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Federer off to winning start in bid for 10th Halle title

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HALLE, Germany — Roger Federer began his bid for a record-extending 10th Halle Open title with a 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Australia’s John Millman on Tuesday, with defending champion Borna Coric also advancing.

Federer, who lost to Coric in last year’s final, hit nine aces and saved the only break point he faced to beat Millman in 1 hour, 17 minutes.

Federer next faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who defeated French compatriot Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5 at the grass-court tournament.

Federer already has the best grass-court record in the Open era with 18 titles, and the 37-year-old can set a personal record with his 10th at a single event in Halle.

Federer and Tsonga played only once before on grass, with the French player coming from two sets down to win at Wimbledon in 2011.

The fourth-seeded Coric defeated Spain’s Jaume Munar 7-6 (2), 6-3 and will next face Portuguese qualifier Joao Sousa in the second round.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who won the Stuttgart Open on Sunday, defeated Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 6-4 for a second-round meeting with compatriot Andreas Seppi.

Seppi beat Mats Moraing 6-4 (7), 6-4.

Other winners Tuesday included Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, Richard Gasquet, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Jan-Lennard Struff.

Federer ‘surprised’ by schedule of French Open women’s semis

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PARIS (AP) Roger Federer was among those puzzled by the decisions to relegate the French Open women’s semifinals to lesser courts and a morning start Friday, moves the WTA head called “unfair and inappropriate.”

The conversation about gender inequality was supposed to be taking place across the street from Roland Garros – at nearby Parc des Princes stadium, where soccer’s Women’s World Cup was beginning Friday night.

But the issue also arose at the Grand Slam tennis tournament, where Ash Barty and Marketa Vondrousova won semifinals that started at 11 a.m. in front of hundreds of empty seats in secondary arenas and before the men’s matches – including Federer’s loss to Rafael Nadal – were held in the afternoon in the main stadium.

“You make it all the way to the semis, and you get put on the third-biggest court at 11. It’s a tough one,” Federer said. “When I saw the schedule, also, I was a little bit, like, surprised.”

Normally, all French Open singles semifinals are held in Court Philippe Chatrier, the biggest stadium with nearly 15,000 seats, with the women on Thursday and men on Friday. But after a full day of play was washed out by rain Wednesday, tournament officials were forced to shuffle the schedule.

With quarterfinal play moved to Thursday, the women’s semifinals were shifted to Friday, sharing the day with the men’s semis.

With more rain forecast for Friday, the decision was made to put the two women’s semifinals on simultaneously at the outer stadiums.

“What is tiring and what is really unfortunate in this more than anything is that female athletes have to sit in different positions and have to justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities,” British player Johanna Konta said after losing to Vondrousova inside the newly constructed Court Simonne Mathieu on the far edge of the grounds.

The Mathieu stadium, which has a capacity of more than 5,000, was mostly empty.

“The way it looks probably speaks for itself more than anything,” Konta said.

WTA CEO Steve Simon said the women’s the tour was “extremely disappointed” by the scheduling.

Amelie Mauresmo, the retired French player turned coach, went one step further and labeled it a “disgrace.”

Problems of this sort could be avoided next year when a retractable roof is scheduled to be functioning over Chatrier.

In the meantime, the 19-year-old Vondrousova will be playing on Chatrier for the first time in Saturday’s final. In fact, she’s been inside the stadium only once – to watch fellow Czech player Lucie Safarova play the 2015 final – when Vondrousova was in attendance as a junior player.

“I don’t mind,” she said. “But I don’t think it should be like that.”

Added Barty: “I will play no matter what court it is. … It’s an opportunity to be in a Grand Slam semifinal. I won’t complain at all.”

AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

 

WATCH LIVE: French Open semifinals, Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer

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The French Open semifinal between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is 15 years after their first match against each other. So don’t miss your chance to watch it live.

Click here to watch on NBCSports.com or on the NBC Sports app. You also can watch on NBCSN.

They’ve faced off 38 times in all, and¬†Friday’s showdown will be the sixth installment of Roger vs. Rafa at Roland Garros, always in a semifinal or final, but first there since 2011. Not coincidentally, that was also the last time the top four seeded men were the last four in the draw in Paris. After No. 2 Nadal and No. 3 Federer finish (weather permitting, of course; the forecast called for rain), they’ll be followed in Court Philippe Chatrier by No. 1 Djokovic against No. 4 Dominic Thiem.

Nadal is 91-2 at Roland Garros for his career, 5-0 against Federer. Nadal leads their overall head-to-head 23-15, including 13-2 on clay and 9-3 at majors. Federer has won the last five matches, all on hard courts.