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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.

Federer beats Raonic for Stuttgart title, his 18th on grass

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Roger Federer defeated Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3) to mark his return from three months off with the Stuttgart Open title on Sunday.

The Swiss great, who is assured of reclaiming the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal on Monday, broke at 1-1 in the opening set and held his nerve in the second, where Raonic double-faulted.

Federer skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row, but he wrapped up his 18th grass-court title in 1 hour and 18 minutes – his 98th title overall and third of the season after victories at the Australian Open and World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

“It’s a wonderful feeling. I fought hard. When you finally manage it, the joy is even greater,” said Federer, who extended his grass-court winning streak to 16 matches including his titles at Halle and Wimbledon last year.

The 36-year-old will need to defend his title at Halle to maintain his No. 1 spot ahead of Wimbledon.

Andy Murray to make long-awaited return at Queen’s

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LONDON (AP) Andy Murray has confirmed he will make his return to competitive tennis at the Queen’s Club tournament next week after almost a year out injured and faces Nick Kyrgios in his opening match.

The three-time major winner has not played since last year’s Wimbledon due to a hip injury and subsequent surgery.

Murray practiced at Queen’s on Friday ahead of next week’s grass-court Fever-Tree Championships, delayed a decision until Saturday and then told tournament officials he would be there.

“Andy Murray has confirmed that he will play,” the tournament said on its official Twitter account.

Murray has a good record against 24th-ranked Kyrgios, winning all five of their meetings.

French Open champion Rafael Nadal withdrew Wednesday from Queen’s in an attempt to be ready for Wimbledon.

Queen’s is one of the main warmup tournaments for Wimbledon, which begins on July 2.