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Djokovic, Isner reach BNP Paribas Open semis

INDIAN WELLS, California--For the first time in four years, Novak Djokovic is without a big title to start the year. Or any title.

The Serb is used to arriving at the BNP Paribas Open with the Australian Open in his back pocket, having won the season's first Grand Slam three straight years. He lost in the quarterfinals in Melbourne in January, and then lost in the semifinals at Dubai last month.

“That is a different feel from previous years,” he said.

So Djokovic is especially eager to hoist the trophy at Indian Wells, where he's a two-time champion. He took a step toward that goal with a 6-1, 6-3 quarterfinal victory against Frenchman Julien Benneteau in just over an hour on Friday.

“I'm on the right path and playing semifinals, which is always of course a challenge and a good result,” he said, “but I want to try to go as far as I can.”

On the women's side, Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta handed top seed Li Na just her second loss of the year, winning their semifinal 7-6 (5), 6-3.

The women combined for eight straight service breaks in the first set, which Li lost with her eighth double-fault. Pennetta then broke the No. 2-ranked Li two more times in the second set and closed out the win with a backhand down the line.

Li, the reigning Australian Open champion, fell to 17-2 on the year. She was the top seed for the first time at one of the top-level WTA events.

“It was pretty high-level match,” said the Chinese star, who made more than 50 unforced errors. “I lose the match, a little bit sad, but I still can see a lot positive. At least, I like the way I hit the ball.”

Pennetta will play No. 2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in Sunday's final. Radwanska beat sixth-seeded Simona Halep of Romania 6-3, 6-4 to reach her first final in eight appearances at the tournament.

“I've been here so many times and finally I did it,” Radwanska said.

Halep had Radwanska on the run most of the match, but the Polish player was up to the challenge, continually chasing down balls and making well-placed returns.

“What I was trying to do was playing aggressive from the beginning of the match and just trying to go for my shots,” Radwanska said. “Pretty much all the games, doesn't matter who was serving, it was really tight games. I was better just a few points each set.”

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 Lundqvist ties Rangers record with 301st win 
John Isner, of the United States, serves to Ernests Gulbis, of Latvia, during the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament, in Indian Wells, California on Friday, March 14.

(AP)

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