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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.

Tennis star Bouchard testifies about slip, fall at US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard has taken the witness stand at a New York City trial to accuse the United States Tennis Association of negligence that led to her slipping on a locker room floor and hurting her head.

Bouchard testified Wednesday a wet floor caused her to slip and fall inside a locker room at the 2015 U.S. Open.

Her lawsuit contends the USTA should have done more to warn her the area had just been cleaned. The defense says she shouldn’t have entered without being accompanied by tournament personnel.

The lawsuit says the fall left Bouchard with a concussion and “serious head injury.”

Bouchard says she was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open and tournaments in China and Japan. She’s seeking unspecified damages.

The 23-year-old Canadian player is ranked 116th in the world.

Serena Williams champions issues on, off court

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Moments after Serena Williams won her seventh Wimbledon title, she proudly raised her fist in a black power salute.

It caused a bit of frenzy at the All-England Club in 2016, but Williams’ action shouldn’t have surprised anyone: She’d already been one of the most vocal supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. She was one of the first major athletes to decry the failure to indict a white officer in the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – while also condemning violence against police.

“What caused me to speak out? Just life,” Williams said. “That’s just who I am. I always believe in the greater good and doing what’s right.”

Williams isn’t alone in her activism. Female athletes – especially black women – have long been out there pushing for social change. Wilma Rudolph’s victory parade celebrating her three gold medals from the 1960 Olympics in Rome was the first integrated event in Clarksville, Tennessee.

But despite their efforts on the field and off, women athletes have to struggle to get the same attention as men despite having as much to say, said Harry Edwards, a scholar of race and sports who has worked as a consultant for several U.S. pro teams.

“We have this twisted, almost-demented obsession with women’s second-class status with their physical inferiority,” he said. “It prevents us from appreciating the great athletes that they are … but it also means that it shuts down a potential forum that these great athletes would have where they’re valued for their athletic prowess in the same way that Muhammad Ali was, that Bill Russell was, that Tommy Smith and John Carlos were, that Arthur Ashe was, that Curt Flood was, so that when they speak, people listen.”

While Williams has long been an advocate of Black Lives Matter, it was only after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the 2016 season that the country really began to pay attention to black athlete activism. Kaepernick added his voice to a growing national movement, enveloping the entire league and starting an ongoing conversation that ventured outside football arenas.

Similarly, few people acknowledge that after the 2016 deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and the killing of Dallas police officers, dozens of WNBA players wore shirts with the men’s names and kneeled for the national anthem.

It was a black woman, Knox College basketball player Ariyana Smith, who started the wave of athletic protest about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

On Nov. 29, 2014, Smith made the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture during the national anthem before a game at Fontbonne University in Clayton, Missouri, before walking toward the American flag and laying prone on the floor for 4 1/2 minutes to symbolize the 4 + hours Brown lay in the streets of nearby Ferguson.

“We as black women are often invisible, so we don’t get that credit,” said Akilah Francique, a former athlete who cofounded the Sista to Sista program to foster a sense of connectedness among black female collegiate athletes.

Williams has been a presence on and off the tennis court, not shying away from opponents en route to winning 23 Grand Slam titles or social and political issues.

She spoke up in 2015, encouraging Black Lives Matter activists not to get discouraged: “To those of you involved in equality movements like Black Lives Matter, I say this: Keep it up. Don’t let those trolls stop you. We’ve been through so much for so many centuries, and we shall overcome this too,” she wrote in Wired magazine.

Since then, Williams has become the symbol for other causes affecting people of color, including medical issues. In February, she told Vogue that she dealt with a medical scare after the birth of her daughter. She had to insist on getting extra medical tests, overruling her nurse, before her doctors discovered several small blood clots in her lungs.

Women around the country related to her story, talking about similar difficulties in getting proper medical attention.

Female-led activism can also look different than men’s, Francique said, because of the unique positions and pressures women face in sports and in life. She pointed to the criticism black women athletes have to overcome about their body shapes, training regimens, skin color, clothing and even hair when they compete in sports – criticism that Williams has endured.

“For many of them just by merely being there and having a presence is activism,” Francique said.

Williams’ older sister, Venus, who has advocated for equal pay for professional tennis while winning seven Grand Slam titles, believes it is important to have a voice on these issues.

“I think more than anything, we see ourselves as Americans, and that’s what we want to be able to see ourselves as, regardless of color,” said Venus Williams. “I think that’s what everyone is fighting for, that one day we don’t have to see that anymore.”