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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’.”

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.