Tennis

Naomi Osaka battles into semis in Brisbane

AP

Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys won quarterfinal matches Friday at the Brisbane International.

Osaka beat Kiki Bertens 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, Kvitova defeated qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2 and Keys beat fellow American Danielle Collins 6-4, 6-1. Brady was coming off wins over Maria Sharapova in the first round and top-ranked Ash Barty in the second.

Keys, a 2017 U.S. Open finalist, reached the semifinals in Brisbane for the first time in four attempts.

“Happy to get a lot of matches in and feel like a lot of what I was working on during off-season is kind of immediately clicking,” Keys said. “There’s still some things that I want to do a little bit better, but it’s definitely a great starting point for the year.”

In a later quarterfinal, Brisbane defending champion Karolina Pliskova was to play Alison Riske.

Serbia advances at ATP Cup

Novak Djokovic had an almost full house on his side at Ken Rosewell Arena in Sydney, and felt like he needed to be a responsible host for his guests.

There was a delay late in the third set of his ATP Cup quarterfinal match against Denis Shapovalov on Friday when a spectator needed medical attention from paramedics and Djokovic, despite being down 0-30 while serving for the match, took a bottle of water over toward the stadium seating and asked the crowd to pass it along.

He got back level at 30-30 in that game before Shapovalov broke to level the set at 5-5. The Canadian saved a breakpoint in the next game but after the match went to a tiebreaker following 2½ hours, Djokovic seized control by winning the first five points and then finished off a comeback 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) .

Dusan Lajovic had earlier beaten Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-2 and so Djokovic’s win sealed the quarterfinal ahead of the doubles match, giving Serbia a spot in the semifinals against Russia. Serbia won the doubles to complete a 3-0 sweep.

“That was so close, it could have gone in a different way easily. (Shapovalov) was playing terrific tennis,” Djokovic said. “It felt, not a little bit, fully like I’m playing at home.”

Djokovic, who has won a record seven Australian Open men’s singles titles, was playing in Sydney for the first time in a decade after going 3-0 in singles in the ATP Cup group stage in Brisbane.

“I’m mean, Brisbane we had amazing support — but this has taken it to a different level,” Djokovic said. “All the Serbian people came out today. They were engaged sometimes a little bit too much, and Denis was rightfully annoyed at times, you know, with the sounds, but it was a Davis Cup-like atmosphere, really. I mean, ATP Cup brings this kind of opportunity for players to experience something they don’t experience in 90 percent of the tournaments.”

The temperature topped 33 C during the match, and it was hazy outside with a lack of breeze, making the conditions inside the arena stifling. Djokovic endured it all to extend his record to 5-0 against Shapovalov.

The constant chants and even a burst of trumpet from the flag-waving Serbian fans certainly helped him, he said. The 16-time major winner reveled in the team environment, with his teammates and coaches on the side of the court, and the echo of “Nole, Nole, Nole” going around the stadium.

Australia awaits in the semifinals for the winner of Friday’s later match between Spain and Belgium.