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Djokovic beats del Potro to reach Italian Open semifinals

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ROME — Four-time champion Novak Djokovic picked up right where he left off in a rain-delayed Italian Open quarterfinal against Juan Martin del Potro, closing out a 6-1, 6-4 win Saturday to set up a semifinal later against Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic was leading 6-1, 1-2 before heavy rain Friday night caused the conclusion of the match to be postponed by a day.

In clearer conditions at the Foro Italico, Djokovic held serve when the match resumed and then got the decisive break in the next game with a drop-shot winner.

Djokovic waved his arms to get the crowd behind him as the set wore on, dictating play from near the baseline while del Potro stood further back retrieving balls in the corners.

In the other semifinal, 16th-seeded Alexander Zverev was playing big-serving John Isner.

In the women’s tournament, fourth-ranked Simona Halep advanced to the final and extended her clay-court winning streak to 10 matches with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Kiki Bertens.

After dropping five set points while serving for the opening set at 5-4, Halep started knocking her head with her finger as if saying, `Wake up.” After getting broken in that game she held at love in her next service game to end the set.

Halep then cruised past her 20th-ranked Dutch opponent amid intermittent rain.

Bertens committed 31 unforced errors to Halep’s nine.

Halep is looking for back-to-back clay-court titles after taking the title in Madrid last weekend.

The Romanian will face either Garbine Muguruza or Elina Svitolina in Sunday’s final.

 

Nadal, Muguruza win ITF player of the year awards

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LONDON — Rafael Nadal and Garbine Muguruza have won the International Tennis Federation’s player of the year awards.

At 31, Nadal becomes the oldest ITF men’s world champion after a season in which he won a 10th French Open and a third U.S. Open.

The Spaniard also became the oldest player to finish the year at No. 1 since the ATP rankings began in 1973.

Muguruza dropped only one set en route to her first Wimbledon title and finished the year at No. 2 behind Simona Halep.

“Becoming ITF world champion in such a competitive year is amazing for me,” said Muguruza, who is also Spanish. “(Nadal) is a great role model for all of us, so it is a great moment for tennis in Spain.”

Kuznetsova out of Australian Open after left wrist surgery

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time major winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has withdrawn from next month’s Australian Open after having surgery on her left wrist.

Tennis Australia on Friday said No. 12-ranked Kuznetsova and China’s Sasai Zheng, with a right knee injury, were the only players ranked in the top 100 who are confirmed as not playing the Jan. 15-28 tournament at Melbourne Park.

Serena Williams, who was pregnant while winning the 2017 Australian Open title and gave birth to her first child in September, “is anticipated to return,” Tennis Australia said.

Williams could equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles with another win at Melbourne Park. Serena Williams’ ranking has dropped to No. 22 during her break from the tour.