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Federer rallies from 2 sets down to reach Wimbledon semis

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LONDON — Roger Federer’s bid for a record eighth Wimbledon title remains alive after he came from two sets down and saved three match points Wednesday before overcoming Marin Cilic in five sets, advancing to the semifinals at the All England Club for the 11th time.

Playing his best when he absolutely needed it most, the seven-time champion finished with his 27th ace to complete a 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3 victory on Centre Court against the player who knocked him out in semifinals of the U.S. Open two years ago.

“Well, a lot happened out there,” Federer said, summing up the 3-hour, 17-minute battle filled with tension, momentum swings and crucial points.

“I knew I was in so much trouble in the third, and then again in the fourth,” he said. “I’m really, really pleased and just ecstatic I was able to come through somehow.”

It was the 10th time in Federer’s career that he has erased a two-set deficit to win in five sets. This was also his 80th match win at Wimbledon, which equals Jimmy Connors’ record. Federer also matched Connors’ record of reaching the Wimbledon semifinals 11 times.

What’s more, Federer is now two wins away from the all-time record for Wimbledon men’s titles. He’s currently tied with Pete Sampras and 1880s player William Renshaw with seven.

Federer’s semifinal opponent will be sixth-seeded Milos Raonic, who lost serve only once and downed No. 28 Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 on No. 1 Court.

Querrey had knocked out No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the third round on Saturday, but came up short in his bid to become the first American to make it to the semifinals of a Grand Slam since Andy Roddick reached the final four at Wimbledon in 2009.

The 34-year-old Federer will now play in his 40th Grand Slam semifinal. He’s the oldest man to get this far at Wimbledon since Ken Rosewall finished runner-up in 1974 at the age of 39. If Federer wins the title, he’ll become the oldest men’s Wimbledon champion in the Open era.

The third-seeded Federer looked down and out after falling behind two sets to love against No. 9 Cilic, a 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) Croatian who kept holding serve, attacking on returns and dominating rallies with his big forehand and two-handed backhand.

It seemed like a replay of their last meeting, when Cilic swept Federer in straight sets in the semifinals en route to the 2014 U.S. Open title.

“I wasn’t seeing his serves anymore,” Federer said. “Next thing you know you’re down two sets to love on grass. I thought he was playing very well, U.S. Open-esque. On the return he was reading my serve. On the serve, I couldn’t read his serve.”

But Federer gradually worked his way back into the match, breaking for the first time to go up 5-3 in the third, saving three match points in the fourth, and playing flowing grass-court tennis on his favorite stage.

After ripping an ace on match point, Federer wagged an index finger in the air to show who was No. 1. He walked off to a standing ovation from an adoring crowd that helped will him to victory.

“It wasn’t going well for me, so for me it was about staying in the match,” Federer said. “Somehow I hoped for his level to drop maybe a little bit, and get a little bit lucky. That’s exactly what happened.”

He cited a key point in the third set, at 3-3, love-40 on his serve, facing three break points.

“I have to pick up a half-volley,” Federer said. “I mean it could go in the stands. It stays in. Next thing you know it’s like you’re still in the match and you can turn it around.”

Federer held serve for 4-3, then broke in the next game, with Cilic double-faulting on break point. The momentum had changed.

In the fourth set, Cilic had more chances to put Federer away but couldn’t. Federer saved two break points at 2-2, hitting three straight aces and a service winner to finish the game.

Cilic then earned his first match point with Federer serving at 5-4, but hit a forehand return long. Another match point came at 6-5, and Federer responded with a 120 mph ace.

Match point No. 3 came at 7-6 in the tiebreaker. Cilic failed to take advantage of Federer’s second serve, hitting another forehand return into the net.

Nadal, Dimitrov advance to Australian Open quarterfinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) After snuffing out local hopes for yet another Australian Open, Grigor Dimitrov huddled with Nick Kyrgios at the net and the pair exchanged encouraging words.

It was Kyrgios, having just lost 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (4) in the fourth round in a typically tempestuous performance, who left No. 3-ranked Dimitrov with this message: “Believe.”

Dimitrov has never won a major, coming closest here last year before losing a semifinal to Rafael Nadal in five sets, but is enhancing his credentials as a next generation champion.

Nadal secured his spot in a 10th Australian Open quarterfinal earlier Sunday on Rod Laver Arena, beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3 in 3 hours and 51 minutes.

The 16-time major winner draped an arm around his Argentine friend and patted him on top of the head. If he needed a fitness test in the first week in his comeback from an injured right knee, he got it.

“A great battle … he’s a good friend of mine,” Nadal said. “This is the first big match that I played in 2018. That’s confidence for myself … confidence I can resist for four hours on court at a good intensity.”

Nadal will next play 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic, who collected his 100th Grand Slam match win with a 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (3) victory over No. 10 Pablo Carreno Busta.

“I had the 300th win of my career at the U.S. Open in 2014, so this is also beautiful one,” Cilic said of his latest major milestone. “I hope I’m going to continue and gather three more here.”

Nadal lost last year’s Australian Open final to Roger Federer, but went on to regain the No. 1 ranking and win the French and U.S. Open titles before bringing his season to a premature end because of an injured right knee.

Despite not playing any competitive matches in his Aussie Open preparation, Nadal advanced through three rounds without dropping a set.

That streak finished when Schwartzman took the second set, rebounding three times after dropping serve to break back and win the tiebreaker.

Nadal lifted to win the third, but Schwartzman didn’t relent.

The second game of the fourth set lasted almost 13 minutes, with Nadal finally holding after saving five break points.

He broke again in the next game to regain control.

“It was a good test for me. It was a lot of hours on court. Moments under pressure,” Nadal said.

Britain’s Kyle Edmund reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3 afternoon win over Andreas Seppi and could relax and watch the night-time entertainment featuring Dimitrov and Kyrgios. They all played two weeks ago in Brisbane, where Edmund lost to Dimitrov, who lost to eventual champion Kyrgios.

Both Dimitrov and Kyrgios got tense at key times in the night match. Dimitrov was broken while serving for the match. Kyrgios was called for a foot fault, double-faulted on a set point and smashed an easy overhead into the net on a break point after dominating the rally. He had 36 aces, and some second serves recorded at faster than 202 kph (125 mph).

“Only a couple points in it, you know. It wasn’t like I got demolished out there,” said Kyrgios, who missed the chance to end the drought for local men that dates back to the 1976 Australian Open. “I had a lot of chances to win the match and I just came up short.”

He tipped his mate Dimitrov to go far.

“He hasn’t even found his best form yet and he’s still getting through all those matches, which is pretty frightening,” Kyrgios said. “Once he finds his feet and he has more confidence, he’s got a real chance at winning it.”

Dimitrov thanked him for the support, and said he’s growing more confident in his game.

Caroline Wozniacki continued to cash in on her second chance, reaching the quarterfinals here for the first time since 2012 with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Magdalena Rybarikova.

After saving match points and coming back from 5-1 down in the third set of her second-round win, No. 2-ranked Wozniacki said she was “playing with the house money” and had nothing to lose.

Wozniacki next plays Carla Suarez Navarro, who rallied from a set and 4-1 down to beat No. 32 Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.

The other quarterfinal will feature the winners of two tune-up events. Brisbane International champion Elina Svitolina beat Denisa Allertova 6-3, 6-0 in a match that started just before midnight.

Fourth-seeded Svitolina next plays Hobart International winner Elise Mertens, who beat Petra Martic to reach the quarterfinals in her Australian Open debut.

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

Kerber beats Sharapova in 3rd round; Halep in long-haul win

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Angelique Kerber is the only major winner remaining in the Australian Open women’s draw after ending Maria Sharapova’s comeback tour to Melbourne Park.

The 2016 champion routed Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the third-round match on Saturday night to extend her winning streak to 12 matches, including winning the Sydney International title last week.

Five-time major winner Sharapova was back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2016, when a failed test for meldonium led to a 15-month doping ban.

It was all over in one hour and four minutes, a vast contrast to top-ranked Simona Halep’s 4-6, 6-4, 15-13 win in three hours, 45 minutes over American Lauren Davis in the opening match on Rod Laver.

The third set took 2:22 and momentum swung. Halep wasted chances to serve for the match in the ninth, 11th and 15th games, then had to save three match points in the 22nd. There were 11 service breaks and two medical timeouts – for Davis to get treatment on both feet – before Halep converted on her first match point.

“I never played the third set so long, so I’m really happy I could stay and win it. I’m almost dead,” Halep said of the match which equaled Chanda Rubin’s win over Arantxa Shanchez Vicario in 1996 – also 48 games – for the Australian Open record in terms of most games.

“I just feel that my muscles are gone,” said Halep, who badly twisted her left ankle in the first round. “My ankle is, I don’t know how it is because I don’t feel it anymore! But … it was nice to win this match.”

Halep will play Naomi Osaka, who beat 18th-seeded Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 6-2 in a match that was moved from the center court to Margaret Court Arena because of the two long matches on Rod Laver.

No. 20 Barbora Strycova beat U.S. qualifier Bernarda Pera 6-2, 6-2, leaving U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys as the only American woman to reach the fourth round.

Keys advanced 6-3, 6-4 over Ana Bogdan and will next play No. 8 Caroline Garcia, who beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 5-7, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat No. 29 Lucie Safarova 7-6 (6), 7-5 in a match featuring just one service break.

On the men’s side, Hyeon Chung took out a Zverev for the second time this week. Chung beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev 5-7, 7-6 (3), 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 six days after a win over No. 32 Mischa Zverev in the first round.

Another unexpected loss at a major had the highly-touted Zverev admitted he may have a problem.

“Definitely not physical, so… I have some figuring out to do, what happens to me in deciding moments in Grand Slam,” he said.

The 20-year-old Zverev has five titles on the elite tour but his fourth-round exit at Wimbledon last year remains his best run at a major.

Tomas Berdych ended 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro’s return to Melbourne Park for the first time since 2014 with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem beat Adrian Mannarino 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 to set up a fourth-round match against Tennys Sandgren, who continued his career-best run by beating Maximilian Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (5).

Former world junior No. 1 Marton Fucsovics beat Nicolas Kicker 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 and No. 25 Fabio Fognini overcame Julien Benneteau 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

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