Pushed to 5th set, 2014 US Open champ Cilic edges Tsonga

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NEW YORK (AP) Pushed to a fifth set after coming so close to victory, defending champion Marin Cilic kept his act together and held on to get back to the U.S. Open semifinals.

Unfazed by wasting a big lead or match points, the ninth-seeded Cilic stretched his winning streak at Flushing Meadows to 12 matches by beating 19th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4 on Tuesday night.

“A big mental fight,” the Croatian called it, “especially after losing that fourth set.”

The quarterfinal took nearly four hours in Arthur Ashe Stadium, delaying the start of the match between Serena and Venus Williams. A large crowd of spectators gathered outside the arena, waiting to enter for the night session.

Cilic appeared to be heading to a relatively straightforward win after taking the first two sets, considering he was 47-0 in his Grand Slam career when up by that margin.

But Tsonga took the third set by finally converting his seventh break point of the match, and then serving it out from 15-30 by taking the last three points with a pair of service winners at 131 mph and 132 mph, followed by a 124 mph ace.

Tsonga, the 2008 Australian-Open runner-up, then saved three match points in the fourth set to force a fifth.

“Jo just came up with amazing shots,” Cilic said.

In the last set, Cilic broke at love to lead 3-2, and didn’t falter this time, although he did need another two match points to close it out, double-faulting on one, before finally winning when Tsonga sailed a forehand long.

“It’s a lot of frustration, of course, but that’s tennis,” Tsonga said.

In the semifinals, Cilic will face No. 1 Novak Djokovic or No. 18 Feliciano Lopez of Spain, who were scheduled to meet in Tuesday’s last match. It was Djokovic’s 26th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal, including nine in a row at Flushing Meadows. For the 33-year-old Lopez, it was his first time making it that far in 14 U.S. Open appearances, and only his fourth career quarterfinal at any major tournament.

The two men’s quarterfinals on the other half of the men’s draw are Wednesday: No. 2 Roger Federer vs. No. 12 Richard Gasquet of France, and No. 5 Stan Wawrinka vs. No. 15 Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

Tsonga entered his quarterfinal against Cilic having held in all 56 of his service games in the tournament, a streak that reached 60 before Cilic broke to go up 5-4 in the first set. Cilic broke early in the second, too, and wound up winning three of Tsonga’s service games.

Tsonga helped out by double-faulting 11 times.

“I just served, I would say, very bad compared to the other days,” Tsonga said.

Cilic, meanwhile, hit 29 aces and saved nine of 10 break points.

Cilic wore a thick brace on his right ankle, which he tweaked during his fourth-round victory over another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy. But it was Tsonga who appeared more troubled by an ailment, wearing a thick band of tape under his left knee.

“I don’t really want to talk about this, you know,” Tsonga said. “It’s part of the game, unfortunately, for me.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

Dimitrov defeats Goffin to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Grigor Dimitrov claimed the biggest title of his career at the season-ending ATP Finals on Sunday, prevailing on his fifth match point to beat David Goffin of Belgium 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

“It’s such an honor to play here,” Dimitrov said. “This week has been one of the best I’ve ever had.”

The sixth-seeded Bulgarian won in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds for the longest final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008.

Dimitrov won all five of his matches at the O2 Arena to become the first player to win the elite tournament on debut since 1998, when Alex Corretja of Spain triumphed in Hanover.

Goffin saved three match points on his own serve, but Dimitrov kept his cool, taking the second opportunity on his own delivery to close it out.

By reaching the final, Dimitrov had already secured a career-high No. 3-ranking to end the year. Goffin also moves up to a career-best No. 7.

The final lasted more than 11 minutes longer than Roger Federer took to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011. It was a nervous start as both players failed to hold serve in the opening three games before Goffin settled down to control the opener as Dimitrov struggled with his timing.

However, Dimitrov fought his way back into the set. He leveled in the eighth game before breaking once more in the 12th to snatch the set in which Goffin hit eight more winners.

Dimitrov’s confidence carried into the second set, where he brought up the first break point in the sixth game, only for Goffin to produce a stunning cross-court backhand winner to save it. The momentum back with him, Goffin broke the following game for a 4-3 lead and calmly closed out the set.

Having come from behind to beat Federer in Saturday’s semifinal, Goffin had every reason to be confident and could have gone ahead. But he wasted four break points in the opening game – they would turn out to be his only chances in the decider.

Dimitrov was more clinical, striking in the sixth game to take control. Goffin tested Dimitrov’s nerve by saving three match points on his own serve, before saving one on Dimitrov’s. However the Belgian’s resistance came to an end as he netted a backhand volley, leaving Dimitrov in tears.

(This story has been corrected to show it was the longest three-set final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008, not longest three-set final ever.)

Goffin ousts Federer in ATP Finals semis

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LONDON — David Goffin ended Roger Federer’s bid for a seventh ATP Finals title by stunning the favorite 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Belgian claimed the biggest win of his career and qualified for the final on Sunday, when he will face Grigor Dimitrov or Jack Sock. They play later Saturday.

Federer looked to be heading toward his 11th final at the elite season-ending tournament when he cruised through the first set, but Goffin took advantage of a drop in his play to level.

Despite having lost all six of his previous encounters with Federer, Goffin was able to execute better in the deciding set, breaking in the third game and producing a nerveless display of serving to seal victory.