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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

Venus Williams helps US clinch Fed Cup win over Netherlands

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) Venus Williams helped the United States advance in the Fed Cup before assisting in her sister’s return to competitive tennis.

Williams defeated Richel Hogenkamp 7-5, 6-1 to give the U.S. a decisive 3-0 lead in its best-of-five matchup with the Netherlands. The U.S. advanced to a World Group semifinal April 21-22 at France, which defeated Belgium 3-2 this weekend.

“Honestly, I feel like we were all a team out here, us playing and everyone in the stands,” Williams said in her post-match interview in front of the sellout crowd of over 5,000 at U.S. Cellular Center. “It was all of us together, and it felt awesome.”

Williams will play doubles later Sunday alongside her sister, Serena Williams, who will be returning to tennis after spending a year away from the game to become a mother.

Serena Williams gave birth to her daughter Sept. 1 and hasn’t played competitive tennis since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant for her 23rd career Grand Slam singles title, one off Margaret Court’s record.

After Venus Williams’ singles victory Sunday, U.S. captain Kathy Rinaldi said the Williams sisters would be playing doubles together. The schedule originally called for Serena Williams to play alongside Lauren Davis.

Sunday’s scheduled singles match between CoCo Vandeweghe and Arantxa Rus was scrapped because the outcome of this best-of-five event already has been decided, but the doubles match will go on as scheduled.

Before the doubles match started, the U.S. team celebrated its triumph over the Netherlands. Davis carried an American flag while joining the Williams sisters and Vandeweghe on a victory lap around the court.

The U.S. had taken a 2-0 lead Saturday when Venus Williams defeated Rus 6-4, 6-1 and Vandeweghe rallied from a set and a break down to beat Hogenkamp 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-3.

“Honestly, I’d like to think CoCo wore her out some,” Venus Williams said after her own victory over Hogenkamp.

Venus Williams’ victory over Hogenkamp improved her Fed Cup singles record to 21-2 with 11 straight victories. Her only Fed Cup singles losses came in 1999 to Russia’s Elena Dementieva and in 2005 to Russia’s Anastasia Myskina.

Hogenkamp had a break-point opportunity that would have put her ahead 6-5 in the first set before Williams won the final seven points of the set. Williams took the last five games of the match to wrap up the victory.

“You’re under pressure a lot,” Hogenkamp said. “Every time you hit a second serve, you see someone at the other side standing one or two meters inside the baseline. She’s giving a lot of pressure to me when I’m serving, overall putting pressure on you. I think that’s one of her strengths. For me it’s tough, when I’m not feeling the match really well, to handle that.”

In other Fed Cup action this weekend, the Czech Republic beat Switzerland 3-1 and Germany beat Belarus 3-2. Germany will host the Czech Republic in the other semifinal.

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

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Wozniacki defeats Williams for career best win at WTA finals

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SINGAPORE — Caroline Wozniacki won the biggest title of her career when she beat Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 in the WTA Finals on Sunday.

The Dane completed the victory with a backhand down the line on a second match point for her 60th match victory of the season.

The 27-year-old Wozniacki’s best previous result at the WTA Finals was reaching the final in 2010.

Williams, who was hoping to win a 50th career title on Sunday, is the only player at this year’s WTA Finals who didn’t win a title during the season.

The 37-year-old Williams appeared in three finals at the five most prestigious tournaments of the season: the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and here in Singapore.

Williams, who won the WTA Finals title in 2008, had won all seven previous matches against Wozniacki.

“Eight is my lucky number so I was hoping if I was going to beat her at least once in my career it would be today,” Wozniacki said. “I just went out there and did my best.”

Wozniacki raced to a 5-0 lead in the second set before Williams mounted a late comeback attempt.

“I didn’t seem to come up with my best tennis until it was too late,” Williams said. “I’ll try to play a little better earlier next time. That might be a good plan.”

Woznicki dropped serve when she was serving for the first set at 5-3, and then dropped serve when serving for the match in the seventh and ninth games of the second set.

“I’m still shaking,” Wozniacki said. “I was up 5-0 and then Venus started upping her game. She went for her shots, started serving into my body. I’m just so happy I managed to win in the end.”