The Latest on US Open: Serena defeats Venus to reach semifinals

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NEW YORK (AP) The Latest on the U.S. Open (all times local):

10 p.m.

Serena Williams has defeated sister Venus in three sets to move within two victories of completing the first Grand Slam since 1988.

The younger Williams won 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Tuesday night in front of a celebrity-filled crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was her 11th three-set victory at a major this year.

Serena improved to 9-5 against her sister in Grand Slam matches.

Serena was nearly perfect in the first set but tightened up in the second. She pulled it back together in the third, breaking Venus’ serve right away. Showing the importance of the moment, Serena started celebrating winners with big fist pumps and loud yells of “Come on!” unlike most matches against her sister.

The 35-year-old Venus kept up her sharp play of the last two rounds, but Serena – as she so often is against everyone – was simply better.

She next faces 43rd-ranked Roberta Vinci, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal and has never defeated Williams.

9:28 p.m.

Venus Williams has pushed sister Serena to a third set in their U.S. Open quarterfinal.

The younger Williams will need to win her 11th three-set match at a major this year to keep alive her bid for the first Grand Slam since 1988. Venus took the second set 6-1 after Serena won the first 6-2.

Serena was nearly perfect in the first set but started to get tight in the second, with three double-faults. Venus, meanwhile, kept up her strong play of the last two rounds.

Serena is 8-5 against her sister at the majors.

Arthur Ashe Stadium was dotted with celebrities for the hugely anticipated match, including Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump.

9 p.m.

Serena Williams has won the first set of her U.S. Open quarterfinal against sister Venus as she seeks to complete the first Grand Slam since 1988.

The younger Williams took the set 6-2 in 33 minutes Tuesday night in front of a celebrity-filled crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Unlike some previous meetings when the awkwardness of the moment affected the performances of both, each was sharp at the start Tuesday. Venus kept up her strong play from the last two rounds. But Serena, as she often is against everyone, was just better. She had 15 winners to only two unforced errors and broke Venus’ powerful serve twice.

Serena is 8-5 against her sister at the majors.

7:15 p.m.

Defending champion Marin Cilic stretched his U.S. Open winning streak to 12 matches and returned to the semifinals by holding on to beat 19th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4.

The match took nearly four hours in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday, delaying the start of the women’s quarterfinal between Serena and Venus Williams.

The ninth-seeded Cilic appeared to be heading to a relatively straightforward victory after taking the first two sets. He was 47-0 in his Grand Slam career when up by that margin.

But Tsonga steadied himself to force a fifth set, before Cilic pulled it out.

6:25 p.m.

Defending U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic is heading to a fifth set in his quarterfinal against 19th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.

Cilic won the first two sets, but Tsonga took the next two, saving three match points in the fourth.

The match is being played in Arthur Ashe Stadium, so Serena and Venus Williams will not get on court for their quarterfinal until after Cilic and Tsonga are done.

2:55 p.m.

Roberta Vinci has reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at age 32.

The 43rd-ranked Italian outlasted Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 at the U.S. Open on Tuesday. The 22-year-old Mladenovic, who had never been past the third round at a major before this tournament, struggled with cramping on a steamy afternoon. Her fourth-round singles match didn’t end until 1 a.m. Monday, then she played doubles later that day.

Vinci, meanwhile, advanced into the quarterfinal without taking the court Sunday, when 25th-seeded Eugenie Bouchard withdrew after sustaining a concussion when she slipped and fell in the locker room two days earlier.

Mladenovic rallied from down a break in the second to force a third set, but had trainers rubbing ice on her legs during changeovers.

At 3-3 in the final set, the two played a 15-minute game with 10 deuces. Mladenovic had six game points she failed to convert.

After getting broken, the 40th-ranked Frenchwoman asked for a medical timeout. Not eligible under the rules to receive more treatment for cramping, she said it was a different injury. Vinci protested to the chair umpire as Mladenovic had her left thigh wrapped.

It wouldn’t make a difference. Mladenovic repeatedly bent over in discomfort between points, and Vinci won her last two service games to clinch victory after 2 hours, 32 minutes.

Vinci has played on the biggest stages before, winning five major doubles titles with former partner Sara Errani. She had been 0-2 in Grand Slam singles quarterfinals, both at the U.S. Open.

Rival players support seeding Serena Williams at French Open

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ROME – Several of Serena Williams’ biggest rivals believe that the 23-time Grand Slam champion deserves more than just a guaranteed spot in the French Open draw.

Williams, who is expected to play in her first major since returning from maternity leave, should also receive a top seed that befits the No. 1 ranking she held when she left the tour, the players say.

The WTA Tour said it is considering a rule change to add protected seeding for highly-ranked players returning from maternity leave but the earliest that could take effect is next year.

“I would like to see that change,” Maria Sharapova said. “It’s such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally. … There’s just another whole dimension to the travel, to the experiences, to the emotions to the physicality of every single day.

“Tennis is such a selfish sport but I think when there’s a child in your life you lose a little bit of that, because there’s something that’s so much more important,” added Sharapova, who has lost three Grand Slam finals to Williams. “So yeah, I definitely think that would be a nice change.”

The French Open draw will be made Thursday, with the tournament starting on Sunday.

All Grand Slam events make their own decisions on seeding players, so it’s still possible that Roland Garros will make Williams one of the 32 seeded players even though her current ranking is down to near No. 500.

Otherwise, Williams could be forced to play top-ranked players in the early rounds.

The French tennis federation did not respond to a request for comment.

“It’s normal to give birth to a kid. It’s normal to have protected ranking. … It’s more than tennis,” top-ranked Simona Halep said. “So the people will decide what seed she will get. But in my opinion it’s good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth.”

Williams returned to the tour briefly this year, after a 14-month absence to give birth to her daughter. She was not seeded at tournaments in Indian Wells, California, and Miami, and compiled two wins and two losses.

Williams has recounted the difficulties she faced in childbirth and a pulmonary embolism that made it hard for her to breathe shortly after her daughter was born. But after a period of training, coach Patrick Mouratoglou last week told the WTA tour’s website “Serena will play the French Open to win it.”

Current rules covering maternity leave and injuries allow a protected or “special” ranking to be utilized for entry into tournaments but not for seeding purposes regardless of the reason for a player’s absence.

However, this past year the WTA adjusted the rule so that absences for maternity leave are treated the same as those for injury and illness by providing all players a two-year window to begin using a special ranking, plus an additional year from the date of return to utilize the special ranking.

“Historically, WTA players have not been supportive of the use of special rankings for seeding purposes,” the WTA said in a statement to The Associated Press. “The rule is currently under further review as part of our 2019 rules process. We remain committed to evolving with the needs of our players and are very supportive of those players returning from maternity leave to the tour.”

Fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina, who defended her Italian Open title on Sunday, was also supportive of seeding Williams.

“If you’re like finished or you stopped because you’re going to have a child and you will be in top eight, I think you should have this kind of thing, to have protected seeding,” Svitolina said. “She was No. 1 so she deserves seeding.”

William has won the French Open three times – more than any current player – and last year’s Roland Garros champion, Jelena Ostapenko, is looking forward to her return.

“She’s someone who the tour was missing – because she’s a great champion,” Ostapenko said. “She was my idol since I was growing up.”

AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich in Washington and AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed.

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

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Nadal beats Zverev for Italian Open title

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ROME — Rafael Nadal came out on top in a matchup of this year’s top two clay-court players, beating defending champion Alexander Zverev 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 Sunday to win a record-extending eighth Italian Open title.

Nadal recovered from an early break in the third set after a 50-minute rain delay.

The victory means Nadal will reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Roger Federer on Monday.

Federer is sitting out the clay season to prepare for Wimbledon.

Nadal and Zverev had each won two titles on clay this season entering the final, with Nadal lifting trophies in Monte Carlo and Barcelona and Zverev taking Munich and Madrid.

Nadal improved to 5-0 in his career against Zverev and gained an extra measure of confidence entering the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

Earlier, Elina Svitolina defended the women’s title, facing little resistance from top-ranked Simona Halep in a 6-0, 6-4 win.