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Federer makes semis, Wozniacki reaches Miami Open final

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Roger Federer’s run at the Miami Open was one point from ending. Down 6-4 in a third-set tiebreaker to Tomas Berdych, the situation was officially dire.

Yet even in that moment, Federer still felt some hope.

“I had belief I could turn it around, even then,” he said.

Somehow, he was right, and his stellar start to 2017 continued. The fourth-seeded Federer fought off those two match points and beat the 10th-seeded Berdych 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (6) in the quarterfinals on Thursday – avenging a third-set tiebreak loss to Berdych at Key Biscayne seven years ago in a match he still thinks he should have won.

“I got incredibly lucky,” Federer said. “Could have gone either way. Felt like maybe this one I should have lost.”

Federer feels right at home at Key Biscayne, and so does Caroline Wozniacki – with good reason, since she sometimes practices at the facility. The 12th-seeded Wozniacki, a part-time South Florida resident, made the women’s final for the first time in 10 tries by topping second-seeded Karolina Pliskova 5-7, 6-1, 6-1.

“This is one of the few tournaments where I’ve never made a finals,” Wozniacki said. “I think my best result here was semifinals five years ago. It’s always been a tournament where I wouldn’t say I struggle, but I’ve just not had the results I wanted.”

Federer improved to 17-1 this year and will face No. 12 Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals on Friday.

Kyrgios defeated 16th-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-7 (9), 6-3 in the last of the men’s quarters, a match that lasted 2 1/2 hours. Kyrgios had 16 aces, no double faults and never faced a break point, though his 19-year-old opponent saved five match points before falling.

Zverev fought off three match points in the second-set tiebreaker, and won the set when Kyrgios – who pulled off two between-the-legs shots on the same point in the first set – tried another that didn’t work.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Kyrgios said.

He recovered and gets to face Federer, whom he called “the greatest of all time … my favorite tennis player.” Federer-Kyrgios is a rematch – sort of – from this year’s quarterfinals at Indian Wells, a match where Kyrgios withdrew beforehand with an illness.

Rafael Nadal and Fabio Fognini are the other men’s semifinalists, meaning there’s still a chance for Federer-Nadal on Sunday for the men’s crown.

“I would love it,” Federer said.

Federer is now 4-0 in tiebreakers this year at Key Biscayne, none of the first three as pressure-packed as the one he needed in the quarters. He was serving for the match at 5-3 in the third and got broken, had a match point in the next game and couldn’t convert, then was down 6-4 in the breaker before winning the final four points.

Berdych actually won 91 points to Federer’s 89. He needed 92 – and after coming up with big shot after big shot in the final two sets, he wound up going out on a double-fault.

“I just lost by one point. That’s what happened. Very simple, very straightforward,” Berdych said. “He was the one serving out the match, didn’t make it. I had a match point, didn’t make it. I had two, didn’t make it. So what else to say?”

Like Federer, Wozniacki rallied, albeit with far less drama. She won 12 of the last 14 games.

“I got a good start to the second set and that kind of got me fired up,” Wozniacki said.

This will be the second consecutive time two double-digit seeds make the women’s final at Key Biscayne, after No. 13 Victoria Azarenka beat No. 15 Svetlana Kuznetsova a year ago.

No. 11 Venus Williams and No. 10 Johanna Konta were to play for the other spot in the women’s final later Thursday night.

“It’s extremely special,” Wozniacki said. “Having a place here, training here in the offseason, playing kind of on home advantage, it’s special to be in my first finals here. I’m extremely excited.”

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.