Nishikori, Dimitrov set to meet in Brisbane quarterfinals

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BRISBANE, Australia — Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov had straight-sets wins Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals at the Brisbane International, where they’ll meet in a rematch of the 2017 final.

Second-seeded Nishikori broke at love in the 11th game to seize momentum in a 7-5, 6-2 win over Denis Kudla in the second round, his season-opening match after getting a first-round bye in Brisbane.

“Tough match,” Nishikori said. “After 5-5 I think he dropped a little bit his level and I started playing better, playing more aggressive and started getting more rhythm and my serve got better in the second. So yeah, I think it was good first match.”

Sixth-seeded Dimitrov, who beat Nishikori for the first time here in the 2017 title match, had to withstand a late comeback from local favorite John Millman before winning 6-3, 6-4. He had three points for a 5-1 lead in the second set but was broken as Millman went on a roll before Dimitrov regained control.

Dimitrov said he was distracted for a while despite being up two breaks but “I was not worried to the extent that I was panicking.”

“I managed to keep my composure really good throughout the whole match, especially at 4-4,” he added.

He’s using the quarterfinal against Nishikori as a barometer for where his preparations stand for the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 14.

“It’s great. I mean it’s right off the blocks. It’s perfect to play a match like that to kind of see where your game is at, how your movement goes,” Dimitrov said. “Kei is the favorite. Right now he’s been playing unbelievable, great finish of the year, a lot of confidence right now, striking the ball, amazing, feels free.

“But, again, I like my chances. We’ve had quite a few battles against each other. I’m just going to try to control things on my terms.”

Defending champion and No. 8-seeded Nick Kyrgios was ousted 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 by Jeremy Chardy a day after saying his preparation was hampered by a spider bite last week on his foot.

Chardy will next play Japanese qualifier Yasutaka Uchiyama, who upset third-seeded Kyle Edmund 7-6 (6), 6-4. Fifth-seeded Milos Raonic advanced with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) win over Miomir Kecmanovic.

Anett Kontaveit beat fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova 7-5, 7-6 (1) to advance to the women’s quarterfinals, and Anastasija Sevastova set up a match against U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka when she beat Harriet Dart 6-2, 6-0.

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.