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Konta advances to Sydney final against Radwanska

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SYDNEY — Johanna Konta ended the strong run of wild-card entry Eugenie Bouchard at the Sydney International on Thursday, beating the Canadian 6-2, 6-2 to advance to Friday’s final against Agnieszka Radwanska.

The Sydney-born British player, a surprise semifinalist at last year’s Australian Open and seeded ninth for this year’s Grand Slam tournament, broke Bouchard’s service in the third game of the first set, then broke again to open the second.

Bouchard had a breakout season in 2014, reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open and French Open before making the final at Wimbledon. But she has only gone past the fourth round at a major once since then and slipped to No. 46 at the end of last year.

On Thursday, Bouchard, who was trying to win three matches in a row for the first time in nearly a year, was overwhelmed by Konta’s groundstrokes and strong return of serve.

“I’ve played her (Radwanska) twice and lost to her twice, so hopefully I can step up tomorrow night against her,” said the 25-year-old Konta, who moved from Australia when she was 14 and became a British citizen in 2012.

Earlier, the second-seeded Radwanska defeated a tired Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-2.

It was Radwanska’s seventh consecutive win against the Czech, who toiled for more than 3 hours to beat Caroline Wozniacki the previous day, than backed that up with a doubles match.

“She played an unbelievable match against Caro (Wozniacki) in this kind of heat,” Radwanska said. “There were almost four hours on court with the break. I would say thanks to Caro.”

In men’s play, Gilles Muller beat second-seeded Pablo Cuevas 7-6 (5), 6-4 to advance to the semifinals against two-time defending champion Viktor Troicki.

Troicki had been scheduled to face No. 5 Philipp Kohlschreiber in another quarterfinal match, but the German withdrew with a back injury, handing the third-seeded Troicki a walkover.

In a night match, Daniel Evans had an upset 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over top-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria.

Evans, who beat a top-20 player for the first time with his win over the eighth-ranked Thiem, will next play Andrey Kuznetsov, who advanced with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over fourth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta.

At the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, seventh-seeded Steve Johnson beat two-time champion John Isner 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (3).

“Last year I was here and my attitude wasn’t the best, but you live and you learn, you come back and I’m glad I turned it around this year,” said Johnson, who lost in the first round in 2016.

Johnson’s semifinal opponent will be fourth-seeded Jack Sock, who beat Jeremy Chardy 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Eighth-seeded Marcos Baghdatis and unseeded Jaoa Sousa also advanced with straight-set victories. Sousa beat Robin Haase 6-3, 6-2 while Baghdatis defeated 2015 champion Jiri Vesely 6-2, 6-4.

At the Hobart International, qualifier Elise Mertens had an upset 6-2, 7-5 quarterfinal win over top-seeded Kiki Bertens. Mertens will play Jana Fett, who beat Veronica Cepede Royg 6-1, 6-4, in the semifinals.

Lesia Tsurenko also advanced with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over Shelby Rogers. In the semifinals, Tsurenko will play Monica Niculescu, who beat Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki 6-4, 6-4.

Victoria Azarenka misses direct entry for U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is ranked just below the cutoff for direct entry into the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Azarenka, a former No. 1 and twice the champion at the Australian Open, is No. 108 this week, seven spots outside of an automatic spot in the main draw.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Wednesday that defending champion and top-ranked Rafael Nadal is one of six past male singles champions in the U.S. Open field, along with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. Another past title winner at Flushing Meadows, Stan Wawrinka, is ranked 199th this week.

The women’s winners with direct entry based on this week’s rankings are six-time champion Serena Williams, two-time champ Venus Williams, defending champ Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur.

Nadal-Djokovic semifinal suspended after 3rd set

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LONDON (AP) It was the kind of tennis that Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd would gladly have watched all night long.

The show being put on by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was so good it could have been an instant classic had they been able to finish their semifinal before the tournament’s 11 p.m. curfew.

Instead, the two players – and a disappointed audience – were sent home after the third set on Friday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) following a tense tiebreaker that had more entertaining rallies than some entire matches.

The two players didn’t even get onto the court until after 8 p.m. because of an earlier marathon semifinal won by Kevin Anderson and when Djokovic converted his second set point in the tiebreaker – having saved three of Nadal’s – the clock had ticked a couple of minutes past 11. That left organizers no choice but to call it a night, although the announcement from the chair umpire led to a scattering of boos from some fans who clearly wanted more.

Most of them will have to watch the rest on TV.

The match will resume at 1 p.m. local time on Saturday, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber. At stake is a place in Sunday’s men’s final against the man who was partly at fault for keeping Nadal and Djokovic out there so late. Anderson’s win over John Isner lasted 6 + hours and went to 26-24 in the fifth set.

Djokovic-Nadal had clearly been the headline act of the day – they have five Wimbledon titles between them and met in the 2011 final while Anderson and Isner had never made the semifinals before – and their tennis was at another level from the earlier match. Even Anderson said he could feel during his match that the crowd would rather be watching the next one.

“They’ve paid to see two matches, and they came pretty close to only seeing one match,” Anderson said. “I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They’ve been watching us for over six hours.”

While Anderson-Isner was mostly a serving duel with a few longer rallies thrown in, Djokovic and Nadal repeatedly slugged it out from the baseline, chasing each other around the court and coming up with spectacular winners from every corner.

Many of the best points came in the tiebreaker, including a 23-shot rally that Nadal finished off with a forehand half-volley drop shot to set up his first set point.

It was one of three successful drop shots from the Spaniard in the tiebreaker alone, but Djokovic answered with one of his own to save the second set point at 7-6.

He eventually went up 10-9 with the help of a backhand passing shot and an errant shot into the net by Nadal brought the entertainment to an end – for now.

It led to the unusual situation of both players leaving the court to a huge ovation – and applauding the fans in return – but without there being a clear winner or loser.

To be continued.