Djokovic eyeing Aussie title after beating Federer

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Like Serena Williams before him, Novak Djokovic moved into another Australian Open championship decider with a relatively untroubled semifinal win.

Top-ranked Djokovic had a 6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over No. 3 Roger Federer. Hours earlier on Rod Laver Arena, Williams advanced to within one win of another Grand Slam milestone, beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4 in a semifinal Thursday that was almost a non-contest between the players who’ll be Nos. 1 and 3 in the next women’s rankings.

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

The signs were ominous from the beginning for 17-time Grand Slam champion and No. 3-ranked Federer. Djokovic, now into his sixth Australian final – he’s won all five previous – held his first service game at love and broke Federer in the second. After four minutes, Federer was two games down.

The first set was over within 22 minutes. Spectators- including a woman with a sign reading: “Just Married But Willing to Exchange for Federer” – were firmly behind him, applauding Djokovic’s service faults and giving Federer a standing ovation when he broke to go ahead 4-2 in the third set.

The end came quickly in the fourth. Djokovic broke Federer in the eighth game to go up 5-3 – not even a stunning down-the-line shot after he earlier chased down a lob on the same point could save the Swiss star.

Djokovic held three match points in the next game and he clinched it in 2 hours, 19 minutes when Federer netted a backhand. Djokovic, who won three Grand Slam titles last year, took a 23-22 edge in his 45 meetings with Federer.

“Definitely I’ve played unbelievable the first two sets but that’s what is necessary against Roger,” Djokovic said. “He’s been playing on a very high level at this tournament and he dropped only one set. I came up with the right intensity, great concentration.”

Federer said he wasn’t surprised by the early blitz.

“I’ve seen Novak play this well before,” he said. “It’s tough when it’s from the start because obviously you got to try to stop the bleeding at some point. He can get one or two sets all of a sudden … and it’s tough to get back into it.”

In Sunday’s final, Djokovic will face the winner of Friday’s semifinal between No. 2-ranked Andy Murray and Milos Raonic.

“This has been the first Grand Slam that I won back in 2008,” Djokovic said. “Each time I come back … and step on Rod Laver Arena I have this beautiful memory.”

Williams is the overwhelming favorite in her final against Kerber, 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. Now she’s looking for seven wins in seven finals on the same court.

“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.”

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.

Williams’ win over fourth-seeded Radwanska provided yet another 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 quarterfinal win over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka, 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.”

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

“She started unbelievable, with such a power and speed,” Radwanska said. “I was just standing there kind of watching her playing.”

AP Sports Writer John Pye contributed to this story.

Unseeded Parks beats top-seeded Garcia for her 1st title

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LYON, France — Unseeded American Alycia Parks secured a stunning 7-6 (7), 7-5 upset win over WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the Open Metropole de Lyon final to clinch her first career title.

“I think France has a special part in my heart right now,” Parks said. “I’ll be back next year.”

The 22-year-old Parks, who is ranked 79th, had 15 aces and saved all four break points against the top-seeded Garcia.

Parks secured the only break of a tight contest to win the match.

The fifth-ranked Garcia, a U.S. Open semifinalist last year, was seeking a 12th career title.

“Congrats on a great tournament,” Garcia told Parks in English. “If you keep playing like this for sure you’re going to keep going up (the rankings).”

Parks has a career-best ranking of 75th.

The 29-year-old Garcia, who grew up in Lyon, took time to thank her home crowd – this time in French.

“It means a lot to play here, thanks for being here,” Garcia said. “You supported me from the first point to the last. Thanks for all your encouragement.”

Zhu beats Tsurenko to win Thailand Open

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Zhu Lin of China won her maiden career title after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the Thailand Open.

In a match lasting one hour and 45 minutes, both players exchanged nail-biting baseline rallies before Zhu finally found a way past her determined opponent.

The 29-year-old Chinese player managed a break to go up 5-3 in the first set. Although she was broken to love in the following game, Zhu returned the favor straight back, also to love, to take the opening set in 46 minutes.

The second saw players trade breaks with Zhu eventually securing her first match point at 5-3. She sprayed a shot wide to miss the chance but capitalized on her third in the 10th game with a backhand winner.

“I’m so happy to finally win my first tour title. All the hard work finally paid off,” said the No. 54-ranked Zhu, who will crack the top 50 when the new WTA rankings are updated.

Zhu has started the season strongly, reaching the quarter-finals in Auckland and the last 16 at the Australian Open.

The victory also allowed Zhu to avenge her loss to the Ukrainian at the WTA Dubai Championships back in 2019.

Despite the loss, the No. 136-ranked Tsurenko, 33, will return to the top 100.