Mar 20, 2015 11:49 PM

Serena Williams withdraws from Indian Wells with knee injury

The Associated Press

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Serena Williams withdrew before her semifinal at the BNP Paribas Open on Friday night with a right knee injury, 14 years after her sister Venus did the same thing and triggered an angry reaction from fans that had driven Serena to boycott the tournament.

The world's top-ranked player was set to play third-seeded Simona Halep in the second semifinal. She was expected to address the crowd on-court after the first semifinal between Jelena Jankovic and Sabine Lisicki.

Williams was back at Indian Wells for the first time since 2001, having ended her boycott that began after she won the title in 2001 as a 19-year-old and was heavily booed. She was supposed to play Venus in the semis, and Venus withdrew 20 minutes beforehand with a knee injury, angering the crowd.

Serena went on to win the title, but fans booed her throughout the match and she vowed never to return to the desert event. The sisters' father, Richard, later said he heard racial taunts and there was speculation at the time that he decided in advance which sister would win their matches against each other.

Williams announced the news on her Instagram account while the first semifinal was in the third set, shortly after tournament officials confirmed it.

"4 months ago I began a journey to play Indian Wells and it was amazing. I never dreamed I could do it," she wrote. "But I would not have been able to do this without my fans. Though it ended early due to injury this year, I have to say I cannot wait to try again next year. Thanks everyone. I love you so much!"

Halep advanced to Sunday's final via walkover.

Roger Federer defeated Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-0 and Milos Raonic outlasted Rafael Nadal 4-6, 7-6 (10), 7-5 in a nearly three-hour marathon to set up a semifinal showdown.

Federer improved to 15-1 this year, with his only loss coming against Andreas Seppi in the third round of the Australian Open. Federer avenged that defeat in the same round at Indian Wells. He earned his first straight-set win over Berdych since 2011 in Paris and just his second 6-0 set ever in 19 career matches against the Czech.

"I'm not the kind of guy who takes great joy out of bageling opponents, to be honest," said Federer, seeking a record fifth title in the desert.

He needed just 68 minutes to advance to the semis against the sixth-seeded Raonic.

"It was one of his very tough performances," Berdych said. "He was doing pretty much everything perfect."

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic takes on fourth-seeded Andy Murray in the other men's semifinal on Saturday.

Raonic beat three-time Indian Wells champion Nadal for the first time in six career meetings, firing 18 aces and hitting 48 winners to 25 winners for Nadal, who had 22 unforced errors.

"It's really great what I was able to do today and I'm very happy with it, but I don't let myself get caught up because this isn't where it ends," Raonic said. "There is a lot more that I want to achieve this week."

They dueled in the second-set tiebreaker, when Nadal held three match points but he committed errors on two of them and Raonic smashed a winner on the other.

"At the moments when I was playing those match points it didn't really feel like match points," Raonic said. "It was just like another point that I was trying to get through."

Raonic had plenty of chances in the tiebreaker, too, finally converting on his fifth set point when Nadal netted a shot.

Neither gave an inch in the third, staying on serve until the 11th game.

That's when Raonic earned the only break of the set, hitting a shot on the baseline that Nadal chased down but sent a backhand long. Raonic dropped just one point on his serve in the final game, winning on another backhand error by Nadal, who lost to a Canadian player for the first time in nine career matches.

Despite losing, Nadal said he gained some much-needed confidence that his attitude has improved from where it was eight months ago.

"It's true that I didn't compete at that level of intensity mentally in tennis for a long time," he said. "I was able to be there very focused, playing with positive energy for three hours, so that's great news for me, because that's the way I competed during all of my career."

Federer had 21 winners, equaling the number of unforced errors by Berdych. Federer won 13 of 14 points at the net, never faced a break point on his serve, and broke Berdych four times in the match, including three times in the second set.

"I was really able to utilize the court much more, play more angles, play with variation, spin and slice. I did that very well," Federer said. "Because I was serving well and moving well, so maybe there is not going to be that many chances for him on the return."

Federer served two love games in the first set, when he lost just five points on his serve.


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