Wimbledon, Jul 11 (AP/UNB) — Novak Djokovic only has to look back a few months to remind himself that he shouldn't underestimate his next opponent at Wimbledon.
The top-ranked Serb will be facing Roberto Bautista Agut, a player who beat him in both of their meetings in 2019 — on hard courts in Doha and Miami.
So while the match is pitting a four-time Wimbledon champion with 15 major titles against a player in his first Grand Slam semifinal, recent history suggests that things might not be quite so one-sided.
"He has won twice against me so far this year. That's certainly going to give him confidence coming into the match," Djokovic said.
Ahead of the quarterfinals, Bautista Agut was — somewhat surprisingly — the only player who hadn't dropped a set this tournament. That streak ended against Guido Pella, but the 23rd-seeded Spaniard still won 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Djokovic had an easier time against David Goffin after erasing an early break, winning 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
Djokovic is known for his ability to extend rallies and keep the ball in play with his defensive ability, and Bautista Agut said that's a style of play that suits him well.
"He is very solid from baseline. He likes to play a lot of rallies," Bautista Agut said. "Well, I like to play against (an) opponent like this, to play a match with a lot of rallies. Against Novak, that's what we do."
On the grass at Wimbledon, though, there might not be so many of those rallies. But Djokovic thinks Bautista Agut could be even more dangerous on the quicker surface.
"The ball bounces lower on the grass, which is I think more suitable to his style of the game. He doesn't like when the ball bounces higher to his backhand," Djokovic said. "Obviously playing on grass, it's different. Semifinals of Grand Slam, (I'm) going to try to use my experience in being in these kind of matches."
With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal set to square off in the other semifinal, Bautista Agut is the odd man out in a final four that includes the sport's ever present Big Three. In fact, it seems not even he had expected to make it this far.
The Spaniard had scheduled his bachelor party for this week instead.
"I had planned to be in Ibiza right now. We had everything organized already. My friends, six of them, are all there," Bautista Agut said. "Well, it feels better to be here in London."
ANDY AND SERENA
Playing mixed doubles at Wimbledon, Serena Williams and Andy Murray seemed to be having fun out there on court.
They definitely had time for some laughs in their post-match news conferences — even after losing in the third round.
Williams said she enjoyed appearing in front of the media alongside the two-time men's champion at the All England Club because much of the focus was on Murray and his chances of returning to singles.
"Andy gets asked every question about his body and the U.S. Open. Literally every question in a different way, but it's the same question," Williams said after losing to top-seeded Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. "It's great for me because I get to sit here and just look."
Then, as if she were one of the reporters, Williams started a mini-exchange with her doubles partner.
"How is your body?" she asked.
"Feels good, thanks," came the reply.
"Are you going to be able to play New York?" Williams asked, trying to suppress her laughter.
"I don't know," Murray answered, mimicking previous replies he'd given this week. "I need to train, get stronger. We'll see. I'm not sure."
Murray missed last year's Wimbledon tournament with a hip injury. Since hip replacement surgery this year, he has been playing only doubles.
On Tuesday, after reaching the third round in mixed doubles, Murray was asked repeatedly if he would be able to get back to singles, possibly in time for the U.S. Open. He wasn't able to give a definitive answer, but while he was trying to satisfy the questioners, Williams looked on laughing to herself.
After missing the French Open with an injury, a run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals has given Sam Querrey high hopes for the rest of the season.
Querrey pushed Rafael Nadal hard in the opening set on Wednesday before losing 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to the third-seeded Spaniard, and said his recent performances on grass has given him a "boost" heading into the American hard-court season. Querrey also reached the final at the Eastbourne grass-court warmup.
"To have three months off, come back, make a final and a quarterfinal, I feel confident," Querrey said. "Hopefully this will carry over to the summer."
Querrey has beaten both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at Wimbledon in the past and made the semifinals in 2017. But he has fallen to 65th in the rankings, having been as high as No. 11 last year. If he keeps playing like he has been at the All England Club, though, he could soon be knocking on the door to the top 10 again.
"This is a good stepping stone for that," he said. "Hopefully I can win a handful of matches (in the U.S.) and keep my ranking going in the right direction."
Wimbledon, Jul 11 (AP/UNB) — A quick look at Wimbledon:
LOOKAHEAD TO THURSDAY
Still looking for that 24th Grand Slam title, Serena Williams will first have to get through the semifinals at Wimbledon. The seven-time champion will be second on Centre Court against Barbora Strycova. Former No. 1 Simona Halep will face Elina Svitolina in the earlier match at the All England Club. Williams needs one more major title to equal the record set by Margaret Court. With 23, she already holds the professional-era record for Grand Slam singles titles, one more than Steffi Graf. Strycova and Svitolina will both be playing in the first major semifinal, while Halep will be trying to reach her fifth Grand Slam final.
Partly cloudy. High of 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius).
Mostly cloudy. High of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius).
WEDNESDAY'S MEN'S QUARTERFINALS
No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat No. 21 David Goffin 6-4, 6-0, 6-2; No. 2 Roger Federer beat No. 8 Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4; No. 3 Rafael Nadal beat Sam Querrey 7-5, 6-2, 6-2; No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut beat No. 26 Guido Pella 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
STAT OF THE DAY
100 - Number of match wins for Roger Federer at Wimbledon, making him the first man to reach triple digits at a single Grand Slam tournament.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I don't think we would have thought that Novak, me and Rafa, all of us, was going to be so solid, so dominant for so many years." - Roger Federer on the continued success of the Big Three well into their 30s.
Birmingham, Jul 11 (AP/UNB) — England captain Eoin Morgan is hoping to take advantage of the Edgbaston effect in the Cricket World Cup semifinal against Australia on Thursday.
Ahead of England's first semifinal appearance since 1992, Morgan and his teammates trained on the Birmingham pitch Wednesday, finding time to kick a football around a ground that often has raucous soccer-style atmosphere on match days.
"I think that is part and parcel of being the hosts, a little bit of home advantage," Morgan said. "I think it plays a part here at Edgbaston. There is a reason we do have a lot of success here. The wicket tends to suit us, but also the support as well."
Australia's players can expect endless ribbing from a partisan crowd, some of it likely turning outright hostile for opener David Warner and former captain Steve Smith after their bans for a ball-tampering controversy last year.
More importantly for Morgan's men, Edgbaston appears to have an equalizing effect for England.
England has won 10 of the last 12 ODI games against Australia, but the Australians have won four straight where it really matters — in World Cup play, where England last beat Australia in 1992.
But throw in "The E Factor" and the stats offer England fans some comfort ahead of the visit of the five-time champion.
England has won its last 10 matches against opponents in all formats at Edgbaston, including four ODIs; England has beaten Australia in three straight ODI games at Edgbaston; Australia has failed to win in nine matches at Edgbaston across all formats, and its last win of any kind here was a test match in 2001.
Despite all this, Australia captain Aaron Finch takes a generous view of Edgbaston.
"It's a great crowd to play in front of, regardless whether you are on the receiving end of some good banter," Finch said Wednesday at the ground. "I think although they can be quite parochial at times, it is always good fun. They sing some good tunes out there."
Wimbledon, July 10 (AP/UNB) — All these years later, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet again at Wimbledon for the 40th installment of their terrific rivalry — and first at the All England Club since their memorable 2008 final.
"Such a long time," Nadal said.
They moved on to the semifinal showdown everyone's been thinking about since the tournament draw by each overcoming a tough opening set Wednesday.
A 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori gave the No. 2-seeded Federer his 100th match win at the All England Club, the first man to reach that total at any Grand Slam tournament. Not long after that ended on Centre Court, the No. 3-seeded Nadal finished off Sam Querrey 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 Court.
Friday's other semifinal will draw far less attention: No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, against No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut, never before this far at a major.
Looking ahead to what comes next for himself, Federer said: "Obviously, I know people always hype it up."
Well, why shouldn't they? These are, after all, two of the greatest players in tennis' long history, winners of more Grand Slam titles than any other men. Of Federer's 20, a record eight came at Wimbledon. Of Nadal's 18, 12 came at the French Open, where he routed Federer in the semifinals last month.
That gave Nadal a 24-15 career edge head-to-head, including 10-3 at the Slams.
But that one was on the red clay Nadal rules. This one is on Federer's territory: grass.
This is their fourth matchup at Wimbledon — and first that won't come in the final. Federer beat Nadal for the 2006 and 2007 titles, but Nadal won the championship 11 years ago in a 9-7 fifth set as dusk descended.
"Well, we have a lot of information on Rafa, and so does he about us," Federer said. "So you can either dive into tactics and all that stuff like mad for two days — or you're just going to say: 'You know what? It's grass-court tennis and I'm going to come out there and play attacking tennis.' And if he can defend that, that's too good. And if he can't, well, then, that's good for me."
It is the 13th time that the Big Three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are in the semifinals at a major tournament together. On 11 of the previous occasions, one of them claimed the title.
There were some shaky moments for each Wednesday.
"The beginning," Federer said, "was brutal."
The eighth-seeded Nishikori jumped out to an early edge by breaking in the very first game, enough to give him that set.
But Federer quickly turned things around in the second, conjuring up whatever he wanted, exactly when he wanted it.
His approach shots were beyond reproach. His volleys vibrant. His returns were timed so well, and struck so violently, that one knocked the net-rushing Nishikori's racket plum out of his hands.
And Federer's serve? Sure, he faced break points, but he never allowed 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori to convert another.
"Overall, I'm just very happy how I'm hitting the ball," Federer said. "Feel good off the baseline, too, which is clearly going to be important, maybe, for the next match."
Nadal, of course, is still a ball-retrieving, shot-whipping machine at the back of the court.
He did have some trouble closing out the first set against Querrey, an American ranked 65th who was trying to reach his second Wimbledon semifinal.
Nadal wasted three set points at 5-3, then another before getting broken when serving for it at 5-4. Again serving for that set at 6-5, he erased a trio of break points for Querrey before holding — and finally was on his way.
"I definitely think he's a guy that can win it again," Querrey said about two-time Wimbledon champ Nadal.
Djokovic, eyeing a fifth trophy at the All England Club and 16th overall at Slams, used a 10-game run to transform what was shaping up as an even, entertaining quarterfinal into a 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 romp against 21st-seeded David Goffin.
"I felt," Djokovic said, "like I managed to dismantle his game."
Down an early break, the defending champion grabbed control midway through the opening set and never let go.
"He was everywhere," Goffin said.
Djokovic did to Goffin exactly what he does to so many men on so many surfaces and at so many tournaments: He takes their best shot, deals with it and then wears them down.
"I sincerely hope," Djokovic said, "that my opponent feels like he's got to work twice as (hard as) against any other opponent to win a point."
Bautista Agut, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, is supposed to be on the island of Ibiza right now, having a bachelor party with a half-dozen pals ahead of his November wedding. Instead, he will play on after beating No. 26 Guido Pella of Argentina 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
"Well," the 31-year-old Bautista Agut said, "it feels better to be here in London."
Federer and Nadal are surely pleased to still be around, too.
Everyone else will be thrilled to see them trade strokes on Centre Court once more.
"I know they haven't played here in a long time. It seems a little more exciting, more special, they are playing at Wimbledon, maybe, rather than outside of a Grand Slam," Querrey said. "I'll be watching on Friday."
Cairo, July 10 (AP/UNB) — Senegal is the first team through to the semifinals and is a step closer to its first title at the African Cup of Nations after beating Benin 1-0 on Wednesday.
Sadio Mane had two goals ruled out for offside in a frantic second half as the VAR video review system was used for the first time at the African Cup.
But in between the disallowed goals, Idrissa Gueye scored in the 70th minute for the winner. Gueye made a surging run from deep and was played in by a deft touch from Mane. Gueye swept his shot past Benin goalkeeper Owolabi Kassifa to seal it.
Senegal suddenly turned on the pressure in the second half at Cairo's 30 June Stadium.
Mane's header from a free kick shortly after halftime was ruled offside after Algerian referee Mustapha Ghorbal briefly consulted VAR through his headset.
The Liverpool forward also broke clear and scored straight after Gueye's goal but was adjudged offside again after another review by Ghorbal through his headset.
Both decisions were correct, although the second disallowed goal was very tight. The referee didn't need to go to the sidelines to check the TV screen on either occasion.
Mane was the catalyst for Senegal's strong second-half play.
As well as his two disallowed efforts, he missed out when 1-on-1 with Kassifa, who made the save. Senegal had a series of chances in a few crazy minutes after the goal.
Benin then had defender Olivier Verdon sent off late in the match for a foul on Gueye on the edge of the penalty area when Gueye was again clear through.
Senegal will play Madagascar or Tunisia in the semifinals as it aims to finally lift the African Cup at its 16th tournament. Senegal is now the favorite for the title after host Egypt was surprisingly eliminated by South Africa in the round of 16.
South Africa plays Nigeria in the second quarterfinal later Wednesday at Cairo International Stadium.