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Federer returning to top of ATP rankings at 36

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) Roger Federer added another highlight to his age-defying career resurgence Friday, returning to the top of the world rankings for the first time in more than five years and becoming the oldest player to reach the top spot.

“What an amazing run its been and a journey it’s been for me … to clinch world No. 1,” Federer said.

Beating leading Dutch player Robin Haase 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinal at the ABN AMRO World Tournament means the 36-year-old Federer becomes the oldest player – male or female – to top the world rankings, surpassing Andre Agassi, who held the record at age 33.

“Getting to No. 1 and enjoying it right here at 36, almost 37 years old is an absolute dream come true,” Federer said. “I can’t believe it.”

Federer will leapfrog 31-year-old Rafael Nadal to No. 1 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

Also a record will be the five-years-plus which have elapsed since Federer was last No. 1, and the 14 years since he first reached the top spot.

On Monday, he will extend his record of 302 weeks at No 1 since the rankings began in 1973. Pete Sampras is a distant second with 286 weeks at the top. Novak Djokovic is the closest currently active player, with 223 weeks at No. 1.

“Reaching No. 1 is one of, if not the ultimate achievement in our sport,” Federer said.

“Sometimes at the beginning you get there just because you play so well. Later, you sometimes try to fight it back and you wrest it back from somebody else who deserved to be there, and when you’re older you feel like you have to put maybe double the work in. So this one maybe means the most to me throughout my career.”

Federer, the 2005 and 2012 ABN AMRO champion, plays either Andreas Seppi or Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals on Saturday.

Federer won the Australian Open in January for his 20th Grand Slam title and edged closer to the top of the rankings. He had not originally planned to play in Rotterdam but accepted a wild card when it became clear he might be able to take back the top spot.

Haase made clear he was going to make Federer fight, and broke him in the ninth game and fired an ace to take the set 6-4.

But Federer stepped up a gear and blew Haase away in the second set, reeling off 11 straight points to race to 3-0 in taking the set 6-1.

Federer then broke Haase twice early in the third for 3-0, and swept to the victory.

Earlier, Grigor Dimitrov beat Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semifinals, where he will meet 2017 finalist David Goffin, who progressed when his quarterfinal opponent Tomas Berdych pulled out sick.

Novak Djokovic moves step closer to first Cincinnati title

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MASON, Ohio — Novak Djokovic closed in on the one title that has eluded him, reaching the final of the Western & Southern Open on Saturday with a three-set victory over Marin Cilic.

His 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win moved him one victory away from the only ATP Masters 1000 title he’s never claimed. Djokovic is trying to become the first to win all nine events since the series started in 1990.

One big hurdle: a potential rematch with Roger Federer, who faced David Goffin in the other semifinal. Federer has won an unprecedented seven Cincinnati titles, beating Djokovic three times in championship matches.

“It’s been a roller-coaster week with matches and the interruptions with the rain and all that’s happened,” Djokovic said.

Djokovic completed his long recovery from elbow surgery by winning Wimbledon for the fourth time last month. He then set out to get his hard-court game in form for the U.S. Open.

Along the way, he dearly wants to get a title in Cincinnati, where he’s 0-5 in the finals.

Frustrated by his ragged play early in his semifinal win over Milos Raonic, Djokovic slammed his racket on the court, sending pieces of the frame into the air. The racket-busting became a turning point.

When he closed out the victory Saturday, he walked calmly to the net to congratulate Cilic and then raised both arms in triumph.

In the women’s bracket, Kiki Bertens advanced to her first Western & Southern Open final, wearing down No. 8 Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 for a chance at her second title of the season.

Bertens is an unexpected finalist, winning only one match during three previous appearances in Cincinnati. Her only title this season was at Charleston.

Known as more of a clay court player, Bertens has reached a hard-court final for the first time, spending more time getting accustomed to the different style of play.

“I think also I’m less stressed,” she said. “So before the match, I’m less nervous than I used to be. Before I was like, `Oh, I play on center court and a lot of people are watching.’ But now I’m just more relaxed.”

Top-ranked Simona Halep played later Saturday against Aryna Sabalenka, trying to reach the finals for the third time. Halep has never won a Cincinnati title, losing the final match last year to Garbine Muguruza.

A week of rain delays and double-duty days wore on players, many of whom wound up playing twice in a day. Kvitova faded in her second straight three-set match, ending her best showing in Cincinnati. She’d made five previous appearances in semifinals this season, winning each tournament.

“My legs were pretty heavy,” Kvitova said. “I just couldn’t really jump at all. It was very, very tiring, the second set, and I just think that I couldn’t really find energy in the third one. I was really trying, but nothing.”

Bertens tops Kvitova, advances to finals in Cincinnati

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MASON, Ohio – Kiki Bertens advanced to her first Western & Southern Open final on Saturday, wearing down No. 8 Petra Kvitova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 for a chance at her second title of the season.

Bertens is an unexpected finalist, winning only one match during three previous appearances in Cincinnati. Her only title this season was at Charleston.

Top-ranked Simona Halep plays later, trying to reach the finals for the third time. She has never won a Cincinnati title.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic highlight the men’s semifinals, needing a win on Saturday to play each other for the title. Federer is trying for a record eighth Cincinnati title. Djokovic is trying to win the tournament for the first time.