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Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Murray head to Week 2 at Wimbledon

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LONDON– As usual, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray are playing well at Wimbledon, leading the way into Week 2.

“It’s their turf,” said Ernests Gulbis, who stood in Djokovic’s way in the third round but failed to present too much of an obstacle. “It’s their home court.”

Indeed, it is.

Not since Lleyton Hewitt won the championship 15 years ago has someone other than Federer (a record-equaling seven titles in that span), Djokovic (three), Nadal (two) or Murray (two) left Wimbledon with the men’s singles title. In addition, that so-called Big 4 accounts for eight runner-up finishes during that stretch.

Count Federer among those shrugging at the quartet’s success so far this fortnight, with only one set dropped among the lot.

“I thought that everybody this week was going to find their form, especially speaking about Andy and Novak. … With me, I hoped I was going to be there. Whereas with Rafa’s confidence, I thought he was also going to be there,” said Federer, who has a cold. “So I’m not that surprised. But it’s great.”

This Grand Slam season has been just like old times.

Following a period in which Djokovic, then current No. 1 Murray overtook Federer and Nadal in the rankings, and started regularly appearing in – and winning – major finals, the latter two have reasserted themselves.

First, Federer returned from missing the last half of 2016 while letting his surgically repaired left knee heal and has been as impressive as he’s been in quite some time. He won his first Grand Slam title in 4+ years at the Australian Open, beating long-time rival Nadal in the final.

If that was the first indication that Nadal, too, was truly back after his own health issues, another one came at the French Open, where he won his record 10th trophy in fantastic fashion, not dropping a set. He’s now run his consecutive sets streak at majors to 28, tying his personal best and, in the Open era, sitting behind only Federer’s run of 36 from 2006-07, and John McEnroe’s of 35 in 1984.

“Against Rafa,” said the man he defeated in the third round, 30th-seeded Karen Khachanov, “if you give him time, he can destroy you.”

As Federer alluded to, it’s been Djokovic and Murray who arrived at the All England Club having been less than their best this season.

But with Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic in his coaching corner, Djokovic seems rejuvenated. Defending champion Murray is the only member of the foursome who hasn’t won every set he’s played in the tournament: Against Fabio Fognini in the third round, he ceded one and saved five set points to barely avoid losing another.

The men’s fourth-round matchups on the top half of the draw Monday are Murray vs. Benoit Paire, Nadal vs. No. 16 Gilles Muller, No. 7 Marin Cilic vs. No. 18 Roberto Bautista Agut, and No. 24 Sam Querrey vs. Kevin Anderson. On the bottom half, it’s Djokovic vs. Adrian Mannarino, Federer vs. No. 13 Grigor Dimitrov, 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic vs. No. 10 Alexander Zverev; and 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych vs. No. 8 Dominic Thiem.

Wimbledon is the lone Grand Slam tournament that schedules all 16 remaining singles matches on the same day.

The top-half women’s fourth-rounders: No. 1 Angelique Kerber vs. No. 14 Garbine Muguruza in a meeting of the past two runners-up, two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki vs. No. 24 CoCo Vandeweghe, and Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Petra Martic. In the bottom half, it’s five-time champion Venus Williams vs. No. 27 Ana Konjuh, No. 2 Simona Halep vs. two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko vs. No. 4 Elina Svitolina, and No. 6 Johanna Konta vs. No. 21 Caroline Garcia.

At 37, Williams is the oldest woman left. At 19, Konjuh is the youngest.

There is an interesting age dynamic in the men’s event, too: The seven players 30 or older in the round of 16 represent the most to get that far in the 50 Wimbledons of the Open era.

Federer turns 36 in a month, Nadal is 31, and Djokovic and Murray are both 30. They’re joined by Muller (34), Anderson (31) and Berdych (31).

“I came through the juniors with all these guys. It’s nice to see them still hanging on, still enjoying the tour, still being tough out there, making it difficult for the youngsters to break through,” Federer said. “There is a bit of that clash right now – the young ones trying to push out, especially, the 35-plus guys. But then there’s a strong, strong team, as well, around the generation of Rafa and Murray and Djokovic, obviously.”

Federer overpowers Dimitrov to win 97th career title

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) Roger Federer came to the ABN AMRO World Tournament aiming to secure a return to the top of the world rankings. He achieved that goal Friday. On Sunday, he put an exclamation point on a remarkable week by winning the tournament for good measure.

Federer overpowered an ailing Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 6-2 in less than an hour to win his 97th career title.

“What a week it’s been. Absolutely amazing,” Federer said. “The goal was to make the semis and I won the tournament so of course I’m incredibly excited and so, so happy.”

The 36-year-old Swiss extended his domination over the player once dubbed “Baby Fed” for the similarities in their playing style, registering his seventh victory in as many meetings.

Federer’s third title at the Rotterdam tournament comes a day before he officially returns to the top of the rankings, more than five years after he was last world No. 1.

He will become the oldest person to hold the No. 1 position when the rankings are updated on Monday. It’s been more than five years since Federer was last No. 1, and 14 years since he first reached the top spot.

Federer, who has 20 Grand Slams to his name, said his next target is 100 career titles. He moved a step closer Sunday.

Federer said ahead of the final that the more aggressive player would win and Dimitrov started the strongest, winning his first game to love as he slammed powerful forehands and backhands past Federer.

But the Swiss great quickly started matching Dimitrov’s groundstrokes and converted his first break point in the fifth game. Federer broke Dimitrov again to go up 5-2 and then served out the set.

Federer kept the pressure on Dimitrov in the second set, breaking the Bulgarian in the first game and continuing to dominate on his way to victory in just 55 minutes.

Federer won a massive 82 percent of points on his service compared to 55 percent for Dimitrov.

After his strong start, the Bulgarian appeared to be struggling physically, but said afterward that he simply wasn’t good enough.

“Against Roger in the current situation he is in you can’t play any less than 100 percent,” Dimitrov said.

Querrey advances to New York Open final

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Second-seeded Sam Querrey advanced to the final of the New York Open, winning the last four games to beat No. 4 Adrian Mannarino 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday.

Querrey will face top-seeded Kevin Anderson or No. 5 Kei Nishikori in Sunday’s final.

The U.S. Davis Cup player fought off three break points while serving at 2-3 in the third set, then broke Mannarino in the next game and cruised from there, closing out the match in just under 2 hours for his first victory over the Frenchman in four career meetings.

The California native is ranked a career-high 12th and had an opportunity to move into the top 10 if he won the tournament and Anderson lost in the semifinals.

Mannarino is still seeking his first ATP Tour title. At No. 25, he is the highest-ranked player without one.