Nadal advances to Acapulco semifinals

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ACAPULCO, Mexico — Rafael Nadal ran his Mexican Open winning streak to 13 matches Thursday night, beating Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach the semifinals.

The tournament winner in 2005 and 2013, Nadal needed almost two hours to finish off Nishioka. The 30-year-old Spanish star overcame a 4-2 deficit in the first set and got out of a 0-2 hole in the second

“Every game here is special. I did not play my best tennis, but that’s why it has a merit,” Nadal said. “I played great the previous rounds and today I was able to get over a tough situation. I’m happy to be in the semifinals, that’s great news.”

Nadal will face third-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia. Cilic advanced when American Steve Johnson withdrew because of a right ankle injury.

Nadal is playing in his first tournament since losing to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final. The Spaniard leads the series against Cilic 3-1, but they haven’t played since the Basel quarterfinals in 2015, when Nadal won 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

“He’s one of the toughest rivals in the world, he has a great serve and is very aggressive,” Nadal said. “I will have to play so much better than today if I want to have a shot. It’s a big match. I hope to be prepared for it.”

Johnson was injured in his match against his countryman Ernesto Escobedo late Wednesday.

Later, American Sam Querrey knocked out defending champion Dominic Thiem 6-1, 7-5 to set up a semifinal against the winner of the late match between top-seeded Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios.

Querrey reached the semifinals for the second year in a row. In 2016 he lost to Thiem, but this time, the American got the win in just 66 minutes a day after taking down Belgian David Goffin, 11th in the ATP rankings.

Querrey ended Thiem’s seven-match winning streak

“I felt great the last couple of day and I kept it up today. I stayed aggressive the whole game and served great when it counted,” Querrey said. “I really like playing here.”

On the women’s side, top-seeded Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia beat France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 6-3. Lucic-Baroni will face seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, a 6-3, 7-6 (5) winner over third-seeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

American Christina McHale beat Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig 6-2, 6-2. The fifth-seeded McHale, in her second straight semifinal round in Acapulco, will play second-seed Kristina Mladenovic of France. Mladenovic beat Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-3.

Wozniacki still in frame for return to No. 1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Caroline Wozniacki had just been beaten by Kim Clijsters in the 2012 Australian Open quarterfinals, causing her to lose her No. 1 ranking on the WTA Tour, and she had some fighting words.

“I will get it back eventually, so I’m not worried,” she said. “The media talks to me like I’m finished … the fact is I still have quite a few good years in front of me.”

Fast forward to this year’s Australian Open, where Wozniacki’s win in the third round on Friday leaves her with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking – six years later.

If so, it would be the longest gap between stints at the top since the WTA’s computer rankings were introduced in 1975. She might take some solace from the fact that the current longest streak between players returning to No. 1 is held by Serena Williams at 5 years, 29 days.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki also faced criticism during her first stay at No. 1 – which included year-end top rankings in 2010 and 2011 – that she’d never won a major, unlike Williams’ current 23. And that hasn’t changed either.

Maybe this year.

On Friday, two days after she came back from a 5-1 deficit and saved two match points in the third set to beat Jana Fett in the second round, she had a 6-4, 6-3 win over Kiki Bertens that wasn’t without late drama, both with closing out the match, and with her criticism of the chair umpire.

Wozniacki had to save four break points while serving for the match but clinched it on her fourth match point.

After coming so close to being knocked out of the tournament, she sounded like a gambler with cash in her pocket.

“Right now, playing with house money,” Wozniacki said in an on-court television interview. “Nothing to lose. I got a second chance. I’m just going to try and take it and see how far I can go.”

Wozniacki wasn’t happy with chair umpire Renaud Lichtenstein. She had complained about a few line calls, and that the court was slippery in several areas.

“I’ve never had this guy before … but I think he did a poor job today,” Wozniacki said. “If the court is wet, I think it’s normal to ask for a towel. I don’t think someone needs to be rude, and I told him so. I think there were some questionable calls, as well.”

Watching from Wozniacki’s support section was former NBA player David Lee. In November, the former New York Knicks forward proposed to her during a holiday on the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora.

“All I’ll say is it was a surprise, it was amazing,” Wozniacki said earlier this week of Lee’s proposal. “Had the best off-season. We had a great time traveling a little bit, exploring some new places. I was really recharged when I finally got back on the court again.”

Perhaps enough to get her back to No. 1.

Roger Federer through to Australian 3rd round

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Defending champion Roger Federer is through to the Australian Open’s third round after beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in a night match at Rod Laver Arena.

Federer maintained his record of always reaching the third round at Melbourne Park, and this is his 19th appearance. Five of his 19 Grand Slam singles titles have been in Australia.

Despite his straight-sets win, Federer was only able to convert three of his 11 break-point chances, and only one of six in the third set.

The 36-year-old Federer will next play French veteran Richard Gasquet. Federer has beaten Gasquet 16 of the 18 times they’ve played.