he won the Grand Slam, and that's going to be the match.

"The way the rankings are, I think it's one and two, the earliest it can be is in the semi-final - I mean, what a match! Who wouldn't want to watch that match? History will be re-written, but there's a lot of tennis to be played until then.

"Players are going to the hard courts in America and on the clay in Europe so hopefully nobody gets injured, they keep the momentum, they play enough, but not too much. So the French Open should be an amazing high."

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