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Serena consoles Australian Open foe; Halep next

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MELBOURNE, Australia — It was all a bit overwhelming for the latest opponent who could do nothing to slow Serena Williams at the Australian Open. So Dayana Yastremska, an 18-year-old from Ukraine, found herself wiping away tears as she walked to the net.

Williams knows what it’s like to be the one weeping after a loss. She put her right hand on Yastremska’s shoulder and consoled her by saying, “You’re so young. You did amazing. Don’t cry.” Then they embraced, and Williams patted Yastremska on the back.

“I could tell she was quite upset. I kind of liked that. It shows she wasn’t just there to play a good match – she was there to win. She wanted to win. That really broke my heart,” Williams said. “I think she’s a good talent. It’s good to see that attitude.”

Maybe she will be tested in the fourth round, because no one has come close to making her work too hard so far, including the 6-2, 6-1 victory on Saturday.

Next up, though, is a far more accomplished player, No. 1-ranked Simona Halep, who took control by reeling off six consecutive games in one stretch and advanced by beating Williams’ sister, Venus, 6-2, 6-3.

After two tough three-set tussles, Halep had a much easier time of things, making only 12 unforced errors while Venus had 33. Halep played with her left thigh taped, but moved around the court well.

“She played pretty flawless,” said Venus, who exits before the fourth round at a fifth consecutive Grand Slam tournament.

Looking ahead, Halep said: “It’s going to be a bigger challenge. I am ready to face it.”

She’s lost eight of her past nine matches against Serena.

Might Venus offer her sibling any tips?

“I don’t know if Serena needs my help or not,” Venus said. “If she does, I’ll be there.”

Not only has Serena won every set she played this week – and 20 in a row at Melbourne Park, dating to the start of her 2017 run to the title (she sat out last year’s tournament after having a baby) – but Williams has ceded a total of only nine games through three victories.

Unlike any of Serena’s foes until now, Halep has won a major title, last year’s French Open. She’s been to three other Grand Slam finals, including a year ago at the Australian Open.

That resume pales in comparison to Serena’s, of course.

Whose doesn’t?

She is bidding for an eighth trophy at the Australian Open and record-tying 24th Grand Slam title in all.

As for the prospect of playing the Williams sisters in back-to-back matches, Halep called it “the toughest draw I’ve ever had.”

“I just want to try to play my best tennis,” Halep said, “because I have nothing to lose.”

Other women’s fourth-rounders set up for Monday: Naomi Osaka, the woman who beat Serena in last year’s chaotic U.S. Open final, against No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova; 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys against No. 6 Elina Svitolina; and two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza against 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova, who beat No. 27 seed Camila Giorgi 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 on Saturday night.

Men’s matchups Monday with a quarterfinal berth at stake will be: No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 15 Daniil Medvedev; No. 4 Alexander Zverev against 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic; 2014 U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori against No. 23 Pablo Carreno-Busta; and No. 11 Borna Coric against No. 28 Lucas Pouille, who eliminated 19-year-old Australian wild-card entry Alexei Popyrin 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-7 (10), 4-6, 6-3.

Serena complimented Yastremska in the locker room after their match.

“She said, like, `You’re young, you’re very good and you will be a good player in the future.’ It’s nice to hear those words from a legend,” said the 57th-ranked Yastremska, who eliminated 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in the first round and 23rd-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro in the second.

“If she thinks so,” Yastremska added about Williams, “then maybe that’s true.”

Williams grabbed a pair of service breaks and a 4-0 lead after less than 15 minutes and was well on her way to yet another easy-looking win.

Right from the start, Yastremska appeared a bit jittery, missing 9 of 10 first serves and double-faulting three times while getting broken in each of her opening two service games. By the end of the first set, the teenager had 13 unforced errors, nine more than Serena.

It didn’t get much better in the second set, and Serena wound up with eight aces while facing zero break points, and a 20-13 ratio of winners to unforced errors.

Yastremska was born in 2000, the year after Serena won her initial major, and grew up cheering for someone she calls “a legend.” Yastremska recalls swinging her racket in the living room at home while watching on TV at age 8 as her favorite player competed.

Surely, everything felt a tad different up-close-and-personal with the 37-year-old American in Rod Laver Arena.

What separates Williams from other top players?

“Everything. Small details. Her discipline. Her quality of the shots. How (committed) she is to every ball,” Yastremska said. “She (is) completely different. I don’t know how to describe that. It’s just there’s something special. What I’m trying to do is to go to the level that people are going to talk about me the same, that I have something special.”

Joao Souza provisionally suspended

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LONDON — Brazilian tennis player Joao Souza has been provisionally suspended again amid a corruption investigation by the Tennis Integrity Unit.

Souza had already been provisionally suspended on March 29 but was reinstated on April 8 following a successful appeal.

The TIU says that the provisional suspension has been put back in place “following consideration of additional evidence submitted by the TIU,” adding that no more appeals will be accepted.

No further details were given for the reason of the suspension.

The 30-year old Souza is currently ranked No. 422, having reached a career-high of No. 69 in 2015.

Also in 2015, Souza played in the longest Davis Cup singles match ever, losing to Leonardo Mayer of Argentina 15-13 in the fifth set after 6 hours, 42 minutes.

The TIU is a joint initiative of the Grand Slam Board, the International Tennis Federation and the ATP and the WTA tours.

Medvedev shocks Djokovic to reach Monte Carlo semis

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MONACO – An erratic Novak Djokovic suffered a surprise 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 defeat against Daniil Medvedev in the Monte Carlo Masters quarterfinals Friday.

The 10th-seeded Russian was appearing in the last eight of a Masters tournament for the first time but was not overawed. In fact, it was the top-ranked Djokovic who made the most mistakes. The two-time champion looked out of sorts in tricky conditions and produced 47 unforced errors.

“On a windy day like today, conditions are changing every game,” Djokovic said. “It’s tough to find rhythm and he doesn’t give you much rhythm. He was very patient and played well tactically.”

After failing to serve out the match, when his Serbian opponent broke back to 5-2 down, Medvedev broke for the fifth time to seal a memorable victory.

Djokovic double-faulted at 30-30 to give Medvedev his first match point and a backhand winner secured a first win against his top-ranked rival at the fourth attempt, and a first victory against a No. 1.

“It was amazing,” Medvedev said. “He played worse than before and I am gaining more experience. He was not so good in the first set and made a lot of mistakes.”

Medvedev twice had his thighs massaged during changeovers in the third set. “Cramp didn’t affect my game,” he said.

The 23-year-old Monaco resident next faces the unseeded Dusan Lajovic, who also reached a Masters semi for the first time when he beat Italian qualifier Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 7-5.

Lajovic has not dropped a set at the clay-court event and is more surprised than anybody.

“I didn’t expect this. I was sick before the tournament and taking antibiotics,” the 28-year-old Serb said. “But it’s the best week of my career.”

The same goes for the 23-year-old Medvedev, who is ranked 14 and is chasing a fifth career title.

He had lost the three previous matches against Djokovic, including a tough four-setter in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open.

“In Australia he was at his best, but I made him run for his win there,” said Medvedev.

Djokovic won that tournament to secure a third straight Grand Slam title and 15th overall, moving two behind Nadal and five adrift of Roger Federer’s record haul of 20.

But Djokovic has now failed to reach the last four in three straight tournaments, after also falling short at Indian Wells and Miami.

“I am lacking that determination to go for shots on some points,” he said.

At times it looked like Djokovic would take control and he clinched the second set with two aces. But his shot-making was below its usual high standards and his drop shot rarely worked.

Nadal has won at Monte Carlo a record 11 times. The second-ranked Spaniard plays the unseeded Guido Pella of Argentina later.

The other match is between No. 9 Borna Coric of Croatia and No.13 Fabio Fognini of Italy.