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Thiem reaches 3rd French Open semifinal; Keys reaches 1st

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PARIS (AP) Dominic Thiem made it to a third straight French Open semifinal after swatting aside second-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 on Tuesday.

The seventh-seeded Thiem is in sight of a first final at Roland Garros.

In his way are 12-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic or unseeded Italian Marco Cecchinato. Their quarterfinal on Court Suzanne Lenglen was later Tuesday.

There was no stirring comeback this time for Zverev on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Heading into the match, the German had won three consecutive five-setters – trailing 2-1 in sets in each – but the rousing effort caught up to him against Thiem.

Just 10 minutes in, Zverev clutched at his left hamstring. He grabbed it again midway through the second set, after giving chase to one of several drop shots Thiem used to force Zverev to run a lot.

After falling behind 4-1 in that set an hour into the match, Zverev called for a trainer, who applied a thick bandage to his upper left leg.

Soon enough, Zverev lost the second set, too, and it proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome. He trailed 4-0 in the third set before getting a game.

Over on Lenglen, meanwhile, Madison Keys reached her first French Open semifinal by defeating unseeded Yulia Putintseva 7-6 (5), 6-4.

The 13th-seeded Keys has not lost a set at Roland Garros.

While Putintseva regularly lost her composure, Keys stayed calm throughout and the big-hitting American secured victory on her first match point with a powerful serve which clipped Putintseva’s racket and flew into the crowd.

Her box, including three-time major winner Lindsay Davenport, rose to acclaim Keys, who lost last year’s U.S. Open final to friend and countrywoman Sloane Stephens.

They could meet again in the semifinals.

The 10th-seeded Stephens was facing No. 14 Daria Kasatkina in a quarterfinals later Tuesday on Chatrier.

The 98th-ranked Putintseva was trying to become the first player from Kazakhstan to advance to a Grand Slam semifinal.

She had her chances against Keys, troubling her with deft drop shots and spinning, looping forehands, but could not hold her nerve.

After losing the first-set tiebreaker, she started ranting at her box and struck the ground with her racket in frustration.

Known for her short fuse, she lived up to it, regularly spinning around to glare at her box with looks of incomprehension and hand-flapping gestures; or at other times mumbling to herself in frustration.

In the second game of the second set, she was convinced an incorrect call went in favor of Keys and asked the chair umpire to come down and check it.

“My God,” Putintseva said as she walked away. “I can’t believe … unbelievable.”

Djokovic faced an unfamiliar opponent in 72nd-ranked Cecchinato, who was cleared of a match-fixing charge on a technicality in 2016 – the year Djokovic won the last of his 12 majors at Roland Garros.

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

Rafael Nadal will play in new Davis Cup format

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MADRID — Gerard Pique is not worried about the possible absence of some top players in the revamped Davis Cup, especially since Rafael Nadal has said he will play in the new-look competition when it debuts next year.

The Barcelona defender, who spearheads the company behind the new format of the Davis Cup, said Wednesday that Nadal has told him he will play as long as he is not injured.

“If the No. 1 in the world is playing, that’s more than enough,” Pique said in the official presentation of Madrid as host of the Davis Cup finals for the next two years. “Rafa is very positive about this event, especially because it is taking place in Madrid.”

The new event was developed in a partnership between the International Tennis Federation and the investment group Kosmos, which was founded by the Barcelona and Spain player.

Pique said he knows it will not be easy to have all top-ranked players participating.

“This is a team event, so it’s impossible to have all the top players involved. Some teams won’t qualify, not everybody will be able to play anyway,” Pique said. “Of course we would like to have the top players, but we want to focus on the teams.”

Stars such as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have already hinted they don’t intend to play. Djokovic said the tournament could be competing with the ATP’s World Team Cup, while Federer said the revamped Davis Cup didn’t seem to be designed for him.

Pique said he already didn’t expect Federer to be playing, noting the Swiss veteran has limited his tournament schedule in recent years and might not “have the legs” to play in the Davis Cup again. He said he still hoped to convince Djokovic, though.

“I have a lot of confidence that we can negotiate and the top players will play,” Pique said.

The new format of tennis’ top team event will be a season-ending, 18-team tournament, but teams will still play matches in February to advance to the championship in November. The Davis Cup has previously been played over four weekends throughout the year.

The first championship will be held next year from Nov. 18-24 on an indoor hardcourt at the Magic Box arena, which already hosts the Madrid Masters. The ITF said players will compete for prize money that will rival what is offered in Grand Slams.

Pique said there is no “perfect date” for the tournament as the tennis calendar is very tight, but he was happy with the week they picked.

“We’ve spoken with everybody,” he said. “We think this is a week that won’t affect any of the other tournaments. We want to be well seen in the tennis world. We are here to help. We think this will be a magical week for the world of tennis.”

The 2018 Davis Cup semifinalists – Croatia, France, Spain and the United States – have already secured their spot in next year’s tournament, along with Argentina and Britain.

Defending champion France will host Croatia in the last Davis Cup final in the current format from Nov. 23-25 in Lille.

Stephens, Pliskova both lose at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW — Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova were both eliminated from the Kremlin Cup on Wednesday, with the latter result ensuring that Elina Svitolina has qualified for the WTA Finals.

The fifth-ranked Pliskova lost to Russian veteran Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-2, holding serve only once in the match.

Because of the loss, Svitolina will play in the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore. Pliskova can still qualify, but she could also be overtaken by Kiki Bertens.

The 34-year-old Zvonareva, a former Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist, will next face Anastasija Sevastova in the quarterfinals. The Latvian beat Yulia Putintseva 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Stephens lost to Tunisian qualifier Ons Jabeur 6-3, 6-2. The third-seeded American, who had a first-round bye, lost her opening service games in each set.

Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, secured qualification for the WTA Finals last week after a strong season which included reaching the French Open final.

Jabeur will next face Anett Kontaveit in the quarterfinals. The eighth-seeded Estonian beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 7-6 (3).

In the men’s draw, Ricardas Berankis beat Aljaz Bedene 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) to reach the quarterfinals.