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Rybakina, Azarenka advance to the Brisbane International semifinals

Elena Rybakina Elena Rybakina - The Canadian Press

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Rafael Nadal missed three match points and needed a medical time-out Friday before losing to Jordan Thompson in the quarterfinals of his tournament comeback following a year-long injury layoff.

The 22-time major winner failed to convert a match point in the 10th game of the second set and two more in the tiebreaker before No. 55-ranked Thompson rallied to win 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-3 at the Brisbane International.

With the Australian Open starting Jan. 14, Nadal's rehabilitation from the hip injury and surgery that sidelined him for most of 2023 will be tested.

The 37-year-old Spaniard opened the tournament with two straight-set wins but was pushed for 3 hours and 25 minutes in what was his third match in four nights.

His energy level visibly waned at the start of the third set. And after Thompson broke in the fourth game and then held for a 4-1 lead, Nadal was assessed by the trainer on the courtside chair, apparently for his upper left leg.

He left the court for a medical timeout before returning and playing another 20 minutes.

Thompson moved into a semifinal against second-seeded Grigor Dimitrov.

Top-seeded Holger Rune had a 6-2, 7-6 (6) win over James Duckworth to set up a semifinal against Roman Safiullin, who beat Matteo Arnaldi 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka will be on opposite sides of the net in the women's semifinals almost five years after teaming up on the same court in a Fed Cup semifinal against Australia.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka ensured the matchup when she extended her winning streak Down Under to 14 with a 6-1, 6-4 win over fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina on Friday night.

She won a title in Adelaide last year before her Grand Slam breakthrough at Melbourne Park, the start of a 2023 season that also included a run to the U.S. Open final and the semifinals at the French Open and Wimbledon.

Sabalenka was utterly dominant in the first set of her night match in front of a Pat Rafter Arena crowd that included actor Jude Law, pinning Kasatkina on the baseline with her deep, powerful ground strokes.

She peeled off 32 winners and dropped just one service game in 1 1/2 hours.

Sabalenka and Azarenka have both won the Australian Open title and both have been ranked No. 1. They were both born in Minsk, Belarus, albeit about nine years apart, but have played only four times previously at the elite level. Sabalenka leads their head-to-head encounters 3-1.

“She’s an amazing player. I was growing watching her,” Sabalenka said of her 34-year-old compatriot. “It’s going to be great battle. I’m really looking forward for that.”

Azarenka, a two-time champion at both the Australian Open (2012 and ‘13) and in Brisbane (2009 and ’16) , had a tougher run in the opening match of the day, needing 2 1/2 hours to advance 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 over a hot-and-bothered former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Second-seeded Elena Rybakina only needed to play seven games in her quarterfinal match.

Rybakina, who won Wimbledon in 2022 and was runner-up at the Australian Open last year, won the first set 6-1 before 11th-seeded Anastasia Potapova retired from their match with an abdominal injury. '

She’ll next play Linda Noskova, who beat 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva 7-5, 6-3.


AP tennis: