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Venus Williams reaches Wimbledon semifinals for 10th time

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LONDON — Playing at Wimbledon for the 20th time, Venus Williams is in the semifinals for the 10th time.

The five-time champion at the All England Club advanced to the last four for the second year in a row by beating Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 7-5 Tuesday under a closed roof on Centre Court.

Williams, who is 37 years old, made her Wimbledon debut in the same month that Ostapenko was born. She last won the title in 2008, but reached the semifinals last year and the Australian Open final this year.

“I love it. I try really hard,” Williams said of tennis. “There’s no other explanation. You do your best while you can. That’s what I’m doing.”

Williams will next face either second-seeded Simona Halep or Johanna Konta on Thursday. In the other women’s semifinal match, Garbine Muguruza will play either CoCo Vandeweghe or Magdalena Rybarikova. Muguruza beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4 on No. 1 Court.

Konta was next to play on Centre Court against Halep. On Court No. 1, Rybarikova was playing Vandeweghe.

On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4. That match, the first to be played under the roof on Centre Court at this year’s tournament, was postponed from Monday.

Williams went up a break early in both sets against Ostapenko, the French Open champion. But the 20-year-old Latvian broke back in the second set and pushed the score to 5-5. A few unforced errors later, though, and Williams broke again for a 6-5 lead before serving out the match.

Williams ended up with eight aces and only 13 winners. Ostapenko had one ace and 20 winners.

“Been working on that serve,” Williams said. “It’s working out for me just in time, just for these later rounds. I’d like to think that I can continue to rely on that as the matches continue.”

In the first match, Djokovic was up a break in the third set when he asked for a medical timeout and a trainer examined and stretched his right shoulder. The second-seeded Serb appeared to grimace in pain a couple of times as his shoulder was being checked.

“It’s been something that I’ve been dragging back and forth for a while now,” Djokovic said. “But I’m still managing to play, which is the most important thing.”

Djokovic was broken only once, in the second set. But the 12-time major champion, who won the Wimbledon title in 2011, `14 and `15, broke Mannarino early in the third and advanced to the quarterfinals at the All England Club for the ninth time.

Mannarino has never before reached the quarterfinals at any of the four Grand Slam tournaments. He also lost in the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2013. Last year, he lost to Djokovic in the second round at Wimbledon, also in straight sets.

Djokovic will face 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, a man he has beaten 25 times in 27 matches, on Wednesday in the quarterfinals. One of those losses, however, was in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2010.

“He’s someone that understands the occasion of playing big matches, big tournaments,” Djokovic said. “He will not get overwhelmed by the stadium or whatever. He’s been there so many years. He’s got experience.”

The men traditionally have Tuesday off at Wimbledon, but Rafael Nadal’s five-set loss to Gilles Muller on Monday forced Djokovic’s match to be pushed back a day.

The rain then started at about 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The opening match on Centre Court was due to start at noon, so the roof was closed for the first time this year. The rain came and went into the afternoon, forcing the delay of the first women’s quarterfinal match on No. 1 Court.

There was a brief rain delay on the opening day of the tournament, but the roof stayed open and the rain went away.

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

This story has been corrected to show that Venus Williams made her debut at Wimbledon in the same month that Jelena Ostapenko was born, not a few months before.

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.