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Jessica Pegula reaches Miami Open semifinals after Paula Badosa retires in first set

Forget three-setters. These days, Jessica Pegula doesn’t even need second sets.

The No. 16 seed has made the semifinals at the Miami Open, benefiting from a second consecutive abrupt ending. She won her quarterfinal versus fifth-seeded Paula Badosa on Wednesday, after the Spaniard retired five games into the first set.

Pegula has played four matches so far in this tournament, needing only 5½ sets to record those victories. She had a first-round bye, won her next two matches in consecutive sets and her fourth-round match ended when unseeded Anhelina Kalinina retired after Pegula won the first set 6-0.

Then came Wednesday, when Badosa bowed out down 4-1. “Of course, it’s not nice to win that way,” Pegula said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever even hit with her at all and I was really looking forward to playing because she’s been having an amazing year.”

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Badosa — who was No. 71 in the world rankings at this time last year — will climb to a career-best No. 3 when the computer numbers are updated on Monday. She would have gone to No. 2 had she beaten Pegula.

Badosa stated she woke up Monday not feeling well and wasn’t even sure she could play that day in a fourth-rounder versus Linda Fruhvirtova.

Badosa battled through, winning that match 6-2, 6-3, but was clearly not herself on Wednesday.

“She’s an incredible competitor,” Pegula said. “I think we all saw that last round where she clearly wasn’t feeling well and she was able to tough it out. I admire that a lot and hopefully next time we can both play when we’re healthy and feeling good and have a great match.”

Pegula will next face No. 2 Iga Swiatek — who becomes No. 1 in the world rankings on Monday — in Thursday night’s semifinals. Swiatek ousted No. 28 Petra Kvitova 6-3, 6-3 in the last women’s quarterfinal.

The other women’s semifinal is Thursday afternoon, when No. 22 Belinda Bencic will face unseeded Naomi Osaka.

Pegula has spent a total of 3 hours, 22 minutes on court in her four matches. That’s only four minutes more than it took for the Buffalo Bills to beat the Miami Dolphins 35-0 at Hard Rock Stadium last September, a game Pegula knows a little something about — since her parents own the Bills.

The Dolphins’ sprawling facility — which will also play host to a Formula One race later this spring — is the home of the Miami Open and the stadium court is inside Hard Rock Stadium. Other courts are built where parking lots around the stadium used to be, but the court where Pegula played Wednesday is a temporary structure constructed atop where the Dolphins’ field usually is.

“I’ve been here before, on this field, in a different scenario,” Pegula said. “But I’m sure we have some Bills fans here, so it’s nice to get another victory in this stadium.”

The quick end of the Pegula-Badosa match meant the stadium court sat empty for nearly two hours, until No. 9 Jannik Sinner — a finalist in Miami last year — faced unseeded Francisco Cerundolo in a men’s quarterfinal.

And after 22 minutes, that match was over — also in just five games. Cerundolo advanced when Sinner, down 4-1, retired with a blister on his right foot. “I couldn’t move. … I tried, but it didn’t work,” Sinner said.

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Sloane Stephens survives to oust Heather Watson in 3 sets at Indian Wells

Sloane Stephens outlasted Heather Watson 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-1 on Wednesday in her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open.

Stephens gained seven of 18 break points. She raced to a 5-0 lead in the third set before Watson held, then served out the win. Watson had seven aces and seven double faults on the hard courts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Stephens advanced to a second-round match versus fellow American Jessica Pegula. American Shelby Rogers, who upset top-ranked Ash Barty in the third round of the U.S. Open, was set to play Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in a night match.

Americans Madison Brengle, Madison Keys and qualifier Alycia Parks also played later.

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Men’s main draw play starts Thursday.

Three-time major champion Andy Murray and four-time major champion Kim Clijsters received wild cards into the event. U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and runner-up Leylah Fernandez are entered.

Electronic Hawkeye cameras, previously in use at the tournament, will handle line calls for every match. Chair umpires and ball kids will be on hand.

The combined ATP and WTA tournament is missing some of the sport’s biggest names, including men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Barty. Also out on men’s side are Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

The women’s draw is missing Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams. Second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka stated she tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the desert and is in isolation.

The tournament was moved from its usual March date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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