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Bencic, Thiem reach Indian Wells semis

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Resurgent Swiss Belinda Bencic toppled another top-10 player Thursday, downing fifth-ranked Karolina Pliskova to set up an Indian Wells WTA final against Angelique Kerber.

Bencic, a former world number seven whose ranking slumped as injuries stalled her career, showed no sign of a let-down after her fourth-round victory over world number one and defending champion Naomi Osaka, out-lasted Czech Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

She stretched her WTA match winning streak to 12 — six of those wins coming against top-10 players with No. 8 Kerber coming up.

Belinda Bencic of Switzerland (MATTHEW STOCKMAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Belinda Bencic of Switzerland (MATTHEW STOCKMAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Germany’s Kerber defeated seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.

“Of course I’m very confident,” said Bencic, who rose to 23 in the world with her first WTA title in four years at Dubai last month and will crack the top 10 by virtue of reaching the semis here.

“I’m not putting pressure on myself even now,” the 22-year-old said. “I’m just playing. The less I think on the court the better it is.

“When you’re confident you can just trust your instincts and you don’t have to think about it at all. I’m definitely playing how I feel it, and it’s going so well I’m not planning on changing that.”

Pliskova launched her season with a 12th career title in Brisbane, and shocked Serena Williams to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.

After dropping the first set she came back strong in the second, winning the first four games as she forced a decisive third set, although not before Bencic saved four set points.

Close games marked the start of the third, with Pliskova fighting off four break points in a game that went to eight deuces to hold for 2-2.

But Bencic held her next two service games with authority and broke for a 5-3 lead, finally sealing the match with a serve that was too much for Pliskova.

World number eight Dominic Thiem advanced to the ATP Indian Wells Masters semi-finals Thursday when scheduled quarter-final opponent Gael Monfils withdrew with injury.

France’s Monfils pulled out with a left Achilles tendon injury shortly before the match was to start, taking the court to tell the crowd he didn’t feel he could play at 100 percent.

Austria’s Thiem advanced by walkover to face Canadian Milos Raonic, who defeated Serbian lucky loser Miomir Kecmanovic 6-3, 6-4. (Agence France-Presse)

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