Many happy returns for Federer in US Open victory over Isner

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NEW YORK (AP) As Roger Federer so correctly noted, the exact score of a tiebreaker is not all that important. All that matters is who wins it.

Still, it was noteworthy that Federer became the first player to shut out John Isner in a tiebreaker – and later added a rare service break of the big-serving, 6-foot-10 American, too – while winning their fourth-round U.S. Open match 7-6 (0), 7-6 (6), 7-5 on Monday night.

According to the ATP, Isner had never lost by a 7-0 score in 428 previous official tour-level tiebreakers.

”You’ve got to get a little lucky,” Federer said in an on-court interview, ”but 7-love is a very good score, obviously, against John. As long as you win the `breaker, it doesn’t matter what the score is.”

Federer also broke to close out the match, ending the 13th-seeded Isner’s streak of 110 consecutive service holds at Flushing Meadows over the last two years.

”John has one of the best serves in the game. Especially the pace on his second serve is unreal,” Federer said. ”And, yeah, you’ve just got to hang around and make sure you don’t drop your own serve.”

Federer did just that, saving all five break points he faced, while finishing with an impressive ratio of 55 winners to only 16 unforced errors.

The second-seeded Federer, who has won five of his 17 Grand Slam titles in New York, has not dropped a set on the way to a quarterfinal against No. 12 Richard Gasquet of France.

Gasquet got past No. 6 Tomas Berdych 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.

With losses by Isner and Donald Young on Monday, this is the 16th consecutive Grand Slam tournament without an American man in the quarterfinals. Isner and Andy Roddick made it that far at the 2011 U.S. Open.

Isner did have his chances against Federer. Six times, Isner was two points away from grabbing the second set.

But Federer was at his best down the stretch in that tiebreaker, too, after trailing 5-3. Federer won one point by returning a 140 mph serve before smacking a forehand passing winner. On another, he produced a forehand return winner off a 128 mph serve to earn a set point. And he capped the set by flicking a down-the-line backhand winner.

Venus ready for return WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE (AP) Venus Williams returns to the year-end WTA Finals for the first time since reaching the 2009 final, and the fifth time overall, starting on Sunday in Singapore.

Williams joins top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania, second-ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain, third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, sixth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, seventh-ranked Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and ninth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.

They’re all pretty special,” said Williams, of her career appearances in the year-end competition. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

At 37-years-old, Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the year-end championships behind a 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Williams is the oldest player in this draw with 27-year-old Wozniacki the next oldest.

Having played since 1995, Williams has seen the women’s game advance, saying: “The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.”

In 2008, Williams won the WTA Finals title, going 3-0 in the round-robin, and defeating Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the final.

She was also was a semifinalist in her first two appearances in the finals, in 1999 and 2000.

Williams reached two Grand Slam finals this season at the Australian Open, where she lost to what turned out to be an already pregnant younger sister, Serena, and at Wimbledon, where she fell to Muguruza.

Every player but Garcia has a possibility of playing themselves into the year-end No. 1 ranking depending on their result this week. Williams has ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks of her career.

In the round-robin, Williams is situated in the White Group with fellow big-hitters Muguruza and Pliskova, who both ranked No. 1 at some time during this season, and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams opens the competition against Pliskova on Sunday. The two are tied at one match apiece in their head-to-head.

She holds a 3-2 winning record over Muguruza and is 1-0 over Ostapenko.

“I think my group is more aggressive style players in the group and the other one is more defending,” Pliskova said. “I just like to play better these players.

“I start with Venus tomorrow, so I beat her once from match point and once I lost very close match. This one is open.”

Goerges ends 6-year title wait with victory at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Julia Goerges ended her six-year wait for another WTA singles title Saturday with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina in the Kremlin Cup final.

Goerges cruised to victory against her Russian opponent, who was ranked one place below her at 28th.

The German swept the first five games of the first set before Kasatkina could even get on the board.

Kasatkina put up more resistance at the start of the second, forcing three break points in Goerges’ first service game, but couldn’t convert them and was broken next game.

Goerges is now 3-7 in career singles finals, with her last title in Stuttgart in 2011. Before Saturday’s match, she had lost six straight finals, including three in the space of two months this summer.