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Federer, Venus Williams roll into semifinals at Indian Wells

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Roger Federer defeated Chung Hyeon 7-5, 6-1 to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday night and equal his career-best start of 16-0 from 2006.

With Rod Laver and Pete Sampras looking on, Federer fired 12 aces and was broken just once in extending his bid for a record sixth title in the desert.

Federer and Chung last played in the Australian Open semifinals, when the South Korean was forced to retire trailing 6-1, 5-2 because of blisters on his left foot. Federer went on to win the title and at 36 is the No. 1 player again.

Federer saved a handful of break points in the first game of the second set and then broke Chung twice, including on a double fault to take a 5-1 lead.

Serving for the match, Federer’s errant backhand spoiled his first match point. His forehand volley went wide, giving Chung a break chance. But Chung’s forehand error got Federer to deuce and he closed out his second match point with an ace that Chung unsuccessfully challenged the call on.

Next up for Federer is Borna Coric of Croatia, who upset No. 7 seed Kevin Anderson 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) for his first win in four tries against the South African.

Venus Williams defeated Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-2 to reach the semifinals at the same event where she first broke out as a 16-year-old qualifier in 1997.

Williams has never reached the final of the desert tournament and to do she’ll have to get by 20-year-old Russian Daria Kasatkina, who has yet to drop a set in four matches at Indian Wells.

At 37, Williams is the oldest player in the draw. She made the quarterfinals in her tournament debut in 1997 and notched her first win over a top-10 player before losing to eventual champion Lindsay Davenport.

Williams took 71 minutes to put away Suarez Navarro for the fourth straight time on Thursday. Playing in swirling winds, Suarez Navarro committed 29 unforced errors to 17 for Williams.

“I don’t care what’s happening on court, I just try to execute my game,” Williams said. “You kind of hope for this kind of scoreline, but you never know if you’re actually going to get it.”

Kasatkina needed just 58 minutes to dispatch former No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

The Russian has knocked out U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and No. 2-ranked Caroline Wozniacki along the way.

“Maybe, yeah, from the side or with the score it looks like it was simple, but of course it’s not,” Kasatkina said. “I knew that in one moment if I will lose focus just for a second, they will come back and then the big battle, five hours again, will start.”

She gave Kerber no chance.

The German never managed a break point against Kasatkina’s serve. The Russian connected on 82 percent of her first serves, winning 22 of 32 first-serve points.

“This one I will try to forget as fast as possible,” Kerber said.

Williams defeated younger sister Serena in the third round, one of four straight-set victories she’s had so far.

“I’m actually playing good tennis, even before the tournament started,” she said.

Besides Stephens and Australian Open winner Wozniacki, Kasatkina has beaten the other current Grand Slam titleholders in the past year: French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko and Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza.

That’s part of the reason for her impressive rise in the rankings over the last three years, and she’s guaranteed to make her highest move yet as a result of her deep run in the desert. She came into the tournament at No. 19, two spots lower than her career-best. She could move to 15th or 16th, and has a shot at the top 10 if she would win the title.

Kasatkina was hoping to play her semifinal at night on Friday and she got her wish.

“I just want to be on the central court, prime time,” she said, smiling. “In the evening, something special is coming from here, from the heart.”

The Williams-Kasatkina semi is a rematch of their rain-delayed third-round meeting at Wimbledon in 2016. Williams won 10-8 in the third set.

The other women’s semi is already set: No. 1 Simona Halep against Japan’s Naomi Osaka, another 20-year-old making a huge run through the draw. Osaka’s victims have included Maria Sharapova, No. 31 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 5 Karolina Pliskova.

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

Duckhee Lee downplays deafness, wins ATP tournament debut

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Duckhee Lee tossed the ball into the air for his first serve in an ATP tournament match, and blasted it past his opponent with a loud pop.

The 21-year-old South Korean never heard it. He was born deaf.

The tour’s first deaf professional player says he doesn’t want to be defined by the disability that he has overcome well enough to play at the sport’s highest level.

His first appearance in a top-level tournament will last at least until the second round. Lee beat Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the first round of the Winston-Salem Open on Monday, earning a matchup with No. 3 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

As much as the opening-round victory meant to Lee and his career, it might have meant even more to hearing-impaired athletes in all sports.

“Don’t be discouraged and if you try hard, you can do anything, you can achieve anything you want,” Lee said through an interpreter, adding that he “doesn’t want people to get discouraged and get down about their disability.”

The ability to hear carries a particular importance in tennis. Players often insist on silence during points so they can hear the ball off their opponent’s strings and identify the spin in a split-second.

Lee makes up for it with his eyes, sharpening his focus on his opponent’s swing, how that player makes contact and the speed and spin of the ball as it’s racing toward him.

Complicating things further, he also doesn’t speak English, reads lips instead of using sign language, and relies on hand gestures from umpires making calls.

Because he can’t hear the score announcements, he keeps track of points and games in his head – which can be more difficult in smaller events that don’t have courtside scoreboards. It led to a hiccup early during his main-draw debut when he lined up to serve after a game had been decided.

“I think (the umpire) forgot to give the signal” at times during the match, he said, adding that he “was hoping he would give in and out signals.”

The debut in Winston-Salem marked the next step up the tennis ladder for Lee, who started playing tennis at age 7 – the year after he realized he was deaf, though doctors had diagnosed his condition as a toddler.

“People made fun of (me) because of the disability and said (I) shouldn’t be playing,” Lee said, adding that his motivation was to “enjoy (my) life by overcoming my disability.”

Lee made his debut on the ITF Futures Tour at 14 and won eight titles before he turned 18, then reached three finals of the ATP Challenger Tour, including one in June, falling to Dudi Sela at the Baptist Health Little Rock Open in Arkansas. He brought a No. 212 world ranking to the central North Carolina hardcourts.

He’ll always remember his first ATP-level victory – and not just because of the result. Lee was two points away from sealing the victory when thunderstorms forced a weather delay of nearly 5 hours. He and Laakonsen came back to the court at roughly 10:15 p.m. – and wrapped up their match in 87 seconds.

When he was asked how he spent the delay, Lee got his point across with pantomime, mimicking someone playing table tennis and shooting basketball, because there was both a pingpong table and pop-a-shot machine in the players’ lounge. He smiled as his translator said how “he loves the facility here.”

Amanda Anisimova out of U.S. Open after father’s death

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NEW YORK — American teenager Amanda Anisimova withdrew from the U.S. Open on Tuesday because of the recent death of her father and coach, Konstantin.

A statement from family members, released by Anisimova’s representatives, said: “We are shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our father. We appreciate the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time and ask that you respect our privacy.”

The U.S. Tennis Association announced that Anisimova had pulled out of the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, where main-draw play begins Monday.

Anisimova, who was born in New Jersey to Russian parents and moved to Florida when she was 3, is currently ranked 24th and would have been seeded for the U.S. Open.

She is an up-and-coming star in women’s tennis who reached the semifinals at the French Open in June at age 17.

Anisimova upset defending champion Simona Halep in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, before losing to eventual champion Ash Barty in three sets.

Her first WTA title came in April at Bogota, Colombia.

As a junior, Anisimova won the 2017 U.S. Open girls’ title, beating Coco Gauff in the final.