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Serena Williams overtakes Federer for most Slam match wins

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NEW YORK —¬†Serena Williams now owns more victories in Grand Slam matches than anyone else in tennis’ Open era, surpassing Roger Federer with her 308th.

So, Serena, who’ll wind up with more?

“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Williams said during her on-court interview after reaching the U.S. Open quarterfinals by beating Yaroslava Shvedova 6-2, 6-3 on Monday.

“Hopefully we’ll both keep going,” she added. “I know I plan on it. I know he does. So we’ll see.”

Federer turned 35 on Aug. 8. Williams turns 35 on Sept. 26.

Williams’ very first win at a Grand Slam tournament came way back when she was 16, a 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-1 victory over Irina Spirlea in the first round of the Australian Open on Jan. 19, 1998. Williams’ first loss at a major came in her next match, which happened to come against older sister Venus.

Nearly two decades later, through plenty of highs and lows, from championships to health scares, the younger Williams is still at it – and still winning.

“It’s a huge number,” she said about getting to 308. “I think it’s very significant, actually. I think it’s something that just really talks about the length of my career, in particular. I’ve been playing for a really long time. But also, given that consistency up there – that’s something that I’m really proud of.”

Although her 36-year-old sibling is active, many of Williams’ contemporaries have come and gone, including Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, who are both younger, and Martina Hingis, who is only a year older.

“I definitely never thought I would be playing still,” Williams said. “Now I don’t really see when I’m going to stop, because I’m just enjoying these moments out here, getting to break records that I didn’t even know existed or I didn’t even know was possible.”

Over her career, she is 308-42 at the majors, for a winning percentage of .880. Here’s the victory breakdown: 88 at the U.S. Open, 86 at Wimbledon, 74 at the Australian Open, 60 at the French Open.

Federer is 307-51 (.858) and can’t increase his total until next season, because he is sitting out the U.S. Open and the rest of 2016 because of problems with his surgically repaired right knee. Indeed, he recently tweeted pictures of himself hiking in the Swiss countryside .

Williams, meanwhile, still has work to do at Flushing Meadows as she pursues another mark: most Grand Slam singles titles in the Open era, which began in 1968. She pulled even with Steffi Graf by collecting her 22nd trophy at Wimbledon in July.

Against the 52nd-ranked Shvedova, Williams hit a tournament-leading 126 mph serve, totaled 11 aces, won 28 of 30 points when a first serve landed in, and didn’t face a break point. So far, through four matches, Williams has not been broken at all, facing only a single break point.

“She’s hitting much harder than a regular player. And the placement and the bounce is much different,” Shvedova said. “It’s harder to reach.”

Williams has reached at least the quarterfinals in each of her past nine appearances at the U.S. Open. A year ago, she was stunned in the semifinals by Roberta Vinci, ending the American’s bid to become the first player since Graf in 1988 with a calendar-year Grand Slam.

She’ll try to get back to the semifinals by beating No. 5 Simona Halep next.

“I just feel like I’m going out there, doing what I need to do,” Williams said. “I’m not overplaying, I’m not underplaying.”

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

Nadal beats Dimitrov, one win from record 31st Masters title

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MONACO (AP) Rafael Nadal remains on course for a record 31st Masters title after beating Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

The top-ranked Spaniard never looked in trouble as he beat the fourth-seeded Bulgarian for the 11th time in 12 career meetings.

If Nadal wins Sunday’s final, he will earn a 76th career title and also keep his No. 1 ranking. Should he lose, Roger Federer will reclaim the top spot.

Nadal faces either third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany or Kei Nishikori of Japan, who play later Saturday.

In the opening game, Dimitrov came out firing. He pressured Nadal with two superb lobs, forcing a backhand smash wide from the Spaniard for deuce. But Nadal held a tight first game lasting eight minutes, and then broke Dimitrov for 2-0.

Dimitrov found his range, broke Nadal back and held for 3-3. The next two games were even, with Dimitrov matching Nadal in the rallies.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion held for 5-4 and then Dimitrov cracked, serving consecutive double faults and hitting a wild forehand long to trail 15-40. He saved one set point but Nadal was in ruthless mode and took the next chance.

It appeared that Nadal was gaining his usual momentum on clay – and two consecutive love breaks and three easy holds made it 5-0 to the Spaniard in the second set.

Dimitrov explained his collapse this way.

“I think I played smart against him. I kind of know his pattern a little bit better,” Dimitrov said. “But it was my fault when I got broken. Simple as that. Two double-faults, it’s just definitely not acceptable, especially when you play against him on that surface.”

Dimitrov finally held, drawing polite applause, but Nadal served out the match with ease. He clinched victory on his first match point when Dimitrov patted the ball wide following a brief exchange.

“You see me with a smile. I’m a positive person,” Dimitrov said. “Deep down, I’m hurt. I hate losing. Simple as that.”

Nadal shares the Masters record with Novak Djokovic, whose 30 wins include two here.

Nadal’s victory at Monte Carlo last year made him the first men’s tennis player in the Open era to win the same title 10 times. He then won a 10th title at Barcelona and the French Open.

 

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.