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Pliskova, Konta continues winning runs in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has carried her title-winning form in the warmup tournament into the season’s first major, dropping just four games en route to the third round at the Australian Open.

Pliskova was leading 6-0, 4-0 against Anna Blinkova in the second round on Thursday before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. Fifth-seeded Pliskova finished off the 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour – she won her first-round match 6-2, 6-0.

“It’s always good to be in the zone,” said Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International title earlier this month. “It can always be a bit better.”

Pliskova has reached the third round for three straight years at Melbourne Park, which equaled her best previous run at a Grand Slam until she reached the final in New York last September. She beat Serena Williams in the semifinals at the U.S. Open before losing to Angelique Kerber.

“I’m feeling pretty good on the court, confident,” she said. “Also, people are talking I have a good chance to win a Grand Slam, but we are just in third round, so let’s see.”

She will next play Jelena Ostapenko, who beat No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1.

Johanna Konta, who made a surprising run to the semifinals in her debut Australian Open last year before losing to eventual champion Kerber, advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Naomi Osaka.

Konta, voted the WTA Tour’s most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, opened the season by winning the Sydney International title last week.

Konta will next play former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, the U.S. Open semifinalist last September. Wozniacki was broken while serving for the match against Donna Vekic, but immediately broke back at love to win 6-1, 6-3.

WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova held off Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 7-6 (8) and will next play No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova, who was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Sara Errani retired because of a leg injury.

No. 21 Caroline Garcia beat Oceane Dodin 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.

In men’s second-round matches, No. 18 Richard Gasquet beat Carlos Berlocq 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 and No. 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Donald Young 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.

No. 30 Pablo Carreno Busta had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Kyle Edmund to move into a third-round match against either six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic or Denis Istomin.

Andy Murray returned to the practice court for an afternoon hitting session under the scrutiny of coach Ivan Lendl, allaying concerns about his injured right ankle. Top-ranked Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, twisted his ankle and tumbled to the court during the third set of his otherwise routine second-round win on Wednesday night.

John McEnroe: Serena Williams would be ranked ‘like 700’ on men’s tour

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LONDON — John McEnroe says Serena Williams would be “like 700” in the world tennis rankings if she played on the men’s tour.

McEnroe, speaking to NPR about his memoir “You Cannot Be Serious,” says Williams is the best female player ever, “no question.” But when asked about her being the best ever, without gender qualifiers, McEnroe was clear that he didn’t think so.

McEnroe says “if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.”

The former tennis bad boy added that he thought Williams could beat some male players, “but if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”

McEnroe won seven Grand Slam titles in his career. Williams has won 23.

Federer beats Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-3 for 9th Halle title

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HALLE, Germany– Roger Federer defeated Germany’s Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-3 to win the Gerry Weber Open for a record ninth time on Sunday.

Playing in his 140th career final, Federer saved the only break point he faced and converted four of his eight opportunities to clinch his 92nd career title in 53 minutes. At 35, the Swiss player became the oldest winner of the grass-court tournament.

“I played unbelievably well. I felt good and never let up,” said Federer, who dropped just nine points on his serve. “It was my best game this week. Nearly everything worked out for me.”

Federer, who skipped the clay-court season after winning the Miami Open in early April, claimed his fourth title of the year, matching Rafael Nadal’s tally, and he will be seeded ahead of his Spanish rival for Wimbledon, which starts in eight days.

Federer had already won the Australian Open before titles in Indian Wells and Miami in 2017.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion was surprised by German veteran Tommy Haas on his return from the two-month break last week in Stuttgart but brushed off any doubts over his form in Halle.

Against the 20-year-old Zverev, who lost last year’s final to Florian Mayer, Federer raced to a 4-0 lead before wrapping up the first set in 22 minutes. Zverev created his only break chance in the opening game of the second, but ultimately was unable to show why he is regarded as one of the sport’s brightest prospects.

“You could have been a bit nicer and allowed me a couple more points,” Zverev joked to his idol.

Federer had words of affection for Zverev, who won their semifinal in Halle last year.

“He’s a very nice lad. I’m very happy for him, how he’s developed in the last years. The future belongs to him,” Federer said.