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Frenchman Gasquet faces Murray in French Open quarters

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PARIS — The wait had better be worth it for tennis fans when Richard Gasquet finally takes on Andy Murray in the French Open quarterfinals – weather allowing on Wednesday.

Since they won their third-round matches on Sunday, it has rained almost non-stop at Roland Garros, washing out Monday and most of Tuesday.

The second-seeded Murray munched on an energy bar as he watched No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s rain-interupted fourth-round match against No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain on Tuesday. The Murray vs. Gasquet match was supposed to follow the conclusion of Djokovic’s match and then No. 1 Serena Williams vs. No. 18 Elina Svitolina.

Gasquet should be patient by now, having never previously reached the last eight at the French Open since first playing here in 2002 – just short of his 16th birthday.

Murray and Gasquet are both 29, and Gasquet was the more talented early on, winning their first two meetings in 2006 and 2007 – the year Gasquet reach the Wimbledon semifinals as a 21-year-old. He should really have won their next encounter, too, wasting a two-set lead in the fourth round at Wimbledon the following year.

After that, Murray’s trajectory went up – two Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and seven other Grand Slam finals – while Gasquet’s form mostly stagnated, with rare highs being semifinals at the U.S. Open in 2013 and two years later at Wimbledon.

Murray has won their last five meetings – including in the fourth round of the French Open in 2012 – but Gasquet has taken confidence from an impressive win against No. 5 Kei Nishikori in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Djokovic is looking to reach his 10th French Open quarterfinal. He’s never lost to Bautista Agut.

Neither has Williams against Svitolina, leading her 3-0.

Nor has No. 3 Stan Wawrinka against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and the defending champion leads the Spaniard 6-0 heading into their quarterfinal. Three of those wins are on clay, the most recent in the second round on his way to his victory at the Geneva Open.

That should give beleagured French Open organizers some hope those matches could be completed quickly as they face a serious backlog.

One of these is a potential fourth-round clash between No. 7 Tomas Berdych and No. 11 David Ferrer.

Ferrer, who leads 8-6 in their head-to-heads, will be 2-1 up when they resume in the first set; while Ernests Gulbis – a semifinalist here two years ago – is 3-0 up in the first set against No. 12 David Goffin of Belgium; and it’s one set each between No. 13 Dominic Thiem and Marcel Granollers.

WOMEN’S QUARTERFINALS: American Shelby Rogers could reach the semifinals before Serena and her older sister Venus Williams – who is also playing in the fourth round.

But Rogers, unseeded, must first get the better of No. 4 Garbine Muguruza of Spain, who is determined to reach the last four after losing in the quarterfinals for the past two years.

Meanwhile, Samantha Stosur will be looking to reach the semis for the fourth time and the bad news for her opponent – Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria – is that Stosur has won all her three quarterfinals here. The 32-year-old Australian reached the final in 2010, losing to Francesca Schiavone.

WOMEN’S 4th-ROUND MATCHES: Three other women’s fourth-round matches are scheduled for Wednesday, with No. 9 Venus Williams taking on No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky. The seven-time Grand Slam champion leads Bacsinszky 2-0 – beating her two years ago at the U.S. Open and six years earlier at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Bacsinszky lost to Serena Williams in a tense semifinal here last year.

Also, Kiki Bertens faces No. 15 Madison Keys in their first meeting and No. 12 Carla Suarez Navarro plays Yulia Putintseva.

Serena Williams reaches 4th round without dropping a set

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams is still on track in her bid to win a record 23rd Grand Slam title.

The six-time Australian Open winner beat fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 in the third round on Saturday, when she didn’t face a break point until she was serving for the match.

Dropping serve in that game was her only lapse in a match that then extended just beyond the hour – to 63 minutes to be precise. That made it one minute and one game longer than her only other match against Gibbs.

Williams started the tournament with difficult assignments in the first two rounds, but also got through those – against Belinda Bencic, with a career-high ranking of 7, and Lucie Safarova, a French Open finalist in 2015 – without dropping a set.

She has set the tone for the tournament. Williams will next play No. 16 Barbora Strycova, who beat No. 21 Caroline Garcia 6-2, 7-5.

Ekaterina Makarova led by a set and 4-0 but needed three sets and almost three hours to finally beat WTA Finals champion Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-3.

“An amazing fight,” Makarova said of her first win over sixth-seeded Cibulkova, the 2014 finalist at Melbourne Park. “I got, to be honest, a bit tight at 4-0 in the second set. But I’m still here. I love this Grand Slam.”

In a momentum-swing match featuring some long streaks of games and 11 service breaks, Makarova got the decisive break in the eighth game of the deciding set and closed it next.

Makarova will play either 2016 semifinalist Johanna Konta, who beat her in the fourth round here last year, or former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her unlikely run with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari, and so did American qualifier Jennifer Brady.

Before this week, the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni hadn’t won a match at Melbourne Park since her debut at the Australian Open in 1998. The 19-year gap in between match wins at a Grand Slam tournament broke the record set by Kimiko Date-Krumm, who went 17 years between match wins at Wimbledon.

Lucic-Baroni reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 1999 as a 17-year-old and captured the Australian Open doubles title a year before that with Martina Hingis.

She next plays Brady, ranked No. 116, who had never played in the main draw of a major before she qualified for this week.

The 21-year-old American had a 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 14th-seeded Elena Vesnina on Show Court 2, and is making the most of the occasion.

By saving five match points before rallying to beat Heather Watson in the second round, Brady effectively doubled her number of career wins.

On the men’s side, No. 8 Dominic Thiem beat Benoit Paire 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to set up a fourth-round match against No. 11 David Goffin, who ended Ivo Karlovic’s run 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

The 37-year-old Karlovic’s win in the first round set an endurance record – the 84 games in the win over Horacio Zeballos, which ended 22-20 in the fifth, was an Open-era mark for the tournament.

Roger Federer into fourth round at Australian Open after beating Tomas Berdych

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 20:  Roger Federer of Swizterland celebrates his win in his third round match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic walks on on day five of the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 20, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Roger Federer relaxed into the chair, his arms folded across his chest in a casual, confident way, and just savored a vintage Australian Open performance.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion, seeded a lowly-by-his-standards 17th after spending six months on the sidelines to let his left knee heal, only needed 90 minutes to beat Tomas Berdych 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round on Friday.

This was against a highly-credentialed pro, seeded No. 10, who beat Federer in the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2010 on the way to the final. Berdych reached the quarterfinals or better in Australia the previous six years, and had beaten Federer in six of their previous 22 matches.

Federer said he felt like he struggled against the qualifiers in his first two rounds, and knew the degree of difficulty would rise sharply. Having beaten Berdych, he next faces No. 5 Kei Nishikori. And there’s a potential quarterfinal match against top-ranked Andy Murray.

“It’s just crazy how quick I got out of the blocks,” Federer said of his almost flawless match against Berdych. “What a difference it was in the feeling afterward. I did surprise myself.

“From the baseline, honestly, I felt worlds better than in the first couple of rounds.”

Federer hit some classic one-handed backhand winners, including one that earned a hearty applause from the great Rod Laver – sitting in the crowd at the stadium named in his honor – in the second set.

He had 40 winners and won 95 percent of points when he got his first serve into play. He didn’t face a break point.

During his on-court interview, Federer acknowledged Laver, the last man to complete the calendar year Grand Slam.

Laver waved back.

“It’s always nice when he shows up to watch,” the 35-year-old Federer said. “It’s always nice when he’s in the building.”

Nishikori, the 2014 U.S. Open finalist who beat Lukas Lacko 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, has lost four of his six matches against Federer, including the last three.

“Guess I’m ready. There’s no turning back,” Federer said. “He’s … maybe the best backhand in the business right now. Really got my work cut out for me.”

Five-time Australian Open runner-up Murray said he had no trouble with his sore right ankle as he advanced to the fourth round for the ninth straight year with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 31 Sam Querrey.

Murray, who replaced Djokovic at No. 1 in November, said he was surprised at the six-time Australian Open champion’s second-round loss to Denis Istomin. But Murray didn’t think it changed anything for him.

“I wasn’t scheduled to play Novak today, so my job’s to concentrate on Sam and to go into that match with a clear head and a good game plan and try to play well,” said Murray, who next plays Mischa Zverev. “I did that.

“If you’re to get to the final, then it has an effect.”

Seven-time major winner Venus Williams routed Duan Yingying 6-1, 6-0 in 59 minutes to reach the fourth round in Australia for the 10th time.

“It’s good (but) it’s never enough,” she said, looking ahead to her fourth-round match against Mona Barthel. “I’ve tasted it before and it’s always a great feeling because it means, hey, I have an opportunity for the quarterfinals. That’s what I’m going to go for.”

There’s no Americans or Australians remaining in the men’s draw. No. 23-seeded Jack Sock followed Querrey out, losing 7-6 (4), 7-5, 6-7 (8), 6-3 to No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Daniel Evans beat Bernard Tomic 7-5, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (3).

U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka had a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win over Viktor Troicki to move into a fourth-round match against Andreas Seppi.

Women’s champion Angelique Kerber beat Kristyna Pliskova 6-0, 6-4 and will next play CoCo Vandeweghe, who had a 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win over 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard. French Open champion Garbine Muguruza closed out Day 5 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Anastasia Sevastova.

The day belonged to Federer, though, and he didn’t mind that everyone noticed. When reminded in his news conference of his range of exquisite shots, the 35-year-old Swiss star eased into his chair and nodded.

“Thank you. Keep going. Keep going – it’s good, it’s good,” he said, smiling. “What’s nice about tonight is it was unexpected for me, unexpected for a lot of people apparently as well, and it was against a fellow top player.”