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Federer wins at Indian Wells, sets up rematch with Chung

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Roger Federer defeated Jeremy Chardy of France 7-5, 6-4 in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday, and at 15-0 the world’s top-ranked men’s player is off to his best start since 2006.

The 36-year-old Swiss superstar can equal his season-best start of 16-0 with a win in the quarterfinals, where he will meet Chung Hyeon of South Korea in a rematch of their Australian Open semifinal.

Federer advanced to the final in Melbourne when Chung retired in the second set trailing 6-1, 5-2, and went on to win a five-set final against Marin Cilic.

Chung, seeded 23rd at Indian Wells, beat 30th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-1, 6-3.

Since his Grand Slam breakthrough Down Under, Chung has been on a roll. He’s reached the quarterfinals or better in four of five tournaments and improved to 15-5 this year.

Federer is chasing a record sixth title in the desert.

“Just playing really fast and good serve, good baseline,” Chung said of Federer. “He play everything good, so I’m just trying to enjoy on the court.”

Against Federer, Chardy played a tough first set in windy conditions that persisted throughout the day. Federer earned the only break in the 11th game and then served a love game to take the set.

Federer again took the only break in the second set to go up 5-4. His forehand pulled Chardy completely off the court and Federer hit a crosscourt backhand winner off Chardy’s return. Federer served his fifth love game of the match to close it out.

Chardy committed 46 unforced errors to 29 for Federer, who won 90 percent of his total service points.

Against Cuevas, Chung dominated in racing to a 6-1, 5-0 lead before Cuevas fought off seven match points to break back in the sixth game. Cuevas then broke Chung again to close to 5-3, but the Korean closed out the win.

“It was a really tough match against Pablo,” Chung said. “I have few match points but start (getting) windy and he playing good. Not easy to play with the wind, but I’m just trying to focus all the time.”

Simona Halep also fought the wind and a pesky opponent to reach the semifinals.

The world’s top-ranked woman outlasted Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3 and improved to 18-1 in matches this year.

Winds gusting to 15 mph made shots tricky. Trailing 4-2 in the first set, Martic closed to 5-4 before Halep served it out.

Martic controlled the second set, taking a 5-2 lead before Halep forced the tiebreaker. The Romanian tied it 5-all before Martic won the final two points to force a third set. Halep rallied from a 2-1 deficit to tie it 3-all before winning the last three games.

“I was a little bit frustrated about the game today because the wind didn’t give us the rhythm,” Halep said in an on-court interview. “That’s maybe why I’m here because I refuse to lose.”

Halep next plays the winner of a quarterfinal between No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and Naomi Osaka of Japan.

In other fourth-round men’s matches, Borna Coric of Croatia outlasted American Taylor Fritz 6-2, 6-7 (8), 6-4 and No. 31 Phillipp Kohlschreiber of Germany beat Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France 6-4, 7-6 (7).

Coric next plays No. 7 Kevin Anderson of South Africa, who beat No. 11 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8).

Fritz had a chance to serve out the second set at 5-4 and couldn’t do it, but he saved a match point down 6-5 in the tiebreaker before trying it up and letting out a yell.

Fritz broke in the first game of the third set, but Coric tied it in the fourth game. He then saved a break point in the ninth game before breaking Fritz to clinch the match in the next game on his fourth match point overall.

“I stayed calm. It was very, very tough second set,” Coric said. “It was ups and downs and set points, the tiebreak. I could already be in my room watching Netflix and I was out there playing on that wind and that sun.”

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

Victoria Azarenka misses direct entry for U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Two-time U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka is ranked just below the cutoff for direct entry into the year’s last Grand Slam tournament.

Azarenka, a former No. 1 and twice the champion at the Australian Open, is No. 108 this week, seven spots outside of an automatic spot in the main draw.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Wednesday that defending champion and top-ranked Rafael Nadal is one of six past male singles champions in the U.S. Open field, along with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic. Another past title winner at Flushing Meadows, Stan Wawrinka, is ranked 199th this week.

The women’s winners with direct entry based on this week’s rankings are six-time champion Serena Williams, two-time champ Venus Williams, defending champ Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur.

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.