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Vandeweghe reaches first U.S. Open semifinal

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NEW YORK — CoCo Vandeweghe’s elimination of top-seeded Karolina Pliskova to reach the U.S. Open semifinals made it three down, one to go for American women.

The 20th-seeded Vandeweghe overpowered 2016 runner-up Pliskova 7-6 (4), 6-3 in a little more than 1+ hours on Wednesday at Flushing Meadows to give the host country at least three of the four semifinal spots.

Pliskova’s loss also means that she will be replaced at No. 1 in the rankings by Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens earned berths in the final four a day earlier, setting up the first all-U.S. semi in New York since 2004.

There was a chance of a clean sweep later Wednesday: 15th-seeded Madison Keys of the U.S. was scheduled to face 418th-ranked Kaia Kanepi of Estonia at night in the last women’s quarterfinal.

“It would be even more exciting for you guys,” Vandeweghe told reporters, “to write about if there are two all-American semis.”

Not since 1981 have there been four Americans in the women’s semifinals at the U.S. Open – and it hasn’t happened at any Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon four years after that.

“American tennis,” Stephens said, “is headed in the right direction.”

The 25-year-old Vandeweghe, a niece of former NBA player and current league executive Kiki Vandeweghe, certainly has her career pointed the right way. She reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open in January and now had made it that far at the U.S. Open for the first time.

Vandeweghe was the junior champion in New York in 2008, but never had success in the main draw until now: Of her previous eight appearances, half ended in the first round, half in the second.

One difference this time at the U.S. Open: Vandeweghe switched coaches midway through the season, teaming up in June with 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, who was nominated Tuesday for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The biggest way in which he’s helped, Vandeweghe said, “is channeling my intensity and tenacity out onto the court and putting it into a singular focus.”

How?

“You will have to ask him how he’s been able to do that. I don’t really know. Maybe it’s like some Jedi mind trick,” said Vandeweghe, who still did not hide her emotions on court, such as when she cracked a racket against the ground after a second consecutive double-fault in the opening set.

Regardless, pretty much everything Vandeweghe did worked against Pliskova, who leads the tour in aces in 2017 but found her top means of attacking opponents neutralized Wednesday.

Vandeweghe wound up with more aces, 5-2, and even produced three service winners.

“My best asset today was making her continually play on her service games. Whether it was not a great return that just got over the net, I know as a big server it’s really annoying when your serve keeps coming back,” Vandeweghe said. “I know that’s what my main focus was – just to get it back, not have her have a free point too easily.”

Pliskova did not exactly heap praise on her opponent afterward.

“Now I can say I was not playing my best tennis this tournament,” she said. “She can play much worse than she was playing today. I can play much better than I was playing today. I didn’t feel the best.”

Pliskova, who is from the Czech Republic, also offered this assessment of Vandeweghe: “She just (has) one plan, so either it’s working or it’s not.”

Pliskova moved up to No. 1 in the rankings after Wimbledon, despite losing in the second round there, and she sounded nonchalant about that brief stay at the top ending. Muguruza, who lost in the fourth round at the U.S. Open, will be the 24th woman to spend time at No. 1 when she rises from No. 3 on Monday.

“I mean, I don’t care,” Pliskova said. “I don’t think something is going to change if you are No. 2. Like, I don’t see any difference between this. So for me, no changes.”

 

Murray loses doubles match at Eastbourne

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EASTBOURNE, England (AP) Andy Murray has lost in men’s doubles for the first time since returning from hip surgery in January.

Murray and his Brazilian partner Marcelo Melo were defeated 6-2, 6-4 in the first round at Eastbourne by top-seeded Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah on Tuesday.

Murray, who struggled on serve, won the doubles title with Feliciano Lopez at the Queen’s Club on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Murray will partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert in men’s doubles at Wimbledon.

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Kvitova to decide this week whether to play at Wimbledon

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PRAGUE — Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova says she will decide later this week if she’s ready to play at the All England Club.

The 29-year-old Czech player injured her left forearm during training in Paris ahead of the French Open and has not played since. The injury prevented her from defending her title at the Birmingham Classic this week.

Kvitova wrote on Twitter that she was “Happy to tell you that my arm is improving and I just hit some balls on the beautiful grass for the first time.

The sixth-ranked Kvitova, who won the Wimbledon title in 2011 and 2014, reached the Australian Open final and won tournaments in Sydney and Stuttgart this year.