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.

Top-ranked Halep wins tough 3-setter in Miami

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania struggled to post a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 second-round win over French lucky loser Oceane Dodin at the Miami Open on Thursday.

In the first career meeting between the players, Halep allowed the 98th-ranked Dodin to break her serve on six of seven opportunities she presented in the match, which lasted more than two hours.

Halep broke Dodin’s serve for the seventh time at 4-4 in the third set before closing it out.

Halep played in her third career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, but has yet to secure a Grand Slam trophy.

Halep’s best Miami Open was reaching the 2015 semifinals.

Also Thursday, former No. 1 Angelique Kerber of Germany advanced to the third round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson of Sweden.

Kerber is 19-4 this year and has reached at least the quarterfinals of all five tournaments she’s played.

Kerber, the 2016 Australian Open and U.S. Open champion, won her first tournament since that U.S. Open at Sydney in January. She also reached the Australian Open semifinals.

Serena Williams loses in first round at Miami Open to Osaka

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Serena Williams lost in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday, still rusty in her return from pregnancy and unable to overcome a tough draw against Naomi Osaka, who won 6-3, 6-2.

The 20-year-old Osaka, who earned her first career title Sunday at Indian Wells, showed no signs of letup and overpowered the erratic Williams. Osaka had the stronger serve, and in rallies wore down Williams working her from side to side.

The matchup worthy of a final came about because both players are unseeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best 22nd, while Williams’ ranking is 491st after her layoff of more than a year.

Another new mother and former No. 1, three-time Key Biscayne champion Victoria Azarenka, defeated Catherine Bellis 6-3, 6-0.

Williams has endured a first-round defeat only four other times, most recently at the 2012 French Open. The latest loss came at a tournament she has won a record eight times and considers her hometown event.

The match was the last for Williams at Key Biscayne, 90 miles south of her home in Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament is moving next year to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium, and Williams helped with the ceremonial groundbreaking Monday.

After her defeat, she left without speaking to the media.

Because of Williams’ ranking, she entered the draw as a wild card, and looked the part. She was a step slow to balls in the corners and often late with her swing, while she put barely half her first serves in play.

Osaka, who has both American and Japanese citizenship and lives in Fort Lauderdale, was playing her idol for the first time but didn’t seem a bit fazed. She improved to 14-4 this year.

Things may get tougher for her in the second round, when she’ll face No. 4-seeded Elina Svitolina.

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