Australian Open

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Sharapova wins first WTA match in US since 2015

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STANFORD, Calif. — Maria Sharapova played her first WTA match in the United States since 2015 and beat Jennifer Brady 6-1, 4-6, 6-0 on Monday night in the opening round of the Bank of the West Classic.

Sharapova, a wild-card entrant and five-time Grand Slam champion, won the opening four games of the match, lost the first three of the second set and cruised in the third.

“I feel like I just want to hug everyone and say thank you,” Sharapova said in an on-court interview. “It’s my first match in the States in a really long time, and it’s the closest thing to home for me.”

Sharapova served a 15-month ban after testing positive for a newly banned drug at the 2016 Australian Open. She returned in April and played in three tournaments, but missed Wimbledon because of an injury.

Top-seeded and reigning Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza will play 17-year-old American Kayla Day, a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Japanese veteran Misaki Doi.

Ana Konjuh, the No. 5 seed from Croatia, won 6-3, 1-0 after New Zealand qualifier Marina Erakovic retired from the match with an injury. Seventh-seeded Lesia Tsurenko beat Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena 6-3, 6-3.

Roger Federer beats Rafael Nadal in dramatic Australian final to win 18th major

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Roger Federer has won his 18th Grand Slam title and put some extra distance on the all-time list between himself and Rafael Nadal, the man he beat 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in a vintage Australian Open final on Sunday.

It was the 35-year-old Federer’s fifth Australian title, his first at a major since Wimbledon in 2012, and it reversed the status quo against his nemesis, Nadal.

Federer had lost six of the previous eight Grand Slam finals he’d played against Nadal, and had only previously beaten the left-handed Spaniard in 11 of their 34 matches.

Both players were returning from extended layoffs for injuries – Federer the left knee; Nadal the left wrist – and were seeded 17th and ninth respectively.

Nadal remains equal second with Pete Sampras on the all-time list, with the last of his 14 majors coming at Roland Garros in 2014.

After four sets where the momentum swung alternately from one player to the next, the fifth had all the tension and drama that these two players are famous for.

Nadal went up an early break and it seemed as if the injury time-out Federer needed after the fourth set may have been an indicator of things to come.

But the Swiss star rallied, and broke back in a pivotal sixth game and took control in a period when he won 10 straight points.

Nadal saved three break points in the eighth game but lost momentum again when Federer finished off a 26-shot rally – the longest of the match – with a forehand winner down the line.

Consecutive forehand errors gave Federer the pivotal break for 5-3, but Nadal made him work for the very last point.

Serving for the match, Federer had to save two break points with an ace and a forehand winner.

At deuce, he was called for a double-fault but challenged the out call on his second serve. The call was overturned, and he got to play two.

Not long after, he fired an ace to get his second match point and hit a forehand crosscourt winner to finish off.

His celebrations were delayed, though, when Nadal challenged the call. Federer watched the replay on the tournament screen, and leaped for joy when it showed his last shot was in. His 100th match at the Australian Open ended with his fifth title at Melbourne Park.

No two players had met more often in Grand Slam finals in the Open era, and Nadal had previously dominated. But they hadn’t met in a major final since the 2011 French Open, won by Nadal.

Three months ago, they were both on breaks when Federer joined Nadal in Mallorca for the opening of the Spaniard’s tennis academy and the pair joked about ever being able to contend for majors again.

Yet here they were, first Grand Slam tournament of the season, renewing the classic rivalry that saw them dominate tennis a decade ago.

The long-odds final – No. 9 against No. 17 – unfolded after six-time champion Novak Djokovic was shockingly upset by No. 117-ranked Denis Istomin in the second round and top-ranked Andy Murray, a five-time losing finalist in Australia, went out in the fourth round to left-handed serve-volleyer Mischa Zverev.

Federer beat Zverev in the quarterfinals and U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka in an all-Swiss semifinal to reach the championship match. The six years between his Australian titles set a record, too, longer than the five years that both Boris Becker and Andre Agassi had between championships in Melbourne.

Serena Williams reaches Australian Open semifinals

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams reached her 10th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, and kept her bid alive for a record 23rd major title, with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Johanna Konta at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

Her opponent in the semifinals, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who beat fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, had a much longer wait to get back to this stage at a major – nearly 18 years.

It’s the second time in the last two years that three women in their 30s have reached the semifinals at a major: Venus Williams, 36, Serena Williams, 35, and Lucic-Baroni, 34. Serena also reached the semifinals at the 2015 U.S. Open, alongside 30-somethings Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci.

“Thirties is the new 10,” Williams said after her match. “No matter what happens, somebody 34 or older will be in the final.”

The second-seeded Williams was tested by Konta in the second set when the British player broke her to go up 2-1. But Williams broke back at love to level the score at 3-all and saved another break point in her next service game before closing out the match.

Williams finished with 10 aces, but only connected on 45 percent of her first serves overall.

“The main focus is actually my serve,” she said. “I missed a lot today. I got a little frustrated.”

Lucic-Baroni advanced to the last four at a major for the first time since her run to the Wimbledon semifinals in 1999 at the age of 17.

The last time she made it this far, Lucic-Baroni also had to face a woman in the semifinals with 22 majors – Steffi Graf. Graf won that match, but fell short in her bid to win her 23rd major title against Lindsay Davenport.

Lucic-Baroni is surprised she is getting another chance at this stage of her career.

She was once considered a prodigy with as much promise as the Williams sisters. She won the first tournament she entered as a 15 year old in 1997 and several months later captured the 1998 Australian Open doubles title with Martina Hingis.

After her run to the Wimbledon semifinals the following year, however, Lucic-Baroni’s career was sidetracked by personal issues and financial problems. She was largely out of the sport for several years before launching a comeback in the late 2000s.

“I know this means a lot to every player to reach the semifinals, but to me, this is just overwhelming,” she said, in tears, after the match. “This has truly made my life and everything bad that happened, it has made it OK.”

The 79th-ranked Lucic-Baroni is the third-lowest-ranked player to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open after Justine Henin (unranked, 2010), Claudia Porwick (No. 81, 1990) and Williams (No. 81, 2007).

Lucic-Baroni and Pliskova combined for 14 service breaks in an up-and-down match before the Croatian, whose left leg was heavily taped, left the court midway through the third set for treatment on her leg.

When she returned, she won eight straight points to hold and get the final break of the match and then put a rosary around her neck to serve the match out.