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Two top women lose in Paris, complain about rain

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PARIS — Yes, they actually managed to complete a match on this wettest of weeks at the French Open. Two, even. And both involved surprises: Two of the top half-dozen seeded women lost within minutes of each other, No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 6 Simona Halep.

After their fourth-round exits Tuesday, both Radwanska and Halep complained firmly about tournament organizers’ decision to make them play through drizzles – or worse – that made courts slippery and clay-caked tennis balls heavy.

“I mean, it’s not a (low-tier) tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. How can you allow players to play in the rain?” said Radwanska, the 2012 Wimbledon runner-up.

“I don’t think they really care what we think. I think they care about other things,” Radwanska added, saying her racket-wielding right hand gave her problems because she had surgery on it years ago.

Halep sounded a similar tone, noting it was “impossible to play,” and saying: “No one cares about the players, in my opinion. I don’t care that I lost the match today, but I was close to (getting) injured.”

Radwanska dropped 10 consecutive games while being beaten 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 by 102nd-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria. Shortly before that, Halep lost 7-6 (0), 6-3 to No. 21 Sam Stosur in a contest between two past finalists at Roland Garros.

Alas, of the 12 singles matches on Tuesday’s schedule, those were the only two that finished. Four men’s fourth-rounders – including No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 14 Roberto Bautista Agut – were suspended in progress. Four women’s fourth-rounders – including two involving the Williams sisters – never started at all, nor did two men’s quarterfinals.

Halep wondered aloud whether those in charge of the French Open insisted on going forward with matches in the rain because they “are scared” about completing the tournament on time. All play was washed out Monday, the first full day lost at the event in 16 years.

“Not their fault,” she said. “But the decisions were not, I think, the best.”

Radwanska vs. Pironkova originally began Sunday, and Radwanska was three games from victory at 3-0 in the second set when play was suspended. They didn’t make it back on court until Tuesday, began more than an hour late because of more rain, played for about a half-hour, then were halted by a 2 1/2-hour delay.

There were stretches when action proceeded despite drops falling, and – perhaps not surprisingly, given that she won – Pironkova was OK with that.

“Well, it happened before, of course. We have played in all sorts of conditions. Usually if the court is not fit for play, like if it’s slippery, they would cancel the match right away,” said Pironkova, who reached her first French Open quarterfinal. “But today the court was still hanging in. It was OK. We could have played, and so we did.”

The Stosur-Halep match was suspended Sunday during the first set. And 2011 U.S. Open champion Stosur – wearing a green long-sleeved shirt against the chill of temperatures in the 50s (about 15 degrees Celsius) – was better throughout Tuesday.

“It’s not good out there,” Stosur said, “but it was fine for us.”

She is into the quarterfinals in Paris for the fourth time.

“It was really tough, obviously, with the start-stop and having a day off and everything,” Stosur said. “Once you’re out there and it’s raining, it’s not so nice, but that’s the way it is.”

Four of the top 11 players remain in the women’s tournament: No. 1 Serena Williams, No. 4 Garbine Muguruza, No. 8 Timea Bacsinszky and No. 9 Venus Williams. Only Muguruza is already into the quarterfinals; the other three will wait until Wednesday to try to join her.

Djokovic split the first two sets with Bautista Agut as they went on and off court, able to get a total of only 2 hours of playing time.

Djokovic was leading 4-1 in the third when they were interrupted for good Tuesday, along with the other men’s fourth-round matches: Tomas Berdych vs. David Ferrer, David Goffin vs. Ernests Gulbis, and Dominic Thiem vs. Marcel Granollers.

During one break, Djokovic, seeking to win a fourth consecutive major title and complete a career Grand Slam, wandered around Court Philippe Chatrier to check the weather, borrowing a green-and-orange Roland Garros umbrella from a fan.

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

Stan Wawrinka advances to Australian Open semifinals

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U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka is through to the Australian Open semifinals after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena.

Wawrinka will play the winner of the night quarterfinal between Roger Federer and Mischa Zverev.

It was Wawrinka’s fourth win in a row over Tsonga and the first meeting between the pair at a Grand Slam other than the French Open, where they had met three times, with Wawrinka holding a 2-1 edge.

It was also the pair’s first meeting on a hardcourt in nearly 10 years — at Metz, France in 2007, when Tsonga won.

Venus Williams sets Australian record with run to semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Age appears to be no barrier for Venus Williams.

The 36-year-old Williams beat No. 24-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Tuesday, becoming the oldest player to reach the Australian Open women’s semifinals in the Open era.

Her 50th career win at Melbourne Park earned her a spot in the last four for the first time in 14 years.

“It’s wonderful to start the year out with this appearance,” said Williams, who hadn’t reached the semifinals here since 2003, the year she lost the final to her sister, Serena. “I want to go further. I’m not happy just with this. But I’m so happy to be in the position to like go further.”

She will next play CoCo Vandeweghe, who is in the Australian Open semifinals for the first time.

I’m just so excited that I have an opportunity to play again,” Williams said. “That’s all I’m focused on.”

Williams dropped four service games against Pavlyuchenkova, but she responded each time by breaking back. In the tiebreaker, she trailed 3-1 before winning the last six points – clinching the match on Pavlyuchenkova’s double-fault.

The seven-time major winner has advanced through the tournament without dropping a set, recovering from a right elbow injury that forced her to withdraw from a warmup tournament in New Zealand.

Now she is into semifinals for the second time in three majors – after a six-year absence from the last four – and for the 21st time overall.

With her run to the Wimbledon semifinals last year, Williams became the oldest woman since Martina Navratilova in 1994 to advance so far at a major. Navratilova was 37, years 258 days at the end of Wimbledon that year.

The record belongs to Billie Jean King, who was 39 years, 223 days when she reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 1983.