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Raonic beats Federer in five sets to reach first Grand Slam final

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LONDON — Roger Federer’s bid for a record eighth Wimbledon title was cut short in the semifinals Friday by Milos Raonic, a big-serving Canadian who came from two-sets-to-one down to win in five and reach his first Grand Slam final.

Raonic beat the seven-time champion 6-3, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 on Centre Court, handing the Swiss great his first loss ever in the Wimbledon semifinals after 10 straight wins.

The 25-year-old Raonic became the first Canadian man in history to advance to the final of a Grand Slam tournament. The only other Canadian to get this far was Eugenie Bouchard, the women’s runner-up at Wimbledon in 2014.

The sixth-seeded Raonic, who served 23 aces among his 75 winners, avenged a Wimbledon semifinal loss to Federer in straight sets two years ago. The No. 3-seeded Federer broke serve only once, while Raonic managed three breaks.

In Sunday’s final, Raonic will play the winner of the semifinal match between 2013 champion Andy Murray and 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych.

For Federer, the loss means he remains one title short of the all-time Wimbledon men’s record. He’s still tied with Pete Sampras and 1880s player William Renshaw with seven.

Federer last won Wimbledon in 2012, the last of his record 17 Grand Slam championships. He lost in the Wimbledon final the past two years to Novak Djokovic, who was ousted in the third round this year by Sam Querrey.

Federer fell just short of an 85th match win at Wimbledon, which would have put him in sole possession of the record of 84 he currently shares with Jimmy Connors.

After Raonic broke to take the fourth set, Federer called for a trainer on the changeover and had his right thigh massaged.

Then, while serving at 2-1 down in the fifth, Federer lost his footing on a deuce point and fell onto his stomach on the turf while trying in vain to reach a passing shot. Federer went immediately to his chair and called for trainer, who examined his left knee.

Federer, who had surgery on his left knee in January, resumed the game and didn’t show any outward sign of injury. But he was broken in that game after a crucial double-fault at deuce. On the second break point, Raonic stroked a forehand cross-court passing shot winner after both men made difficult volleys to stay in the point.

That break put Raonic in firm control, and he stayed on top the rest of the set and served out the match at love.

It was a breakthrough victory for Raonic, who has had John McEnroe in his coaching corner since the Wimbledon warm-up tournament at Queen’s Club. In his previous Grand Slam semifinal match, Raonic lost to Murray at this year’s Australian Open.

At 25, he’s the youngest Wimbledon finalist since Murray reached the title match in 2012 at the same age.

Raonic came into the semifinals on a five-match losing streak against players ranked in the top three. He was also 0-4 in majors against top-three players.

Azarenka aims to come back in time for Wimbledon

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MOSCOW — Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka says she is planning to return to competition before Wimbledon.

Azarenka, who was ranked No. 1 for seven months in 2012 and 2013, went on a break last July to have her first child. She had previously been targeting a return at the July 31-Aug. 6 Bank of the West Classic in California.

In a statement on Twitter, the Belarusian says “my training has been progressing well and I feel ready to start competing,” adding that she plans “to play one of the grass court events prior to Wimbledon.”

Wimbledon starts July 3.

Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, and has twice reached the Wimbledon semifinals.

Djokovic announces Agassi will coach him at French Open

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ROME — Novak Djokovic is joining forces with Andre Agassi in an effort to return to No. 1.

Djokovic announced Sunday that Agassi will coach him at the French Open, which starts next Sunday.

“I spoke to Andre the last couple weeks on the phone, and we decided to get together in Paris,” Djokovic said. “So he’s going to be there. We’ll see what (the) future brings.

“We are both excited to work together and see where it takes us. We don’t have any long-term commitment. It’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little bit,” Djokovic added. “He will not stay the whole tournament. He’s going to stay only to a certain time, and then we’ll see after that what’s going to happen.”

The second-ranked Djokovic split with longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members – fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic – at the start of the month.

Agassi, who retired in 2006, won eight Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slams.

“Andre is someone that I have tremendous respect for as a person and as a player,” Djokovic said. “He has been through everything that I’m going through. On the court he understands the game amazingly well. I am enjoying every conversation that I have with him.

“But also, on the other hand, he’s someone that nurtures the family values, philanthropy work. He’s a very humble man, is very educated. He’s a person that can contribute to my life on and off the court a lot. I’m very excited to see what is ahead of us.”

The pairing is the latest in a series of top players working with former standouts, from Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl, Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, and Kei Nishikori and Michael Chang.

Djokovic was coached by Boris Becker the last three seasons, but they split last year.

Vajda started working with Djokovic in 2006.

Djokovic lost his No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray last year after a slump in form following his French Open triumph.

He lost in the third round at Wimbledon, his earliest defeat in a Grand Slam in seven years, lost in the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, reached the final of the U.S. Open, and lost early again at the Australian Open.

Djokovic finished 2016 at No. 2, his current ranking. He’s won only one of his last 11 tournaments.

While Agassi has not coached a top player before, Djokovic said his record as a player and spokesman of the game was enough to convince him.

“He’s a legend of our sport,” Djokovic said. “He’s made a mark in this sport forever. He’s won everything there is to win in tennis.

“He was a revolutionary player because he had this charisma, he had this approach to tennis and to life that was quite different from others. That’s why he was so interesting.”

Agassi has already been offering advice on the phone.

“He’s been definitely following up closely all the matches, the big matches, especially on the TV,” Djokovic said. “So he knows players, he knows everyone that I was playing against in (the) last couple of weeks, so we talked before every match.

Djokovic added, “I already feel like we are very kind of close to each other and creating this nice vibe.”