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Federer through to semifinals in Australia

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MELBOURNE, Australia — It was a long time coming for Venus Williams, who reached her 21st Grand Slam semifinal but her first at the Australian Open in 14 years.

CoCo Vandeweghe advanced to her first major semifinal, anywhere, beating Grand Slam winners in back-to-back rounds. The one sure outcome when they meet this week will be an American in the final at Melbourne Park.

There’ll be an all-Swiss semifinal in the top half of the men’s draw after 17-time major winner Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka won their quarterfinals in straight sets.

Returning from a six-month injury layoff, the 35-year-old Federer lifted his game in 6-1, 7-5, 6-2 win over Mischa Zverev, the player who eliminated top-seeded Andy Murray from the tournament two nights earlier.

Federer won the first five games in 12 minutes, setting up a straight-forward win to reach his 41st Grand Slam semifinal and his 13th at Melbourne Park.

“I’m pleased with the way I started the match … after that, naturally everything’s easier,” Federer said. “Second set was definitely a key to shut it down for him. Then in the third set I think I was rolling.”

The 36-year-old Williams beat No. 24-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (3) on Tuesday, becoming the oldest player to reach the semifinals here in the Open era.

She’ll be meeting a confident Vandeweghe, who dictated play against French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in a 6-4, 6-0 quarterfinal win.

The No. 35-ranked Vandeweghe upset top-ranked Angelique Kerber, who won the Australian and U.S. titles last year, in the fourth round. She followed it up with another commanding win, the 10th in her career against a Top 10 player.

Vandeweghe saved the only break point she faced in the first set with an ace, and only conceded 10 points in the 28-minute second set. Of her 31 winners, 14 were from her powerful forehand side.

“Once I got rolling in the second, it was like a freight train,” she said, “You couldn’t stop it.”

Reaching a semifinal against the U.S. Open champion was more than Federer expected in his first major back.

“Not to play Stan in the semis, I’ll tell you that,” he said when asked what his expectations were. “I thought I was going to maybe make a few rounds.”

Wawrinka, who had his major breakthrough in Australia in 2014, beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3 – his fourth straight win against the Frenchman.

On Wednesday, the men’s semifinalists from the other side of the draw will be determined when 14-time major winner Rafael Nadal plays Milos Raonic and David Goffin takes on Grigor Dimitrov.

Serena Williams, aiming for a record 23rd Grand Slam title, plays Johanna Konta and Karolina Pliskova meets Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the remaining women’s quarterfinals.

Venus Williams has advanced through the tournament without dropping a set, and isn’t ready to stop in the semifinals in the latest installment of her career revival.

“It’s wonderful to start the year out with this appearance,” said Venus Williams, who hadn’t reached the semifinals in Australia since 2003, the year she lost the final to sister Serena. “I want to go further. I’m not happy just with this. But I’m so happy to be in the position to like go further.”

Williams didn’t reach the quarterfinals at any of the Grand Slams from 2011 – when she was diagnosed with the Sjogren’s syndrome, which saps energy and causes joint pain – until the 2015 Australian Open. She lost in the first round here last year, but returned to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon.

Vandeweghe also lost in the first round here last year, and at the U.S. Open in September, but has found her form in Melbourne this year. As well as the wins over Kerber and Muguruza, she has had wins over No. 15-seeded Roberta Vinci and Eugenie Bouchard, who reached the semifinals here and the final at Wimbledon in 2014.

Williams said the quarterfinal results were a “great win for the U.S.”

“I’m sure (Vandeweghe is) going to want to be in her first final,” Williams said. “I’m going to want to be in only my second final here. So it’s going to be a well-contested match.”

With her run to the Wimbledon semifinals last year, Williams became the oldest woman since Martina Navratilova (at 37 years, 258 days) in 1994 to advance so far at a major.

There’s also the possibility of another all-Williams final.

But Venus doesn’t plan to be thinking about who was on the other side of the net. She is focused on Grand Slam title No. 8.

“I try to believe,” she said. “I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is: `I deserve this’.”

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.

Former No. 1 Kerber tops Ostapenko; into second Wimbledon final

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LONDON – It was clear right from the opening game of Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon semifinal how things were going to go. She was not going to dictate or control much.

She was, instead, going to employ spectacular defense and solid, steady play, while letting her opponent, Jelena Ostapenko, be the one to determine the outcomes of nearly every point.

It worked. The 11th-seeded Kerber reached her second final at the All England Club by avoiding too many mistakes and using a seven-game run to seize control for a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the 12th-seeded Ostapenko on Thursday.

“These are the matches I was working for as a young kid,” Kerber said, “and to stand here again in the final at Wimbledon is great.”

Kerber is a former No. 1 and a two-time major champion, both coming in 2016 at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. That was also the year the German was the runner-up at Wimbledon, losing to Serena Williams in the title match.

She could find herself up against Williams yet again: The 36-year-old American was scheduled to face No. 13 Julia Goerges of Germany in Thursday’s second semifinal on Centre Court.

Williams took a 19-match Wimbledon winning streak into the day. She won the grass-court tournament the last two times she played it, in 2015 and 2016, before missing it last year while pregnant. Williams gave birth to a daughter in September.

The left-handed Kerber was mainly a passive participant in the early going against Ostapenko. That first game consisted of eight points: Three were unforced errors by Ostapenko, including a double-fault to begin the proceedings; the other five were winners by her, including a 100 mph ace to close the hold.

Five games in, Ostapenko led 3-2, and the numbers were still tilted toward her. She had 14 winners and 10 unforced errors, while Kerber had three winners and – this was key – zero unforced errors.

There were no drawn-out points in the early going, no lengthy baseline exchanges, essentially because Ostapenko wouldn’t allow it. The Latvian plays an aggressive brand of first-strike tennis that carried her to the 2017 French Open title as an unseeded 20-year-old.

Kerber, in contrast, bides her time, working the back of the court to get everything back over the net, often kneeling to get low enough to reach shots.

Eventually, Kerber’s style ruled the day. She went on a half-hour run in which she took the last four games of the first set and took a 3-0 lead in the second. Ostapenko’s strokes were missing and she grew increasingly frustrated, slapping a thigh after a miss or leaning forward and putting her hands on her knees after others. By the time she flubbed a backhand while falling behind 5-1 in the second, she dropped her racket and screamed.

It took Kerber two tries to serve out the victory, getting broken to 5-2. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when she needed seven match points to win, this time it required only two, with the match ending – fittingly enough – on a forehand by Ostapenko that sailed wide.

The final tally told the story: Ostapenko had far more winners, 30-10, but also far more unforced errors, 36-7.