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No. 2 Wozniacki follows No. 1 Halep on way out at US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) All it took was two rounds at the U.S. Open for the top two seeded women to leave the draw, with No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki following No. 1 Simona Halep on the way out.

For Wozniacki, a two-time finalist at Flushing Meadows and the reigning Australian Open champion, her 6-4, 6-2 loss to 36th-ranked Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine on Thursday night was a second consecutive second-round Grand Slam exit.

Both Wozniacki and Halep, who was upset on Day 1, were beaten at the new Louis Armstrong Stadium. Two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza lost there, too, in the second round, so there’s something of a reputation already for the rebuilt arena.

“Guess Wimbledon used to have a `Graveyard Court,”‘ Wozniacki said, referring to the old Court No. 2 at the All England Club, which was infamous for upsets before it was torn down. “Maybe that is going to be the new `Graveyard Court.’ I think it’s a little too early to tell.”

For years, Wozniacki had to endure questions about why she was able to reach No. 1 in the rankings but wasn’t able to claim a major championship. She finally filled that gap on her resume this January in Melbourne, but if a burden was lifted, the Dane hasn’t played like it.

Wozniacki is 5-3 in Grand Slam matches since, following a fourth-round showing at the French Open with second-round departures at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, where she was the runner-up in 2009 and 2014.

She was asked whether having the Australian Open trophy makes these sorts of setbacks more acceptable.

“I don’t think it’s easier,” she replied. “I don’t think it ever gets easier.”

Tsurenko, meanwhile, has never been past the fourth round at any Grand Slam tournament.

“I was really brave, I think, today,” she said.

Things didn’t look good for her at the outset, when she shook her right forearm and had a trainer come out to massage it at changeovers. Tsurenko said she hurt it Monday and the pain returned when she served early in Thursday night’s match. From that moment on, Tsurenko decided she would just hit soft serves, instead of flat ones, to try to help her arm.

Essentially, she just wanted to put the ball in play. That worked: Wozniacki wound up her own undoing in many ways, producing 35 unforced errors and only six winners.

“She was playing smarter than me. She played the game that I was supposed to be playing. She got a lot of balls back. She played with the angles. She waited for the short ball. When the short ball came, she played aggressive. She went back and kept the ball in play when she had to,” Wozniacki said. “I should have made better adjustments. I just didn’t.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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

Serena falls to Pliskova in Aussie Open quarters

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Karolina Pliskova says her “mind was in the locker room” when she was down 5-1 in the third set of her Australian Open quarterfinal against 23-time major winner Serena Williams.

In one of the most stunning comebacks at the Australian Open, the seventh-seeded Pliskova saved four match points as she rallied to win the last six games to clinch a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory and a semifinal spot against U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka.

“I didn’t have too many chances in the third set. I was a little bit too passive. Obviously mentally down,” Pliskova said. “So I just said, ‘Let’s try this game, on 5-2, maybe I’m going to have couple of chances.’

“She got a bit shaky at the end, so I took my chances, and I won.”

Pliskova’s win over the seven-time Australian Open titlist means there’ll be a first-time women’s champion at Melbourne Park this year.

In the other semifinal, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova will play Danielle Collins, who had never won a Grand Slam match before this tournament. Kvitova’s best previous run at Melbourne was to the semifinals in 2012.

‘Barbecued chicken’: Tiafoe’s Australia run ended by Nadal

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Rafael Nadal is back to feeling healthy. Probably not a coincidence that he’s back in the Australian Open semifinals.

Playing his familiar brand of court-covering, ball-bashing, opponent-frustrating tennis, Nadal claimed 20 of his first 23 service points and saved the only two break chances he faced, ending American Frances Tiafoe’s best Grand Slam run with a dominating 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory Tuesday night.

“I feel lucky to be where I am after all the things I went through,” said Nadal, who quit during his quarterfinal at Melbourne Park a year ago because of a right leg problem, again during his semifinal at the U.S. Open in September because of a painful right knee, and then had offseason surgery on his right ankle.

“Not easy situations,” he said, summing it up.

Nadal, 32, reached his 30th major semifinal and prevented Tiafoe from getting to his first, two days after he turned 21.

“I knew he was going to bring crazy intensity. I knew the ball was going to be jumping. I knew if he got hold of a forehand, it was going to be barbecued chicken,” Tiafoe said. “But point in, point out, I’ve never seen someone so locked in.”

The two hadn’t played each other before, though they did practice together at Roland Garros back in 2014, when Tiafoe was a teen in the junior competition.

Entering this year’s Australian Open, the 39th-ranked Tiafoe had never been past the third round at a major. But he knocked off two-time Slam runner-up Kevin Anderson and 20th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov on the way to the quarterfinals, drawing plenty of attention for his play – and his bare-chested, biceps-slapping celebrations inspired by LeBron James.

As usual, Tiafoe was animated and talkative Tuesday. He lamented missed shots with a self-admonishing “Oh, Frances!” He marked good ones with a shout of “Let’s go!”

But it all came to a screeching halt against Nadal, a 17-time major champion.

Tiafoe, who is from Maryland, was broken the initial time he served in each set, which was all Nadal needed, given how well he handled his own service games. He’s been reluctant to go into detail about a recent tweak he made to his serve, saying it’s “nothing drastic, nothing dramatic.”

He spoke after Tuesday’s win about going for winners on his first forehand following a serve, something he called “very important … at this stage of my career.”

Whatever he’s doing is working. And how. Nadal has won every set he’s played in the tournament, the first time he’s done that en route to the semifinals in Australia since 2009, the only time he won the championship.

“I am playing well,” he said. “I did a lot of things well during the whole week and a half.”

Now Nadal goes up against another opponent much younger than he is, 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, who upset Roger Federer in the fourth round.

The 14th-seeded Tsitsipas became the first player from Greece to earn a semifinal berth at a major, beating No. 22 Roberto Bautista Agut 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2) earlier Tuesday.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Tsitsipas said about his matchup against Nadal. “I feel all right with my game. I feel like I can do something good against him.”

Asked about all of these kids trying to elbow their way to the top of tennis, Nadal smiled and said: “They can wait a little bit.”