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Federer through to semifinals in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — It was a long time coming for Venus Williams, who reached her 21st Grand Slam semifinal but her first at the Australian Open in 14 years.

CoCo Vandeweghe advanced to her first major semifinal, anywhere, beating Grand Slam winners in back-to-back rounds. The one sure outcome when they meet this week will be an American in the final at Melbourne Park.

There’ll be an all-Swiss semifinal in the top half of the men’s draw after 17-time major winner Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka won their quarterfinals in straight sets.

Returning from a six-month injury layoff, the 35-year-old Federer lifted his game in 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 win over Mischa Zverev, the player who eliminated top-seeded Andy Murray from the tournament two nights earlier.

Federer won the first five games in 12 minutes, setting up a straight-forward win to reach his 41st Grand Slam semifinal and his 13th at Melbourne Park.

“I’m pleased with the way I started the match … after that, naturally everything’s easier,” Federer said. “Second set was definitely a key to shut it down for him. Then in the third set I think I was rolling.”

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 semifinals here in the Open era.

She’ll be meeting a confident Vandeweghe, who dictated play against French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in a 6-4, 6-0 quarterfinal win.

The No. 35-ranked Vandeweghe upset top-ranked Angelique Kerber, who won the Australian and U.S. titles last year, in the fourth round. She followed it up with another commanding win, the 10th in her career against a Top 10 player.

Vandeweghe saved the only break point she faced in the first set with an ace, and only conceded 10 points in the 28-minute second set. Of her 31 winners, 14 were from her powerful forehand side.

“Once I got rolling in the second, it was like a freight train,” she said, “You couldn’t stop it.”

Reaching a semifinal against the U.S. Open champion was more than Federer expected in his first major back.

“Not to play Stan in the semis, I’ll tell you that,” he said when asked what his expectations were. “I thought I was going to maybe make a few rounds.”

Wawrinka, who had his major breakthrough in Australia in 2014, beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3 – his fourth straight win against the Frenchman.

On Wednesday, the men’s semifinalists from the other side of the draw will be determined when 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal plays Milos Raonic and David Goffin takes on Grigor Dimitrov.

Serena Williams, aiming for a record 23rd Grand Slam title, plays Johanna Konta and Karolina Pliskova meets Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the remaining women’s quarterfinals.

Venus Williams has advanced through the tournament without dropping a set, and isn’t ready to stop in the semifinals in the latest installment of her career revival.

“It’s wonderful to start the year out with this appearance,” said Venus Williams, who hadn’t reached the semifinals in Australia since 2003, the year she lost the final to 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.”

Williams didn’t reach the quarterfinals at any of the Grand Slams from 2011 – when she was diagnosed with the Sjogren’s syndrome, which saps energy and causes joint pain – until the 2015 Australian Open. She lost in the first round here last year, but returned to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon.

Vandeweghe also lost in the first round here last year, and at the U.S. Open in September, but has found her form in Melbourne this year. As well as the wins over Kerber and Muguruza, she has had wins over No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci and Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semifinals here and the final at Wimbledon in 2014.

Williams said the quarterfinal results were a “great win for the U.S.”

“I’m sure (Vandeweghe is) going to want to be in her first final,” Williams said. “I’m going to want to be in only my second final here. So it’s going to be a well-contested match.”

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

There’s also the possibility of another all-Williams final.

But Venus doesn’t plan to be thinking about who was on the other side of the net. She is focused on Grand Slam title No. 8.

“I try to believe,” she said. “I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is: `I deserve this’.”

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.