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Marin Cilic defeats Sam Querrey to reach first Wimbledon final

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LONDON– The key, for both players, was to deal with the big serve. Marin Cilic did it better.

The seventh-seeded Croat advanced to his second major final by beating Sam Querrey 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 Friday on Centre Court. He next faces Roger Federer or Tomas Berdych in Sunday’s final at the All England Club.

Cilic and Querrey, both 6-foot-6, used their powerful serves to dominate most of the match. Neither even had a break point in the first set.

“Sam came out serving huge, hitting big,” Cilic said.

Querrey took lead after a brief delay late in the opening tiebreaker. With the score 6-6, stewards entered the stands to attend to a woman who needed assistance. The break only lasted a couple of minutes, but Querrey won both points when play resumed, with Cilic missing a pair of backhands.

Cilic finally managed the first break of serve in the second set, and then went up another break in the third. But Querrey broke back to force another tiebreaker.

In the fourth set, it was Querrey who got an early break. But Cilic bounced back and then broke for the fourth time in the final game.

“After that (first tiebreaker), I was just a little bit better on the return games,” Cilic said. “I was making him (play more) on his service games.”

He finished with 25 aces and won 88 percent of the points on his first serve. Cilic also had 70 winners and only 21 unforced errors. Querrey had 46 winners and 26 unforced errors to go with 13 aces.

Cilic is now 5-0 against Querrey and 3-0 against the American at Wimbledon. Their last match at the All England Club, in 2012, went five sets and Cilic won 17-15 in the fifth.

Cilic is the second Croat player to reach the Wimbledon final. Goran Ivanisevic won the title in 2001.

Federer, in search of an eighth Wimbledon title, was to play Berdych next on Centre Court.

Federer is 18-6 against Berdych, but the 11th-seeded Czech beat Federer in the quarterfinals during his run to the Wimbledon final in 2010.

Top-ranked Halep wins tough 3-setter in Miami

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania struggled to post a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 second-round win over French lucky loser Oceane Dodin at the Miami Open on Thursday.

In the first career meeting between the players, Halep allowed the 98th-ranked Dodin to break her serve on six of seven opportunities she presented in the match, which lasted more than two hours.

Halep broke Dodin’s serve for the seventh time at 4-4 in the third set before closing it out.

Halep played in her third career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, but has yet to secure a Grand Slam trophy.

Halep’s best Miami Open was reaching the 2015 semifinals.

Also Thursday, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber of Germany advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

Kerber is 19-4 this year and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all five tournaments she’s played.

Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open and U.S. Open champion, won her first tournament since that U.S. Open at Sydney in January. She also reached the Australian Open semifinals.

Serena Williams loses in first 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.

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