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Goffin beats Thiem to set up ATP Finals semi with Federer

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LONDON (AP) David Goffin is into the last four of the ATP Finals, to go any further he’ll have to do something he’s never done before: beat Roger Federer.

The No.7-seeded Goffin beat Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-1 at the O2 Arena on Friday to set up a semifinal meeting with Federer.

From 0-3, 0-15 down in the opening set, Goffin won 15 consecutive points to take control of the match, and never looked back.

“I’ve never found a key to beat Roger,” said Goffin, who has lost all of his six meetings with the 19-time Grand-Slam champion. “Honestly, I don’t know what to do tomorrow. But I’m going to try something, something different, something that I’ve never done in the past.”

The victory took Goffin to 2-1 in the round-robin stage of the elite season-ending tournament after a win over Rafael Nadal and defeat to Grigor Dimitrov, who will meet Jack Sock in Saturday’s other semifinal.

Dimitrov plays Pablo Carreno Busta later, with qualification already secured after two wins.

Unlike during his 74-minute thrashing by Dimitrov on Wednesday, Goffin was able to recover from a slow start.

Thiem produced some blistering groundstrokes to break in the second game of the match and held for a 3-0 lead, but from there his game disintegrated.

“Well, I had a very, very good start obviously,” Thiem said. “Again, some very bad mistakes. I let him back into the game. Somehow after the 3-0, I lost it until the end.”

When Thiem finally ended his opponent’s run of five straight games, Goffin kept his composure to serve out the set. Thiem then received treatment on his left knee, but it didn’t seem to help.

He was broken again in the third game of the second set and then twice more as Goffin cruised to victory.

Goffin was far from faultless himself, with both players’ unforced error totals doubling their winner counts.

However, in the major moments Goffin was able to keep his game under control, taking five of his seven break point opportunities. Thiem was wasteful, completing just one of his six.

“As soon as I came back at 3-3 with a good service game, I knew that he was struggling a little bit with his groundstrokes,” Goffin said. “He was hitting too hard maybe a little bit. He lost his timing in his backhands. He started to think about how to hit the ball.”

Goffin is making his full debut at the event, having stepped in as an alternate for one match last year.

Reaching the semifinals in London is the latest step in a groundbreaking season for the Belgian. He broke into the top 10 for the first time in February and reached a career high No. 8-ranking earlier in November.

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.