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Petra Kvitova reaches semifinals at Aegon Classic

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BIRMINGHAM, England  — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, competing in only her second tournament since her playing hand was injured in a knife attack at her home, advanced to the semifinals at the Aegon Classic on Friday.

The left-handed Czech player beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-4, 7-6 (5) on grass at the Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

Kvitova struck the ball solidly on both sides, moved well, and made bold forays to the net. But she double-faulted twice when she was trying to close out the match at 5-3 in the second set. Mladenovic evened the score and led 3-1 in the tiebreaker.

She rescued herself with two pieces of good luck.

First, Mladenovic double-faulted going for 4-1 in the tiebreak, and when she was serving at match point down at 5-6, Kvitova’s widish-looking service return took a net cord, lurched into court, and fell dead.

“I am sorry for what happened at match point, but I am very happy to win,” Kvitova said. “She is very highly ranked (12) and for me it is only the second tournament in my comeback. I was very happy with my performance.”

Kvitova next plays a friend since childhood, compatriot Lucie Safarova. She had her own drama, saving match points for the second time this week. She recovered from 5-3 down in the final set to beat Daria Gavrilova of Australia 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (5).

Safarova saved two match points against third-seededed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, and three against Gavrilova in a contest so full of entertaining rallies that the women received a prolonged standing ovation.

The tournament’s other Grand Slam winner, former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, also reached the semifinals, only her third of the year and the first on grass since she reached the final of Wimbledon nearly two years ago.

It happened abruptly when her opponent CoCo Vandeweghe, the unseeded American who ousted the fourth-seeded Johanna Konta, shook hands just three points into the final set.

Muguruza won 4-6, 6-4, 30-love, though she took pleasure in again having achieved a good rhythm on a surface which is not the most natural for her.

“I came here early and I have put in the hours, and I feel I’m doing something good because I am winning,” she said. “But to be honest I didn’t even realize she was going to retire.”

Vandeweghe injured a foot in her opening match which, she said, contributed to a fall in the second set against Muguruza. She hurt an ankle.

“Any injury so soon before Wimbledon has to be a concern,” she admitted before going to have a scan.

Muguruza next plays Ashleigh Barty, the unseeded Australian who was leading Camila Giorgi 5-2 and progressed when the Italian became the second injury retirement on the day.

Giorgi, who had a thigh strain, fought through three rounds of qualifying, and was trying to struggle through her sixth match of the week.

Federer survives scare to advance in Halle

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HALLE, Germany (AP) Defending champion Roger Federer survived two match points against Benoit Paire to reach the quarterfinals of the Gerry Weber Open with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) win on Thursday.

Paire rallied after losing the first set to take the second, and the Frenchman defended two match points at 6-5 in the decider to force a tiebreaker. Eight minutes later, it was a match point for the 48th-ranked Paire, and again when a mistake from Federer left it 7-6 in Paire’s favor.

But the top-ranked Swiss took the next three points to close the match in just under two hours at the grass-court tournament.

Federer extended his grass-court winning streak to 18 matches, including his titles in Stuttgart last week and at Halle and Wimbledon last year.

Federer skipped the entire clay-court season for the second year in a row and is now just four wins away from matching Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 174 victories on grass.

Federer next faces Matthew Ebden of Australia, who upset former champion Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Also Thursday, Borna Coric defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-2.

The Croat next faces either Florian Mayer or Andreas Seppi.

Magdalena shows form on grass in Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, England — Magdalena Rybarikova, who climbed almost 90 places last year to reach a career-high No. 17 in March, showed she might rise even further after rallying against Kristina Mladenovic 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals in Birmingham.

The Slovak accelerated toward victory against the former top 10 player from France with an array of slice ground strokes, clever approaches and sharp volleys. The range of shots worked excellently on the lush surface at the grass-court Nature Valley Classic and helped her take control midway through the second set.

Rybarikova last year reached the Wimbledon semifinals. She is a former champion here, winning the title in 2009.

In the first round she beat third-seeded Karolina Pliskova for the loss of only five games but found it tougher against Mladenovic.

“I started to play very well,” Rybarikova said of her improvement from the fourth game of the second set against Mladenovic. “She served great to begin with and I struggled with my returns, but I kept fighting and my game improved a lot.

“I think I’d been a bit passive. The key was when I played more cross-court slices and drops and made an early break in the second set.

“That’s the way I am trying to play on grass. I am thankful that I have the game to do that. This court here really suits my game.”

At the changeover in the fifth game of the second set, Mladenovic’s morale appeared to plunge, and afterward her error ratio rose sharply with her standard dropping significantly.

The third set of a match which lasted nearly two hours took only 22 minutes, and long before the end the outcome had ceased to be in doubt.

Rybarikova next faces Slovenian qualifier Dalila Jakupovic, who on Tuesday overcame a difference in rankings of almost 100 places and saved four match points while beating seventh-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium.

Jakupovic followed up Wednesday by getting past 18th-ranked Naomi Osaka of Japan, who recently beat four former top-ranked opponents. Osaka was forced to retired injured after losing the first set 6-3.