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Barty endures delays, ousts Kontaveit to reach Miami final

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Ashleigh Barty walked away from tennis about five years ago, saying she was basically burned out at 17.

She returned three years ago.

And now at 22, she’s better than ever.

The 12th-seeded Barty has reached her first Miami Open final, enduring three rain delays on Thursday to oust 21st-seeded Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3 in the first women’s semifinal.

Next up in the biggest final of her singles career: Either second-seeded Simona Halep or fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who were scheduled to play late Thursday night.

“Obviously, I’ve been doing the right things throughout the week to put be able to put myself in a position to play for a title,” Barty said. “You have to go out there and embrace it.”

That was also her approach to a very long – and very wet – day at Hard Rock Stadium.

Barty, who will rise to a career-best No. 9 in the world ranking next week, was to take the court for the semifinal against Kontaveit at 1 p.m. They didn’t begin play until 2:08, and the delays were just getting started.

They got three games – six minutes of tennis – in before the first in-match delay stopped things for more than two hours. They got another game in before more rain arrived, prompting another two-hour delay.

At 7:32 p.m., finally, it ended. Kontaveit fended off one match point with a forehand drop shot, but was ousted by an ace on the following point. Barty was down 3-1 in the second, but won the final five games.

“Very long day,” said Barty, who passed the time in the locker room by drinking coffee and watching golf. “But for me, it’s an opportunity to come out and play another match. We can’t control the weather.”

Barty has already beaten both Halep and Pliskova in her career – but given the seeds and the respective rankings, she won’t be the favorite come Saturday.

And she’s fine with that.

“I can go in there and play with freedom and try to play my best tennis,” Barty said.

The men’s quarterfinals were also going on Thursday night, with fourth-seeded Roger Federer facing sixth-seeded Kevin Anderson – the winner of that match set to next meet the winner of the other remaining quarter between 20th-seeded Denis Shapovalov and 28th-seeded Frances Tiafoe. The other men’s semi is already set, with defending Miami champion John Isner to face Canadian 18-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Nadal gets his revenge over Tsitsipas to reach Rome final

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ROME (AP) After losing in the semifinals of three straight clay-court tournaments, Rafael Nadal looked more like his old, dominant self when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 Saturday to reach the Italian Open final.

It was a measure of revenge for Nadal after losing to Tsitsipas in three sets at this stage in Madrid last week. The victory should also restore Nadal’s confidence as he seeks a record-extending 12th title at the French Open starting next weekend.

“I’m playing better every match, every weekend,” Nadal said.

Aiming for a ninth trophy in Rome, Nadal’s opponent in Sunday’s final will be either Novak Djokovic or Diego Schwartzman, who were playing later.

Nadal is in the middle of his longest title drought to begin a season since he came onto the scene in 2004. His last trophy came in Toronto last August.

The crowd attempted to encourage Tsitsipas with chants of “Tsi-Tsi-Tsi; Pas-Pas-Pas” but the 20-year-old Greek player couldn’t keep up with Nadal on the long rallies – even though he didn’t play a day earlier after Roger Federer withdrew from the quarterfinals.

Conditions were much slower than on the high-altitude court in Madrid, which favored Nadal and made it tougher for Tsitsipas to execute his attacking game.

Midway through the first set, Nadal produced an awesome forehand winner up the line on the run, drawing a loud roar from the packed Campo Centrale crowd.

Nadal broke Tsitsipas’ serve early in both sets.

In the women’s tournament, Johanna Konta rallied past sixth-seeded Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in nearly three hours to reach the biggest clay-court final of her career.

Konta’s only previous final on clay came recently in Rabat, Morocco, where she lost the title match to Maria Sakkari.

Konta could get a rematch with Sakkari if the Greek qualifier beats fourth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in the other semifinal.

Midway through the first set, Konta surprised Bertens with a drop shot winner during a baseline rally, causing Bertens to fall on her stomach to the clay as she rapidly changed directions. Then in the next game, Konta ran down a drop shot and produced an angled winner.

Bertens was coming off the Madrid Open title.

“She played really smart with the drop shots,” Bertens said. “I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But it was not there.”

The 42nd-ranked Konta served for the first set at 5-4 but was broken at love. But Bertens double faulted to let Konta serve for the second set and Konta got an early break in the third.

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John Isner out of French Open with injury

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PARIS — John Isner has pulled out of the French Open because of an injured left foot, ending his streak of 24 consecutive appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.

The 34-year-old Isner announced his withdrawal Friday on Twitter.

He is ranked No. 11, the top American man, but has not competed since hurting his foot during the Miami Open final March 31.

Isner was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, his best Grand Slam performance. He hasn’t missed a major since the 2013 Australian Open.

He’s reached the fourth round at Roland Garros three times, including in 2018, and is one of only two men to push 11-time champion Rafael Nadal to a fifth set there.

Isner is best known for winning the longest match in tennis history, 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut in Wimbledon’s first round in 2010. The match lasted more than 11 hours over three days.