Federer will face Nadal in French Open semis

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PARIS – Roger Federer kept accumulating break points and then frittering them away against Stan Wawrinka in the French Open quarterfinals, failing to convert 16 of his initial 17 chances.

Then, after a 75-minute rain delay Tuesday, Federer got his 18th opportunity to try to break – and he made it count. Soon enough, in his first trip to Roland Garros since 2015, Federer would be wrapping up a 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory over Wawrinka, his friend and Swiss Olympic and Davis Cup teammate, to make his way to the semifinals.

And what a semifinal it will be: On Friday, Federer will meet old rival Rafael Nadal, the 11-time French Open champion. It will be their 39th career meeting and their sixth in Paris. Nadal is 5-0 against Federer at the Grand Slam tournament he has dominated and leads 23-15 head-to-head overall.

“My next opponent is not too bad. He can play on clay, unfortunately,” a smiling Federer joked to the crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen. “What a pleasure, actually. If I decided to come back to play on clay, it was maybe to play Rafa.”

There was very little drama in Nadal’s quarterfinal, a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 stroll against No. 7 Kei Nishikori.

Federer vs. Wawrinka, meanwhile, lived up to the billing, a 3 1/2-hour tussle between a couple of guys who go way back. Coming in, Federer held a 22-3 edge in their career meetings, but Wawrinka knew this: All three of his victories had come on red clay, including four years ago in the same round and on this same court at Roland Garros. That was the last time Federer entered the French Open; he missed it with a bad back in 2016, then sat out the full clay portion of the schedule the next two years to prepare for grass and hard courts.

Now he’s back and has dropped only one set so far. At 37, Federer is the oldest semifinalist at the French Open since 40-year-old Pancho Gonzalez in 1968.

Federer and Wawrinka were locked in a taut fourth set when the clouds overhead grew thick and charcoal-colored. Thunder rumbled nearby. It was tough to see, and there are no artificial lights. A couple of rain drops began to fall. Shortly after play was suspended, a real storm arrived. But it didn’t last long.

When action resumed, Federer needed only 10 minutes to take control, getting his second break of the match by smacking a big cross-court forehand to a corner that Wawrinka couldn’t handle. It was 5-4, and Federer only needed to hold serve once to end it.

That turned out to be a tad complicated. He double-faulted for the only two times in the entire match, once on his second match point. He was forced to deflect a break point for Wawrinka, doing so with a serve-and-volley winner. And then, finally, on his third match point, Federer closed it out with a volley, then hugged Wawrinka at the net.

The quarterfinals on the other half of the men’s draw are Wednesday: No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 5 Alexander Zverev, and No. 4 Dominic Thiem vs. No. 10 Karen Khachanov.

In the women’s quarterfinals, 26th-seeded Johanna Konta eliminated 2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-4, grabbing 21 of the last 22 points she served.

Konta is the first British woman in the French Open’s final four since Jo Durie in 1983 – and, based on her previous track record, quite a surprise to make it this far in Paris.

Until this year, Konta had entered the clay-court major four times, losing in the first round each time. So she has gone from 0-4 before to 5-0 in 2019.

“I have never doubted my ability to play on the surface,” said Konta, also a semifinalist at the Australian Open and Wimbledon but yet to make it to a Slam final.

She improved to 3-0 against 2017 U.S. Open champion Stephens, all this season.

In the semifinals, Konta will play either No. 31 Petra Martic of Croatia or 19-year-old Marketa Vondrousova.

“I’ve always said that whenever I step out onto the court, I’m always going to have a chance. I’m always going to have a shot,” Konta said. “I don’t think any player on tour can go on court against me and feel like they’ve definitely got it.”

U.S. sweeps Uzbekistan, advances to group stage in Davis Cup

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The United States swept its way into the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals, getting the winning point in a 4-0 victory over Uzbekistan from the doubles team of Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek.

They beat Sergey Fomin and Sanjar Fayziev 6-2, 6-4, after Tommy Paul and Mackenzie McDonald had won singles matches in Tashkent.

Ram is No. 3 in the ATP Tour doubles rankings and partnered with Joe Salisbury to win the last two U.S. Open men’s doubles titles. But the Americans opted not to use Ram last year in the final round, when they dropped the doubles match in a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the quarterfinals.

Krajicek was making his Davis Cup debut, having reached No. 9 in the doubles rankings late last year.

“They had five great days of preparation, and as anticipated they came out really sharp and got the early break in the first set. And after that it was like two freight trains, there was no stopping them,” interim captain David Nainkin said.

Denis Kudla then beat Amir Milushev 6-4, 6-4.

The winners of the 12 qualifiers being held this weekend advance to the Davis Cup Finals group stage in September, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In other matches:

France 3, Hungary 2: On indoor hard courts in Tatabanya, Hungary, Ugo Humbert won it for the French with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Fabian Marozsan. Adrian Mannarino had forced the deciding match by beating Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Serbia 4, Norway 0: On indoor hard courts in Oslo, the visitors, playing without top-ranked Novak Djokovic, put away the match when Filip Krajinovic and Nikola Cacic edged Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Hamad Medjedovic then outlasted Durasovic 6-4, 6-7, 10-4.

Sweden 3, Bosnia 1: On indoor hard courts in Stockholm, Mikael Ymer sent the hosts through by beating Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

Lesia Tsurenko to face Zhu Lin in Thailand Open final

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HUA HIN, Thailand — Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine reached her first final in four years after the top-seeded Bianca Andreescu retired with a shoulder injury during their semifinal match at the Thailand Open.

Tsurenko, in search of her fifth WTA title, was leading the 2019 U.S. Open champion 7-5, 4-0 when the Canadian stopped playing.

The former world No. 23 fought from 3-5 down to take the first set and reeled off eight straight games before Andreescu retired with a right shoulder problem.

“Bianca is such an amazing player. She is capable of hitting all kinds of shots and gave so much trouble today,” said the 33-year-old Tsurenko, now ranked 136th. “But I was just fighting and I told myself positive things that I can do it. Unfortunately, she had to retire.”

The Ukrainian last lifted a WTA trophy in Acapulco in 2018 and hasn’t been to a final since Brisbane in 2019.

She will face Zhu Lin of China in the final.

“She had some good wins in the Australian Open,” Tsurenko said. “She is one of the dangerous players in this tournament. She is going to give a good fight.”

In the all-Chinese semifinal earlier, Zhu benefited from a barrage of unforced errors from Wang Xinyu and prevailed 6-2, 6-4 for her first WTA final.

The world No. 54 player, who reached the last 16 at the Australian Open in January, relied on her solid baseline game to force errors.

“It was very windy, so I tried to be patient and keep my first serves in,” said the 29-year-old Zhu, who will team up with Wang in the doubles final against Hao-Ching Chan and Fang-Hsien Wu of Taiwan.