Defending champ Djokovic advances to Qatar Open semis

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DOHA, Qatar — Defending champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the Qatar Open semifinals by beating Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday.

Djokovic holds a 13-1 career record over the 38-year-old Stepanek, and has won their last 12 meetings.

Djokovic took a 4-2 lead in the first set before Stepanek broke his serve when the second seed netted a backhand on a third break point in the game.

Djokovic won the next two games, winning the set on an overhead smash to an open court.

In the second set, Djokovic established a 3-1 lead and held on to the advantage.

He will play Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the semifinals. Verdasco defeated sixth-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-2, 7-5.

Top-seeded Andy Murray plays Nicolas Almagro of Spain in the first evening match, followed by third-seeded Tomas Berdych and fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Parma Ladies Open semifinals postponed to same day as final

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PARMA, Italy — The semifinals of the Parma Ladies Open have been postponed by a day and will be played shortly before Saturday’s final.

The decision was made because of persistent rain at the clay-court tournament on Friday.

Top-seeded Maria Sakkari will start on center court against Danka Kovinic at 10:30 a.m. local time (0830 GMT) on Saturday before sixth-seeded Ana Bogdan’s match against Mayar Sherif.

The final will be after 6 p.m. local time, shortly after the doubles final – with the doubles semifinals also being played earlier in the day on a different court.

Top-seeded Sakkari reaches semifinals at Parma Ladies Open

Maria Sakkari
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PARMA, Italy — Top-seeded Maria Sakkari rallied past 97th-ranked Maryna Zanevska 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Thursday at the Parma Ladies Open to reach her first semifinal since the grass-court season.

Sakkari, who has gone three sets in all three of her matches this week, will face Danka Kovinic for a spot in the final of the clay-court event after Kovinic beat Jasmine Paolini 6-4, 6-4.

In her previous semifinal, Sakkari lost to Belinda Bencic in Berlin in June. The seventh-ranked Greek player was eliminated by Wang Xiyu in the second round of the U.S. Open on Aug. 31.

In the bottom half of the draw, Mayar Sherif of Egypt beat American opponent Lauren Davis 7-6 (2), 6-3 to reach her second career semifinal. Sherif next faces Ana Bogdan, who defeated fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2, 7-6 (6).