Djokovic, Williams set as betting favorites on odds to win U.S. Open

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With Novak Djokovic, there is a question of motivation now that the chance of a calendar-year Grand Slam is long gone.

Djokovic and Serena Williams, respectively, have the top odds on the men’s and women’s champion boards heading into the U.S. Open. The last Grand Slam of the tennis season begins on Monday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

On the men’s board, Djokovic is listed at even odds, with Andy Murray nipping at his heels at +180 by virtue of winning Wimbledon and the Olympic gold medal.

Since his third-round loss at Wimbledon, Djokovic has also had early exits in both singles and doubles at the Olympics. The flip side of that is Djokovic has played only nine singles matches in three months, meaning he should be fresh.

For his part, Murray has a chance to finish the season with appearances in all four major finals, plus the Olympics. The Scottish star might need help against Djokovic, whom he is 1-4 against in their last five matches on hard courts.

Beyond the big two, there is a big drop down to heavy-serving Canadian Milos Raonic at +1200 on the tennis odds. Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka are both at +1600, while Marin Cilic and Rafael Nadal are each listed at +2000.

Raonic, whose serve is in a class of its own, is seeded fifth. That creates the possibility of a semifinal showdown against Djokovic, whom he is 0-7 against in his career. Cilic is also an intriguing darkhorse. He won the 2014 title but didn’t encounter Djokovic, and was a 2015 semifinalist.

Williams, at +120, is alone at the top of the women’s champion board, with No. 2 seed Angelique Kerber, No. 3 Garbine Mugurza and No. 5 Simona Halep each listed at +800. Promising young American Madison Keys, who is seeded eighth, is listed at +1400.

Halep is only 1-7 in her career against Williams, but the win was on a hard surface at the Indian Wells tournament. Mugurza is 2-3 against Williams, but each win came on clay. The tournament is Williams’ to lose.

Roberta Vinci, Williams’ nemesis in the 2015 semifinal, is listed at +15000 on the tennis betting lines. That upset came in Vinci’s only trip beyond the fourth round of a major.

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.