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Djokovic could face Federer in Wimbledon semifinals

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LONDON (AP) Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are used to facing each other in the Wimbledon final. It won’t happen for a third straight year, though.

Federer, the seven-time champion seeded No. 3, was placed in Djokovic’s top half of the Wimbledon draw on Friday. That means top-ranked Djokovic could face Federer in the semifinals as he bids for a fifth consecutive major title and the third leg of a calendar year Grand Slam.

The second-seeded Andy Murray got a more favorable draw, with No. 4 Stan Wawrinka placed in the bottom half as his potential semifinal opponent.

In the women’s draw, defending champion and six-time winner Serena Williams could have a quarterfinal matchup against Roberta Vinci, the Italian who stunned her in the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year and ended her bid for a calendar year sweep of all four major titles.

Djokovic has beaten Murray in the last two Grand Slam finals – the Australian Open and French Open – and goes into the grass-court tournament starting on Monday as a strong favorite for a 13th major championship. Another title would put him only four behind Federer’s record of 17.

Possible men’s quarterfinals: Djokovic vs. Milos Raonic, Federer vs. Kei Nishikori, Wawrinka vs. Dominic Thiem, and Murray vs. Richard Gasquet.

Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon champion who holds all four Grand Slam titles, will play Britain’s James Ward in the first round.

Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon winner, will face fellow British player Liam Broady in round one.

Federer, playing in his 18th Wimbledon, will open against Argentina’s Guido Pella.

Djokovic could face American Sam Querrey in the third round and David Ferrer in the fourth. Raonic, a big-serving Canadian working with John McEnroe, could provide another stiff test in the quarterfinals.

Djokovic is the first man to hold all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously since Rod Laver in 1969, and the first to win the first two majors of the year since Jim Courier in 1992.

Murray defeated Djokovic in straight sets in the Wimbledon final three years ago, but has not won a major since. He won the Queen’s Club grass-court tournament last week for a fifth straight time and has Ivan Lendl back as a coach.

Wawrinka could meet former semifinalist Juan Martin del Potro in the second round. The free-swinging Argentine has been beset by injuries and will be making his first appearance at Wimbledon since 2013.

Perhaps the most intriguing first-round men’s matchup has young Austrian star Dominic Thiem vs. 32-year-old German Florian Mayer. It will be a rematch of their semifinal last week in Halle, which Mayer won in straight sets.

In the women’s draw, Williams could face third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals, with French Open winner Garbine Muguruza in line to play No. 4 Angelique Kerber.

Potential women’s quarterfinals: Williams vs. Vinci, Radwanska vs. Belinda Bencic, Kerber vs. Simona Halep, and Muguruza vs. Venus Williams.

Serena Williams will open her bid for a seventh Wimbledon title against a qualifier or lucky loser to be determined.

Since losing to Vinci at the U.S. Open, Williams fell to Kerber in the Australian Open final and to Muguruza in the French Open final. She is one away from equaling Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.

Williams’ possible route to the final could see her face Christina McHale, Kristina Mladenovic and former top-ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova before meeting Vinci and Radwanska.

Muguruza, who lost to Williams in last year’s final, has an intriguing opener against Camila Giorgi.

Federer survives scare to advance in Halle

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HALLE, Germany (AP) Defending champion Roger Federer survived two match points against Benoit Paire to reach the quarterfinals of the Gerry Weber Open with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) win on Thursday.

Paire rallied after losing the first set to take the second, and the Frenchman defended two match points at 6-5 in the decider to force a tiebreaker. Eight minutes later, it was a match point for the 48th-ranked Paire, and again when a mistake from Federer left it 7-6 in Paire’s favor.

But the top-ranked Swiss took the next three points to close the match in just under two hours at the grass-court tournament.

Federer extended his grass-court winning streak to 18 matches, including his titles in Stuttgart last week and at Halle and Wimbledon last year.

Federer skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row and is now just four wins away from matching Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 174 victories on grass.

Federer next faces Matthew Ebden of Australia, who upset former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Also Thursday, Borna Coric defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2.

The Croat next faces either Florian Mayer or Andreas Seppi.

Magdalena shows form on grass in Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Magdalena Rybarikova, who climbed almost 90 places last year to reach a career-high No. 17 in March, showed she might rise even further after rallying against Kristina Mladenovic 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals in Birmingham.

The Slovak accelerated toward victory against the former top 10 player from France with an array of slice ground strokes, clever approaches and sharp volleys. The range of shots worked excellently on the lush surface at the grass-court Nature Valley Classic and helped her take control midway through the second set.

Rybarikova last year reached the Wimbledon semifinals. She is a former champion here, winning the title in 2009.

In the first round she beat third-seeded Karolina Pliskova for the loss of only five games but found it tougher against Mladenovic.

“I started to play very well,” Rybarikova said of her improvement from the fourth game of the second set against Mladenovic. “She served great to begin with and I struggled with my returns, but I kept fighting and my game improved a lot.

“I think I’d been a bit passive. The key was when I played more cross-court slices and drops and made an early break in the second set.

“That’s the way I am trying to play on grass. I am thankful that I have the game to do that. This court here really suits my game.”

At the changeover in the fifth game of the second set, Mladenovic’s morale appeared to plunge, and afterward her error ratio rose sharply with her standard dropping significantly.

The third set of a match which lasted nearly two hours took only 22 minutes, and long before the end the outcome had ceased to be in doubt.

Rybarikova next faces Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic, who on Tuesday overcame a difference in rankings of almost 100 places and saved four match points while beating seventh-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium.

Jakupovic followed up Wednesday by getting past 18th-ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan, who recently beat four former top-ranked opponents. Osaka was forced to retired injured after losing the first set 6-3.