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Dynamic doubles duo: Federer, Nadal to team up in Laver Cup

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NEW YORK —¬†Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have faced each other in eight major finals, plan to team up as doubles partners next year during the inaugural Laver Cup.

With a combined 31 Grand Slam titles, Federer and Nadal have committed to the team event, which attempts to create a tennis version of golf’s Ryder Cup.

Named for Australian great Rod Laver, the competition pitting a squad of European men’s players against a group from the rest of the world was first announced in January. On Wednesday, organizers said the first edition would be held in Prague on Sept. 22-24, 2017, indoors at the O2 Arena.

Former rivals Bjorn Borg of Sweden (Europe) and John McEnroe of the U.S. (World team) will serve as captains for the first three years.

Laver, Borg, McEnroe, Federer and Nadal – accounting for 60 major singles titles – gathered at a Manhattan hotel Wednesday for the announcements.

The plan is for the Laver Cup to be held annually, except during Olympic years, two weeks after the U.S. Open, with the location rotating. There will be six men on each team: four based on the rankings after Wimbledon, and two captain’s picks announced after the U.S. Open.

There will be 12 matches played over three days (nine singles and three doubles), with the number of points awarded for victories increasing each day. Each player will take the court once or twice for singles, with at least four of the six taking part in doubles.

All the matches will be best-of-three, but if the first two sets are split, they will go to a 10-point tiebreaker.

Borg hopes that the other half of the “Big Four” – the current top two men in the rankings, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic and Britain’s Andy Murray – will join Switzerland’s Federer and Spain’s Nadal on the Europe team. McEnroe acknowledged that for now at least, his World squad would be the heavy underdog, though a lot can happen in just over a year.

Beyond the Big Four, Europe boasts 13 of the current top 15 players in the men’s rankings. And active European players have combined for 49 Grand Slam titles; for the rest of the world, it’s just one, by Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.

Federer’s management company, TEAM8; Brazilian businessman Jorge Paulo Lemann, a former Davis Cup player; and Tennis Australia partnered to create the Laver Cup.

Kasatkina upsets Venus Williams to reach Indian Wells final

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Daria Kasatkina upset Venus Williams 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a nearly three-hour baseline struggle to reach the final of the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night.

Kasatkina was two points from defeat, trailing 4-5 and 0-30 in the third set when Williams committed four straight errors as the 20-year-old Russian tied it 5-all.

Williams won just two more points as Kasatkina took the last two games to close out the match in 2 hours, 48 minutes. Kasatkina dropped her racket near the baseline and covered her face with her hands as she walked to the net.

After shaking hands, Kasatkina pumped her fists and shook her head slightly as if in disbelief at beating the 37-year-old American and advancing to the biggest final of her young career.

Top-ranked Simona Halep took on Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old from Japan, in the other semifinal.

After losing the first set, Kasatkina was visited by her coach on court. Philippe Dehaes told her, “She’s 37, you’re 20. Make her work a lot.”

When she wasn’t trading shots from the baseline, a nervy Kasatkina fooled Williams with drop shots, including two that landed just over the net near the sideline. The Russian tossed up lobs over the 6-foot-1 American – some worked, some didn’t, but she was undeterred.

There were 14 service breaks in the match.

Williams rallied from 3-1 down to win the first set. She trailed 3-1 again in the second and tied it 3-all when Kasatkina was broken on a double fault.

Kasatkina won the last four games in a row to take the second set. The players dueled through eight deuces in an epic eighth game, with the Russian turning back six break points against her. Williams pulled a forehand wide to lose the game.

Kasatkina’s coach visited her again before the third set.

“You go for it?” he asked her.

“Sure,” she replied, and they slapped hands.

Williams served a love game to go up 5-4. She led love-30 on Kasatkina’s serve in the next game before her forehand deserted her.

Williams double-faulted twice in a row to drop serve and trail 6-5. Kasatkina won on her second match point when Williams netted a backhand.

Kasatkina now owns a 2-1 record against Williams, who won 10-8 in the third round at Wimbledon in 2016.

Juan Martin del Potro defeated No. 31 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and Milos Raonic beat 18th-seeded American Sam Querrey 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to reach the men’s semifinals.

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Maria Sharapova withdraws from Miami with forearm injury

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the Miami Open that begins next week because of a left forearm injury.

Sharapova announced the decision on Friday. She’ll be replaced in the main draw by American Jennifer Brady.

Sharapova lost in the first round at Indian Wells last week and in the third round of the Australian Open in January. She returned to the tour last year after a 15-month doping ban.

The women’s field includes eight-time Key Biscayne champion Serena Williams and No. 1-ranked Simona Halep. The men’s field includes defending champion Roger Federer and six-time Key Biscayne champ Novak Djokovic.