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Murray beats Simon to reach Madrid Open quarterfinals

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MADRID (AP) Andy Murray put on another impressive performance on clay Thursday, defeating Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Madrid Open.

The second-seeded Murray broke Simon’s serve in the final game of the first set and twice in the second to stay on track to defend his title.

“I didn’t return that well at the beginning,” Murray said. “But when I got into a rhythm, I was able to dictate a lot of points. I used my variety well and served well. He wasn’t able to put me under much pressure on my serve after the first couple of games.”

In the women’s tournament, 19-year-old qualifier Louisa Chirico defeated Daria Gavrilova of Australia 7-6 (1), 6-2 to reach the semifinals.

The 130th-ranked Chirico became the first American teenager to reach the semifinals of a top clay-court event since Ashley Harkleroad in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2003.

Chirico beat 14th-seeded Ana Ivanovic in the second round, and took advantage of the late withdrawal of Victoria Azarenka in the third round. She will next face either 38th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia or wild-card entry Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

Murray’s match against Simon was a rematch of the 2008 final in Madrid, when the British player won his first title at the tournament.

The match at the “Magic Box” was interrupted for a few minutes late in the second set after a spectator fell ill and had to be attended to by paramedics. The match was allowed to resume while doctors stayed on the stands.

Murray’s win in Madrid last year was his first at a Masters tournament on clay. This year, he reached the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Masters, losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal in three sets.

He will next face either Joao Sousa of Portugal or Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

The 16th-seeded Simon was trying to reach the quarterfinals of a tournament for the third time this season. He had already done so in Miami and Portugal, failing to advance both times.

“It’s obviously very tricky against Simon,” Murray said. “He lulls you into a false sense of security in points. Sometimes the better you hit the ball, the better it comes back. It’s tough to get the balance between being aggressive and being patient.”

Top-seeded Halep survives marathon match

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Top-seeded Simona Halep served for the match four times before prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 over American Lauren Davis in a marathon match at Rod Laver Arena.

Halep saved three match points in the 22nd game of the third set at 0-40 and Davis saved five break points in the 23rd game in the 3 hour, 45-minute match. The final set took 2 hour, 22 minutes and Halep won on her first match point when Davis hit a forehand wide along the sideline.

Davis twice had medical timeouts in the final set to have blisters on both feet treated.

Halep will play the winner of Saturday’s later match between local hope Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.

In other women’s third-round matches, sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 and No. 8 Caroline Garcia beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Garcia will play Madison Keys in the fourth round.

 

More AP coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/AustralianOpen

Wozniacki still in frame for return to No. 1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Caroline Wozniacki had just been beaten by Kim Clijsters in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, causing her to lose her No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and she had some fighting words.

“I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said. “The media talks to me like I’m finished … the fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.”

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open, where Wozniacki’s win in the third round on Friday leaves her with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking – six years later.

If so, it would be the longest gap between stints at the top since the WTA’s computer rankings were introduced in 1975. She might take some solace from the fact that the current longest streak between players returning to No. 1 is held by Serena Williams at 5 years, 29 days.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki also faced criticism during her first stay at No. 1 – which included year-end top rankings in 2010 and 2011 – that she’d never won a major, unlike Williams’ current 23. And that hasn’t changed either.

Maybe this year.

On Friday, two days after she came back from a 5-1 deficit and saved two match points in the third set to beat Jana Fett in the second round, she had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens that wasn’t without late drama, both with closing out the match, and with her criticism of the chair umpire.

Wozniacki had to save four break points while serving for the match but clinched it on her fourth match point.

After coming so close to being knocked out of the tournament, she sounded like a gambler with cash in her pocket.

“Right now, playing with house money,” Wozniacki said in an on-court television interview. “Nothing to lose. I got a second chance. I’m just going to try and take it and see how far I can go.”

Wozniacki wasn’t happy with chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. She had complained about a few line calls, and that the court was slippery in several areas.

“I’ve never had this guy before … but I think he did a poor job today,” Wozniacki said. “If the court is wet, I think it’s normal to ask for a towel. I don’t think someone needs to be rude, and I told him so. I think there were some questionable calls, as well.”

Watching from Wozniacki’s support section was former NBA player David Lee. In November, the former New York Knicks forward proposed to her during a holiday on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora.

“All I’ll say is it was a surprise, it was amazing,” Wozniacki said earlier this week of Lee’s proposal. “Had the best off-season. We had a great time traveling a little bit, exploring some new places. I was really recharged when I finally got back on the court again.”

Perhaps enough to get her back to No. 1.