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Sasnovich, Barty through to Sydney International semifinals

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SYDNEY — Aliaksandra Sasnovich’s impressive start to the season continued on Thursday with a straight-sets win over Timea Bacsinszky to advance to the Sydney International semifinals.

The No. 33-ranked Sasnovich, who made it to the quarterfinals last week in Brisbane, was in control most of the way to beat the Swiss 6-3, 6-3.

Sasnovich will face two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber for a spot in the final. Kvitova and Kerber played later Thursday.

Ashleigh Barty, who beat top-seeded Simon Halep on Wednesday, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Elise Mertens, breaking the Belgian player’s serve six times.

“I thought it was a little bit of a slow start, but it was good to get the ball rolling mid to late in that first set,” Barty said.

Barty will meet Yulia Putintseva or Kiki Bertens in the semifinals.

In men’s quarterfinals Thursday, eighth-seeded Andreas Seppi upset top-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 and No. 3 Diego Schwartzman beat Yoshihito Nishioka 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (1).

Benedetti wins 12th stage; Polanc takes Giro lead

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PINEROLO, Italy (AP) Cesare Benedetti won the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Thursday for his first victory as a professional while Jan Polanc took the overall leader’s pink jersey from UAE Emirates teammate Valerio Conti.

Benedetti, an Italian with the Bora team who has been a support rider for his entire career, was part of an early breakaway then accelerated from a select group of riders in a sprint finish.

“I’ve worked a lot for the others in the past but today I got my opportunity,” Benedetti said. “I’m not (usually) a winner.”

Benedetti required 3 hours, 41 minutes to complete the 158-kilometer (98-mile) leg from Cuneo to Pinerolo, which featured one major climb and another shorter but steeper ascent just before the finish.

Damiano Caruso crossed second and Eddie Dunbar came third, each with the same time as Benedetti. Polanc, a Slovenian who was also in the breakaway, finished 25 seconds behind.

In the overall standings, Polanc leads Primoz Roglic by 4 minutes, 7 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali, one of the pre-race favorites, is fifth overall, 5:51 behind.

“It was a team tactic that I would go in the breakaway so we could have a better control over the race,” Polanc said. “It was also a way to keep the pink jersey in the team.”

Mikel Landa and Miguel Angel Lopez attacked on the first-category climb to Montoso and gained about 30 seconds on the other overall favorites.

Before the stage began, sprinters Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani withdrew from the race. Ewan won two stages, including the 11th leg a day earlier, while Viviani posted three second-place finishes.

Stage 13 on Friday is one of the race’s toughest, with two category one climbs and one category ascent, along with an uphill finish at the end of the 196-kilometer leg from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale.

The Giro ends June 2 in Verona.

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Tsonga rallies past qualifier to reach quarterfinals in Lyon

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LYON, France (AP) Former champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rallied past Canadian qualifier Steven Diez on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals and extend his perfect record at the Lyon Open.

Tsonga, the 2017 champion, came within two points of losing but finally prevailed 3-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on his sixth match point after 2 hours, 42 minutes.

The clay-court event serves as a warmup for the French Open, which starts Sunday in Paris.

“It was good for me to play a long match like this,” Tsonga said. “I haven’t played a match this long for a while. I am not playing my best level, but I am giving everything mentally and that gives me confidence.”

Tsonga will next take on top-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili, who beat lucky loser Tristan Lamasine 7-5, 7-5.

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