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Murray gives Britain lift vs Argentina in Davis Cup semis

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With Andy Murray back, Britain should beat Argentina in Davis Cup this weekend for the first time since 1928 and make the final.

Murray has won the Olympic gold medal and made the Cincinnati final and U.S. Open quarterfinals in the past month, but he has enough left in the tank to play singles and doubles, if need be, Britain captain Leon Smith said.

Murray proved his mettle a year ago in the semifinal against Australia, when he won both of his singles and a five-set doubles.

“There’s no doubt he will be tired. He’s played so much over the summer,” Smith said. “Looking back to last year’s Aussie tie, when he was clearly hurting and fatigued, he went out and gave everything. I don’t think that will change.”

His fitness ought to be tested in the opening singles on Friday, when he’s likely to face Juan Martin del Potro in a rematch of the Olympic final.

Del Potro was still finding his form when he played only doubles in the quarterfinal win over Italy in Italy in July, in his first tie in four years. He followed that with his Olympic run, including a win over Novak Djokovic, and a run to the U.S. Open last eight. He’s match-fit again, and eager to repair a 6-2 losing record to Murray.

He’s the lowest-ranked player in the Argentina squad, and captain Daniel Orsanic wasn’t keen to reveal his lineup until the draw on Thursday. The favorite for the other singles spot must be Federico Delbonis, who won his two singles against Italy, and beat Murray in March at Indian Wells.

Argentina is playing a remarkable 11th semifinal in 15 years, but it faces the defending Davis Cup champions in Murray and his brother Jamie, the U.S. Open doubles champion, who will be backed by a raucous home crowd in Glasgow, Scotland.

If, as expected, Britain wins, then it will host the final in November only if Croatia beats France on another indoor hard court in Zadar.

Croatia’s chances improved when Gael Monfils withdrew from the France team on Thursday because of a knee injury.

Last week, Monfils reached the U.S. Open semifinals.

France was already without Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, also injured, and was now being led by Lucas Pouille, who made his Davis Cup debut in July, and veteran Richard Gasquet.

Croatia impressively came from 2-0 down to beat the United States away in July, thanks to Marin Cilic and Borna Coric. Since then, Cilic won the Cincinnati title, while Coric retired in the U.S. Open first round with an inflamed tendon in his knee. He’s had almost three weeks to recover.

Venus Williams beats No. 1 Kerber in Miami Open quarters

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Venus Williams moved a step closer to her first Key Biscayne title since 2001 when she beat top-ranked Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Miami Open.

It was Williams’ 15th career win against a No. 1 player, but her first since 2014. Seeded No. 11, she’s into the tournament’s semifinals for the first time in seven years.

Williams’ opponent Thursday night will be No. 10-seeded Johanna Konta, who became the first British woman to reach a semifinal in the tournament by beating No. 3 Simona Halep 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2. No. 2 Karolina Pliskova will play No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki in the other semifinal.

Williams took charge of her quarterfinal match when Kerber double-faulted on the final two points of the opening set, and broke serve twice more early in the second set. She closed out the victory on her fifth match point with a backhand winner.

It was a matchup of offense against defense, with Williams the more aggressive player, charging the net often. Kerber stayed rooted to the baseline and was on the defensive even when she served, facing 13 break points and losing serve five times.

The German will remain No. 1 next week despite her loss. She reclaimed the top ranking this month after Indian Wells, replacing Serena Williams, who is sidelined by a knee injury.

Venus Williams improved to 61-13 at Key Biscayne, where she is making her 18th appearance. She won the title in 1998, 1999 and 2001 and considers the tournament her hometown event – she lives 90 minutes north in Palm Beach Gardens.

At 36, Williams was the oldest woman to enter the draw, but she hasn’t been taxed physically while winning every set in her four matches.

On the men’s side, Fabio Fognini became the first unseeded player in 10 years to reach the men’s semifinals at Key Biscayne when he beat 2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2. Fognini, 29, who matched his best showing in an ATP Masters 1000 event, will next play the winner of Wednesday night’s match between Rafael Nadal and Jack Sock.

Nishikori was seeded No. 2. Fognini improved to 9-44 against top-10 players, and became the first Italian man to reach a semifinal at Key Biscayne.

Historical marker for tennis great Tilden rejected again

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) A Pennsylvania panel once again rejected a historical marker for Philadelphia tennis great Bill Tilden.

Tilden became the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920 and also won seven U.S. championships. In 1950, The Associated Press voted him the greatest player of the first half of the century.

A year ago, a panel of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission that approves historical markers voted 4-1 against recommending approval of a marker at Philadelphia’s Germantown Cricket Club, citing Tilden’s convictions on charges involving teenage boys in the 1940s.

Karen Galle, coordinator of the historical marker program, confirmed Wednesday that the panel again voted 4-1 against approving the marker in February and that recommendation was among 54 approved by the commission at its March 22 meeting.

“While the significance of this athlete’s tennis career and talent are indisputable, his convictions for sexual misconduct with underage boys preclude recognition,” commission spokesman Howard Pollman said.

Lack of a marker doesn’t diminish Tilden’s accomplishments but approval “may be perceived to dishonor victims of sexual abuse,” Pollman said. Officials have cited the climate in the commonwealth following the sex abuse scandal involving another sports figure, Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky.

Tilden was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, in November 1946, after a 14-year-old boy was caught driving the star’s car erratically. Officers reported that when the teen exited the car, his pants zipper was down. Police charged Tilden with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and he served seven months in jail. He was arrested again in 1949 on allegations that he violated probation by being in the company of another teen boy, and that he groped a third teen. He served 10 months at a prison farm.

Tilden, born to a wealthy Philadelphia family, was featured regularly in magazines, newspapers and newsreels during his career. He was friends with Hollywood elite and played at the White House at the invitation of President Warren Harding. He’s credited with urging children of all economic backgrounds to learn tennis, once a sport only for the wealthy, and modern players still value his manuals on how to play.

After his convictions, Tilden’s Germantown membership was revoked, and his portrait was removed. In recent years, the club has begun to embrace Tilden’s memory, and a group of Philadelphians has been lobbying for a historical marker at the site.