Djokovic, Becker splitting after 3 seasons, 6 major titles

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Novak Djokovic and coach Boris Becker are splitting up after three seasons – and a half-dozen Grand Slam titles – as a pair.

Djokovic posted a statement on Facebook on Tuesday, saying the duo “jointly decided to end our cooperation.”

“The goals we set when we started working together have been completely fulfilled, and I want to thank him for the cooperation, teamwork, dedication and commitment,” Djokovic’s posting said. “On the other hand, my professional plans are now directed primarily to maintain a good level of play, and also to make a good schedule and new goals for the next season. In this regard I will make all future decisions.”

Of Djokovic’s 12 career major singles trophies – among men, trailing only Roger Federer with 17, and Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal with 14 apiece – half came while working with Becker.

Djokovic also was the runner-up at three other Grand Slam tournaments during his time with Becker, meaning the Serb made it to the finals at nine of the 12 majors during their partnership.

Becker also was around for Djokovic’s first French Open title in June, which allowed him to become the eighth man to complete a career Grand Slam – at least one championship at each of tennis’ four most important events – and the first in nearly a half-century to win four major tournaments in a row.

At Roland Garros, Djokovic was asked about working with Becker, a six-time major champion as a player in the 1980s and 1990s and part of a recent wave of past stars who signed up to coach current stars.

“The last couple of years, I had some great times with him,” Djokovic said, explaining that Becker taught him from a “psychological point of view, how to handle things on the tour, on and off the court.”

“His contribution to the team is definitely big, and so everything works in harmony so far,” Djokovic said at the time. “How long it is going to go for, we don’t know. We go year by year. … So at the end of this year, we will see if he goes for another year.”

After Djokovic’s triumph in Paris, his season went off course.

He was upset in the third round at Wimbledon by Sam Querrey and in the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics by Juan Martin del Potro, then lost the No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray last month, finishing 2016 at No. 2.

With Becker in his corner, Djokovic finished 2014 and 2015 atop the ATP rankings.

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Linette keeps getting better; into Australian Open semis

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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MELBOURNE, Australia — Two days after advancing to her first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal, unseeded Magda Linette went one better and is into the Australian Open semifinals.

The 30-year-old Linette beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5, adding the former No. 1 to the list of top players she has beaten at Melbourne Park during this tournament.

Linette, who had lost seven of nine previous matches against Pliskova, had defeated Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in successive rounds.

A player from Poland was favored to reach the latter stages of the tournament, but it was top-seeded Iga Swiatek that everyone would have expected – and not Linette.

“It’s so emotional I can’t really believe it,” Linette said. “I tried to stay composed and took my chances when I could.”

Linette will play No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat unseeded Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in a later quarterfinal. The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday night.

Vekic, who had 13 double faults against Sabalenka, had a succinct appraisal of her serve: “I mean, it was all over the place. But I think mostly in the net.”

The other women’s semifinalists were determined on Tuesday. Two-time former Australian champion Victoria Azarenka will play Wimbledon titleholder Elena Rybakina for a chance to play in Saturday night’s final. Rybakina beat Swiatek in the fourth round.

Later Wednesday, the remaining men’s semifinalists will be determined. Unseeded Americans Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul play before nine-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic will be looking to qualify for his 44th Grand Slam semifinal and a win in that match on Friday would advance him on Sunday night to his 33rd major singles final.

The other men’s semifinal on Friday will see third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas play Karen Khachanov.

Rybakina rules in Australian Open quarterfinal vs. Ostapenko

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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MELBOURNE, Australia – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The match on Rod Laver Arena featured a rare rain delay of about 20 minutes while the roof was closed. Rybakina led 3-1 and was holding a break point before the delay. On return, Ostapenko saved the first break point, but Rybakina broke on her next opportunity to go up 4-1 and won the first set 6-2.

In the second set, Ostapenko was up a break but Rybakina leveled with a break of her own. It came on her first break point when Ostapenko had been unable to convert four in the previous game.

Rybakina, who beat top-seeded Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, set up match points with aces, both of which were saved by Ostapenko. But she clinched the match with another ace, her 11th of the match and a tournament-leading 35 overall.

“I was nervous in the last game, but I managed my emotions and played very well.” Rybakina said. “The conditions were different after the roof was closed. But it can happen here, you never know, on the morning one weather and later it changes.”

Rybakina will play the winner of the night quarterfinal between American Jessica Pegula, at No. 3 the highest women’s seed remaining, and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.

In men’s quarterfinals, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda played the next match at Rod Laver Arena against No. 18-seeded Karen Khachanov. In a night quarterfinal, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Jiri Lehecka. The winners of those matches will play each other in the semifinals on Friday.