Wawrinka, Cilic make winning starts at Queen’s Club

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LONDON — Marin Cilic hopes another good run at Queen’s Club will stand him in good stead for Wimbledon.

The top-seeded Cilic was champion in 2012 and runner-up in 2013 and 2017. He came close at Wimbledon last year, losing to Roger Federer after suffering from bad blisters in the final.

He made a winning start at Queen’s Club on Monday, beating Fernando Verdasco of Spain 6-3, 6-4.

“You can’t live on the glory from last year, you have to show that again,” Cilic said. “The grass-court season, it’s short but it’s sweet as well.”

Another big-name winner was three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, who took apart Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-2, 6-3.

Wawrinka, who spent six months out last year after a double knee operation, suffered a first-round loss at the French Open last month which allowed him extra time to prepare on grass.

“Every day is getting better and in general I’m happy with my level,” Wawrinka said.

Sam Querrey eased past British wild card Jay Clarke 6-3, 6-3 but fellow American Jack Sock, the sixth seed, lost to Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-3.

Also, Gilles Muller, a semifinalist last year, beat Denis Shapovalov of Canada 7-6 (7), 7-6 (6).

The majority of the big guns kick off their campaigns on Tuesday; Novak Djokovic, Milos Raonic, and defending champion Feliciano Lopez are in action. Andy Murray makes his long-awaited return after an 11-month absence through injury when he takes on Nick Kyrgios.

Linette keeps getting better; into Australian Open semis

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Two days after advancing to her first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal, unseeded Magda Linette went one better and is into the Australian Open semifinals.

The 30-year-old Linette beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5, adding the former No. 1 to the list of top players she has beaten at Melbourne Park during this tournament.

Linette, who had lost seven of nine previous matches against Pliskova, had defeated Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in successive rounds.

A player from Poland was favored to reach the latter stages of the tournament, but it was top-seeded Iga Swiatek that everyone would have expected – and not Linette.

“It’s so emotional I can’t really believe it,” Linette said. “I tried to stay composed and took my chances when I could.”

Linette will play No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat unseeded Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in a later quarterfinal. The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday night.

Vekic, who had 13 double faults against Sabalenka, had a succinct appraisal of her serve: “I mean, it was all over the place. But I think mostly in the net.”

The other women’s semifinalists were determined on Tuesday. Two-time former Australian champion Victoria Azarenka will play Wimbledon titleholder Elena Rybakina for a chance to play in Saturday night’s final. Rybakina beat Swiatek in the fourth round.

Later Wednesday, the remaining men’s semifinalists will be determined. Unseeded Americans Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul play before nine-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic will be looking to qualify for his 44th Grand Slam semifinal and a win in that match on Friday would advance him on Sunday night to his 33rd major singles final.

The other men’s semifinal on Friday will see third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas play Karen Khachanov.

Rybakina rules in Australian Open quarterfinal vs. Ostapenko

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MELBOURNE, Australia – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The match on Rod Laver Arena featured a rare rain delay of about 20 minutes while the roof was closed. Rybakina led 3-1 and was holding a break point before the delay. On return, Ostapenko saved the first break point, but Rybakina broke on her next opportunity to go up 4-1 and won the first set 6-2.

In the second set, Ostapenko was up a break but Rybakina leveled with a break of her own. It came on her first break point when Ostapenko had been unable to convert four in the previous game.

Rybakina, who beat top-seeded Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, set up match points with aces, both of which were saved by Ostapenko. But she clinched the match with another ace, her 11th of the match and a tournament-leading 35 overall.

“I was nervous in the last game, but I managed my emotions and played very well.” Rybakina said. “The conditions were different after the roof was closed. But it can happen here, you never know, on the morning one weather and later it changes.”

Rybakina will play the winner of the night quarterfinal between American Jessica Pegula, at No. 3 the highest women’s seed remaining, and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.

In men’s quarterfinals, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda played the next match at Rod Laver Arena against No. 18-seeded Karen Khachanov. In a night quarterfinal, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Jiri Lehecka. The winners of those matches will play each other in the semifinals on Friday.