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Djokovic Shatters Federer Dream To Win Third Wimbledon

By Dave James, AFP

London — Defending champion Novak Djokovic won a third Wimbledon title and a ninth Grand Slam crown on Sunday, ruthlessly shattering Roger Federer’s bid for a record eighth All England Club triumph.

World number one Djokovic won 7-6 (7/1), 6-7 (10/12), 6-4, 6-3 to add this year’s Wimbledon title to the Australian Open he captured in January. It was a cathartic moment for Djokovic just a month after his heartbreaking French Open final defeat against Stan Wawrinka — a loss that denied him the only major title he has yet to win.

“It’s a big challenge playing against Roger. A lot of players of my generation have looked up to him and followed his lead,” said Djokovic who now has the same number of Wimbledon titles as coach Boris Becker who won his first 30 years ago.

“I knew coming on the court that Roger is going to play like he always plays, at his best when it matters the most. He makes you work hard every single point.”

For 33-year-old Federer, it was a bitterly disappointing end to his bid to become the oldest Wimbledon champion of the Open Era. The 17-time major winner has now gone three years since his last Grand Slam triumph, at Wimbledon in 2012.

“Novak played not only good today but the whole two weeks, the whole year, last year and the year before that,” said Federer.

“I had my chances in the first set. I got lucky to win the second, had chances in the third.

“But he was better on the bigger points. He was rock solid, I didn’t play badly myself. That’s how it goes.”

Federer had his opportunities but he could only convert one of seven break points in the match and as he pressed, he committed 35 unforced errors to Djokovic’s 16.

In a rollercoaster rematch of last year’s final, Federer was 4-2 up in the first set and had two set points. He then had to save seven set points in the second set before bravely leveling the contest.

However, Djokovic, five years Federer’s junior, stepped on the gas and raced away to the title. Sunday’s final was the pair’s 40th career meeting and 12th in the Grand Slams. Djokovic was playing in his 17th major final compared to Federer’s 26th.

Seven Set Points

But despite Federer’s majestic triumph over Andy Murray in the semi-finals, which suggested he was not ready for the retirement home just yet, Sunday’s reality check looks certain to leave the Swiss thwarted in his quest to add to his record 17 Grand Slam title collection.

In front of a Royal Box crammed with tennis and Hollywood A-listers, including Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, Benedict Cumberbatch, Hugh Grant, and Bradley Cooper, Federer was in the early ascendancy.

He broke for a 4-2 lead but Djokovic hit straight back condemning the Swiss to just his second lost service game in 94 served up at the tournament. Federer then saw two set points disappear in the 12th game, both saved courtesy of back-to-back 120-mph serves.

Djokovic capitalized on his escape, racing through the tiebreaker with six consecutive points to claim the opener when Federer served up a double fault. The Serb committed just three unforced errors in the first set, a key statistic in what would always be a tight encounter. By contrast, Federer hit 11, the same as he suffered throughout his semi-final win over Murray.

Federer wasted two break points in the fifth and 11th games of the second set having saved a first set point in the 10th. That paved the way for a titanic tiebreak where the 33-year-old saved six more set points before leveling the final on his second set point.

At 12/10, it was the longest tiebreak in a Wimbledon final since 2000 when Pat Rafter faced Pete Sampras with the set taking 65 gripping minutes to complete. To his credit, Djokovic swiftly recovered, breaking for a 2-1 lead in the third set which became 3-2 when rain forced them off for 20 minutes.

The world No. 1 confidently wrapped up the set 6-4 with just two unforced errors even if the brief stoppage had dampened the fireworks of the second set. Djokovic was strangling the life out of Federer’s game and another break gave him a 3-2 lead in the fourth set.

The title was his on the stroke of the third hour with a sweeping forehand into an open court. As has become the Serb’s tradition, he celebrated by pulling out a piece of Centre Court grass and eating it.

Photo: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Switzerland’s Roger Federer during their men’s singles final match at Wimbledon on July 12, 2015. AFP/Adrian Dennis

Cilic Routs Nishikori To Win U.S. Open

New York (AFP) — Marin Cilic clinched his first Grand Slam title, shattering Kei Nishikori’s bid to become the first Asian man to win a major with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory in the U.S. Open final.

Cilic, the 14th-seeded 25-year-old, becomes the first Croatian man to win a major since Goran Ivanisevic, now his coach, at Wimbledon in 2001.

It also comes 12 months after he was forced to skip the tournament to serve out a controversial doping ban.

Cilic, playing in his 28th Grand Slam event, is the lowest-ranked champion since Pete Sampras, then 17th in the world, claimed the 2002 title in New York.

But victory was well-deserved with Cilic saving eight of nine break points, firing 17 aces and 38 winners past a weary-looking Nishikori who had defeated three top five players to make his maiden major final — Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka and world number one Novak Djokovic.

“There has been a lot of hard work in these last few years and especially this last year. I think my team has brought something special to me, especially Goran,” said Cilic who, like Nishikori, was making his debut in a major final.

“We’ve been working really hard but the most important thing that he has brought to me is joy in tennis and always having fun. I enjoyed my best tennis over here and played the best ever in my life.”

Cilic also told his fellow professionals that the likes of Djokovic, Roger Federer and 2013 champion Rafael Nadal, absent this year through injury, can be defeated.

“I feel that for all the other players that are working hard, I think this is a big sign that if you’re working hard things are going to pay off,” he said.

Nishikori admitted he had been outplayed.

“Marin was playing really well today, I couldn’t play my tennis. It’s a tough loss but I am happy to get to my first final,” said Nishikori. “But I will get the trophy next time — it was a fun two weeks.”

Monday’s final was the first at a major not to feature either Djokovic, Federer or Nadal since the 2005 Australian Open — so long ago that it was pre-Twitter.

It was also a battle of contrasting styles between the 5ft 10in (1.78m), 150lbs (68kg) Nishikori and the bigger, heavier 6ft 6in (1.98m), 180lbs (82kg) Cilic who had knocked out five-time champion Federer in the semi-finals.

– Cool conditions –

Under overcast skies and on the coolest day of a two-week tournament marked by punishing heat and high humidity, the championship match began inside a half-full Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Once he had saved a break point in the first game, Cilic was comfortably the dominant player breaking for 4-2 and claiming the opening set in 33 low-key minutes when Nishikori, on the defensive and pinned behind the baseline, patted a meek backhand into the net.

The big Croat’s 11 winners to the Japanese’s two illustrated the one-sided nature of the contest.

The winner of 20 of the previous 21 men’s finals in New York had claimed the first set.

However, Nishikori had dropped the opener to both Raonic and Wawrinka in the fourth round and quarter-finals but still came out on top.

Cilic, finding the tightest angles, pounced again in the third game of the second set when his opponent sliced another apologetic backhand into the net.

He backed it up for 3-1 after Nishikori was unable to convert two break points.

Four successive aces helped Cilic to 4-2 which was soon 5-2 as he clinched his third break of the final.

Nishikori briefly rallied for a first break of the match but Cilic went to set point courtesy of a misdirected overhead by the 10th seed and sealed it 6-3 with a pinpoint forehand drive which found the corner.

The 24-year-old Japanese player, who had spent more than 16 hours on court to make the final, cracked again to fall 1-3 down in the third set off a wild, wide backhand.

Cilic then saved three more break points for a 5-2 lead before Nishikori clung on with a hold.

Moments later, it was all over as Cilic went effortlessly to three match points.

He double-faulted on the first but claimed the title after one hour 54 minutes with a sweet backhand crosscourt.

AFP Photo/Stan Honda

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Djokovic, Serena, Murray Sail Through At U.S. Open

By Dave James

New York (AFP) — Novak Djokovic reached the third round of a Grand Slam for the 25th consecutive time while Serena Williams racked up her 80th U.S. Open win as the top seeds eased into the third round on Thursday.

They were joined in the last 32 by 2012 winner Andy Murray and reigning Wimbledon women’s champion Petra Kvitova.

But former world number one Ana Ivanovic, the eighth seed, and 2011 champion Samantha Stosur were knocked out on a day when stiff winds brought new challenges at Flushing Meadows for players already tackling plus-30 degree heat (+90F).

World number one and top seed Djokovic breezed past France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, firing 13 aces and 33 winners as the 2011 champion comfortably remained on course for a fifth successive final appearance.

“It’s very windy, but I managed to adjust to the conditions that obviously are not easy for myself and my opponent,” said Djokovic, who next meets Sam Querrey of the United States, after his brief 90-minute appearance.

World number one Williams, chasing a third successive New York title, her sixth in total and an 18th major, sent 25 winners past Vania King and broke serve six times, wrapping up a 6-1, 6-0 victory on windswept Arthur Ashe Stadium in just 56 minutes.

It was her second win over an American at the tournament this week after beating teenager Taylor Townsend and next she will face another in Varvara Lepchenko for a place in the last 16.

“It’s so hard to play in the wind but I am happy to get through a solid match with the conditions today,” said the top seed whose colorful leopard print dress was as striking as her tennis.

Eighth-seeded Murray brushed aside 27-year-old German qualifier Matthias Bachinger, the world number 235, with a convincing 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win.

Murray exhibited none of the physical problems he suffered in the first round when he was cramping, sending down 36 winners past Bachinger, a contemporary from his junior days.

“Both of us struggled a bit early on but once I started to get used to the wind I was able to adjust my tactics a bit,” said the Scot.

Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic made the third round with a 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) win over German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk on the back of 26 aces and 64 winners.

– Ivanovic, Stosur beaten –

Eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic suffered her earliest U.S. Open exit in five years when the former world number one lost 7-5, 6-4 to Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, the world number 42.

The Serb followed fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska out of the tournament after the Pole had been beaten by Peng Shuai 24 hours earlier.

The former French Open champion was undone by 29 unforced errors.

“It’s very disappointing. It’s never easy to finish this early,” said Ivanovic. “I’m definitely going to assess what went wrong and what I can work on. I really felt it wasn’t my game out there today.”

Stosur, the 24th seed, squandered two match points in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10/8) defeat to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, a six-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist.

There were no such dramas for Kvitova who defeated fellow Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-4, 6-2 while Canadian seventh seed Eugenie Bouchard, the runner-up at Wimbledon, beat Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4.

Victoria Azarenka, the runner-up to Williams for the past two years, also made it through, winning nine games in succession from 0-3 down to defeat Christina McHale of the United States 6-3, 6-2.

Fifteen-year-old American CiCi Bellis, who became the youngest winner of a U.S. Open match since 1996 when she won her first round match, went down 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 to Zarina Dyas of Kazakhstan.

The United States only saw three men making the second round — the country’s lowest total in the history of the tournament — but 13th seed John Isner and Querrey have made it to the last 32.

Isner, a quarter-finalist in 2011, beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 6-2 while Querrey beat Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez for the fourth time in four meetings — including last week’s Winston Salem warm-up — thanks to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Australian 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios, who famously defeated Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, reached the third round by seeing off Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.

He will next face Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo who came back from two sets to love down for the seventh time in seeing off Italy’s Simone Bolelli 5-7, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.

AFP Photo/Kena Betancur

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Ivanovic Stunned At U.S. Open, Azarenka Battles Back

New York (AFP) — Former world number one Ana Ivanovic became the second top 10 seed to suffer a shock early U.S. Open exit when she was knocked out by Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic on Thursday.

Ivanovic, the eighth seed, lost 7-5, 6-4 to the 42nd-ranked Pliskova who has reached the third round at a major for the first time.

The Serb followed fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska out of the tournament after the Pole had been beaten by Peng Shuai 24 hours earlier.

Ivanovic came into New York as a potential title contender having captured trophies at Auckland, Monterrey, and Birmingham this year while returning to the top ten for the first time in five years.

But the former French Open champion was undone on Thursday by 29 unforced errors while facing 13 break points as she crashed to her earliest exit in New York in six years.

“I played a good match, the best of the year,” said 22-year-old Pliskova whose twin sister Krystina also played the main draw this year.

“I didn’t really have a strategy. I just played my game, focused on myself and I did it,” added the slender Czech who sports a pair of colorful tattoos on her left upper arm and left thigh.

Ivanovic’s fellow former world number one Victoria Azarenka, the runner-up to Serena Williams for the past two years, made it to third round, winning nine games in succession from 0-3 down to defeat Christine McHale of the United States 6-3, 6-2.

“She started really well and was hitting her targets. I was on the back foot but eventually I got my momentum,” said Azarenka.

Also going through to the third round early on Thursday was veteran Italian Flavia Pennetta, one of 15 players aged 30 years or older in the draw, who was a semi-finalist in 2013.

On the men’s side, Japanese 10th seed Kei Nishikori, whose best run is a fourth round appearance in 2008, progressed when Spanish opponent Pablo Andujar retired at 6-4, 6-1 down.

French wildcard Michael Llodra was also forced to quit after dropping the first set against German 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.

So far there have been nine retirements at the U.S. Open where daily temperatures have been touching 90 degrees.

Sam Querrey beat Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez for the fourth time in four meetings — including last week’s Winston Salem warm-up — with his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory assuring the host country of at least one man in the last 32.

– Top seeds target third round –

Later Thursday, top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic target places in the third round.

Five-time champion and world number one Williams faces a second successive American opponent in 25-year-old Vania King where victory will give her the 80th win of her career at the tournament.

Williams has never lost before the third round with her earliest defeat being the last-32 loss she suffered on her 1998 debut.

Djokovic, the 2011 champion who has reached the last four finals, faces veteran French player Paul-Henri Mathieu whose only win in six meetings against the Serb came back in 2006.

Mathieu had a grueling first round win, getting past Gilles Muller of Luxemburg where he overcame 38 aces and saved 12 break points.

Andy Murray, the 2012 champion, meets 27-year-old German qualifier Matthias Bachinger, the world number 235 who won his first career Grand Slam match against Radek Stepanek on Monday.

AFP Photo/Stan Honda

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