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Federer beats Pella to book Stuttgart Open semifinal place

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Roger Federer defeated Guido Pella 6-4, 6-4 on Friday to advance to the Stuttgart Open semifinals.

Federer was too good for his opponent even though the 75th-ranked Argentine produced one of his best matches on grass.

With the Swiss great serving for the match, Pella forced two break points for some late drama. But Federer answered with four points in a row to set up a meeting with Nick Kyrgios.

“I didn’t give Guido many chances to get into my service games, except maybe the last couple,” Federer said after only his second match since March 24. “I was happy that I also got more rhythm today.”

The fourth-seeded Kyrgios defeated Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Federer can reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Rafael Nadal with a win on Saturday.

“In the match that you play for world No. 1, it’s clearly going to be in the back of your head,” he said.

Defending champion Lucas Pouille will face Milos Raonic in the other semifinal.

Pouille defeated Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3, and Raonic upset the third-seeded Tomas Berdych 7-6 (2), 7-6 (1).

Bencic beats 2-time defending champ Svitolina in Dubai semi

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic stopped Elina Svitolina’s bid for a third consecutive title at the Dubai Championships by beating her 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (3) in the semifinals Friday.

The 45th-ranked Bencic won her third match in a row against a top-10 opponent and will face yet another, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, in Saturday’s final at the hard-court tournament.

Kvitova advanced to her third final of 2019 by edging Hsieh Su-wei 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. The No. 2-seeded Kvitova picked up her tour-high 17th victory of 2019.

Bencic is seeking her third career title, Kvitova her 27th.

Against No. 6 seed Svitolina, Bencic trailed 5-3 in the third set. This was her latest in a string of comebacks. She saved six match points against eighth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in the third round, then erased a set deficit to beat third-seeded Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

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Bencic upsets Halep to reach Dubai semifinals

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Unseeded Belinda Bencic rallied to beat second-ranked Simona Halep 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday to reach the Dubai Championships semifinals.

Bencic, who saved six match points in the previous round against Aryna Sabalenka, failed to capitalize on an early break in the first set but Halep continued to struggle with her serve and was broken seven times in total. Bencic broke for a 5-4 lead in the second and then raced out to a 3-0 lead in the decider, having won six games in a row. Halep, who was playing her ninth match in 13 days after reaching the final in Qatar last week, got one break back but Bencic broke again for a 5-2 lead before converting her third match point.

Second-seeded Petra Kvitova had no such problems, winning the last eight games to oust Viktoria Kuzmova 6-4, 6-0 to book her spot in the last four. Kvitova, the 2013 Dubai champion, needed just 62 minutes to wrap up the win. She will next face Su-wei Hsieh of Taiwan, who came from 5-1 down in the final set to beat fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 1-6, 7-5. It was the latest upset for Hsieh, who ousted Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber on Wednesday.

In the final quarterfinal, Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain was playing Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

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