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Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

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Del Potro edges Federer to win Indian Wells title

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Juan Martin del Potro keeps surprising himself.

Close to quitting tennis after four wrist surgeries in recent years, the Argentine fought to get back to the ATP Tour even as he was reduced to hitting his backhand with one hand instead of his usual two.

The struggle paid off Sunday, when Del Potro staved off three match points in the third set to beat top-ranked Roger Federer 6-4,7-6 (8), 7-6 (2) for the BNP Paribas Open title.

The win ranks up there with Del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open title, in which he beat Federer, and helping Argentina win the Davis Cup in 2016.

“I cannot believe I won this tournament, beating Roger in a great final and level of tennis,” Del Potro said.

Naomi Osaka of Japan won the women’s title 6-3, 6-2 over Russian Daria Kasatkina in a match-up of 20-year-old rising stars.

Del Potro and Osaka each earned $1.3 million.

Del Potro became the first Argentine champion in the 42-year history of the desert tournament. He handed Federer his first loss of the year, snapping the Swiss superstar’s 17-match winning streak that was the best of his career.

“I feel frustrated that I let an opportunity like this go by,” Federer said.

Del Potro held a match point at 8-7 in the second-set tiebreaker, but he lost the final three points on his own errors that allowed Federer to force a third set.

“It was a lot of frustration after that match point, but then I play well,” Del Potro said.

They were on serve in the third until Federer broke for a 5-4 lead with a backhand winner off del Potro’s serve.

Federer had a chance to serve out the match, holding two match points. But del Potro staved both off to force deuce.

Federer’s forehand went long, giving del Potro a break point. Federer answered with a backhand that hit del Potro at the net and then gained his third match point on del Potro’s forehand error.

Del Potro recovered to deuce with a forehand winner. Federer mis-hit a forehand high into the air beyond the baseline, giving del Potro another break point. The Argentine cashed in with a well-placed forehand in the corner to tie the set, 5-all.

In the tiebreaker, Del Potro raced to a 6-1 lead, helped by two of Federer’s double faults. He closed out the win on his third match point when Federer’s forehand failed.

“I would like to play that tiebreaker again because I don’t know what the hell happened,” Federer said.

Del Potro lost just six points on his serve in the first set.

In the second-set tiebreaker, Del Potro and Federer took turns arguing with chair umpire Fergus Murphy. Del Potro was annoyed the crowd was making noise on his serve and told the umpire he wasn’t warning them enough to be quiet.

“It had no effect on the outcome of the match,” Federer said. “I was just also just trying to pump myself up more, to get energy for me.”

Del Potro survived three-setters against countryman Leonardo Mayer in the fourth round and Philipp Kohlschreiber in the quarterfinals. It was his first win against Federer since last year’s U.S. Open quarters. Del Potro trails in their series 18-7, but owns a 4-2 advantage in finals.

Del Potro arrived at Indian Wells having won a title in Acapulco and back in the top 10.

“I’m really enjoying playing tennis again,” he said. “I’m still surprising myself, and I want to keep surprising the tennis tour.”

 

Federer, Venus Williams roll into semifinals at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Roger Federer defeated Chung Hyeon 7-5, 6-1 to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday night and equal his career-best start of 16-0 from 2006.

With Rod Laver and Pete Sampras looking on, Federer fired 12 aces and was broken just once in extending his bid for a record sixth title in the desert.

Federer and Chung last played in the Australian Open semifinals, when the South Korean was forced to retire trailing 6-1, 5-2 because of blisters on his left foot. Federer went on to win the title and at 36 is the No. 1 player again.

Federer saved a handful of break points in the first game of the second set and then broke Chung twice, including on a double fault to take a 5-1 lead.

Serving for the match, Federer’s errant backhand spoiled his first match point. His forehand volley went wide, giving Chung a break chance. But Chung’s forehand error got Federer to deuce and he closed out his second match point with an ace that Chung unsuccessfully challenged the call on.

Next up for Federer is Borna Coric of Croatia, who upset No. 7 seed Kevin Anderson 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) for his first win in four tries against the South African.

Venus Williams defeated Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semifinals at the same event where she first broke out as a 16-year-old qualifier in 1997.

Williams has never reached the final of the desert tournament and to do she’ll have to get by 20-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina, who has yet to drop a set in four matches at Indian Wells.

At 37, Williams is the oldest player in the draw. She made the quarterfinals in her tournament debut in 1997 and notched her first win over a top-10 player before losing to eventual champion Lindsay Davenport.

Williams took 71 minutes to put away Suarez Navarro for the fourth straight time on Thursday. Playing in swirling winds, Suarez Navarro committed 29 unforced errors to 17 for Williams.

“I don’t care what’s happening on court, I just try to execute my game,” Williams said. “You kind of hope for this kind of scoreline, but you never know if you’re actually going to get it.”

Kasatkina needed just 58 minutes to dispatch former No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

The Russian has knocked out U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and No. 2-ranked Caroline Wozniacki along the way.

“Maybe, yeah, from the side or with the score it looks like it was simple, but of course it’s not,” Kasatkina said. “I knew that in one moment if I will lose focus just for a second, they will come back and then the big battle, five hours again, will start.”

She gave Kerber no chance.

The German never managed a break point against Kasatkina’s serve. The Russian connected on 82 percent of her first serves, winning 22 of 32 first-serve points.

“This one I will try to forget as fast as possible,” Kerber said.

Williams defeated younger sister Serena in the third round, one of four straight-set victories she’s had so far.

“I’m actually playing good tennis, even before the tournament started,” she said.

Besides Stephens and Australian Open winner Wozniacki, Kasatkina has beaten the other current Grand Slam titleholders in the past year: French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

That’s part of the reason for her impressive rise in the rankings over the last three years, and she’s guaranteed to make her highest move yet as a result of her deep run in the desert. She came into the tournament at No. 19, two spots lower than her career-best. She could move to 15th or 16th, and has a shot at the top 10 if she would win the title.

Kasatkina was hoping to play her semifinal at night on Friday and she got her wish.

“I just want to be on the central court, prime time,” she said, smiling. “In the evening, something special is coming from here, from the heart.”

The Williams-Kasatkina semi is a rematch of their rain-delayed third-round meeting at Wimbledon in 2016. Williams won 10-8 in the third set.

The other women’s semi is already set: No. 1 Simona Halep against Japan’s Naomi Osaka, another 20-year-old making a huge run through the draw. Osaka’s victims have included Maria Sharapova, No. 31 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 5 Karolina Pliskova.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis