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Kerber defeats Pliskova for U.S. Open title

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The Latest on U.S. Open (all times local):

6:27 p.m.

Angelique Kerber won her first U.S. Open title and the second Grand Slam trophy of her breakthrough season, beating Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 on Saturday.

The No. 2-seeded Kerber came back to win five of the last six games after trailing by a break at 3-1 in the third set.

Kerber already was assured of making her debut at No. 1 in the WTA rankings on Monday, ending Serena Williams‘ record-tying 186-week stay at the top.

Never a Grand Slam finalist before 2016, Kerber beat Williams for the Australian Open title in January, then lost to the American in the Wimbledon final in July.

They seemed to be on course for a third meeting in the final at Flushing Meadows, but the 10th-seeded Pliskova eliminated Williams in the semifinals, after beating her sister Venus in the fourth round.

5:46 p.m.

Karolina Pliskova has taken the second set of the U.S. Open final against Angelique Kerber, sending the match to a third.

Pliskova broke Kerber for the first time Saturday to go up 4-3 in the second set, then took it 6-4.

Kerber had won the opening set 6-3.

The 10th-seeded Pliskova, who eliminated both Williams sisters in the tournament, is bidding for her first Grand Slam title. She had never been past the third round at a major.

Kerber is seeded No. 2, but already is assured of overtaking Serena Williams at No. 1 in the rankings on Monday, regardless of the outcome of the final. Kerber beat Williams in the Australian Open final in January for the first Grand Slam trophy of the German’s career.

5:05 p.m.

Angelique Kerber is one set from her second major title of 2016.

Kerber won the first set of Saturday’s U.S. Open final 6-3 over Karolina Pliskova. The big-serving Pliskova was broken just once in her last two matches combined, but Kerber got breaks in the first and last games of the set.

Kerber is 44-0 this season when she wins the first set.

Pliskova got in just 53 percent of her first serves, and Kerber was all over her second serves, winning 71 percent of those points. Pliskova made 17 unforced errors to three for Kerber.

Kerber, who is taking over the No. 1 ranking for the first time, is in her third major final of the year, while this is the first of Pliskova’s career. Kerber won the Australian Open title and was the runner-up at Wimbledon.

4:20 p.m.

Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova are playing for the U.S. Open championship.

Kerber, who is taking over the No. 1 ranking for the first time, is in her third major final of the year, while this is the first of Pliskova’s career. Kerber won the Australian Open title and was the runner-up at Wimbledon. Pliskova had never even made a Grand Slam round of 16 before this tournament, but she upset Serena Williams in the semifinals to advance to Saturday’s championship match.

Pliskova beat Kerber in the final at Cincinnati nearly three weeks ago for a breakthrough title for the 24-year-old Czech, and she’s been riding that momentum ever since. Kerber was coming off a tiring run to the Olympic gold-medal match then and dealing with the pressure of her first chance to ascend to the top of the rankings.

2:05 p.m.

Jamie Murray of Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil won the U.S. Open doubles championship Saturday for their second Grand Slam title this year, beating Spaniards Pablo Carreno Busta and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-3.

The No. 4-seeded Murray and Soares, who won the Australian Open in January, are the first winners of multiple major men’s doubles titles in a season since Bob and Mike Bryan won three in 2013.

They dropped only one service game and won 71 percent of first-serve points against their unseeded opponents. The duo only teamed up late last year.

“It’s a great feeling,” Murray said in his post-match interview when reminded he’s accomplished something his more famous younger brother, Andy, has not by winning two major titles this year. “I’m starting to move out of the shadows.”

Murray and Soares reached the final after taking out the top-seeded team, defending champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

Serena Williams returning to competition for US Fed Cup team

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) The U.S. Tennis Association says Serena Williams will return to competition for the first time in more than a year at the country’s Fed Cup matches against the Netherlands next month.

Williams has not played an official match since winning the Australian Open in January 2017 for her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. She was pregnant during that tournament and gave birth to a daughter on Sept. 1.

Joining Williams on U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi’s roster announced Tuesday is older sister Venus, a seven-time major champion. The siblings have not played on the Fed Cup team together in three years.

Also on the team: CoCo Vandeweghe, a semifinalist at the Australian Open and U.S. Open last year. A fourth member of the U.S. squad will be announced next week.

The U.S. won last year’s Fed Cup.

The matches against the Netherlands will be held on an indoor hard court in Ashville, North Carolina, on Feb. 10-11.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Injured Nadal out of Australian Open; Cilic into semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) An injured and visibly struggling Rafael Nadal retired while trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic.

Top-ranked Nadal fended off five break points in the last game before Cilic broke his serve, then the 16-time major winner went to shake hands with the umpire and his opponent, and angrily hurled his headband into his equipment bag.

No. 6-seeded Cilic advanced to his first semifinal in Australia since 2010 with a score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 2-0, retired.

Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, will next play No. 49-ranked Kyle Edmund, who beat No. 3-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.

Nadal limped into a news conference about a half-hour later, still wincing when he stepped up onto a platform. He said he felt muscle pain in his upper right leg in the third set but played through it. In the fourth set, chasing a drop shot, he felt the pain get worse “but didn’t realize how bad.”

“Tough moments -not (for) the first time here,” he said. “I’m a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semifinal for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me.

“It’s really tough to accept.”

Nadal said he’d have medical scans Wednesday to determine the exact location and extent of the injury, which he could only describe as being high on his right leg but not in the hip.

“Unbelievable performance from both of us and really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic said. “He’s such an unbelievable competitor. He always gives his best … it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.”

It was only the second time Nadal had retired during a Grand Slam match – the last time was also an Australian Open quarterfinal, in 2010 against Andy Murray.

On Tuesday night, he needed a medical timeout after going down 4-1 in the fourth set for treatment on his leg.

Nadal returned but was clearly bothered by the injury, limping and taking as much time as possible as he tried to stretch between points.

He called the trainer again after losing the fourth set, and lasted only two further games.

Cilic had only previously beaten Nadal once in their six previous matches – in their first match at Beijing in 2009.

Nadal had a delayed start to the season because of an injured right knee, but appeared to be in good form through the first four rounds. He now hasn’t won back-to-back Australian Open quarterfinals since 2008 and ’09, the year he won his only Australian title.

“I worked hard to be here,” said Nadal, who skipped tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Brisbane, Australia, while his knee recovered at the start of the season. “We did all the things that we believed were the right things to do.”

His absence also means there’s only one of last year’s singles finalists remaining in the tournament. Roger Federer, who beat Nadal in five sets last year, is playing Tomas Berdych in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Serena Williams didn’t defend her title, deciding she hadn’t had enough time to prepare following the birth of her first child last September. Her older sister, Venus Williams, was beaten in the first round.

On top of that, six-time champion Novak Djokovic was upset in the fourth round.

There’ll be a British man in the Australian Open semifinals for the seventh time in nine years, but it won’t be five-time finalist Murray – who skipped the season-opening tournament to have surgery on his hip.

Edmund had never played in a major quarterfinal, had never won five consecutive matches at tour level, had lost both of his previous matches against Dimitrov and had never beaten a top five player.

He checked all those boxes on Rod Laver Arena.

“I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing,” Edmund said. “My first Grand Slam semifinal. First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world. To beat a quality of player like Grigor. They’re great feelings. So, yeah, I just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”

After breaking Dimitrov’s serve in the ninth game of the fourth set, Edmund set up match point with an ace. Then he had to wait before a video challenge confirmed that Dimitrov’s last shot – a floating backhand – was out.

“I just held my nerve in that last game and prayed that last ball would be out,” Edmund said. It was out. And so was Dimitrov, who lost a five-set semifinal here last year to Nadal.

“Everything went his way today,” Dimitrov said. “It’s hard to hide a disappointment. It hurts, and so it should.”

Edmund, who had a first-round upset over U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, is now the center of attention for the tennis-loving British public.

“I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray the last eight years,” he said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve done well on my own, so there’s more attention there. Of course you take it in stride.”

Elise Mertens is facing a similar experience.

Mertens upset fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to extend her winning streak to 10 matches, becoming the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semifinals here.

Mertens, who trains at Clijsters’ academy, said: “Kim, thanks for watching. I’m trying to be in your footsteps this week.”

In the semis, she’ll play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro.