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Federer comes back to edge Youzhny for 2nd 5-set U.S. Open win

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NEW YORK (AP) — Given that Roger Federer entered Thursday with a 16-0 career record against his opponent, Mikhail Youzhny, and a 16-0 mark in the U.S. Open’s second round, one might have thought that their meeting at that stage in Flushing Meadows would have been no contest at all.

Think again.

Federer set aside an uncharacteristic 68 unforced errors and what appeared to be a bad back, managing to pull out his second five-set victory in a row at the U.S. Open by coming back to edge Youzhny 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

It is the first time in his long career that the 36-year-old Federer has played five-setters in both the first and second rounds at a Grand Slam tournament.

“These five-set battles are actually quite a lot of fun,” Federer said in his on-court interview in Arthur Ashe Stadium, “and I feel quite warmed up by now.”

The No. 3-seeded Federer won five consecutive U.S. Open championships from 2004-08 and also was the runner-up twice, including two years ago. But he missed last year’s tournament while taking off the second half of the season to let his back and surgically repaired left knee fully heal.

That time off paid obvious dividends: He is 37-3 with five titles in 2017, including his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January, then 19th at Wimbledon in July. Federer did not lose any of the sets he played in seven matches at the All England Club.

Things have been rather different so far in New York.

Youzhny is a former top-10 player who reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 2006 and 2010, but he is now ranked 101st.

His level of play dipped considerably over the last two sets Thursday as he appeared to be restricted by a leg cramp.

“I was feeling (badly) there for Mikhail,” Federer said.

Federer was not quite himself for much of the match, either. He appeared slowed by the back that he tweaked earlier in August and his strokes were not at their usual level of crispness.

He also needed five sets to win in the first round Monday night against 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe.

Against Youzhny, who is 35, Federer surprisingly faltered repeatedly. He got broken while serving for the second set at 5-4, and then once more while serving for the fourth set at 5-3.

While Federer did drop that second set in a tiebreaker, he recovered from his slip-up in the fourth. On his second set point, he hammered a return of a first serve that came in at 86 mph and broke to force a fifth, then engaged in a muted celebration by merely shaking his right fist.

At 1-all in the deciding set, Youzhny stumbled and collapsed to the court, grabbing at his right leg as he appeared to cramp up after whiffing on an attempted running swat at Federer’s lob. Youzhny stayed down for a few moments, then grimaced and limped around for the rest of that game.

Even with Youzhny clearly compromised, Federer did not take full advantage right away.

Federer’s unforced errors continued to mount in the fifth set – 11 in the first four games alone, including a badly shanked forehand on his first break point at 2-1, a netted backhand on his second, and a long forehand to let Youzhny hold there.

The next time he returned, though, Federer raced ahead love-40 and converted on his second break chance when Youzhny double-faulted to make it 4-2.

Another break in the final game ended things, allowing Federer to improve to 17-0 against Youzhny – and 17-0 in the second round at the U.S. Open.

Dimitrov defeats Goffin to win ATP Finals title

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LONDON — Grigor Dimitrov claimed the biggest title of his career at the season-ending ATP Finals on Sunday, prevailing on his fifth match point to beat David Goffin of Belgium 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

“It’s such an honor to play here,” Dimitrov said. “This week has been one of the best I’ve ever had.”

The sixth-seeded Bulgarian won in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds for the longest final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008.

Dimitrov won all five of his matches at the O2 Arena to become the first player to win the elite tournament on debut since 1998, when Alex Corretja of Spain triumphed in Hanover.

Goffin saved three match points on his own serve, but Dimitrov kept his cool, taking the second opportunity on his own delivery to close it out.

By reaching the final, Dimitrov had already secured a career-high No. 3-ranking to end the year. Goffin also moves up to a career-best No. 7.

The final lasted more than 11 minutes longer than Roger Federer took to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2011. It was a nervous start as both players failed to hold serve in the opening three games before Goffin settled down to control the opener as Dimitrov struggled with his timing.

However, Dimitrov fought his way back into the set. He leveled in the eighth game before breaking once more in the 12th to snatch the set in which Goffin hit eight more winners.

Dimitrov’s confidence carried into the second set, where he brought up the first break point in the sixth game, only for Goffin to produce a stunning cross-court backhand winner to save it. The momentum back with him, Goffin broke the following game for a 4-3 lead and calmly closed out the set.

Having come from behind to beat Federer in Saturday’s semifinal, Goffin had every reason to be confident and could have gone ahead. But he wasted four break points in the opening game – they would turn out to be his only chances in the decider.

Dimitrov was more clinical, striking in the sixth game to take control. Goffin tested Dimitrov’s nerve by saving three match points on his own serve, before saving one on Dimitrov’s. However the Belgian’s resistance came to an end as he netted a backhand volley, leaving Dimitrov in tears.

(This story has been corrected to show it was the longest three-set final since the tournament returned to a three-set format in 2008, not longest three-set final ever.)

Goffin ousts Federer in ATP Finals semis

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LONDON — David Goffin ended Roger Federer’s bid for a seventh ATP Finals title by stunning the favorite 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Belgian claimed the biggest win of his career and qualified for the final on Sunday, when he will face Grigor Dimitrov or Jack Sock. They play later Saturday.

Federer looked to be heading toward his 11th final at the elite season-ending tournament when he cruised through the first set, but Goffin took advantage of a drop in his play to level.

Despite having lost all six of his previous encounters with Federer, Goffin was able to execute better in the deciding set, breaking in the third game and producing a nerveless display of serving to seal victory.