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Serena within 1 win of 7th Australian Open title

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Serena Williams is one win away from another Grand Slam milestone after beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4 in an Australian Open semifinal that was almost a non-contest between the players who’ll be Nos. 1 and 3 in the next women’s rankings.

If Williams wins Saturday’s final against No. 7-seeded Angelique Kerber, she’ll equal Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles title, a record in the Open era, and the second-most in history behind Margaret Court’s 24.

Williams is the overwhelming favorite, and not just based on recent form. She continued her perfect streak in Australian Open semifinals, and she has won all six finals she’s contested at Melbourne Park.

“I definitely block it out,” Williams replied to a question about equaling Graf’s mark. “I was one off last year, too!

“If I don’t win on Saturday, I’ll still be one off.”

Despite all her success, it is a loss that is inspiring Williams in this tournament. She was two matches away from a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015 when she lost to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals.

“Physically I’m feeling a lot better, mentally I needed that break after the Open,” she said, but “I didn’t think I would do this well this fast.

“I’m really excited to be in the final – it just kind of blows my mind right now.”

Kerber ended Sydney-born British player Johanna Konta’s surprising run with a 7-5, 6-2 semifinal win to reach her first Grand Slam final. Konta was the first British woman since 1983 to reach a major semifinal.

Kerber has one win in six matches against Williams – in 2012.

Graf was the last German player to win the women’s title in Australia, in 1994, and Kerber is asking for some advice.

“So Steffi, write me please,” she said, laughing with the crowd on Rod Laver Arena.

Williams’ win over fourth-seeded Radwanska provided another yet reminder of her dominance in the women’s game. She has won 39 of her last 40 Grand Slam matches across six major tournaments.

Williams hasn’t played a left-hander so far this tournament and said that, combined with Kerber’s win over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, were making her wary.

“She took out a really tough opponent in Victoria. You can’t underestimate Kerber,” Williams said. “She’s beaten me before, too, and pretty good. I know that she brings a lot to the game.”

The first set of the semifinals was over in 20 minutes, with Williams hitting 18 winners and Radwanska, in her fifth major semifinal, registering one – in the fourth game.

The second set was closer, with Radwanska holding serve three times and breaking Serena’s powerful serve once. But the 34-year-old Williams lifted again to finish it off, winning the last eight points and closing with three aces and a big forehand winner.

Williams remains unbeaten in nine matches against Radwanska, whom she beat in the 2012 Wimbledon final.

“She goes on court and she just wants to kill it. Going like full power for everything,” Radwanska said. “So I don’t think anyone can really play on that kind of level at all. She started unbelievable, with such a power and speed. I was just standing there kind of watching her playing.”

With the roof on Rod Laver Arena closed because of a thunderstorm closing in, the most obvious noise in the first set was the chirping of trapped birds who’d taken shelter in the stadium.

The chirping intensified as Williams served in the sixth game of the second set, and she looked up angrily after her off-balance forehand from the baseline conceding her only service break of the match.

Williams finished with eight aces – all in the second set – and has lost only 26 games in six rounds in a dominating run that included a 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 5 Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, a rematch of the 2015 final.

Duckhee Lee downplays deafness, wins ATP tournament debut

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Duckhee Lee tossed the ball into the air for his first serve in an ATP tournament match, and blasted it past his opponent with a loud pop.

The 21-year-old South Korean never heard it. He was born deaf.

The tour’s first deaf professional player says he doesn’t want to be defined by the disability that he has overcome well enough to play at the sport’s highest level.

His first appearance in a top-level tournament will last at least until the second round. Lee beat Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open on Monday, earning a matchup with No. 3 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

As much as the opening-round victory meant to Lee and his career, it might have meant even more to hearing-impaired athletes in all sports.

“Don’t be discouraged and if you try hard, you can do anything, you can achieve anything you want,” Lee said through an interpreter, adding that he “doesn’t want people to get discouraged and get down about their disability.”

The ability to hear carries a particular importance in tennis. Players often insist on silence during points so they can hear the ball off their opponent’s strings and identify the spin in a split-second.

Lee makes up for it with his eyes, sharpening his focus on his opponent’s swing, how that player makes contact and the speed and spin of the ball as it’s racing toward him.

Complicating things further, he also doesn’t speak English, reads lips instead of using sign language, and relies on hand gestures from umpires making calls.

Because he can’t hear the score announcements, he keeps track of points and games in his head – which can be more difficult in smaller events that don’t have courtside scoreboards. It led to a hiccup early during his main-draw debut when he lined up to serve after a game had been decided.

“I think (the umpire) forgot to give the signal” at times during the match, he said, adding that he “was hoping he would give in and out signals.”

The debut in Winston-Salem marked the next step up the tennis ladder for Lee, who started playing tennis at age 7 – the year after he realized he was deaf, though doctors had diagnosed his condition as a toddler.

“People made fun of (me) because of the disability and said (I) shouldn’t be playing,” Lee said, adding that his motivation was to “enjoy (my) life by overcoming my disability.”

Lee made his debut on the ITF Futures Tour at 14 and won eight titles before he turned 18, then reached three finals of the ATP Challenger Tour, including one in June, falling to Dudi Sela at the Baptist Health Little Rock Open in Arkansas. He brought a No. 212 world ranking to the central North Carolina hardcourts.

He’ll always remember his first ATP-level victory – and not just because of the result. Lee was two points away from sealing the victory when thunderstorms forced a weather delay of nearly 5 hours. He and Laakonsen came back to the court at roughly 10:15 p.m. – and wrapped up their match in 87 seconds.

When he was asked how he spent the delay, Lee got his point across with pantomime, mimicking someone playing table tennis and shooting basketball, because there was both a pingpong table and pop-a-shot machine in the players’ lounge. He smiled as his translator said how “he loves the facility here.”

Amanda Anisimova out of U.S. Open after father’s death

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NEW YORK — American teenager Amanda Anisimova withdrew from the U.S. Open on Tuesday because of the recent death of her father and coach, Konstantin.

A statement from family members, released by Anisimova’s representatives, said: “We are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our father. We appreciate the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time and ask that you respect our privacy.”

The U.S. Tennis Association announced that Anisimova had pulled out of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, where main-draw play begins Monday.

Anisimova, who was born in New Jersey to Russian parents and moved to Florida when she was 3, is currently ranked 24th and would have been seeded for the U.S. Open.

She is an up-and-coming star in women’s tennis who reached the semifinals at the French Open in June at age 17.

Anisimova upset defending champion Simona Halep in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, before losing to eventual champion Ash Barty in three sets.

Her first WTA title came in April at Bogota, Colombia.

As a junior, Anisimova won the 2017 U.S. Open girls’ title, beating Coco Gauff in the final.