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Federer overcomes slow start, late lapse; edges teen at Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Roger Federer already has dropped two more sets at the U.S. Open than he did during his entire two weeks en route to the title at Wimbledon.

Worried about a recent back problem that kept him from getting ready the way he usually does for a Grand Slam tournament, Federer had to overcome an early deficit and a late lapse Tuesday night to edge 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 in a compelling first-round contest under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof.

“I didn’t have the preparation I was hoping to get,” Federer said. “I always knew I was going to come in feeling rusty or not great.”

The No. 3-seeded Federer, whose most recent of five championships at Flushing Meadows came in 2008, got broken in the first game and dropped the opening set of the topsy-turvy match. He then appeared to take control by grabbing eight of nine games to seize the second and third sets. But he let that lead slip away. There was more trouble when Federer served for the match leading 5-3 in the fifth and got broken.

“I was quite up and down,” Federer said, acknowledging that he was cautious with his footwork and had some trouble seeing the ball properly.

Tiafoe’s take: “He won by the skin of his teeth.”

Federer’s initial match point came at 5-3, 40-30, but Tiafoe staved that off, then broke. He produced a cross-court forehand winner at an unbelievable angle to earn the chance, before converting it with a terrific forehand passing winner down the line. Tiafoe roared and pumped a fist and sprinted to the sideline for the changeover.

When he had to come back out and serve, Tiafoe was a bit flat. Federer wasted his second match point with a netted backhand. On the third – with Federer’s wife, Mirka, covering her eyes in the stands – Tiafoe hit a stumbling forehand into the net.

“In these best-of-five-set matches,” Federer said, “you have a lot of lives sometimes.”

It was Federer’s 79th career victory at the U.S. Open, equaling Andre Agassi for second-most. Only Jimmy Connors has more, with 98.

Federer played with the roof shut at Ashe for the first time. He missed last year’s tournament, when the retractable cover made its debut, because he took off the second half of 2016 to let his surgically repaired left knee and a bad back fully heal.

“It felt like people were happy to see me again,” Federer said.

In 2017, he is 36-3 with five titles, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon, where Federer won every set he played across seven matches while collecting his record eighth trophy at the All England Club and 19th Grand Slam championship overall.

For more than a half-hour Tuesday, it appeared as if Federer was still dealing with the after-effects of having tweaked his back during a loss in the hard-court final at Montreal this month. He sat out the following week’s tournament at Cincinnati.

At least, Federer said, his back was not in pain Tuesday.

“My hope and my belief is that it’s only going to get better from here,” Federer said.

Tiafoe, who is from Maryland and now is based in Florida, is ranked 70th and has never been past the second round at a major tournament.

This was his second match against Federer. Tiafoe pushed Federer to a first-set tiebreaker when they faced each other in March at the Miami Masters before losing in two sets.

“Eventually,” Tiafoe said, “I’ll win more than I lose these.”

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

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Wozniacki upsets Muguruza to reach Pan Pacific Open final

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TOKYO — Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki upset top-ranked Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-0 to advance to the final of the Pan Pacific Open on Saturday.

Wozniacki, a champion here in 2010 and 2016, converted six of seven break points to reach her seventh final of 2017.

Playing in her first tournament since earning the WTA’s top ranking, Wimbledon champion Muguruza had 29 unforced errors to drop the final 10 games of the match.

“I didn’t feel that fresh,” Muguruza said. “In the long rallies, I was struggling a little bit. I felt my energy was a little bit low, but I think she just had a good match. I didn’t make the important shots in the important moments so the match went to her side very fast.”

Sixth-ranked Wozniacki will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Sunday’s final. Pavlyuchenkova rallied from being down 3-0 in the final set to beat former No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-0, 6-7 (4), 6-4.

Pavlyuchenkova, who is aiming for her third title of 2017, broke serve seven times and won six of the final seven games.

Pavlyuchenkova admitted her slow start in the final set had her thinking about the next tournament in China.

“I was already thinking about going to Wuhan,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “In my head I was booking flights. But at the same time, I always fight to the last point.”

Fognini, Dzumhur meet in St. Petersburg Open final

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Fabio Fognini will play for his second ATP title of the year and Damir Dzumhur for the first of his career in the final of the St. Petersburg Open.

The third-seeded Fognini eliminated top-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 2-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 (5) in 2 1/2 hours in the semifinals on Saturday. The Italian broke Bautista Agut only once, in the second set.

Fognini also beat Bautista Agut in July at Gstaad, where he won his fourth career title, all on clay. St. Petersburg, where he was a finalist in 2012, is on an indoor hard-court.

The unseeded Dzumhur defeated eighth-seeded Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 6-3, 7-5. In a match of vulnerable servers, Struff was the least effective in winning less than 30 percent of his second serves and losing his serves five times.

“I was making him play more, because he likes fast points,” Dzumhur said. “I won because I didn’t give him easy balls that he likes.”

Dzumhur, of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is at a career-high ranking of 55 after reaching his first career final last month in Winston-Salem.

He has a 0-2 win record against Fognini.