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Djokovic beats Federer to win U.S. Open

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NEW YORK — Thrilled to win a point in the U.S. Open final, and bent on proving a point, Novak Djokovic leaped and roared and threw an uppercut, then glared at some of the thousands of spectators pulling for Roger Federer.

After winning another point in that game, Djokovic nodded as he smiled toward the stands. And moments later, Djokovic shook his right arm, bloodied by an early fall, and screamed, “Yes! Yes!” to celebrate a missed forehand by Federer.

Djokovic appeared to be all alone out there in Arthur Ashe Stadium, trying to solve Federer while also dealing with a crowd loudly supporting the 17-time major champion proclaimed “arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport” by the stadium announcer during prematch introductions.

In the end, Djokovic handled everything in a thrill-a-minute final on a frenetic night. Frustrating Federer with his relentless defense and unparalleled returning, Djokovic took control late and held on for a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory Sunday to earn his second U.S. Open title, third major championship of the year and 10th Grand Slam trophy in all.

“I have a tremendous respect for Roger and what his game is presenting to me and to any other player,” Djokovic said during the trophy ceremony. “His level is always going to (force) the best out of you and that was needed from my side.”

Confronted with Djokovic’s unequaled ability to race along the baseline and contort his body this way and that, sneakers squeaking loudly as he changed directions or scraping like sandpaper as he slid to reach unreachable shots, the 34-year-old Federer found himself trying to put the ball into the tiniest of spaces. And it didn’t work. He wound up with 54 unforced errors, 17 more than Djokovic.

Another key statistic: Djokovic saved 19 of the 23 break points he faced, while winning six of Federer’s service games.

One more: Djokovic won 10 of the first 12 points that lasted at least 10 strokes, a pattern that repeated itself throughout the evening.

“Being back in a final is where you want to be,” said Federer, who last played in the title match at Flushing Meadows in 2009. “Playing a great champion like Novak is a massive challenge.”

After all the attention paid to Serena Williams’ bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam, which ended with a semifinal loss at the U.S. Open, it’s Djokovic who wound up 27-1 in major tournaments this season, including appearances in all four finals. He beat Andy Murray at the Australian Open in January, lost to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open in June, then beat Federer at Wimbledon in July.

“An incredible season,” Djokovic called it.

The 28-year-old from Serbia also won a trio of majors in 2011, and his career total ranks tied for seventh-most in history behind Federer.

Djokovic also evened his head-to-head record with Federer at 21-all. They have met in three of the last five Grand Slam finals, and Djokovic is 3-0 in those. It is as spectacular a rivalry as there is in tennis right now, with contrasting styles of play.

Rain began falling about 10 minutes before they were supposed to head out from the locker room, and the start of the match was delayed for more than three hours, beginning after 7 p.m. Won’t happen again: The U.S. Tennis Association is in the midst of constructing a retractable roof expected to be ready for next year’s tournament.

In the third game, Djokovic slipped as he raced forward and fell, ripping skin off his hand, elbow and knee. Federer looked across the net to check on him, and Djokovic quickly motioned that he was OK. Perhaps a bit shaken, he would lose six of the next seven points, and then had a trainer treat it at the next changeover.

The cooler, damper, slower conditions seemed to help Djokovic mess with Federer’s attacking style. All of 27 minutes and four Federer service games into the match, Djokovic already had earned four breaks. That was the same total managed by Federer’s opponents in 82 service games across his previous six matches. Federer also hadn’t lost a set until Sunday.

If there were many folks in favor of Djokovic in the 23,771-capacity arena, they were tough to hear. Instead – and make no mistake, Djokovic noticed – a vast majority were on Federer’s side, even applauding fault’s by Djokovic, which is considered poor tennis etiquette. Over and over, chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore, the first woman to officiate a U.S. Open men’s singles final, held up a hand the way a school teacher might and asked for quiet.

The momentum, and match, shifted dramatically late in the third set, when Federer held two break points to go up 5-3 and get a chance to serve for a 2-1 lead in sets.

But on the first, Federer dumped a forehand into the net. And on the second, Djokovic ended a 15-stroke exchange by punishing Federer’s weak backhand with a big cross-court forehand winner. After holding there, Djokovic broke for a 5-4 lead when Federer shanked a forehand, then missed a backhand wide. Djokovic pointed to his right temple as he wheeled toward his guest box, where coach Boris Becker was standing in approval.

Djokovic then served out that set, saving two break points before moving out front for good on yet another backhand error from Federer.

Picking up steam as Federer seemed to wilt, Djokovic broke again and went up 2-0 in the fourth, making it a five-game run. He would take eight of 10 games there, and had a chance to serve out the victory at 5-2. But Federer broke there, forcing Djokovic to try again. The next time, Djokovic did not falter, pointing to his heart after one last forehand return by Federer flew beyond the baseline.

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.