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Federer edges Coric in 3 sets in Indian Wells semifinals

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Roger Federer rallied to beat Borna Coric 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday, extending his career-best start to 17-0 and putting him in the final with a chance to win his record sixth title.

Federer overcame a slow start in front of a partisan crowd that included Rod Laver and Pete Sampras. He rallied from a 5-7, 2-4 deficit to win the final four games of the second set, breaking Coric twice for the first time in the match.

There were five breaks in the third. Federer trailed 4-3 and then broke after two deuces on his way to winning the last three games of the two-hour, 20-minute struggle.

Coric’s crosscourt forehand was called out on match point. He challenged the call and the line system showed it was just wide of the sideline.

Federer hasn’t started a season so well since 2006, when he won his first 16 matches en route to a 92-5 record.

The Swiss superstar was playing a rare 11 a.m. match. According to the ATP Tour, Federer hadn’t played that early since 2006. And it showed as he sprayed errors all over the court and didn’t break Coric for the first time until late in the second set.

“Really I just woke up,” Federer said in an on-court interview. “It was early today. I had pasta at 9:15. It was yummy.”

Trailing a set and 0-2 in the second, the crowd seemingly tried to will better shots out of Federer with loud applause and shouts of encouragement.

“I needed to fight a little bit to keep the ball in play,” he said. “Borna was incredibly steady and was playing deep and hard shots.”

Coric, a 21-year-old from Croatia, was in his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal. Federer, atop the world rankings again at 36, owns 27 career Masters 1000 titles.

Coric is part of a trio of 20-somethings that have dominated the desert tournament. Daria Kasatkina of Russia and Naomi Osaka of Japan, both 20, will meet in the women’s final on Sunday after knocking out several higher-ranked players along the way.

 

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.