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Federer makes semis, Wozniacki reaches Miami Open final

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Roger Federer’s run at the Miami Open was one point from ending. Down 6-4 in a third-set tiebreaker to Tomas Berdych, the situation was officially dire.

Yet even in that moment, Federer still felt some hope.

“I had belief I could turn it around, even then,” he said.

Somehow, he was right, and his stellar start to 2017 continued. The fourth-seeded Federer fought off those two match points and beat the 10th-seeded Berdych 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (6) in the quarterfinals on Thursday – avenging a third-set tiebreak loss to Berdych at Key Biscayne seven years ago in a match he still thinks he should have won.

“I got incredibly lucky,” Federer said. “Could have gone either way. Felt like maybe this one I should have lost.”

Federer feels right at home at Key Biscayne, and so does Caroline Wozniacki – with good reason, since she sometimes practices at the facility. The 12th-seeded Wozniacki, a part-time South Florida resident, made the women’s final for the first time in 10 tries by topping second-seeded Karolina Pliskova 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

“This is one of the few tournaments where I’ve never made a finals,” Wozniacki said. “I think my best result here was semifinals five years ago. It’s always been a tournament where I wouldn’t say I struggle, but I’ve just not had the results I wanted.”

Federer improved to 17-1 this year and will face No. 12 Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals on Friday.

Kyrgios defeated 16th-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-7 (9), 6-3 in the last of the men’s quarters, a match that lasted 2 1/2 hours. Kyrgios had 16 aces, no double faults and never faced a break point, though his 19-year-old opponent saved five match points before falling.

Zverev fought off three match points in the second-set tiebreaker, and won the set when Kyrgios – who pulled off two between-the-legs shots on the same point in the first set – tried another that didn’t work.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Kyrgios said.

He recovered and gets to face Federer, whom he called “the greatest of all time … my favorite tennis player.” Federer-Kyrgios is a rematch – sort of – from this year’s quarterfinals at Indian Wells, a match where Kyrgios withdrew beforehand with an illness.

Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini are the other men’s semifinalists, meaning there’s still a chance for Federer-Nadal on Sunday for the men’s crown.

“I would love it,” Federer said.

Federer is now 4-0 in tiebreakers this year at Key Biscayne, none of the first three as pressure-packed as the one he needed in the quarters. He was serving for the match at 5-3 in the third and got broken, had a match point in the next game and couldn’t convert, then was down 6-4 in the breaker before winning the final four points.

Berdych actually won 91 points to Federer’s 89. He needed 92 – and after coming up with big shot after big shot in the final two sets, he wound up going out on a double-fault.

“I just lost by one point. That’s what happened. Very simple, very straightforward,” Berdych said. “He was the one serving out the match, didn’t make it. I had a match point, didn’t make it. I had two, didn’t make it. So what else to say?”

Like Federer, Wozniacki rallied, albeit with far less drama. She won 12 of the last 14 games.

“I got a good start to the second set and that kind of got me fired up,” Wozniacki said.

This will be the second consecutive time two double-digit seeds make the women’s final at Key Biscayne, after No. 13 Victoria Azarenka beat No. 15 Svetlana Kuznetsova a year ago.

No. 11 Venus Williams and No. 10 Johanna Konta were to play for the other spot in the women’s final later Thursday night.

“It’s extremely special,” Wozniacki said. “Having a place here, training here in the offseason, playing kind of on home advantage, it’s special to be in my first finals here. I’m extremely excited.”

Rafael Nadal beats Albert Ramos-Vinolas to win 10th Monte Carlo Masters

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MONACO (AP) Defending champion Rafael Nadal easily beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-3 in an all-Spanish final on Sunday to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the 10th time and clinch the 70th title of his career.

It was Nadal’s first title of the season, having lost his previous three finals – two of those to Roger Federer.

Nadal faced little opposition on his way to becoming the first player to win 10 tournaments at the same venue in the Open era, and the first to reach 50 on clay. He was previously level on clay titles with Argentine Guillermo Vilas.

“When I came here for the first time (in 2003) I reached the third round after coming through the qualifiers,” Nadal said. “Ten titles is something I never dreamed of. See you next year.”

The only final the 30-year-old Nadal has lost at Monte Carlo was to Novak Djokovic in 2013.

Ramos-Vinolas never looked like posing a threat.

Appearing in his first Masters final, the 15th-seeded Ramos-Vinolas saved three break points in his first service game and was 0-40 down in his next. Nadal served out the set in 30 minutes with an ace.

Nadal’s 29th Masters title moves him one behind Djokovic’s record. He will also have his sights set on a 10th title in Barcelona next week – Nadal’s previous career title was there, almost one year ago.

Since then, Federer has beaten him in finals at the Australian Open and the Miami Masters, either side of a win for big-serving American Sam Querrey at Acapulco, Mexico. Federer also beat Nadal in the fourth round at Indian Wells, but the 18-time Grand Slam champion skipped Monte Carlo this year.

Ramos-Vinolas had lost his two previous matches to Nadal in straight sets – both in Barcelona. He competed better in the third set, holding to love in the seventh game to provoke sympathetic applause, but a second career title never looked realistic.

Ramos-Vinolas saved two match points after matching Nadal’s aggression, but a poor unforced error gave Nadal a third match point and Ramos-Vinolas double-faulted to lose in 1 hour, 16 minutes of a one-sided contest.

Nadal’s celebrations were somewhat muted, and he gave Ramos-Vinolas a sympathetic pat on the back. Nadal tilted his head back and put both hands on his head as his achievement began to sink in, while his opponent buried his head into a towel.

He never really stood a chance against the player widely considered the greatest ever on clay.

Nadal’s 70 titles are three better than Djokovic, who is a year younger. Nadal is fifth on the all-time list, but seven behind John McEnroe. Further ahead, the 35-year-old Federer has 91; Ivan Lendl 94 and Jimmy Connors is a long way away with 109.

Nadal watched smiling as each of his Monte Carlo trophy presentations over the years was played on the big screen.

The first photo, of him raising the trophy in 2005 as a distinctly shy 18-year-old who was taking tennis by storm, made Nadal laugh.

There was nothing amusing for his opponents.

He won every year after that – including the next three finals against Federer, who could never crack him on clay. Djokovic did, in the 2013 final. Stan Wawrinka won in 2014 and Djokovic again in 2015, comfortably beating Nadal in the semis.

Nadal looked emotional when the Spanish national anthem was played.

His first appearance in Monte Carlo was as a 16-year-old in 2003, when he beat Slovak Karol Kucera in the first round. That win was impressive enough, but he then stunned the tennis world by knocking out defending French Open champion Albert Costa in a second-round match that finished as night was falling.

It was the start of Nadal’s stellar career on clay.

He will be among the favorites at the French Open this year, which was the last of his 14 Grand Slam wins in 2014.

Nadal will be hunting for a 10th title at Roland Garros, too.

Rafael Nadal beats David Goffin to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO —¬†Defending champion Rafael Nadal beat David Goffin 6-3, 6-1 to move within one more win of a 10th Monte Carlo Masters title on Saturday.

Nadal will play 15th-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas in an all-Spanish final after the latter beat Lucas Pouille of France 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 in the other semifinal.

Although the score suggests a comfortable win for Nadal, Goffin’s momentum was halted by a controversial decision by chair umpire Cedric Mourier in the sixth game. Goffin was asked to replay a point after holding his serve for what would have been a 4-2 lead.

Nadal’s celebrations were muted after he clinched victory on his third match point and he sympathetically hugged Goffin at the net. Nadal shook Mourier’s hand, but Goffin did not and walked straight past him to pick up his bags.

Nadal is through to his fourth final of the season. He lost the other three, two of them to Roger Federer, including at the Australian Open.

Nadal and the 10th-seeded Goffin were playing each other for the first time, and the momentum of the semi effectively turned on the over-rule since Goffin was playing the better tennis at the time.

After being taken to deuce three times Goffin finally held – or so he thought – when Nadal hit a return too long.

It seemed evident that the ball landed out, but Mourier overruled and called it in, meaning the point had to be replayed. Goffin could not believe it and nor could the crowd, who jeered loudly.

Video replays showed it was out, but with no Hawkeye technology used on clay, the Belgian player could not challenge the initial call. Still, the umpire effectively overruled a line judge in a far better position than him.

Nadal won the next point with a drop shot and the crowd, incensed by the incorrect call, jeered again. Goffin won the next point for advantage again, but wasted it.

When Nadal forced advantage to him on the next point, boos rang out again. Goffin saved that break point and the crowd chanted “David, David.” But Nadal forged another break-point chance and took it when Goffin patted meekly into the net.

Goffin continued to complain to Mourier after the set. Nadal went off court for a break and jeers filled the air when he came back on – a rarity considering he is a crowd favorite here.

The other finalist, Ramos-Vinolas, has lost his two previous matches against Nadal, has reached his first Masters final, and won only one title. Nadal is bidding for his 70th.

With the sun out and temperature warm, the conditions for both matches were perfect for clay-court tennis on the idyllic center court perched above the glittering Mediterranean sea.

Ramos-Vinolas took the first set from Pouille when he broke the 11th-seeded Frenchman to love, concluding with a smash at the net.

Pouille played his best tennis in the second set, rewarding the crowd’s backing. But he seemed to be struggling physically in the deciding set.

At 3-0 down, Pouille needed treatment to his lower back and hips for about four minutes during the changeover. His power went after that.

Ramos-Vinolas’ only title was on outdoor clay in Bastad, Sweden. He has lost three finals, including this year on outdoor clay at Sao Paulo.