Federer expects ‘tougher’ Gasquet in US Open quarterfinal

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NEW YORK (AP) Roger Federer is impressed by Richard Gasquet’s recent play, one guy with a sweet one-handed backhand appreciating another.

The 17-time major champion remembers what Gasquet did against Federer’s countryman, Stan Wawrinka, in the quarterfinals of the previous major. The Frenchman won the fifth set 11-9 at Wimbledon with the sort of gritty performance he hasn’t been known for in his career.

Now he meets Federer in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Wednesday night.

“I’m not sure if I’ve seen maybe Gasquet play as well as he has right now,” Federer said.

At Wimbledon, the Swiss great added, “He had a good attitude. He was fighting. Good shot selection. It was nice. Now he’s backing it up.”

In last year’s Davis Cup final, Federer beat Gasquet in straight sets to clinch the title for Switzerland, part of his 14-2 record against the Frenchman.

“He kind of went away” is how Federer describes his opponent’s performance that day. At two straight majors now, the 12th-seeded Gasquet is showing signs that won’t happen again.

A one-time teen prodigy who won the U.S. Open junior title at age 16, Gasquet, now 29, is still trying to fulfill that promise.

“I feel like this could be one of the tougher Gasquets I’ve played in previous years,” Federer said, “so I expect it to be difficult.”

The winner of their match will face Wawrinka or Kevin Anderson. Wawrinka is a two-time major champion, while Anderson is making his first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance after stunning Andy Murray on Monday. Yet the big-serving South African is the one who has won their last four meetings.

“I feel like I’m able – at least I have been in our matches – to stay with him from the back,” Anderson said. “When I’ve been aggressive, I’ve been able to keep him at bay.”

He hopes the U.S. Open fans will embrace him as one of their own. Anderson is working to become an American citizen, though he doesn’t plan to represent the United States in competition. He has lived in the country for a decade – he played college tennis at Illinois – and his wife, a former Illini golfer, is American.

At age 29, Anderson has reached a career-high ranking of 14th. His next opponent is the perfect role model for his faith that he can peak in his early 30s. Wawrinka was almost 29 when he won his first major title at the Australian Open last year. Anderson believes the late start to his pro career saved wear and tear on his body.

“He knows what it takes,” Anderson said of Wawrinka. “He’s been in that position. It’s my first time, but I feel like I’m hitting the ball very well.”

Wednesday’s two women’s quarterfinals pit a player who always seems to thrive at the U.S. Open against one who used to wilt in New York’s late-summer heat.

Two-time Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka, whose ranking is down to 20th after two injury-plagued seasons, took Serena Williams to three sets in the 2012 and ’13 U.S. Open finals and has been giving some glimpses of that level of play. Her opponent, Simona Halep, may be seeded second, but this is her first quarterfinal at Flushing Meadows.

In the first match, 26th-seeded Flavia Pennetta is in the U.S. Open quarters for the sixth time in seven years. Asked about visiting New York, she said that “for two weeks is perfect. More? No.”

“It’s too crowded,” she explained. “Too much traffic. I am a person for a small city.”

Petra Kvitova would agree – and she has made clear in the past she doesn’t even enjoy two weeks in the big city.

Not that she had ever stayed that long. This is the first U.S. Open quarterfinal appearance for the two-time Wimbledon champ.

She didn’t expect 2015 would be the year to break the drought after she suffered from mononucleosis this summer. Strangely enough, the illness might have contributed to her breakthrough run: She felt less pressure of expectations and less fatigue because she hasn’t been able to practice as much.

And the fifth-seeded Kvitova is working harder to embrace the bustle of the Big Apple. She tweeted a photo Tuesday of herself hailing a cab with the comment: “Do I look like a New Yorker or what?!”

Tennis star Bouchard testifies about slip, fall at US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard has taken the witness stand at a New York City trial to accuse the United States Tennis Association of negligence that led to her slipping on a locker room floor and hurting her head.

Bouchard testified Wednesday a wet floor caused her to slip and fall inside a locker room at the 2015 U.S. Open.

Her lawsuit contends the USTA should have done more to warn her the area had just been cleaned. The defense says she shouldn’t have entered without being accompanied by tournament personnel.

The lawsuit says the fall left Bouchard with a concussion and “serious head injury.”

Bouchard says she was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open and tournaments in China and Japan. She’s seeking unspecified damages.

The 23-year-old Canadian player is ranked 116th in the world.

Serena Williams champions issues on, off court

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Moments after Serena Williams won her seventh Wimbledon title, she proudly raised her fist in a black power salute.

It caused a bit of frenzy at the All-England Club in 2016, but Williams’ action shouldn’t have surprised anyone: She’d already been one of the most vocal supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. She was one of the first major athletes to decry the failure to indict a white officer in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – while also condemning violence against police.

“What caused me to speak out? Just life,” Williams said. “That’s just who I am. I always believe in the greater good and doing what’s right.”

Williams isn’t alone in her activism. Female athletes – especially black women – have long been out there pushing for social change. Wilma Rudolph’s victory parade celebrating her three gold medals from the 1960 Olympics in Rome was the first integrated event in Clarksville, Tennessee.

But despite their efforts on the field and off, women athletes have to struggle to get the same attention as men despite having as much to say, said Harry Edwards, a scholar of race and sports who has worked as a consultant for several U.S. pro teams.

“We have this twisted, almost-demented obsession with women’s second-class status with their physical inferiority,” he said. “It prevents us from appreciating the great athletes that they are … but it also means that it shuts down a potential forum that these great athletes would have where they’re valued for their athletic prowess in the same way that Muhammad Ali was, that Bill Russell was, that Tommy Smith and John Carlos were, that Arthur Ashe was, that Curt Flood was, so that when they speak, people listen.”

While Williams has long been an advocate of Black Lives Matter, it was only after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the 2016 season that the country really began to pay attention to black athlete activism. Kaepernick added his voice to a growing national movement, enveloping the entire league and starting an ongoing conversation that ventured outside football arenas.

Similarly, few people acknowledge that after the 2016 deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the killing of Dallas police officers, dozens of WNBA players wore shirts with the men’s names and kneeled for the national anthem.

It was a black woman, Knox College basketball player Ariyana Smith, who started the wave of athletic protest about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

On Nov. 29, 2014, Smith made the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture during the national anthem before a game at Fontbonne University in Clayton, Missouri, before walking toward the American flag and laying prone on the floor for 4 1/2 minutes to symbolize the 4 + hours Brown lay in the streets of nearby Ferguson.

“We as black women are often invisible, so we don’t get that credit,” said Akilah Francique, a former athlete who cofounded the Sista to Sista program to foster a sense of connectedness among black female collegiate athletes.

Williams has been a presence on and off the tennis court, not shying away from opponents en route to winning 23 Grand Slam titles or social and political issues.

She spoke up in 2015, encouraging Black Lives Matter activists not to get discouraged: “To those of you involved in equality movements like Black Lives Matter, I say this: Keep it up. Don’t let those trolls stop you. We’ve been through so much for so many centuries, and we shall overcome this too,” she wrote in Wired magazine.

Since then, Williams has become the symbol for other causes affecting people of color, including medical issues. In February, she told Vogue that she dealt with a medical scare after the birth of her daughter. She had to insist on getting extra medical tests, overruling her nurse, before her doctors discovered several small blood clots in her lungs.

Women around the country related to her story, talking about similar difficulties in getting proper medical attention.

Female-led activism can also look different than men’s, Francique said, because of the unique positions and pressures women face in sports and in life. She pointed to the criticism black women athletes have to overcome about their body shapes, training regimens, skin color, clothing and even hair when they compete in sports – criticism that Williams has endured.

“For many of them just by merely being there and having a presence is activism,” Francique said.

Williams’ older sister, Venus, who has advocated for equal pay for professional tennis while winning seven Grand Slam titles, believes it is important to have a voice on these issues.

“I think more than anything, we see ourselves as Americans, and that’s what we want to be able to see ourselves as, regardless of color,” said Venus Williams. “I think that’s what everyone is fighting for, that one day we don’t have to see that anymore.”