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Unseeded Latvian teen Ostapenko into 1st Slam semi at French


PARIS (AP) With the unbridled joy of a kid reaching heights she never has, and the go-for-it strokes of someone too bold to know better, an unseeded 19-year-old from Latvia, Jelena Ostapenko, beat former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 at the French Open on a rainy Tuesday to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.

Ostapenko sent shots toward the lines and put them right where she wanted often enough to deliver 38 winners – 32 more than the defensive-minded Wozniacki, a two-time runner-up at majors.

“I knew,” the 47th-ranked Ostapenko said, “I had to be aggressive all match.”

Ostapenko’s next opponent is 30th-seeded Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland, who eliminated 13th-seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-4, 6-4.

Both women’s quarterfinals were interrupted twice because of showers; the first delay lasted more than 3 hours, the second about a half-hour. The men’s quarterfinals involving Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic that had been scheduled for Tuesday were postponed until Wednesday.

The last two women’s quarterfinals are also Wednesday: No. 2 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic vs. No. 28 Caroline Garcia of France, and No. 3 Simona Halep of Romania vs. No. 5 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. This is the first Grand Slam tournament since the 1979 Australian Open that none of the eight women’s quarterfinalists had won a major title.

When Tuesday’s play began, the wind averaged 18 mph (30 kph), with gusts up to 50 mph (85 kph), making balls swerve oddly. Serve tosses were an adventure. Players repeatedly wiped their eyes to get rid of dust kicked up from the clay court. By the final resumption, the temperature was below 55 degrees (12 Celsius).

“We had all the seasons rolled into one today. We had a hurricane, a sandstorm, and we almost had snow, too,” Bacsinszky told the crowd at Court Philippe Chatrier. “It was really tough to keep my concentration all day long. I feel exhausted – and I’m sure you do, too.”

Ostapenko had the most trouble in those conditions, quickly trailing 5-0.

She calibrated her strokes better as time went on and the air swirled less, taking four games in a row to make the first set interesting before ceding it. Still, it was clear that she was up to the task against the 11th-seeded Wozniacki, who is 26 and has been to two U.S. Open finals and yet somehow seemed the less sure of herself.

Then again, this was a matchup that clearly suits Ostapenko: She is now 4-0 against Wozniacki.

“Her shots are hard to read,” Wozniacki said, “so you don’t really feel comfortable at any point in the match.”

Ostapenko was down 2-1 in the third set before taking the last five games, serving it out at love. When the match ended, she smiled and shouted and pumped her fist.

Ostapenko’s rise has been swift.

She is the youngest French Open semifinalist in a decade. And she is the first Latvian woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in the professional era, which began in 1968.

She has yet to win a tour-level title of any sort.

A year ago, Ostapenko lost in the first round of the French Open.

The year before that, she lost in the first round of French Open qualifying.

Before last week, she had never been past the third round of any Grand Slam tournament.

“It looks like she hits it late a lot of the time, and you think she won’t be able to do cross-court or down the line in certain moments,” Wozniacki said of her fearless opponent, “and she does anyway.”

Now Ostapenko will play for a berth in the final Thursday, which just so happens to be Ostapenko’s 20th birthday and Bacsinszky’s 28th.

For Bacsinszky, it will be only slightly more familiar territory. She has played in one previous major semifinal, also in Paris, losing to eventual champion Serena Williams two years ago.

Four years ago, after her time on tour was limited by foot and abdominal injuries, she took a hiatus from tennis to work at restaurants with an eye toward pursuing a degree in hotel management.

In 2014, she was ranked outside the top 100 and went through qualifying at the French Open.

But Paris has become a site that brings out her best tennis.

“It’s the tournament closest to my heart,” Bacsinszky said. “I love to play here.”


Serena Williams loses in 1st round at Miami Open to Osaka

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Serena Williams lost in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday, still rusty in her return from pregnancy and unable to overcome a tough draw against Naomi Osaka, who won 6-3, 6-2.

The 20-year-old Osaka, who earned her first career title Sunday at Indian Wells, showed no signs of letup and overpowered the erratic Williams. Osaka had the stronger serve, and in rallies wore down Williams working her from side to side.

The matchup worthy of a final came about because both players are unseeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best 22nd, while Williams’ ranking is 491st after her layoff of more than a year.

Another new mother and former No. 1, three-time Key Biscayne champion Victoria Azarenka, defeated Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0.

Williams has endured a first-round defeat only four other times, most recently at the 2012 French Open. The latest loss came at a tournament she has won a record eight times and considers her hometown event.

The match was the last for Williams at Key Biscayne, 90 miles south of her home in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament is moving next year to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, and Williams helped with the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday.

After her defeat, she left without speaking to the media.

Because of Williams’ ranking, she entered the draw as a wild card, and looked the part. She was a step slow to balls in the corners and often late with her swing, while she put barely half her first serves in play.

Osaka, who has both American and Japanese citizenship and lives in Fort Lauderdale, was playing her idol for the first time but didn’t seem a bit fazed. She improved to 14-4 this year.

Things may get tougher for her in the second round, when she’ll face No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina.

More AP tennis coverage:

Sock, Querrey, Isner among U.S. Davis Cup picks

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Jack Sock, Sam Querrey, John Isner, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson have been picked for the U.S. Davis Cup team that will face Belgium in the quarterfinals next month in Nashville, Tennessee.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced captain Jim Courier’s roster Wednesday. Belgium’s team hasn’t been made public yet.

Sock is the highest-ranked American man at No. 11 this week, with Querrey at 14th and Isner 17th.

The matches will be played on a hard court at Belmont University from April 6-8.

The winner will face Croatia or Kazakhstan in the semifinals Sept. 14-16. The U.S. hasn’t been to the Davis Cup’s final four since 2012.

The United States holds a 4-0 record against Belgium in the Davis Cup, but the countries last played each other in 2005.