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Konta advances to Sydney final against Radwanska

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SYDNEY — Johanna Konta ended the strong run of wild-card entry Eugenie Bouchard at the Sydney International on Thursday, beating the Canadian 6-2, 6-2 to advance to Friday’s final against Agnieszka Radwanska.

The Sydney-born British player, a surprise semifinalist at last year’s Australian Open and seeded ninth for this year’s Grand Slam tournament, broke Bouchard’s service in the third game of the first set, then broke again to open the second.

Bouchard had a breakout season in 2014, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open before making the final at Wimbledon. But she has only gone past the fourth round at a major once since then and slipped to No. 46 at the end of last year.

On Thursday, Bouchard, who was trying to win three matches in a row for the first time in nearly a year, was overwhelmed by Konta’s groundstrokes and strong return of serve.

“I’ve played her (Radwanska) twice and lost to her twice, so hopefully I can step up tomorrow night against her,” said the 25-year-old Konta, who moved from Australia when she was 14 and became a British citizen in 2012.

Earlier, the second-seeded Radwanska defeated a tired Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-2.

It was Radwanska’s seventh consecutive win against the Czech, who toiled for more than 3 hours to beat Caroline Wozniacki the previous day, than backed that up with a doubles match.

“She played an unbelievable match against Caro (Wozniacki) in this kind of heat,” Radwanska said. “There were almost four hours on court with the break. I would say thanks to Caro.”

In men’s play, Gilles Muller beat second-seeded Pablo Cuevas 7-6 (5), 6-4 to advance to the semifinals against two-time defending champion Viktor Troicki.

Troicki had been scheduled to face No. 5 Philipp Kohlschreiber in another quarterfinal match, but the German withdrew with a back injury, handing the third-seeded Troicki a walkover.

In a night match, Daniel Evans had an upset 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over top-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria.

Evans, who beat a top-20 player for the first time with his win over the eighth-ranked Thiem, will next play Andrey Kuznetsov, who advanced with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over fourth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta.

At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, seventh-seeded Steve Johnson beat two-time champion John Isner 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (3).

“Last year I was here and my attitude wasn’t the best, but you live and you learn, you come back and I’m glad I turned it around this year,” said Johnson, who lost in the first round in 2016.

Johnson’s semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded Jack Sock, who beat Jeremy Chardy 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis and unseeded Jaoa Sousa also advanced with straight-set victories. Sousa beat Robin Haase 6-3, 6-2 while Baghdatis defeated 2015 champion Jiri Vesely 6-2, 6-4.

At the Hobart International, qualifier Elise Mertens had an upset 6-2, 7-5 quarterfinal win over top-seeded Kiki Bertens. Mertens will play Jana Fett, who beat Veronica Cepede Royg 6-1, 6-4, in the semifinals.

Lesia Tsurenko also advanced with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Shelby Rogers. In the semifinals, Tsurenko will play Monica Niculescu, who beat Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki 6-4, 6-4.

Raonic withdraws from Miami Open with hamstring injury

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Milos Raonic has pulled out of the Miami Open after aggravating a right hamstring injury that sidelined him for nearly a month.

The No. 3-seeded Raonic withdrew before Sunday’s match against American qualifier Jared Donaldson, who advanced to the fourth round.

Raonic said his injury became progressively worse after his opening match, his first since Feb. 25. He expects to be sidelined at least two weeks and perhaps longer.

The Canadian said he hasn’t made it through an entire tournament healthy since Wimbledon last July.

Nadal advances to start bid for first Key Biscayne

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Rafael Nadal’s first fist pump Friday followed his second point in the Miami Open, when he kissed a forehand off the sideline to win a long rally.

He accompanied the celebratory gesture with a skip in his step and then hit the accelerator, holding every service game to beat Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-4.

Thus began Nadal’s latest bid to win Key Biscayne.

“A lot of big motivation,” he said.

He’s playing the tournament for the 13th time and has never won it, although he was the runner-up in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014. At 0 for 12, it’s Nadal’s longest drought at any event, and perhaps the most glaring gap in the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s resume.

Does it bug him? He won’t admit to any frustration, but lets slip that he still remembers the exact score when he was two points from the title in the third set versus Novak Djokovic.

That was six years ago.

“Against Novak – 6-5, 15-30,” Nadal said. “It didn’t happen.”

The Spaniard has always enjoyed the atmosphere in Miami, where Latin fans give him enthusiastic support, and he likes the tournament’s hard courts. He’s simply overdue.

“I’m trying my best every year,” Nadal told the stadium crowd after dispatching Sela. “I’ve been very close four times. I will try to give myself another chance.”

Nadal is 15-4 this year and pleased with his play. He lost to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final, and again in the fourth round at Indian Wells last week.

Against Sela, Nadal served well, erased the only two break points he faced and overcame the occasional errant groundstroke on a windy afternoon.

“It was very difficult to find the right feelings,” Nadal said. “These kind of days, what you have to do is try to win. That’s what I did, and I’m happy with that.”

Making Nadal’s title bid easier will be the absence of six-time champion Djokovic and two-time champion Andy Murray, both out with elbow injuries.

But No. 3-seeded Milos Raonic is back. He won in his first match since Feb. 25, beating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 7-5. Raonic had been sidelined by a right leg injury.

“I’ve prepared the best I can for this tournament,” Raonic said. “I’m not necessarily in the best position right now, but fortunately it’s a long tournament. Doesn’t mean things can’t change and I can’t get better throughout this event.”

No. 2 Kei Nishikori beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3. No. 7 Marin Cilic lost to Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

In women’s play, Elena Vesnina made a quick exit only five days after winning the biggest title of her career. Seeded 13th, Vesnina lost her opening match to wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Vesnina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Indian Wells final.

In a match that took two days because of rain, No. 6 Garbine Muguruza rallied past Christina McHale 0-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. No. 3 Simona Halep beat Naomi Osaka 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. American qualifier Taylor Townsend eliminated No. 25 Robert Vinci 6-3, 6-2.