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Venus Williams sets Australian record with run to semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Age appears to be no barrier for Venus Williams.

The 36-year-old Williams beat No. 24-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Tuesday, becoming the oldest player to reach the Australian Open women’s semifinals in the Open era.

Her 50th career win at Melbourne Park earned her a spot in the last four for the first time in 14 years.

“It’s wonderful to start the year out with this appearance,” said Williams, who hadn’t reached the semifinals here since 2003, the year she lost the final to her sister, Serena. “I want to go further. I’m not happy just with this. But I’m so happy to be in the position to like go further.”

She will next play CoCo Vandeweghe, who is in the Australian Open semifinals for the first time.

I’m just so excited that I have an opportunity to play again,” Williams said. “That’s all I’m focused on.”

Williams dropped four service games against Pavlyuchenkova, but she responded each time by breaking back. In the tiebreaker, she trailed 3-1 before winning the last six points – clinching the match on Pavlyuchenkova’s double-fault.

The seven-time major winner has advanced through the tournament without dropping a set, recovering from a right elbow injury that forced her to withdraw from a warmup tournament in New Zealand.

Now she is into semifinals for the second time in three majors – after a six-year absence from the last four – and for the 21st time overall.

With her run to the Wimbledon semifinals last year, Williams became the oldest woman since Martina Navratilova in 1994 to advance so far at a major. Navratilova was 37, years 258 days at the end of Wimbledon that year.

The record belongs to Billie Jean King, who was 39 years, 223 days when she reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 1983.

Andy Murray losses to Thiem in Barcelona Open semifinals

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BARCELONA, Spain — World No. 1 Andy Murray lost to Dominic Thiem of Austria 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the Barcelona Open semifinals on Saturday.

Murray’s defeat came a week after he exited the third round at Monte Carlo. That loss prompted Murray to enter Barcelona to whip up some form for the French Open following a right elbow injury.

Nine-time winner Rafael Nadal played Horacio Zeballaos of Argentina in the other semifinal later Saturday.

Thiem started strong, breaking Murray’s first two service games before adding a third break en route to taking the first set.

The ninth-ranked Thiem had a break point in the second set, but Murray held serve and broke him back to even the match at a set apiece.

Murray was again in trouble at 4-2 down in the decisive set, and folded when he failed to successfully return Thiem’s deep lob on match point.

It was Thiem’s first win in three meetings against Murray.

Sharapova’s return ends in semis at Porsche Grand Prix

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STUTTGART, Germany — Maria Sharapova’s first tournament since her controversial return to tennis is over after losing to Kristina Mladenovic of France in the Porsche Grand Prix semifinals.

Mladenovic beat former top-ranked Sharapova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 Saturday.

In her fourth match following a 15-month doping ban, the Russian was left to rue missing 13 of her 16 break-point opportunities as Mladenovic rallied to win in 2 hours, 38 minutes.

The 19th-ranked Mladenovic, who ousted two-time defending champion Angelique Kerber on Thursday, next plays the winner of the other semifinal between fourth-seeded Simona Halep and last year’s runner-up Laura Siegemund.

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, who tested positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open, had been given a wild card to enter the Stuttgart event after losing her ranking because of the ban.