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Wozniacki to face Pliskova in rain-delayed Qatar Open final

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DOHA, Qatar — Former world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki will face second-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the final of the Qatar Open after both were forced to play back-to-back matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday night due to rain playing havoc the schedule.

Wozniacki swept past Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-1, 6-2 to reach her second final in Doha – six years after her first, which she lost to Vera Zvonareva.

“It sounds amazing, but also makes me feel a little old,” the 26-year-old Wozniacki said. “It’s been a great week, really tough conditions with all the waiting, but I managed to keep focus and play some of my best tennis out there.”

Pliskova hit a career-best 21 aces to beat third-seeded Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in the other semifinal, her first victory over the Slovakian player in four meetings.

“I’m really excited, especially after what a long, tough day it’s been,” Pliskova said. “Having two wins today is amazing, and I just beat Domi for the first time in my life.”

The schedule had been backed up due to frequent rain delays during the week, forcing the players into double duty on Friday.

Earlier in the evening, Wozniacki beat Lauren Davis of the United States 7-5, 6-1, while Pliskova defeated Zhang Shuai of China 6-2, 6-0.

Puig also had to complete her quarterfinal match earlier Friday, edging Daria Kasatkina 4-6, 7-5, 6-4. Cibulkova was the only one of the four semifinalists to make it through on Thursday.

Altogether, Wozniacki spent more than three hours on court Friday evening, while Pliskova played for just under three hours.

Wozniacki has won all three of her previous matches against Pliskova, but their last encounter came in 2014 before Pliskova reached last year’s U.S. Open final and became a top-10 player.

“She’s playing really well, serving really well. It’s going to be a great final and I’m excited for it,” Wozniacki said.

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.